Domestic violence victim becomes advocate for other survivors in Johnson County

Amanda Sandidge, a domestic violence survivor, leads an advocacy group called ‘Silent Voices in the Dark.’

The day her roommate punched her, Amanda Sandidge’s life changed forever.

The physical damage did more than break facial bones and cause an aneurysm in her brain. The 40-something-year-old nurse couldn’t keep up with her fast-paced career, even though she had been in the field for more than 20 years.

For many reasons, Sandidge believes that survivors of domestic violence need more support than they can get through government services and agencies. She feels like she’s been left behind, in what she calls “the after” of everything: After filing charges and getting her perpetrator convicted, after she, a single mother, and her children stayed past the 90-day limit in a shelter. So she decided to step up and become an advocate herself.

“I was thinking about what it felt like to be a domestic violence victim in ‘the after,’” Sandidge said. “I just call it ‘the after’ because that’s what it feels like. It’s not even an aftermath because you’re still going through it.”

After immediately calling the police and filing a report in Wyandotte County, she still feared for her life and the lives of her three daughters and granddaughter. So she stayed at an area domestic violence shelter and tried to recover from physical and emotional trauma. In the following months, she lost her job, began her fight to get on disability, moved multiple times, got on public housing and tried to keep her family together.

Law enforcement officers as well as shelter staff recommended that Sandidge move out of town. But she said she couldn’t bear to uproot or separate her family and leave behind everything and everyone she knew. But family and friends were too scared to help her, she said. She felt like she was running out of resources.

Victim turned survivor turned advocate

From Amanda Sandidge’s advocacy group Facebook page.

Two years ago, Sandidge started an advocacy group called Silent Voices in the Dark. She shares about her experiences and provides resources and updates on her Facebook page for the group, “Advocate for Families in need.” Since starting the group, she said she’s heard from dozens of other victims who have reached out to her for help.

“In ‘the after,’ it’s hard to trust anyway because of what’s happened to you; you don’t trust counselors,” Sandidge said, adding that her own children don’t trust counselors either, even though they struggle with anxiety, depression and insomnia.

More than three years after the incident, Sandidge is still trying to put her life back together. Now living in Shawnee, she said she still struggles with insomnia, anxiety and depression. Despite all of this, she hopes to help other survivors by providing resources for housing, shelters, food pantries and discount meals, utilities, counseling, medical aid and other information.

She also hopes the Kansas Legislature will pass Tina’s Law or the equivalent, which would require perpetrators of domestic violence to register, similar to the process for convicted sex offenders.

“I need to do something good with my time; I don’t want people to keep going through this,” Sandidge said, adding that survivors are often too scared of repercussions to speak out about the issues. “There’s no glory in doing this. It’s a scary story tell. But more people will come out. And if I need to be the little flame that ignites that fire, so be it. What I went through has not been for nothing. It’s been for something, and it’s to help people.”