by Sandra Bonaldi
Living in the midst of Domestic Violence is like always walking on egg shells. You learn trigger words but those trigger words seem to change all the time. You learn how to read moods but those seem to change just as quickly. There is not one set of rules. For every situation there is another set of rules. This sounds like a dog chasing its tail and believe me it can be. What worked yesterday will not necessarily work today and so on. Talk about quick thinking and when the answer is wrong, guess what? Eruption.
So, your boyfriend has pushed, slapped, or smacked you. Did he also tell you that it was your fault that he did it? Did he tell you how you pushed for a beating? Or maybe he apologized and said how he’d never do it again. All forms of Domestic Violence. It usually starts small. It begins with a push or a shove. Maybe some name calling, (Verbal Abuse) added to the mix. It begins gradually which is how many women get caught in its clutches. You can try to rationalize every move you make but you will never make any sense out of it.
Now that you have come to the conclusion that something is wrong, though you may not be able to put your finger on it, you are not alone. You begin to think that maybe it is you. Maybe you just know how to push his buttons. After all, all you had to do was have dinner on the table the minute he came in from work. Surely, that wasn’t too much to ask for. It doesn’t matter that Junior needed help with his homework and that you lost track of the time. You should have managed your time better.
By the time you realize your error and the car is pulling into the driveway you break out into a cold sweat. Where has the time gone? You pack Junior’s books into the book bag while he is complaining that he’s tired and what good are fractions anyway. You don’t have time to explain as you’re mind is on the eruption that will surely take place as there is no dinner started never mind ready. Now you really have to scramble.
As Hubby is coming inside he is whistling a small tune. Thank God, he seems to be in a good mood. Maybe if you’re lucky you can escape an outburst tonight. Meanwhile you are rushing around the kitchen like a lunatic trying to find something suitable for dinner. The chicken breast is defrosted and you toss it in a frying pan with some seasonings. A can of string beans gets dumped into a bowl and goes into the microwave. Potato, too much time. Rice, definitely doable.
These are some of the things a battered woman is thinking while dashing around trying to make sure everything is perfect. One thing goes wrong, one thing out of place; you know that you are done.
“How was your day?” He’s smiling. And she’s in shock. Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, her mind is screaming as she kisses him and goes back to turning the slowly frying chicken.
“Fine.” She gets out. “And yours?” She definitely needs to know what put him in such a fantastic mood. Talk about luck.
He places his brief case on the kitchen counter. “Same ole bullshit.”
Not likely she thinks but says nothing. She goes to the fridge and pulls out a long necked bottle of beer. After popping the top she hands it over with a smile. “Did you pick up my shirts from the cleaners?”
Shit. “Uh. They weren’t ready.” She lied not meeting his eyes. She had forgotten to stop by the drycleaners. Damnit. What the hell was wrong with her?
“Didn’t you specify that I needed them on a rush…”
“They have a new girl, and she sort of screwed up…”
“You screwed up.” He placed his beer on the counter. “Why the hell did you leave them? You could have gone somewhere else.”
Shit. Damn. Never good enough. “They promised that I would have them by tomorrow.”
“What good is tomorrow? I need them now. This minute. Can’t you do anything right?”
Now you realize you are trapped in this vicious domestic violence circle. Maybe you haven’t defined it as domestic violence because that seems like some pretty harsh words to use. Let’s call it exactly what it is. Domestic violence is domestic violence. There is no sugar coating the truth.
The beatings become more frequent and you become a better liar and could actually win an academy award for your acting abilities. Fear is your motivator. Fear drives you further than you want to go. At some point you may even begin to believe your own lies. You are in denial. We’ve all been there.
You have tried to rationalize your entire relationship and you know it’s not right. It’s just not normal. Yet you are stuck within its vicious cycle. Hope begins to dwindle down to nothing.
You lie to survive. You have no choice. You hate yourself for this weakness. Somewhere a long the line you have lost your sense of self worth. You no longer question what your husband/boyfriend is saying. You begin to believe that you truly deserve the beatings and the verbal abuse. You can’t do anything right. You can’t have dinner on the table on time. You can’t remember to pick up the dry cleaning. The latest argument, why do you have to wear makeup? The answer is simply because it makes you feel better; it makes you feel like a woman.
No. This is another way to control you. Deep down he’s insecure that he may lose you. You see that thought as ridiculous but he still feels threatened, though he will never admit this. He will turn it around.
In order to avoid another eruption you agree. You toss your makeup bag into the back of your closet and pray it will be enough to keep the peace. He smiles warmly and tells you how beautiful you are without all that artificial garbage. You’ve escaped a possible eruption. For now.
You lay in bed later that night. Your husband is in bed beside you, his breathing even. You stare up at the ceiling just drinking in the quiet. The tears are a tangible ache. You feel weak. You’ve forgotten how to pray. Over and over the mantra has become a plea as you ask God for just one more day of quiet, one more day of peace.
Sometimes a pattern will emerge and then without warning that too will change. There will be what seems like an electrical current lying dormant. It sizzles the air and the tension thickens in the house. You try to keep the children on their best behavior as it will take only a slight tip of the hand for the calm to shatter.
It is now the calm before the storm. You know damned well its coming but you don’t know when. The waiting is enough to drive you over the edge. You’re positively exhausted and waiting for the eruption is making you tense and cross.
You have now taken to having anxiety attacks. At first you thought that you were having a heart attack but a friend put you somewhat at ease as she explained that what you were experiencing was a panic attack. Now, according to your husband, why would you have an anxiety attack? You have it made. You don’t work. All you have to do is look after the children and keep house.
Your anxiety level has increased over the past week. The storm is still brewing. You feel it hovering right above your head. You’ve been walking on egg shells. You’re shaky in more ways than one. And you find yourself waiting. Waiting… Waiting… And still, waiting. You know its coming. It’s just a matter of time.
The days begin to blur together. You keep to your rigid schedule. You are careful to cross all t’s and dot all I’s. But deep down you know the real deal. You find yourself waiting because you know that no matter what you say or do it is going to happen; it is just a matter of when.
You’ve been grinding your teeth until your jaw aches. Just looking at him makes you cringe. Making love with him, call it sex, makes you physically ill. There is no way out. You feel as though you are being sucked into a big black hole and if you are swallowed up you will never find your way out again. You do everything on automatic pilot. In fact, your life is being lived on automatic pilot.
These changes have been gradual. They have been over a great span of time. You didn’t just wake up one morning and poof you suddenly realized that you were Living in the midst of Domestic Violence. It just doesn’t work that way. If it had happened that way you would have known. This had been years in the making and slowly you have begun to realize that this life you are living is nothing but a game of charades and you are losing the game.
You’ve never believed in lying and you teach your children not to lie and yet you become an expert. Why? If it gets you past one more day, why the hell not? The lies seem trivial and in most cases they are but you find them necessary to survive. If you stopped at a friend’s house after food shopping you don’t offer that information and you pray to God that your little girl won’t nonchalantly mention the meeting to your husband. You will then be up the creek without a paddle as he will accuse you of infidelity right off the bat. Like you might take the chance of angering him further than you already do on a daily basis. As though you might actually have time for something like that when you can’t even get the truth straight in your head. Throwing another element in the mix does not seem like a good idea at any stage of this game.
You discover that love and hate run a very fine line and your husband is walking both lines. You often question how he can possibly love you in one breath and beat you in the next. In your mind it makes absolutely no sense. Maybe the violence is a turn on because lately you have noticed that after the beatings he immediately expects a make up session which includes sex. You begin to hate yourself for the weakness of giving in. Maybe he truly is sorry this time. Maybe this will be the last time that he slaps you silly for forgetting to pick up a case of beer from the local distributor. All you find that you can hope for is just maybe…
Last night had been the worse night ever. The only plus was that it had been late and the kids had been in bed. You can’t even remember what the argument had been about since it had jumped all over the map once the fire had been ignited. You were hoping it was Monday but you couldn’t be that lucky. It was Sunday morning and there was still another day to spend in his company. But hopefully the worse of the storm had passed through and you wouldn’t get any backlash. You always seem to hope for the best even through some of the darkest days. Soon there would not be a glimmer once that black hole swallows you.
The kids keep you focused. You have one common goal. To raise your children to be the best they can be. Sometimes while you’re trying to save yourself you find that you are not even able to do that the way you would like to. There is too much interference from all sides. Don’t forget the in-laws who always seem to get stirred in the mix. It is a constant power struggle. You find that you don’t want power more than you want to feel safe. Although at the time you can’t seem to put your finger on the fact that you are not safe. To think that the man who claims to love you can be the one to hurt you the most you begin to doubt everything and everyone. Except, perhaps your children, because in your opinion you think they are too young to know what is going on.
Kids are smarter than we give them credit for being. They pick up on emotion. When you are holding your newborn close and your heart is racing he knows there is some-thing wrong. He may not know what it is but he feels your fear. They too, become stuck in this vicious circle. You are so busy trying to survive you don’t pick up on this and they don’t voice it. You may fight in private but they pick up those currents in the air all around.
It is almost six and you can hear your little one begin to stir. Quietly you get out of bed to go and tend to his needs. He mustn’t wake his father or there might be a repeat performance of last night. Later you will pull out your makeup from the back of the closet to cover the bruises you know are present. Your eyes feel swollen. Partly due to all the tears you had cried but you know it is a helluva lot more than that.
The beatings are only getting worse and more frequent. You seem to push his buttons too many times these days just to get it over with. The stress is high in the house more times than not. Today you will go food shopping. Hopefully, alone. Maybe you’ll get lucky and he’ll keep an eye on the kids for that blessed hour of not walking on eggshells. Then again, maybe not. Until then, you need to get the kids up, fed, and dressed. Quietly. That was key. He needed to sleep off the effects of last night. Between the drinking and the beating he was probably exhausted. As you slip out the door he mutters incoherently and you close the door softly behind you.
You need to leave him. While you realize that you have said this all before. Had even left him a time or two only to go back, you know that you must leave. Either way you are going out and you have determined that if you stay you will be leaving in a body bag. Sounds melodramatic. Not really. After all, you have seen the end result of his anger. You have no money, no resources, and a mountain of unpaid bills. You surely cannot continue on this path. You have known this for some time yet you have put it to the back of your mind. He has promised to change. He had been promising to change for the past five years and there was nothing to show for it.
Fear clutches at your heart almost every day. You look in the mirror and the reflection staring back seems almost lifeless. There is no sparkle. There is no life. All that remains is a helplessness that has a foothold on your life and will not let go. There is no fight left in you and even if there was you know damned well that you can never win. His latest threat is that he will take the kids. He will prove you unfit in a court of law and take the kids. This news seems to floor you for the moment because he never seemed to take an interest in the kids before. Now, all of a sudden, he wants custody of the kids. All of these things are spinning around in your mind as you watch him sitting on the couch a beer in one hand, cigarette in the other, watching TV while yelling at the kids to quiet down.
Just when you think that things cannot get worse he is threatening you with your children. It hadn’t been your choice to try his drug of preference. In fact, he had pushed and pushed while at the same time claiming that you needed to broaden your horizons. Just the thought of putting something foreign in your bloodstream made you ill yet, in spite of everything you had ever learned, you tried it. Then to your absolute horror you found it to be somewhat of an escape. This would make him happy. At last, there was a way to make him happy. Then again, you should have known that he would use that knowledge against you somewhere down the line. How could you have been so damned naïve? Now, there is something more than fear, which drives you to clean up your act.
You are in the kitchen washing the dishes mindlessly. After all, there isn’t the need to think with such a mindless task at hand. These are the days when you find that you are grateful for all the mindless tasks in life.
He has been home for weeks now. Unemployed again. He doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to get a job but you know that the family needs the money. You also know that the last twenty bucks in his pocket will go for a case of beer before it goes for a bag of groceries. You are down to a cup of milk in the fridge and tomorrow you will have to water it down for the kids to have their cereal. You don’t even want to think about the rent being due in another week and he doesn’t seem to be worrying about it. Lately all you have done was worry about one thing or another while the best he can do is get from the bed to the easy chair and back again. The beer is going faster because he starts drinking earlier and stops later each night.
While you might realize that he may be depressed you also know that he needs to get it together before you are all kicked out in the street with nowhere to go. And then what? Slowly you begin to think that you didn’t sign up for this. You didn’t sign up for this nothing life that was going nowhere fast. He claims he loves you. If he loved you he would get off his lazy drunken ass and get out and look for a job.
That night while you are staring up at the ceiling a revelation suddenly hits you from out of the blue. If he refuses to look for a job then you will look for a job. Someone needed to grab the reins and do the right thing. The kids deserved better than watered down cereal and Mac and cheese. If he didn’t want to be the breadwinner then it was up to you to make sure the children were properly provided for. And that was exactly what you would do.
A week later and you are called in for an interview. You are one step away from landing this job. Although this isn’t exactly the job you would have chosen, you do realize that it is a job. And that means money. At this stage of the game you will scrub toilets and basically the bottom line is that is exactly what the job entails. It doesn’t matter. The kids are getting older and they are eating more. They need new clothes as they are growing. You’re behind in the rent and taking this job will get you back up to date in another month. You are out of choices. You need this job.
You think your husband will be happy you took the initiative and instead he is angry. You are floored when he tells you to turn the job down. He has got to be kidding. You are so behind in your bills it will take months to get caught up, his unemployment is running out and you are watering down the milk until it is running as clear as water and he wants you to turn down this chance at employment. There is absolutely no money available and you are now verging on desperation. After all, cleaning toilets isn’t exactly your occupation of choice. But beggars can’t be choosers. And right now, you’re just grateful that you would even be considered for this job, as you really don’t have much experience in the job force.
The next day as you try to start the car you see your husband in the window holding up the coil wire. Son of a bitch. You get out of the car, take a deep breath to get your pounding heart under control, and head back inside. You call your almost new boss and explain that you are stuck with the car, and then you go to the bathroom to take your anxiety attack in peace before heading back to the kitchen to wage war. This time the shit is going to hit the fan because you say so.
The fight goes on for most of the morning. The kids are smart enough to stay in their rooms. It is one less thing to worry about. You must admit that you took your beating while standing your ground. Sure, he knocked you down a couple of times, but each time you got up again. The words coming out of your mouth are inconceivable. But you can’t hold them back. It is as though a dam had burst and the water was rushing forth with a vengeance. It was no holds barred. Everything you had ever felt, or thought was coming out. Years of backing down was rearing its head and you see the look of stunned disbelief in your husband’s eyes. After all, you’ve had arguments before but he had never seen you stand up for something you believed in at the high price of getting a beating. The words sting. The truth hurts and the last thing you remember is the long necked bottle hitting you upside the head. You slump to the floor like a limp rag doll. When you look up your husband is holding a cool washrag to your temple. You are lying on the couch though you have no recollection on how you got there. You try to sit up but he pushes you back down. Your little girl is trying to scoot into your lap because she wants to make sure you’re all right as she doesn’t seem to believe her father. You wipe away her tears and force a smile despite the large egg on your head and the mother of all headaches pounding your temples. You remain on the couch for the rest of the day. The kids stay close and you pray to God that they hadn’t seen the violence. But you know, they know, and their father knows. And just that knowledge hurts like hell.
You know that the only reason you land in the emergency room is because for the past couple of days you’ve been light headed and had even passed out once. The egg on your head, just a hair away from your temple has not gone down and you are worried. After all, you were hit with a fairly thick bottle. Returnable bottles were always made of thicker glass and the bottle hadn’t broken upon impact. It was a blessing that it hadn’t or you knew you would have been faced with stitches as well.
The nurse asks how it happened and you toss out an outrageous excuse that sounds lame even to your ears. Your husband is watching over the kids while you’re inside with the doctor and lately you can’t get over how attentive he’s been. One of two things are going on inside of his head. One, he is really concerned about you and he is going to change his ways. Or two, he’s shitting a brick thinking you’re going to turn in his sorry ass. Believe it or not, and at this point in time, option two hasn’t been a thought. Maybe, just maybe, he is going to change and everything will be all right.
You accept the job and are scheduled to begin working within the next week. Hubby decides to get his ass in gear and gets a job. Now you have two jobs, one child in school and two smaller children that now need daycare. Or you can just give up your job as Hubby has already suggested, more than once. You really think about this. Deep down you know it would be easier for everyone involved if you would give up the job you haven’t started yet. But there is this driving force that will not allow for you to cave. This had been a decision that you had made. And contrary to what anyone thought about it, it was the right decision. You’ve come this far and you will not be swayed. Besides, you husband could up and quit his job or get fired and then this chance would be gone. Sure, it would be easier to throw in the towel but you’re not ready to give up without a fight.
You interview a possible candidate for daycare. She has excellent references and comes highly recommended by a friend. This provider is stable and she is caring for three other children, one of which is leaving. The prices are reasonable and she will supply a snack. Besides, daycare is good for children. Your husband is laying on the guilt trip thick reminding you of all the things you will surely miss. You would not miss watering down the milk for their cereal that was for damned sure.
A week later and the doubt is creeping back. You love your job and you are meeting people. So this is what you’ve been missing. Hubby is not happy with his new job therefore you are back to walking on eggshells and once again he is hitting the sauce. Although you had never cared for alcohol you find that you actually detest the odor of beer. You also discover that you are spending way too much money on beer and you aren’t even out of the hole yet. At this stage of the game he is drinking more than you are making.
Sometimes you don’t know how you’re able to pull it off. The list seems endless. There is always so much to do. Taking care of the kids, the laundry, the dog, and the house. The list goes on and on. As time slowly moves on you find that you are exhausted. There doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. You hold onto the good things. One day soon you will be able to pull yourself out of this hole. Another week goes by and you come home to another major catastrophe. It seems that hubby got hurt on the job. That lasted two weeks. Go figure! You bundle up the kids and head on over to the emergency room. While hubby is in with the doctor you pull out hastily packed goodie bags for the kids, as they had to skip dinner. Everyone feasts on stale crackers and warm juice boxes while waiting.
While driving home the kids have fallen asleep in the back seat and hubby informs you that he will be out of work indefinitely. You offer up a small prayer of thanksgiving for taking and keeping the job he had wanted for you to give up.
While you begin to realize that getting into a routine has its many ups and downs you also realize there is always the factor of the unknown. You just never know what is going to set him off. You pick and choose your battles carefully. Some things are just not worth it. By this time your self-esteem is shot to hell. You’re tired all the time. Your husband discovers that he likes to cook. At first you think it’s cute. You’re touched that he’s trying to help you out. That is until you see the mess he leaves in his wake. Instead of using your simplified method of washing/cleaning as you go he creates his own method of what you call destruction. There is no dish left untouched, no pan remains clean either. By the time the meal is complete and everyone has left the table you survey the damage. The offering of help has now put you in the kitchen an additional couple of hours. You know damned well you would have been better off had you cooked and cleaned but you’re not about to voice that opinion aloud. Not when Hubby is sitting in his favorite arm chair beer and cigarette in hand looking like a proud peacock. He really believes that he’s helped you out and you’re positively seething inside. Who needed that kind of help? You could have cooked and cleaned the entire kitchen in half the time. What a disaster. You clean it up and plop on the sofa. You just wiggle out of your sneakers and hubby is asking for another beer. You glance in the direction of the end table which is now littered with a full ashtray and five empty 20 ounce beer bottles. Over the course of time you have come to the conclusion that you detest the odor of beer. As you light your own cigarette, a habit you know that you have to kick, you get Hubby his beer. Another hour and you’ll be turning in for the night. Hopefully he will knock off the drinking a little earlier tonight.
The kids had wanted to play tonight and the boys had been playing with their cars in bed. This was something that infuriated Hubby. You just blew it off, they were kids and they wanted to play. Wasn’t that normal? Not according to Hubby who didn’t hesitate to get up and show them who was boss. These were one of those things that you did fight about. This was where you picked your battles. The disastrous kitchen meant nothing but this was where you had drawn the line.
The problem with drawing the line was that you would never win. Any way you turned it, you couldn’t win. The man was an irritating son of a bitch and you knew that your days were numbered. Your life was spiraling out of control and the anxiety was always building. You know that something has to give. Sooner or later you will reach the end of the line. And where will that lead?
The next day you get a call at work. Very calmly Hubby states that your little boy has just fallen into the kerosene heater. While your heart catapults into your throat you find yourself amazingly composed. You demand to know what happened and Hubby regurgitates what he’d just said, as though you are the moron. At this point in time you’re well on your way to pretty pissed off. He also states that the burns are not bad enough for a hospital visit. Now you’re livid. You will be the judge of that.
As you are driving home you can feel your heart rate nearly triple. The baby is only three years old, how the hell had he allowed him to even get close to that heater never mind get burned. The thoughts racing through your mind are inconceivable. You don’t want to entertain such thoughts but you can’t help yourself. You race to the baby the minute you get in the door. The two others are sitting on the couch quietly. You know he has to be seen by a doctor as the burns are probably second degree. How Hubby can’t see this is beyond you but at this point there is no discussion. You are taking the baby to the hospital and that’s the end of that.
Tension in the house has been mounting by the day. You feel it and you know the kids are feeling it as well. Fear is a funny thing. In one breath it could leave you breathless while in another you’re ready to do battle with the devil if need be. I’m sure you heard the saying about backing a rat in a corner. Well, you are backed into that corner, back against the wall. There are days when you feel as though you are chasing your tail. There is no direction and you feel lost in a sense. You feel weak, in more ways than one, believe it or not this is when you can either lose it completely or take the bull by the horns and gain empowerment. What does this mean? It means one of two things, maybe you haven’t reached your breaking point, or you are ready to break out of that cookie cutter mold. Some women never leave their abusive husbands for several reasons. I do not believe it is because they are weak. You have to realize that there are various levels of domestic violence and there are some men who come to terms that they have a problem and seek help. No two situations are alike and the rules are constantly changing the proverbial ball always in motion.
Okay, so today isn’t your day. Nothing has gone right and if you could crawl under a rock right now and lick your gaping wounds in peace you may be able to recover. Your heart feels like a stone. The only love you feel is for your children. While deep down inside you know that you will eventually be forced to take a stand it is usually when you are at your lowest point. This may look like a total contradiction but it isn’t. I’ve read the articles and have seen the television talk shows that tell women to map out a plan to leave. I’m sure this could be possible because deep down you have some realization that you will eventually leave, it’s just the matter of how and when. You know the saying about the best laid plans.
It has been obvious from day one that your husband has never been a worker. You have known it you just never admitted it aloud. He’s been sitting on the couch for months now while you’re busting your ass and handing over your paycheck to boot. The kids don’t like the situation and you don’t like the situation either. You’ve had to pull them out of daycare because you couldn’t afford it so they were back at home with the old man who basically put them in their room while he sat in front of the idiot box and drank beer, among other things, all day.
All you keep thinking is if you had a place to go you’d be long gone. But that’s just it; you have no place to turn. You’re stuck. So, now you have to deal. You have been married to this man for close to seven years now and it sure isn’t lucky seven. While you’re only reaching twenty-five you look and feel like you are fifty. Pictures don’t lie. Your life stinks and is about to go down the toilet if you don’t make a move. You are running out of time. There is no one to talk to. No one to cry with. No shoulder to lean on. No nothing.
On top of that you are now back to walking on eggshells again. You are stuck in this vicious cycle and there is no way of breaking free. No one could possibly understand all the emotions you are feeling. The anxiety attacks are getting worse, you are smoking like a chimney, and you are losing weight. The list goes on and on. You find a friend only to have that snatched away as well. You become resigned to the fact that you are going nowhere fast. How the hell had your life gotten away from you? You have a million questions but realize you have no answers.
The days blur one into another. Every day is the same. There is no break. No relief. Hubby is finally back to work and you wonder how long that will last. You’ve given up your job and that was only because you were tired of fighting over one more issue. You miss that job, however trivial everyone made it seem. You’re back to being a wife and mother full time. The mother part you can deal with it’s the wife thing that you detest. Life is moving forward. You know that you are going to leave you just don’t know when. As for planning for it, having any money for it, that has been the reality that has kept you where you’ve been for this long. That is what a lot of people can never understand. When you are living with very limited resources you don’t have any choices in the matter. However, there are government agencies and safe houses where you can go to get on your feet and you will be safe. And that is a comfort to know. The phone number is simply 1-800-733-SAFE (7233). So when you think there aren’t any options there are.
Liberation day is coming; you just don’t know it yet. You probably should have realized it when your tolerance level reached zero only last week. Every issue has become a battle. You’ve been pushing issues whereas you ordinarily would have backed down and shut up. You’ve been walking on egg shells too damned long and it still doesn’t matter. You’ve always been opinionated it had just been squelched for so long it is breaking free with a vengeance. You’ve said things that even you were shocked had come out of your mouth. You’d been thinking them for so long but to finally articulate those thoughts. It felt great to finally speak your mind. There were a couple of times when Hubby’s jaw hit the ground. Priceless. However you did pay the price later on.
Truth be known, you really don’t like the person you’ve become. You’ve lost all respect for yourself as this has been going on for so long that you almost feel worthless. Not a good place to be. This had been years in the making. It wasn’t going to be easy but you knew that it was now time to stand up and take control of what was left of your life. If you continue on in this fashion you knew damned well that you wouldn’t have a life. Another tough issue to grab onto. The realization hurts that you had allowed someone to snuff out your inner flame. But this is not something that happened overnight. This too had been years in the making.
The day that you leave is a day like any other day. The night before you had a major fight and it had all been a simple misunderstanding. Hubby thinks you’re bluffing when you tell him over the phone of course, that you aren’t coming back. He curses you, threatens, and then cries. Something that has always pulled at your heartstrings. Guess what, not today. Today you’ve been liberated and you have secured housing for the next couple of weeks and although it had been what everyone thinks is a hasty decision only you know better. Of course people think you will go back, after all, you have gone back in the past. Then again, there was no guilt this time. You made the right choice and if no one understands then that’s their problem. His family turns against you immediately, not that they were ever on your side; maybe if they had been you wouldn’t be standing where you find yourself standing right now. They had known that he had a hand problem but they had turned the blind eye in that direction. You purpose in your heart if that had ever happened in your family you would never turn away. You will stand up for what is right. If your son puts his hand on a woman you will deal with that accordingly. You are on the side of justice with none of this “blood is thicker than water” bullshit. Right is right and wrong is wrong in your book. You can’t walk the line when it’s convenient.
After Hubby is finished crying, pleading, and calling every two minutes he now realizes that he may have to work harder to make you come back. He doesn’t know that your resolve is stronger than ever. He figures, a week and you’ll come crawling back. Not this time buddy. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have a nickel to your name and just the clothes on your back you are determined this time. You can’t go back. If you give in this time you are as good as done. Done as in dead. The next time he puts hands on you he is actually capable of snuffing out your life. Damned straight you’re afraid. You will not let him get close enough to touch you again. Not an easy feat for someone who has now become a stalker.
Within a month, a very long month, you have a protective order, a new apartment, and a new life. Hubby does not obey the court order and makes his presence known. He seems to be driving past your apartment about a dozen times a day. He revs the motor to let you know he is there. You find that now you have become a prisoner in your own home. What makes this any different? You are away from him. You are safe. Bullshit. You’re still experiencing the intimidation of the power struggle. So, he wants a fight. Fine. You dig your heels in because you will not be moved. Make sure that the police know your situation, the school knows your situation, and your neighbors know your situation. This is not a time to be proud. Pride cometh before the fall and you have no intention of falling.
The battle for custody begins. You can hardly believe that he wants custody of the kids as he has never given a damn about whether or not they ate before and now he wants physical joint custody. You are furious. This is just another spite tactic to gain control. He will do anything possible to hurt you. He will go for the jugular and he can’t hurt you any other way so he’s going for blood, your blood, and your children. He has obtained an attorney while you go into court representing yourself. You pray for justice to be served and God has heard your prayers as the judge does grant a liberal visitation with stipulations that ensure your safety but denies joint custody at this point, for now.
You have a brand new life. For once you can breathe and it feels great! You can see life through new eyes. You’ve made some friends with some of the parents that go to school with your children and for once you don’t have to worry about who you decide to converse with on the school playground.
Hubby still lurks and you are watchful. You realize it isn’t over yet and probably won’t be for a very long time. You’ve heard the stories, tragedies actually, when the husband comes back years later and murders his (ex) wife. They are true stories. You do not want to become one of those statistics. You have your guard up at all times. It’s only been a couple of months. You’ve even taken to sleeping on your couch by the door with one eye open and an aluminum baseball bat beside you. It is the only way you will get a decent nights sleep. Pathetic? No, it’s called survival. You can’t fail. Not when you’ve come this far.
The children are still adjusting. It is a big change for them as well. Of course there is some acting out on their part. You need to remember that they too have been through a big adjustment. They had seen more than any child should ever see. They miss their father; it’s only natural for them to feel this way. Unfortunately the children become a pawn in the power struggle and we too sometimes lose objectivity along the way.
Life is changing for everyone. By now you probably should be seeing a counselor, the children as well. These adjustments are huge. In fact, it is another whole way of life. For so long, or as long as you can remember, you had been beaten down, your inner flame actually snuffed out. You begin to regain some of your self-confidence. You’ve come to realize that it will not be easy but it is well worth everything that you put into making your life better.
There are days when your thoughts become your worst enemy. You find yourself thinking, was it really as bad as you remembered or had you been guilty of embellishing your life? This is not the time to second guess your choices. You made the right decision. You are not guilty of embellishing. But Jenny, down the block, had her teeth knocked out. Now, that was bad. Please remember, it is ALL bad. This is not the time to compare stories on who had it worse. You needed to get out before he had actually killed you. Yes, KILLED you.
Remember the days when you were looking into the eyes of a madman? It was like looking into the eyes of the Devil himself. You left because you did not want to become a statistic. And you would have. You can second guess it until the cows come home and it still will not change the facts. You were a victim. In some ways you still are. You must never forget that. This will be a good time to find a counselor, if you still do not have one. This will help you when the doubt creeps back in. Call your local town hall and they may be able to direct you on how to obtain that help. Never minimize what you have gone through. You need to work through it. In time you will. In time you may be able to help someone else who is suffering in the same way, someone who may gain empowerment by hearing your story of survival. We all have the battle scars. Most of us have been to hell and back again. We’ve made mistakes. We are not perfect. But we are still standing. We are stronger than we ever thought possible. There is hope; you just need to believe there is. It’s a long road, I won’t lie but I can tell you this, every step you take is a step closer to reclaiming your life. Your children will one day thank you because you were strong enough to break that cycle that they had unfortunately been born into.
Slowly but surely you will emerge from your cocoon a different person, a stronger person, a person who commands as well as bestows respect. Leaving is only the first step but a big one. Once you make that decision you are well on your way of becoming a survivor. Just remember, this may be the beginning but you’ve come a long way. One day you will be able to look back and realize that through some of those darkest days, most trying times, were when you were at your strongest. You just hadn’t known it at the time. And today, you stand victorious, a survivor of domestic violence. Tell your story because it may save someone’s life.
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Sandra Bonaldi writes Contemporary Romance and recently has been writing short stories on a topic very close to her heart. She is a survivor of domestic violence.