A life of Abuse
At the age of 19, I thought I had it made! I was “in love,” getting ready to get married and was finally out of the house; away from mom and dad! Little did I know that my life had just made a change for the worse.
We were married in a local church with all the family and friends in attendance. On the day of the wedding, I remember, dad had begged me not to do this. “Go on to school; make something of your life! Just say the words and we will turn around and leave here and never look back! Your mom will handle everything here. Just say the words,” dad had pleaded to me with tears in his eyes. No, NO, NOOO, not this time! I was getting out of that house and nobody was going to be telling me what was best for me anymore!
I had a full time job in a local factory (not the kind of job I had imagined for myself in the prior years) and was doing okay for all I knew. I had a place to call my own and was dreaming of all the happy years to come. Now, mind you, it wasn’t the big house with a white picket fence, the nice cars, the family get-togethers that every girl dreamt of but life was okay. My husband worked in a local factory as well and together we made enough to get by.
I became a mother at the age of twenty and now had a husband and a beautiful little girl. While things had been sort of rocky in the months prior to the baby’s arrival, I attributed it to just the stress of all the changes that were happening in our lives. My husband had began to drink more often, came home later every night, began to say things that hurt my feelings and even had been known to smack me around when I had gotten, “out of line.” He told me that I didn’t know when to keep my mouth shut and I had “better start listening” to him!
The baby was now three weeks old and she was perfect! She slept all night and very rarely cried unless she was hungry or needed her diaper changed. She was a Blessing from God! She was doted over by grandparents and family on a regular basis and seemed not to notice when the loving husband would come home after a few too many drinks with his buddies. “The baby and I are fine,” I would say.
That night, he came in staggering drunk and unfortunately, the baby had not gotten to sleep yet. I placed her in the playpen while I had been cooking dinner and the meal was almost ready. The key word here was, “almost.” As he staggered into the kitchen, I could see that he had a look that he was angry and lustful all at the same time. He grabbed me from behind and began pawing at my breasts and then when I rejected his advances, he slapped me across the kitchen and into the living room where the baby was at. Blood poured from my nostrils and my cheek felt like I had been hit with a sledge hammer. I laid in the floor with tears, blood and anguish on my face as I watched my child in her playpen and he continued to rape me over and over. RAPE? Could it be possible that he could rape me? He was my husband and I knew from past experience that he would tell me how sorry he was tomorrow and promise to never do it again. He seemed to enjoy hurting me and seemed to enjoy the fact that our baby was in the same room as he punished me for not being the “good wife.” This time, it had been different. He had gone too far. He had broken my nose and the blood continued to pour from each nostril.
A trip to the doctor was not even an option. I would have to answer questions about what had happened and I couldn’t bear to let anyone know. What would they think? Would they want her to leave? Would they try to arrest him? I couldn’t, I just couldn’t!!! So, I didn’t! Instead, I kept my mouth shut and tried not to do anything that he would consider provoking. He always told me, “This was all your fault! If you had done what I told you to do, none of this would have happened!”
I began to try to hide the bruises with makeup and stayed away from family and friends as much as possible. They would never understand and would make accusations that maybe I had done something to deserve it. Like he said, “they won’t believe you anyway. They will think that you deserved it” and then he would laugh!! Was he right? He had told me over and over again, “nobody wants to hear your sob stories. You are never going to amount to anything and I can do anything I want to you. You’re my wife.”
The baby was now 15 months old and she was all I had that kept me going. I had returned to work, had a wonderful lady that took care of her, and took my “in line” treatments on a regular basis. I never knew what day, what time of the day, or how severe the treatments were going to be, but I could count on them occurring regularly. Memorial Day weekend was coming up and we had made no plans to go anywhere or do anything. I knew from the past holidays that he didn’t need an excuse of a holiday to party. Holidays just seemed to intensify the situation. On Saturday night, May 23rd, 1981, I was at home with my precious little girl and she and I had just began to snuggle on the sofa. For fifteen months, she had been my rock! She now was beginning to say things. Her favorite toys were in the floor. Her blue eyes were the color of the sky and she was beautiful! I heard the truck come to a sliding halt in the driveway so I took her to her bedroom and placed her in her crib. I knew what was coming and I didn’t want her to witness the “in line” treatment.
That night was brutal. I could feel the rage in his voice, the torment as he thrust himself on me and the terror as he used his fist to beat my face repeatedly. When he was finished, he rose from the sofa, laughed at me, and went to refrigerator to get him another beer. I lay there sobbing, trying my best to move and felt as if the world had collapsed on top of me. No make-up would hide these bruises. Not this time.
July 4th weekend was coming up. Great! Another holiday. But this time, I wouldn’t be around to take a treatment. I had discovered that over the Memorial holiday, I had become pregnant again! What in the world am I going to do? He will kill me and when he does, he will kill the baby that is growing inside me as well. NO, NO, NO!!!!! I began to sneak some clothes out of the house, mostly the babies, and put them in the trunk of my car. I placed them in garbage bags so it looked like I was taking them to be given away. I knew that if he saw my clothes in the trunk, I would be accused of changing clothes so I could look good at work. Look good at work? I worked in a greasy, smelly, factory where even coal miner’s looked cleaner when they came home. I had enough clothes for my little girl to last me about a week. I hid diapers under the spare tire and placed some water in old milk jugs in the trunk. Maybe he would think that my car was overheating. In reality, it was to mix the babies formula with. I didn’t know where I was going or what I would do but I couldn’t tell him that I was pregnant again!! I would figure it out somehow. I couldn’t go to mom and dads. They would never understand and would ask too many questions. Questions that I didn’t want to answer. I had “friends” but they were his friends. I was scared, I had a baby and was now expecting another, I was broke and worst of all I was alone! So, I sat and thought and thought and kept thinking. I put my daughter down for her nap and kept thinking. Too little, too late. The truck slid into the driveway and I knew what was coming. At least I thought I did. He came through the front door like a raging bull in a china shop. He went from one of the house to the other and was screaming at the top of his lungs. The baby began to cry because he frightened her. He headed towards me and I could see the rage in his face. As he started towards me, I began to scream. I looked up to see that he had gotten the machete that his brother had sent him from overseas. He began to pound my body like a punching bag and when I wouldn’t stop screaming he reached for the machete. I began to kick like a bucking bronco and ran to get my daughter and he stumbled over the coffee table and lay in the floor. In his stupor, I was able to get to my daughter’s room and grab her from her crib. I tried my best to race down the hallway but he was coming at us. His face was as furious as I had ever seen. I knew that I was about to die in this house and my babies right along with me, both of them. I reached the bedroom and slammed the door behind me but I could hear him coming. I was trapped in a room with nowhere to run. The phone company had shut our phone off the week before because he had refused to pay the bill. If I couldn’t talk to anyone, no one would know. I grabbed a blanket and cowered down in the closet behind some boxes. I listened to him rant and rage for what seemed like an eternity. All of a sudden, I heard the closet door began to shatter. There were pieces of wood being splintered everywhere. The machete was piercing the door like a hot knife through butter. For what seemed like hours, he tormented and tortured my baby and I like we had never been tortured. Time seemed to stand still. The screams from my beautiful baby girl were deafening and all I could do was hold her and tell her that mommy was going to fix this. But how? Then, like the quiet after a storm, it stopped. I looked towards the door and the piercing had stopped. I heard footsteps going down the hallway and then the slam of the front door. Was he gone? Could I risk the chance of coming out into the open? I had to get me and my babies out of here. I had to!
The truck sped out of the driveway like an Indy car on race day. He was leaving. Now was my chance. I grabbed my purse, some baby formula, some change that I had stuck back in a jar and ran out the door. For the time being, I would be safe and so would my innocent babies! I drove like someone had given my car wings. Not knowing where I was going or what I was going to do when I got there. I had nowhere to go but I could not go back to that house anymore. As God as my witness, I will never go back! I had one baby and one on the way. There was no way that I could let him kill my babies. And where were my babies going to be without me? With him. I drove until I felt myself just wanting to end it all.
My family, when I was a young girl, had spent many, many nights at a state park about 35 miles from here. As a child, I remembered, I had seen plenty of hiding places in the deep forests of the state park. I made the twists and turns of the road like I had driven them all my life. It had been years since I had been here but there was nowhere else to go. My baby girl, snuggled into her car seat, wrapped in her favorite blanket and her stuffed monkey at her side, was sound asleep in the back seat. Tears fell down my cheeks like the river that I was driving beside. I had no money other than the change jar that I had grabbed going out the door. I had no food in the car except the formula for my daughter. I had no clothes of my own because I had been too afraid to tarry any longer at the house. I had nothing. Nothing, except my life, my daughter’s life and my unborn baby’s life. I stopped at a little store in the bend of the road, turned off the engine so I didn’t waste what gas I had, and began to sob. The store was open but not busy. I was in the middle of nowhere with nothing. As I sat there, my mind began to race through what had happened over the last 3 years and I knew that my parents had raised me to be a winner. My dad had begged and pleaded with me not to marry that man. Why had I not listened? I had, I thought, knew what I wanted. Was this what I wanted for the rest of my life? My parents had been married to each other for all these years and no one in my family had ever been through a divorce!! A DIVORCE….did that mean I was done with him and his abuse? He would kill me if I tried to leave him. I made my way to a primitive little campground, just off the main road. This would be home for me, my daughter and my unborn child for the time being. I filled the bottle with water from the trunk, mixed in the formula and shook it until it dissolved. I watched the particles float and dissolve, just like my life had been dissolving for the last three years. At that moment, I knelt down and prayed that God would find me and asked him to please keep my babies safe. For three long nights, I slept in the front seat of my car, the windows cracked just enough for some air to flow, with my beautiful daughter laying in the back seat on a blanket, the same blanket that I had grabbed to cover her with in the closet. I woke up on that Monday morning with the sun coming over the treetops like I had never remembered before. I looked back at my daughter and she seemed to be at peace with the world, in the quiet contentment of the silence. The silence that brought me to the realization that she spoke without saying a word. The contentment that she and I could make it without him.
The pains in my belly began to be more consistent. But, it was only January 14th and the baby was not due for another two and a half months. What was wrong with me? I couldn’t be in labor. It was too early. At that moment, I realized that I had escaped the abuse but at what cost? Was God punishing me for leaving my husband and now going to take my child? January 15th, 1982, my baby boy was brought into this cruel world. At only a little over five and a half pounds, he was my child, my beautiful baby boy. He as so tiny and as I looked at him, I could think of nothing but how lucky I was that God has given me these two wonderful children. Children that I knew I would have to raise on my own, with the help of my loving family. That’s right, my family, even after everything that had happened, took me back and tried to make me realize that the abuse was not my fault. The loved me and my babies for who we were. They made no accusations, they made no smart remarks, they loved us, all three of us!
I now had a place of my own, my two wonderful children, still had my job at the factory, and I was beginning to get back on my feet. Until the night he showed up at my apartment. He, again, was drunk and obnoxious. I never realized how much I could despise someone until that moment. He reeked of liquor and was demanding to see “his children.” I made up my mind that I had taken enough! He was not getting into my house, not near my children, and not taking over my life again.
Many, many years later, I now know that what I experienced was what so many families experience every day as well. Unfortunately, domestic violence is the most common reason that women to the emergency room for injury-related treatment. More frequently that auto accidents and rapes combined. Domestic violence affects every religion, every ethnic background, and every socio-economic level. It affects the children and our future. Did you know that over 50% of all homeless women and children in the United States are fleeing domestic violence? The children who witness domestic violence suffer long-lasting psycho-social difficulties. Not only that, it is suggested that about 85% of our prison population comes from a home with family violence. If you just think for a moment, I would venture to guess that every one of you knows someone who is or has been in an abusive relationship.
Statistics show that:
1) One in every four women will experience domestic violence in their lifetime
2) 85% of domestic violence victims are women
3) Domestic violence occurs every 15 seconds in the United States
4) 1.3 million women are victims of physical assault by an intimate partner each year
5) Females age 20 to 24 are at greater risk of nonfatal intimate partner violence
6) Most cases of domestic violence are never reported to the police
So, why did I stay, and why do others stay as well? Most of the time there are many reasons but the most common include these:
1) His violence is only temporary
2) With loyalty and love, she can make him change
3) He promises that it will never happen again
4) It is her responsibility to keep the family together
5) There will surely be more good times to come
Sometimes, she may tell herself:
1.) He needs me
2.) He had a hard life
3.) All men are violent, it is to be expected
There are many forms of abuse and more often than not, they will overlap in some form or fashion. They include, but are definitely not limited to:
1.) Physical assaults
2.) Sexual assault
3.) Psychological abuse
6.) Emotional abuse
9.) Economic control
10.) Destruction of property or pets
The affects on children of domestic violence households are tremendous and are dramatic. When a child and/or children witnesses violence between parents or caretakers, they then become more at risk of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. Boys who witness domestic violence are twice as likely to abuse their own partners and/or children when they become adults. More often than not, an abuser who abuses their partner or spouse will also abuse the children in the household on an average of 30%-60% of the time. Scary isn’t it?
There are things that are noticeable characteristic of an abuser. Some things to watch for and notice of include:
2.) Controlling behavior
3.) Quick involvement
4.) Unrealistic expectations
5.) Isolation of the victim
6.) Blames others for his problems
7.) Blames others for his feelings
9.) Cruelty to animals and/or children
10.) “playful” use of force during sex
11.) Verbal abuse
12.) Rigid sex roles
13.) A Jekyll and Hyde personality
14.) History of past battering
15.) Threats of violence
16.) Breaking or striking objects
17.) Any force during an argument
18.) Objectification of women
19.) Tight control of money and finances
20.) Minimization of the violence
21.) Manipulation through guilt
22.) Extreme highs and lows
23.) Expects her to follow his orders
24.) A frightening rage
25.) Use of physical force
26.) Closed mindedness
There are ways you can help. I want to encourage each and every one of you to take action. Take a step in the right direction to stomp out domestic violence. If you don’t feel that it affects you, you might need to take a second look at the way you live. Are you or someone in your family in an abusive relationship or in an abusive family? If not, what have you got to lose? NOTHING!! You might ask, “What have you got to gain?” You could gain a person in society that appreciates what is right and wrong, a sister or brother and maybe even a dear friend.
Remember these simple things:
1.)Show you care.
2.)Let them talk, confidentially, about the situation without judgment. You may be the only person whom she feels comfortable talking to.
3.) Listen to her, believe her and do not minimize her struggle
4.) Do not judge or blame her. Reassure her that she is not responsible for the abuse and that it is not her fault. You can never make someone else hurt you.
5.) Let her keep important papers and extra clothes at your house.
6.) Help out when you can with transportation, child care, and groceries.
7.) Give her the toll free number for domestic violence victims. 1-800-799-7233 OR 1-800-799-SAFE.
If you feel that you need to talk to someone, don’t wait! I am always available to listen. As a survivor and I want to give you this pledge:
SILENT WITNESS PLEDGE
In the name of the Silent Witnesses, I pledge to heal abuse of any kind
In my own life, in my family and in my community.
I will work to make this world free of domestic violence so we can live in
Publication Date: 06-20-2012
All Rights Reserved
Dedicated to my daughter, Jennifer and to my son, Thomas. You will always have my heart!