I have been putting off doing this post but it being National Domestic Violence Month, now is the time.
It is so easy to proclaim “I would never get into a domestic violence situation!” or “I would never stay in a domestic violence situation!” or ” Just leave!”. Never say “never” because you don’t know what you would or could do in a domestic violence situation. It seems so simple for someone to end the relationship and move on when you have never been in their shoes, but once you are there you see that it just isn’t that simple. Nothing about it is simple! However, it is possible to get out, stay out and flourish. In this post I am not offering advice, I am offering my strength, hope and experience and not as a professional but as a domestic violence survivor. Take what you like and leave the rest.
I have examined my childhood for clues as to why I would stay in a violent relationship. While I was rarely spanked or whipped, there were two instances that I would have to say had an impact on me. Once was when my dad was angry with my mother and took it out on me. I didn’t get the answer I wanted from him so I called my mother at work and she gave me the answer I wanted. He was angry with her because it appeared that she was cheating on him and she was. He whipped me but I shut down emotionally and wouldn’t, couldn’t cry. He kept whipping me insisting that I cry but I didn’t, couldn’t. Finally, my mother demanded that he stop but by then my thighs were bruised. Another time, he slapped me in the face while I was driving for making fun of his driving and apologized later saying that he was shocked himself that he slapped me. There were a couple of instances where he hit my mother though I didn’t witness it and do not know the details. Her explanation for why she just let it go is that “he was such a good person”. Our next door neighbor beat my mother once in the parking lot of a hotel supposedly because she was cheating on my father. It was explained away to me as alcohol being responsible. So what did I learn? I learned to justify and make excuses for abuse.
My ex-husband, Richard, is intelligent, skilled and charming and he was and alcoholic, cunning, cruel, and evil. He gave with one hand and took with the other. Underneath it all, he was vulnerable and he hated that vulnerability so badly that he did everything he could to cover it up. His father was an alcoholic and abused his mother who would hide under Richard’s bed until her husband left the house because she said she couldn’t leave her children. Richard would bring her food while she hid under his bed, setting up a basis for a lifetime of unhealthy dependence for both of them. Their relationship became more and more volatile as he grew up and tried to build a life for himself. She was a constant interference in his relationships and a love/hatred grew between the two of them. He always had his hand out to her for money even though he had an exceptionally well paying career as a petrochemical engineer. Her providing him with money whether a gift or a loan became another thing to tie him to her and something she could hold over his head. She was extremely manipulative and would twist the truth to get him to go into “uber protection mode” causing him to turn on me or any who came before me. We would get along great and have fun together until Richard came into the picture and then she would tell some tale of how I had embarrassed her or put her health at risk in some way. She behaved toward him more like he was her husband rather than her son. If he became angry with her, he would take it out on me physically, verbally and emotionally. He once told me that it was a look on my face that caused him to turn on me and we both knew it was a look of disapproval that he had seen on his mother’s face. He hated that he loved her and would say that he hoped her plane would crash when she traveled. Their relationship was a breeding ground for textbook Misogyny. Misogyny is when one hates women and/or girls.
My first clue of what was coming occurred early in our dating relationship when he would stop speaking to me and act as if I was not present. This would be the result of my of my saying or doing anything that he didn’t like. That was the beginning of my learning to beg because I couldn’t accept reality. The abuse escalated to verbal insults like: “You are an imbecile.” “You fucking idiot…” “You are so stupid that you couldn’t survive without me!” and the humiliation of his scattering things on the ground and telling me to pick them up, kicking me out of my own car and making me walk, throwing all of the plastic ware out into the yard, dumping all the food from the refrigerator in the trash and kicking me out. Then the physical abuse started with shoving and graduated to choking, pulling me around on the ground by my hair, and kicking me in the ribs and stomach. The emotional abuse in the beginning was telling me he could never love me or anyone, telling me things I couldn’t even get along with his mother and she didn’t anger easily, embarrassing me in front of friends, family and co-workers and in public. Even harder to take than the physical abuse was the humiliation so I continually tried to normalize our relationship to the outside world.
Richard loved to frighten me by driving recklessly, yelling to wake me up, shooting a gun at the ceiling or acting irresponsibly with a gun in bed, and surprising me with verbal or physical attacks. To this date, I startle easily when someone walks into a room or up behind me. He was vindictive to the neighbors. He would throw their children’s bicycle in a ravine because they left their garage door open and he felt it affected the security of our house. He cut one neighbor’s cable wires because he complained about Richard’s bobcat being a safety concern. He would commit the vandalism at night while I was asleep or when I wasn’t home and tell me about it later.
Richard was also very controlling and as a result I will spend hours wandering through stores when I run errands because when I was with Richard, that was the only freedom I had. We built a successful business so we were together 24/7 and he made excuses as to why I couldn’t spend time with my family or friends. The only time I had to myself was when I would run errands and even then, I had an explicit list to go by. I loved those lists because they meant that I wouldn’t do anything to anger him. Even though he could be charming, his anger and arrogance showed through so that my family, friends and acquaintances only put up with him for my sake.
Continued Part Two