In March of 2010 my ex-husband moved out and filed for divorce. After dancing a jig of glee, I gathered myself and set on my way of reconstructing my life. My kids were devastated to not be living with their dad, but I was excited to be free of his abusive and controlling ways. We had been together for 13 horrible years and I finally felt like I could breathe.
He was, at first, a charmer. He always told me what I thought I wanted to hear. He had an excuse for everything. Even though he was holding me down, I felt like I wanted him to hold me down.
Some times were better than others. We drank. We partied. We were irresponsible. It was great. It was fun. There was never a dull moment. Other times, we fought. We fought a lot. We would get drunk and sure enough, he would do or say something I deemed unnecessary. He would even flirt with my friends or even strangers. He would call someone a name. A fight would surely ensue and the fun for the night would be over.
One time, long ago, before children entered our lives, we were at a bar where my friend’s brother worked. I came up behind him to find him arguing with the bouncer. All I heard was the bouncer say “You’re out!” I, being the wonderful girlfriend that I was, defended my man. I quickly stuck up for him and said “Hey! That’s my boyfriend! Don’t talk to him that way!” To which the bouncer sweetly replied, “Well, you’re boyfriend just stole a beer, and he’s out of here.”
We left the bar and walked to his truck. By this time, he was too drunk to drive, so I decided it would be best for me to do the driving. He listened to his rap music at a deafening volume. The more I thought about what had just happened, the more upset I became. Finally, I turned to him and asked “Did you really steal a beer from there?” He smiled a very evil, toothy grin and said “Yes, of course. It was right there and I didn’t think anyone would notice.” He was good and drunk by this time.
I was infuriated and embarrassed. Surely, my friend would hear about how MY boyfriend had been kicked out for stealing. I screamed at him “Are you stupid?! My friend’s brother works there! How dare you embarrass me?” I went on and on for a few minutes like I usually did at that time, being in my early 20’s and not knowing at that time that you don’t argue with a drunk. After hearing enough of my nagging, he had enough. I was staring straight ahead at the road in disbelief that he would steal from a bar and BOOM! The right side of my head felt a giant hammer slam into it. It took me a second to realize it was his fist. He punched me in the side of the head a good three or four times. Since I was driving I just kept my composure, but inside I was in shock. I looked over at him and he was still smiling, as if what he done wasn’t that big of a deal. We went home and went to bed like nothing ever happened.
The next morning, my head pounded from both the barrage of his fist and the over-consumption of alcohol. I woke up to the memory of the night before. The side of my head had a lump and a faint, pinkish bruise. I rolled over to find Prince Charming was gone. I went down stairs to assess the damage. It didn’t look nearly as bad as it felt. I thought to myself, “What in the world am I going to do? I live with this man, this man I love. I can’t tell my parents. They’ll kill him.” As I was in the bathroom looking in the mirror, I heard him come in. I hesitantly went in the living room to see what he was doing. He looked at me, tears in his eyes and went down on his knees. He begged me, pleaded, “Please forgive me. I’ve been crying for two hours about what I did to you last night. I swear I’ll never do it again.” Isn’t that the M.O. for abusers?
I did what many women do. I forgave him. I loved him, even felt a little sorry for him. He saw his Dad do it to his Mom. He wasn’t hugged enough. He struggled in school. I mentally gave him more excuses than he ever gave me.
Over the course of the next 10 years after that incident, there were others. Once, he threw me to the ground, put his knees on my chest and proceeded to give me a sound pounding upon my face so hard I had a fat lip for weeks. It bled on my shirt and stained it so that it never came out. I threw the shirt away like it never happened. Looking back on it, that was how I dealt: like it never happened.
Of course there were apologies, as there always are for abusers. I always forgave him. I wanted the good guy all the time. I only got the good guy sometimes. There were moments; anniversaries, birthdays, etc. where he went above and beyond. He cleaned the entire house spotless, from top to bottom. He covered our bed in rose petals. He bought me nice gifts, like watches and rings. I think that’s how his Dad thought. “If I buy them stuff, it shows I care.” I know it seems obvious, but how our parents behave really affects us and how we treat people. That can be a good thing if we have well-balanced parents. As I’m sure this is obvious to you, the reader, neither of us had great role-models for parents. They didn’t teach us how to respect others and in turn, respect ourselves.
Six months after he filed for divorce, I met a wonderful man. He treated me like I’ve never been treated before. He listened to me, didn’t belittle me and was always patient and kind. My ex and I had agreed we would never introduce the kids to any of our boyfriends or girlfriends without the other’s permission. In accordance to this rule, I called him up on the phone and said, “I met someone I would like the kids to meet.” He was very short and curt in response and said “We’ll talk about it when I get there.” He was already on his way to my house to drop off our son.
When he got there, I was up in my bedroom. He came into the room, shut the door behind him and said, “I’m going to jail for you tonight.” He started punching me in the face harder than I’ve ever been hit in my life. I remember simply thinking, “This really hurts.” I’m surprised I didn’t panic, but I didn’t. I kind of relaxed and let it happen. I must have passed out from either the force of the beating or my brain hit the emergency shut-off switch because it knew I couldn’t handle the trauma. I woke up to him cleaning my face off with a wet washcloth saying, “Oh my god Deidra, I’m so sorry. Please don’t call the cops.” I stood up and said, “Get out, right now. Get out.”
The first person I called was my new boyfriend. I was slurring my words and very dazed. He answered and asked what was wrong. I said, “I’m just so dizzy.” He said, “Why are you dizzy? You don’t sound good. What happened?” I said, through swollen lips, “He beat me up.” I’m sure I was hard to understand. He immediately said, “Call the cops, I’m coming over.” He showed up, as did the police, in less than 5 minutes. The ambulance came and took me away. My kids rode in the ambulance with me. My poor little babies, they weren’t in the room when it happened, but they knew.
While in the hospital, I texted my boss of over 5 years to let him know I was in the hospital, what had just happened and wouldn’t be in to work the next day. He promptly texted back with, “See how you feel in the morning. If you’re not better, I’m gonna need a doctor’s note.” Please keep in mind, I rarely missed a day in over 5 years. I was laid up, beaten, bruised, and violated. All he had to say was, “See how you feel in the morning.” Talk about adding insult to injury. I quit that job less than a week later.
I recovered slowly with the help of my boyfriend and my wonderful kids. The wonderful folks at the victims unit in my local county also helped me out. My ex was arrested and convicted of a class 7 felony, instead of the initial charge of a class 4 because he didn’t break any bones or created any need of stitching. He spent four days in jail. Four days while I spent the next 2 months after the incident sleeping for 16 hours a day and looking like a car crash victim. He lost his job because of the felony.
I have residential custody of the children. It’s almost as if he did a favor for me, in a horrible way. I didn’t have to fight for custody at all. It was obvious to the judge the children are better with me. He sees them every other weekend. It can be emotional and heartbreaking for them, but I hope someday they understand why they didn’t live with him. I encourage them to talk to him often and want them to have a healthy relationship. He has apologized to me and them for his behavior, but there’s nothing he can do to change the past.
A year later I sit here and recall that night. I’m not asking for sympathy or a shoulder to cry on. I simply want people to be aware of the choices they make in their lives. They affect not only us, but our children and the other important people around us. I look at my face in the mirror, I see a strong woman. I am a woman who has overcome many obstacles, and because of those obstacles, I know I can handle any new challenges that come my way. I see the beauty that surrounds me: my kids, my friends, my ever-loving boyfriend. I see me and my life. It is my choice.
It all started when I broke up with my boyfriend of 3 years. I was madly in love with him, we were going to get married. But it was a bad relationship, a really bad one. I was constantly pulling him out of trouble, constantly trying to prove to my friends and family he was everything I thought he was. It became exhausting; he had destroyed my trust in any way imaginable. But I still loved him. After he cheated on me, I put my brain in charge instead of my heart. We broke up. His last comment was, “But I still love you” to which I replied, “Not enough.”
It took a while to even think about moving on from him. But when I finally started to, I began having what I thought were nightmares. The nightmares were always a little different, but very similar. And part of some of them involved my brother, who was 3 years younger than me, standing by the side of my bed. He would touch my breasts, feel around under my underwear. Sometimes they even involved him taking my hand and touching his penis.
The first time this happened I could have swore was real but my brain couldn’t make sense of it. I remember looking at my brother the next day. I remember thinking, how could I ever even think he would do something like that? He’s my sweet baby brother. That same day I asked him if he had been in my room the previous night, he answered no. I believed him.
A few weeks later, I had another nightmare. During the nightmare I woke up, and I pretended to be asleep. He remained in the room with me. He took my hand and made me touch it. As soon as I thought he was gone, I ran into my mother’s room barely able to spit out what had happened. Part of me was convinced it was real; part of me wasn’t sure what to believe. I remember puking up water, then dry heaving. Then I remember having my very first panic attack, I felt like I was going to suffocate. My mother calmed me down, I explained to her how real it felt. She believed me and went to check on my brother. When she came back she told me he was sound asleep, there was no way he could have just been in my room. My mom and I talked, and concluded that I was having hallucinations that were perfectly rational in moving on from my abusive boyfriend.
Something still didn’t seem right. Why did the nightmares start all of a sudden? I began to wonder if this was what it was like for people who become psychotic. Was I crossing the line from reality to crazy? I did not want to be someone who was too weak to handle life. If I crossed into imaginary land, would I ever be able to find my way back? If I became crazy, did my ex win? Surely I was stronger and better than that. My parents and I talked the next day. The plan was to get through the next few weeks until graduation. If the hallucinations continued, we would see about putting me in an institution. We all agreed that they would have the best resources for me to get help. I made one of my best friends make a promise to me. I made her promise that if I ever was in a mental institution and became crazy, that she would come visit me.
Later that week, my mother came to me. She had been having doubts about the “hallucinations” too. In a car ride she had gotten my brother to confess. He came to me later that night, to say he was sorry. I told him to get out of my room. How dare he think that this was something that could be forgiven with a simple “sorry?”
My ex- found out what had happened. He didn’t call, he didn’t text, he didn’t offer any kind of support.
At first I couldn’t even look at my brother, but things eventually got better. But even after what he had done, I still loved him. I wanted him to get help. As a family, we slowly began recovering. It is fall now, and that was last summer.
For part of my counseling, I did tell a couple of my friends. Most of them just sat quiet and nodded. That being said, there are some of my friends who I will never tell.
As for my abusive ex? I have since raised my standards, by a landslide! If I ever do meet someone who is worthy of me, I probably will tell him about my brother when the timing is right. Part of me is a little scared about getting to the intimate part of a relationship again. Will I be able to have a normal sexual relationship with anyone again? To be honest, I’m not sure. Some things may never be the same. But, if these past few months have taught me anything, it’s that you have to have faith. Three months ago I wasn’t sure if I would even be able to look at my brother again. I’m very proud about how far I’ve come.
I remember being about 5 and my mom taking me halfway up the stairs to the landing because I was throwing a sobbing fit and she was trying to keep me away from him because she knew it pissed him off. I remember him grabbing a stick of firewood and coming after us. He grabbed me and spanked me with it so hard it left a black and blue. I watched him chase my big brother out of the house with a stick raised in his hand, and my heart was in my throat because I was afraid he would seriously hurt him.
I remember him threatening my cat and then laughing about it. I remember once when he found baby squirrels in the attic, he threw them one by one from the window, while I hid in my room and cried because I was sure they were at least being injured if not killed, since they were still babies. I remember despising Mondays, because that was his day off and I had to spend it with him doing yard and outside work. To this day, the act of moving and stacking wood is enough to put me in a depression for the entire day. I hated everything about it – the dirt, the splinters, and most of all him, constantly berating me because I wasn’t doing it well enough.
I remember when he would get mad at me, he would push me along in front of him to force me to go where he wanted me to. I remember a couple times when he pushed me towards the extremely steep stairs in my house, and I was terrified that I was going to fall because I wouldn’t be able to grab the railing. I remember reoccurring nightmares about him chasing me, and trying to run and not being able to get away, but waking up just as he reached for me.
When I was 19, I got a job working at the same store he has worked at for years. I loved my job, my boss liked me, and I got along well with the majority of my coworkers. But since we drove together, we had the same shift, and we were there for several hours by ourselves before the next person came in. He was constantly telling me what I should be doing, criticizing my work, and threatening to tell my boss that I was slacking off on the job.
The next summer, my grampy died, and mom lived with grammy for a year while my dad built a room onto the house for her to move into. Without mom in the house, his attitude got worse and worse. He talked about her behind her back, and ordered me around as to how I was to keep the house, because apparently she wasn’t doing it right. I became angrier and angrier. One day he chased me with the broom, and tried to hit me with it, but fortunately the soft end was what caught my shoulder. When he realized he’d actually hit me, he stopped and put the broom away.
The day that changed everything, he had told me that when he came home from work that evening, my room had better be picked up and neat. I hate being told what to do. I hate having a timeline. I lay around all day and did absolutely nothing at all. Finally, about half an hour before he was supposed to arrive, I went up and was half-heartedly going through the junk on my floor, sorting what could be thrown away from important stuff. When he got home, he came up and knocked on my door and told me he wanted to see my room. I had wrapped a sash around a nail in the door frame and then around the door knob for a lock, because heaven forbid I have a real one. I told him that I was still cleaning and that I would let him know when I was done so he could inspect. He got angry and told me he wanted to see it right now. I continued to argue with him and tell him that I wasn’t done and he could look when I was. Finally he yanked the door open, tearing the sash in two and stormed in. He took one look around and said “Get downstairs right now.” I said “No, I’m going to stay and finish my room and then I’ll come downstairs.” We went back and forth like this for a minute, and I stood up so I wouldn’t be kneeling as we argued. Suddenly he had me in a headlock and was dragging me toward the door. As we got past the door frame, I was fighting his grasp, and I knocked over a cat bowl that was on top of a desk. It shattered, and he let me go. “Clean it up!” I grabbed the small broom and dustpan by the bathroom and did as he asked. When it was picked it, he lunged for me and I was back in the headlock being dragged toward the stairs. I fought with all my strength, refusing to walk, terrified of getting too close to the stairway. We ended up across the hall and in his room, with me on the floor and him kneeling over me. I had his shirt at the neck in one hand, and the other was pulling his arm down away from my neck as hard as I could. “LET GO!” he hissed, and I said nothing, but did not relinquish my grasp at all. Finally, after what seemed like forever, my sister came out of her room, and went into the bathroom. He immediately let me go and said “Come downstairs when you’re ready,” and stormed off.
My sister made some phone calls, and my dad was forced to see a “therapist” while we stayed with some friends from church. That was until everyone (the therapist included) discovered I am gay, and immediately decided that the best place for me would be right back at home with my dad all by myself, as my sister stayed behind. I started self-injuring during this time because I felt trapped and invalidated as a person. See I’m real, I’m alive, I bleed, just like you…
It’s taken years for me to get to the point where I feel mostly ok with my life. I still jump every time my significant other unexpectedly touches my neck. I still struggle with feeling worthless, not good enough, and invalidated. I get triggered. But I am a survivor. I’ve always been a survivor. I’ve learned that hope is the most important thing. And maybe someday I’ll be whole.
You can follow Sarah at Tumblr.
This is my story, in all the raw & rough around the edges bits.
My name is Sara. I have left my abuser of a decade. That ten years with my ex showed me the need to have resilience, faith, & undying courage. Even before I met him, I was a rape survivor. Then I met him and my world unfolded. Him slamming doors, punching holes in walls; later learning he has become an addict and alcoholic who fails to seek refuge in Detox, that he would not leave me unless I left him.
I have felt threatened, have been threatened & forcefully abused. I have believed lies & blackmail. I have felt worthless & unloved. I spent a decade with a man who showed his “love” with seven evictions in a decade. He stole items from me and my neighbors, friends and co-workers. He is someone who displays stalking & harassing tactics. He controlled when I went to the bathroom. Controlled who I spoke to and also when. Family contact was limited, I was permitted at least to be at the hospital when my loving never-hurt-a-fly Father lost his life to cancer on March 20th 2006. He has thrown me up against hardwood door frames. He has hit, punched and kicked me. He has threatened my life and carried weapons. He spit all over me.
And most of all, my heart said “cannot take this anymore, I must let him go.”
He would awaken me by having intercourse with me. He made fun of me because I am a rape survivor. Taunted me with leering glares and lied to me and about me. My abuser checked my e-mails, updated my FaceBook profile and controlled every aspect of my being. Those who never understood, I hope they will some day. His constant drama, excessive stealing and manipulation brought me to feel hopeless and responsible. Part of me still feels the gnawing guilt, but I know I am ready to break free.