Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Domestic Violence Awareness month- LONG

This is a very long entry.

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

I am a survivor of domestic violence.
I don’t talk about it much. Hardly at all.
But I’ll talk about here now, so maybe one woman, one reader will know she’s not alone.

I was very young when I met the boy who I’d give myself to. I’ll protect his privacy and call him B. I met B when I was in high school. Fell insanely “in love” I was really stupid. It wasn’t love, I just didn’t know any better. Had never had a boyfriend so I fell for the first guy who paid me any attention.

It started out low key. He would yell at me if my shirt was too tight, because it made guys look my way. I was so flattered by his jealousy. In my naïve mind, it meant he cared about me. He would grab my arms and twist them to get my attention. I just chalked it up to him being “passionate” and out of control with his feelings. We were at school the first time he shoved me. Hard up against a wall. I had a knot the size of a plum on the back of my head. He yelled at me, “See what you made me do??” It was my fault. I was to blame.

So I “behaved”.
I dressed how he wanted me to look.
I modeled myself after what he wanted.
I did everything he asked and more.
I compromised.
I gave up.
I surrendered to him.
I gave him complete control.
I didn’t know any better.

The first time he really hit me, I was 5 months pregnant. He’d already “tripped” me to fall down the stairs (to lose the baby). This time, I’d cooked his meal wrong and he slammed a frying pan against my face. Full force. Knocked me out cold.

I was scared to death and had nowhere to go. I was so ashamed…(When I got pregnant, my dad was less than thrilled, and he wouldn’t let me come back home. Tough love: you made your bed, you lie in it…) I had no one to tell. B had cut me off from my family, my friends, I had no support system outside of him. And what do you do when your support system is beating you?

He’d slap me, punch me, kick me. My pain was his folly. I really became numb to it. He’d come home drunk, assault me in ways I can’t talk about and pass out. He even brought women home a few times, forgetting I was there, too. I just looked away because I was stuck there… I learned how to use make-up to cover my black eyes. He learned from watching his own mother’s beatings, though, to punch me in spots when clothing would cover it.

I thought about leaving a million times.
Who am I kidding? It was ALL I thought about.
An escape.
An end to the pain.
I had Jonathan by then, and was scared of letting my child grow up in such a violent household. It was one thing for ME to deal with it, but a baby is innocent. I fear if he’d ever have touched Jonathan in a violent manner, I would most certainly have killed him. As it was, I had to get out.

I was working for a doctor at the time, minimum wage. B knew exactly how much money I made and took every penny. I couldn’t save anything to get away. It was like looking down a long, endless cave where no light can penetrate. I felt hopeless, alone and completely broken.

One night, he came home drunk as usual, slammed a full beer bottle against the side of my face, assaulted me and promptly passed out on our floor. I knew that I couldn’t stay. I just couldn’t. One of us would end up dead, probably me. He kept a shot gun in our closet behind an old TV. So, battered and bruised, literally alone in my sad world, I loaded that shotgun and pumped it. And I sat beside him, and watched him drool himself. At the point, I was more full of resignation and sorrow than hate. I had done this to myself, by staying, by allowing someone else to treat me like this…

I was certain of only two things: that this had to stop and that I was probably going to die at his hands.

I aimed that shotgun at him.
I was going to end it.
One way or another….
Then Jonathan, who was only 18 months old, woke up howling.
B stirred and moved around a bit.
I put the shotgun on the floor and went to the next room to calm the baby.

I came back and sat there all night, with my left eye swollen shut.
With that shotgun aimed at his head.
With the knowledge that my life was never going to be the same after this moment.
It was the moment when I had re-claimed my self, my independence, my very soul.
B was working construction and he woke at 4am, to a black and blue wife with a shotgun aimed at his head. I told him that if he ever touched me again that I would kill him. He reacted predictably. Slapped me and threw everything I owned out the 2nd story bedroom window.

I left him with the clothes on my back and a baby on my hip.
My best friend, who knows all of my darkest secrets, took me in.
Thank God for her. She was an angel.

I survived. And I never once looked back.
I was never ever tempted to forgive and take him back. He killed so much inside of me, I didn’t think I would ever love again.

I used what happened to me to strengthen myself. I went through Hell with that man. He terrorized me, taunted me, violated me and broke me. But I survived. It was certainly the darkest time in my life. After I got away and started over, I volunteered to help other women escape abusive relationships. It’s one cause to which I am happy to donate time and money.

So why here? Why now, do I bare my darkest and most shameful secrets?
Because I get readers from all over. Some woman might be sitting there, reading, feeling alone. With no place to go. No hope. In a place so dark that no light reaches her. And I want her to know that she, too, can get away.

The questions I get when I give this talk to others are usually the same ones: Why did you stay? How did you plan your getaway? Did you ever get revenge? What would you say to the women who are going through it now? How does it affect you now?
Why did I stay?- I had no place to turn to. I didn’t know about abused women’s shelters. I truly felt alone. The doctor I worked for gave me a sizable Christmas bonus that I put away and allowed me to freedom to plan my escape. If he had no done that, I don’t know what I would have done.

How did I plan my getaway?- I saved every penny I had. Literally. B checked my grocery receipts so he knew how much I had spent. But I would write the checks for $20 over and pocket the cash for my Getaway Fund. I packed a Go-Bag, so if I had the chance, I could grab my bag and run like hell. Most of all, I mentally prepared for a new life. I promised myself that I would never ever return.

Did I ever get revenge?- Yes and No. Yes, I got revenge. Revenge is a life well-lived. I got away. I escaped from his control. I reclaimed my life. That was the best revenge. And No, I didn’t. I will never be able to make him suffer as I did. He once showed up at my house, drunk of course. I planned for that eventual moment and beat him senseless with a hollowed out bat that I’d filled with lead. I broken several of his bones and handcuffed him to the bumper of his truck before calling his Mother and the cops. But no amount of pain or beating will make up for what he’d done to me. I used to lie awake at night thinking of ways to torture him. Counseling and therapy helped me with that rage.

How does it affect me now?- Geez, in so many ways. I was able to look back at my life and my childhood and see why I picked such a loser. I was able to learn from that horror and promise myself “never again”. I never let another man treat me with such contempt. I chose much better when deciding on a husband. As a victim of domestic abuse and sexual assault, the ripple effect was and is long-lasting. But I didn’t want to be a victim; that just gives power to the evil that I survived. So I do my best to raise my own daughter to avoid those mistakes. I use it to teach her how a man should treat her.

In the years since, I have reported other families who have domestic abuse issues. I can never be silent again.

If you or someone you love is the victim of abuse, please don’t wait. Get help. Tell someone. You’re NOT alone. It's NOT your fault. No one should hurt you like that.


Anonymous said...

I grew up in DV. It seems like just yesterday I watched my read dad pick up my stepmom and throw her into a lamp because she was too weak from being hospitalized to cook him dinner. It is tragic and people need to realize that it can happen in any home and effects are forever. Thanks for getting it out there :)

Holly's Mom said...

Thank you for sharing your story, it is so sad how many Woman have simular stories. My mother has a story simular to yours, she met my Biological Father at 16, and by the time I was born, she had 3 miscarrages from the abuse. I am sure for the same reasons she never left, until one day he threw something at her, a glass bowl or vase and it hit the wall behind my crib. The glass tumbled into my bed, I was perhaps just a year old. That night she ran, while he was out getting drunk. She didn;t have anywhere to go either, but that night went to her parents, long enough to get some money and drive to her brother's house 2000 miles away in another state. She left for me. it wasn;t until I was 11 years old that my father tired to reach us. And ironically when i was 18, 1 month before I would meet his for the first time since I was a baby, he was riding a bike and hit by a drunk driver and killed. I sometimes regret not meeting him, because he is part of me, and he was my moms first love, she sees him in me and it makes me sad, as never knowing him, I only hate him for what he did to my mother, but her having shared her experience with me, also taught me how a woman should be treated, and I am so lucky to have found a wonderful man.

So again, thank you for sharing your story.

ohhollyf said...

A what a wise post, you shared it well. It's so good to kmow you as a happy woman, and then to here your story :)

Berry Patch said...

((((((hugs)))))) While I've never had anything that horrific happen to me, I too have had a past boyfriend who treated me poorly for lack of a better word. It took a restraining order to finally get rid of him & yes, he did break it once before he finally gave up. Thankfully the Lord led me to a wonderful man who treats me far better than I deserve most days. ;-) Thanks for sharing your story, Suzanne. I pray it helps someone else out there get out of from under DV.

Tara said...

Wow....I respect you so much for sharing this story. YOU WILL help someone...probably more than one woman or even maybe a young girl. Your strength is amazing!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I've never been exposed to that kind of treatment (thanking God). Your story makes me more determined to help those women and children that are. There's a woman and children's shelter that I donate items to and your post has prompted me to continue to do that, on a more regular basis.
God bless you.

rennratt said...

Your post is proof that abuse and violence are so much more prevalent than we'd ever imagine.

Thank you for sharing. More important, thank you not just surviving, but for succeeding!