Its Not So Easy to Leave
Twenty one years ago, I thought I met the man of my dreams. He was handsome, worldly & very charismatic. Our relationship was intense, exciting & passionate. So when he asked me to marry him, I didn't even think for a second before I accepted. After the wedding, we moved 1300 miles from my family. I was so excited to have this marvelous adventure with my new husband. Little did I realize that this was the beginning of it all. I realize now that moving was his way of making me more dependent on him. I knew no one in this small town in Florida. He knew many. About a month after we moved, I found out I was pregnant with our first child. I lasted six months in Florida. I hated it. I was 19, pregnant & 1300 miles away from anyone that loved me, except for him. I needed my mom. He agreed, reluctantly, to move back to Chicago. After our son was born, his whole attitude changed. His frustration with having to move back here was building. One month after our son was born, I received the first of at least 100 beatings. Our relationship lasted 13 years, total. Every time I tried to assert myself, I was beat down. Not always physicallly. He was a master at emotional torment. Its hard to remain positive about life or have any self esteem when the one person in your life that you depend on keeps telling you what a fat, lazy, slob you are. After a while, you just begin to believe it. That lasted for years. I was so drained by all of his tyrades that I didn't even have the energy to deal with life.
There is a cycle to violence in a relationship. Anyone who has ever been involved in domestic violence therapy will tell you that its hard to get out. It starts with a "honeymoon phase". Life is blissful. He is the man that you fell in love with. Then there is a tension building phase. Little by little the tension builds. Sometimes its not even noticeable until the tension is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Then comes the explosion. Whether it is physical, verbal, emotional or sexual, as much as it hurts, its almost a relief because the tension is gone. The tension can get so unbearable that some victims will even entice the explosion just to get past the tension. I was guilty of that on a few occasions because I knew that once the explosion was over, we could get back to the honeymoon phase again. There is no timeline on how long the cycle takes. It could be days or it could be months or years.
To recount all of the incidents here would not serve any purpose except to sicken those who read this. But there are three incidents that were turning points in this sick relationship. The first turning point was the day I realized that my husband was crazy. He was yelling at me because I had gone out after work with some girls from work for a drink. One of the girls was leaving the company. When I got home, he started calling me all kinds of nasty names. I had had it with his mouth & told him to go crack open another beer. At that point, he punched me in the face & dislocated my jaw. I vividly remember standing there, swaying, thinking to myself "I am NOT going to fall. I am not going to give him the satisfaction". Well, as hard as I tried, I couldn't keep standing. The spinning got the better of me & I hit the floor. Immediately he was standing over me, straddling my body, telling me to NEVER speak to him like that. I saw my opportunity to get away in the way he was standing with his legs spread right above me. I balled up my fist & I KNOW I made contact with his testicles. The man didn't even flinch. I knew, right then & there, that I was going to end up dead by this man's hand some day if I didn't get out. A few weeks later, I found out I was pregnant with our daughter. My opportunity to hit the trail had gone up in smoke.
My pregnancy with her was a difficult one. I had many problems & the doctor had prepared me for the worst. Every test I had came back that she had some sort of serious problem. My husband had taken all of this to heart & was actually behaving himself. He was supportive & protective of me. The day she was born, there were at least a dozen people in scrubs in the OR (she was cesarean). When she was born they whisked her off to the neonatal unit & my husband followed her. As I laid in the recovery room, I asked the nurse just who those three men were that were standing in the corner of the OR in scrubs. She told me "Honey, those were security guards. Your doctor was afraid that if your daughter didn't make it when she was born, that everyone's safety in the OR was at risk". I was shocked. I never said anything about it to my husband. He was pretty self involved because he had just had rotator cuff surgery. When I got home, it was clear there were going to be problems. My husband was no help whatsoever & I was in a lot of pain. Our daughter's crib was in our bedroom. As we lay in bed that night, she began to cry. Having a cesarean makes it difficult to use your abdominal muscles for a bit. I was having a hard time getting out of bed. As I am trying to get myself up, he said to me "aren't you going to get up"? I told him I was trying, but was having a hard time. So he says "Here, let me help you", & promptly kicked me right off the bed. I got up, clenching my stomach, hoping I had not torn the staples holding my insides in & grabbed my daughter out of bed. I took her into the living room, fed her & rocked her back to sleep. Then, as she lay sleeping in my arms, I got up & went to the kitchen. In the kitchen I found his fillet knife he uses when he fishes. I took that knife & my daughter & went into the bedroom. I stood over my husband as he slept with my daughter in one hand & that knife in the other trying to decide where I was going to stab that man. Then I realized if I didn't kill him immediately, he would take that knife & kill me, for sure. That would mean that my children would be raised by him, alone. I decided he wasn't worth it & went out to the living room to sleep with my daughter in the recliner. He never knew that he almost died that night.
Three months later, I lost my job of almost 10 years. I saw another opportunity to run for my life fly right out the window. I became so depressed that in one year I was hospitalized 3 times for breakdowns. The doctors knew my husband was a big source of my depression & panic attacks, but instead of helping me find a way out, they chose to have me confront him while I was in the hospital. I think they thought that if I confronted him while I was hospitalized, in front of a mediator, that I would be safe. That was really a big mistake. He sat quietly in the conference room & listened to what I had to say. But I could see I was going to get the beating of a lifetime when I got home for talking to strangers about what happened in our home. By the time it was over, I had to be sedated because I was so freaked out & fearful. When I got home, I knew I needed to put a plan in order to try to get free. I took my meds & did my therapy. I began to put my ducks in a row. My husband saw me beginning to get better & became aggitated by it. One night, I sat him down at the table & told him I wanted a divorce. I was feeling empowered by my progress towards being better. We argued. During the argument, I went to use the washroom. My 3 yr old daughter followed me into the bathroom, as most 3 yr olds will do. He came to the door, burst through it, knocking our daughter over with the door & kicked me in the thigh as I sat on the toilet. I grabbed the kids & ran for the door. I went to a neighbors & called the police. It was certainly not the first time they had been to our house. They came, guns drawn. They arrested him for domestic violence, told me to go get an order of protection & then told me that my leg looked fine. He obviously hadn't kicked me very hard. It was actually quite the opposite. The muscles were what was bruised so it took about 3 days before the blood came to the surface. When it did, I had a distinct shoe print that was black & purple. Over time, the bruising ran down my leg. It took weeks to disappear.
That was the final straw. I knew that if I stayed, both of my children would grow up thinking that this was normal. My son would be an abuser & my daughter would allow people to abuse her. The next day, I called him from work & told him that he had until I came home from work to get himself & his things out of the house or he was going back to jail. He left, but continued to terrorize me for a few years. Even divorcing him didn't seem to phase him. He violated the order of protection on 2 occasions & was not charged with a crime. The third time he left threatening messages on my answering machine. He threatened to blow up the house with us in it & beat up our son (he was 12 at the time) for not answering the phone. While the police were at my home taking the report, my ex's brother phoned. He called to tell me that my ex had gotten into his mother's gun collection & was on his way to my home. That was when the police did something about it. He was finally arrested. But even in the court room, he would look at me, wink & blow kisses. The state's attorney used those very actions to show the judge that this man was a danger to me & my children. He was sentenced to a whopping 2 years, was out in 6 months & started right back up where he left off. It took me selling my home & moving in the dead of the night with no forwarding address to get some peace.
In all of this, I had thought I had saved my children. We went through domestic violence therapy through a women's shelter in the area for almost 2 years. During one of our family sessions, my son looked at me (he was 14 at the time) & said "Mom, you have no idea what its like to watch your father try to kill your mother & not be able to do anything about it". Chilling words from a teenager. My daughter is 11 now & still remembers the time "the police came & took Bob away for kicking Mom on the toilet". My son & I have Post traumatic stress disorder. He has other issues directly related to the things he has witnessed. At 20 years old, he seems to find himself in relationships with girls who have behaviors eerily similiar to those of his father. My concern was that my son would be an abuser & he allows women to abuse him. I have shown him time & time again the similiarities between this relationship he is currently in & my marriage to his father. He won't even consider that they are similiar.
Its been 8 years since I got out. Its been an uphill struggle all the way. My ex is back in Florida now & will call or write my mom occasionally since he has no idea how to contact me or the kids. We remain hidden. But every time he comes back to Chicago, he calls my mom & wants to see the kids, which is against the court orders of the divorce. On your average day, I can say, I have moved past it all & am not afraid of him anymore. But when he rears his ugly head, I am right back to where I was in the first months of our separation. I am afraid to turn on lights at night, unable to sleep without nightmares & afraid to go outside, for fear he may see us somewhere.
All I can say is this... If you can't seem to get out for yourself... Do it for your kids. Don't justify that he's only mean to you. It has lifelong consequences for all of you.