Domestic Violence – the Story of an Emotionally Abused Wife – Includes Resources to Help Victims of Domestic Violence and Abuse

Posted: January 9, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Originally published on Yahoo Contributor Network November 12, 2009

According to helpguide.org, “Domestic abuse, also known as spousal abuse, occurs when one person in an intimate relationship or marriage tries to dominate and control the other person.”

According to that same source, “The aim of emotional or psychological abuse is to chip away at your feelings of self-worth and independence. If you’re the victim of emotional abuse, you may feel that there is no way out of the relationship, or that without your abusive partner you have nothing.”

Statistics

Statistics on spousal and relationship abuse are staggering. The Domestic Violence Resource Center  (DVRC) concludes that 25% of women have experienced domestic violence in their lifetimes. What that means is that as many as 960,000 up to 3,000,000 incidents of domestic violence occur EVERY YEAR. And those statistics relate only to physical violence. Domestic violence that ends in death accounts for 30% of murdered women and 5% of murdered men, according to the same site.

Violence comes in many forms: physical, psychological, emotional, and mental. But while bruising and lacerations prove physical abuse, proving emotional trauma is not only difficult, it is sometimes downright impossible. But ask yourself – does it really matter how you are being abused?

No, it matters that you are being abused, and it matters that you find the courage to end the abuse.

Everybody asks, why don’t you just leave him (or her)? And the answer is this – fear and intimidation prevent people from leaving their partners. You CAN escape, however, and you have EVERYTHING you need to get out of the abusive relationship. What follows is the story of one woman who found out she was actually worth more than the abuse she suffered. Hopefully you too can find your way out of this pit of despair.

In the beginning

Four months after my 19th birthday, I met the man I would later call “the love of my life.” I had never been more attracted to anybody than I was to him. He was gorgeous, he had numerous friends who idolized him, and he had numerous women who did too. I learned quickly that I had to wait in line if I wanted to spend any time with him.

In a desperate attempt to demonstrate my love for him, I showered him with affection, and I searched for gifts I knew he would like. The attraction was powerful – so powerful it defied common sense (something I wish now I had said out loud).

It might have been wise for me to ask myself why I was so attracted to him. He never complimented me, though he always found something about other women to compliment – whether it was their hair, their clothing, or their perfume – but never once did he find anything about me that deserved recognition.

I spent enormous amounts of money trying to be like the women he complimented, so I could hear even one positive comment from him. I never did. And yet I clung to him year after year, woman after woman, awaiting my turn.

Marriage to an abuser

In the early years of our marriage, he wanted to go out every Friday night. But Friday night became Saturday morning, because when the bars closed at 4am, he wanted to go out to eat. The babies awoke at 6am, and after a night of “partying,” I lacked the energy to care for our children (he never helped), so eventually I stopped going out with him. That decision was my first attempt at showing concern for myself and my children above my concern for how he would react.

He went ballistic, but he kept going out – by himself. He would later come home drunk and demand that I wake up and make breakfast for him. I always did, because he would keep me awake complaining incessantly if I didn’t.

Nothing I did was good enough for him. He complained about the food I prepared, the way I dressed, the way I kept the house, and everything imaginable. He would come home from work and run his finger into the corners of the rooms. If he found dust, which he usually did, he would hold the dust under my nose and scream, “YOU CALL THIS PLACE CLEAN?”

Every day I worked harder and harder at pleasing him. It didn’t matter. The next day he came home and ran his fingers into the grooves of the chandelier, held them under my nose, and screamed again about how filthy our apartment was. On the third day, after I had spotlessly cleaned the apartment to please him, he came home and ran his fingers in the space between the doorknob and the door where he found a small amount of dust. Again he held it under my nose demanding an explanation.

I told him that since I was so inept at housecleaning, that job was now his. Though I rarely stood up for myself, I felt defeated knowing I could never clean the apartment well enough to suit him.

Subtle abuse

Shortly before our third child was born, when I was 8 months pregnant, I tried to cuddle with him on the couch. I had tried this maneuver numerous times before, always with the same results. From his reclined position, with me lying next to him, he lifted his knees and shoved me off the couch. Sometimes he used his foot so that he could push me off just as I was sitting down. I’m sure it caused stress to the baby when he knocked me to the floor every time, but it was never a concern for him.

Before we were married we took turns scratching each other’s backs. After we were married, though I scratched his back nearly every night, he never once, the whole time we were married, even through three pregnancies, scratched my back or touched me affectionately unless he wanted sex. Even then the touch was not affectionate.

In the 1980s I never thought to report his shoving me off the couch to the authorities for abuse. Like so many women back then, I took it and thought that maybe I deserved it. Maybe I wasn’t worthy of his love.

Even now, I wonder why I tried to please him, when every attempt I made ended in more pain for me.

We eventually moved into a house, but our home was more a house than a home, a place to eat, dress, sleep, and fight. I didn’t like our house, however, and I became terrified of living in it with him. The person my husband became after his fifth beer was unlike any human I’d ever encountered. His eyes narrowed into slivers of hatred, seething with disgust. I sometimes felt as if I were looking into the eyes of the devil himself.

The following dream exemplifies what happened to me every day at ten minutes after four when my husband returned home from work:

The car door slammed and I quickly put away the last of the toys. My husband entered the house carrying two boxes of ammunition. He placed them on the dining room table as I sighed in exasperation, “I’m so tired of playing this game. I don’t want to play this game anymore.”

But he loaded the gun anyway, and I ran to the bathroom, where I grabbed a magazine to shield myself. The bullets flew through the bathroom door with astounding speed. They ricocheted off the walls and I dodged them as quickly as I could move. I held up the magazine to deflect the bullets and danced around them to save myself from certain death.

The dream ended, but the nightmare continued. At four o’clock every day I scurried around the house, packing away toys and games. Everything had to be perfect or he would slam his fists into the table and scare the babies.

The minute I heard the car door slam, I knew I had to get ready for the onslaught of his vicious words. I often ran into the bathroom and locked the door to avoid them, but he would stand outside the bathroom flinging his obscenities at me through the door. I tried to focus on the words in the magazine, but found it nearly impossible to read the words through my tears.

The kids weren’t allowed to play with anything after he came home. All toys had to be packed away. The only thing they were allowed to do was watch television – whatever program HE wanted to watch. I wasn’t allowed to crochet or read while he watched his programs. I had to watch whatever he was watching. He would stand behind me to talk to me so that I had to twist my head in an uncomfortable position to see him. He delighted in seeing my subservience.

Early on, I tried to read while he watched his programs, but he interrupted me constantly. Eventually, I crocheted despite his protests, because I could pretend to watch his programs and he would leave me alone if it looked as if I was obeying him.

The abuser’s power and control escalates

He hovered by the phone whenever I talked to friends or family and then ranted if I mentioned the names of my kids or him during the conversation, even if I was relating something comical one of the kids said. He didn’t want anybody knowing our business, any of our business. He controlled every aspect of my life from the way I looked to the way I conducted myself. I started to look forward to those times when he was gone.

Our enormous refrigerator comfortably held two cases of beer on the bottom shelf. I wasn’t allowed to put anything else on that shelf. When his friends were over, he shared the bottom shelf with them and their beer. He also made it a point to criticize, humiliate, and degrade me in front of them, even using such ridiculous reasons as my reading the Bible.

They looked away in shame and embarrassment. Some of them even stood up for me. Eventually all of them stopped coming over, except for his one drinking buddy who shared his bottom shelf.

Money was another source of discontent. He immediately spent everything he made, never allowing for upcoming bills, and I would have to get a second job just to get caught up. He never changed a diaper and on those evenings when I went to work, I had to make sure the kids were bathed, clothed, diapered, and ready for bed, so that the ONLY thing he was responsible for was putting them in bed.

Enabling the abuser

Every time I came home from work and found him asleep on the floor in a sitting position, I removed the beer from his hand and pulled him to bed. I didn’t realize at the time that I was contributing to his alcoholism. After I placed him in bed, I would hear him choking on his vomit while I sat on the couch on the other side of the house playing God (if I wait long enough…) – it was a cruel thought. I always saved him from drowning in his own puke, though, and I was ashamed of myself for thinking I would even consider allowing him to die.

Especially when it looked to me as if the world around me was already dying and everything I saw looked dead. The trees especially were dying, and I wanted to save them all, so I called the local police to report their demise.

Going crazy

Looking back I think I truly was going crazy. I’m sure the cops felt they had another “nut job” on the line and probably wrote my number down as a safety precaution. I asked for help from my neighbors, too, as I circulated petitions to save the dying trees. Little did I know that the neighbors had already been forewarned by my husband about my craziness.

I wasn’t aware that the dying trees around me were reflections of the decay I felt inside. My heart was shriveling and my spirit was disappearing.

In trying to save myself from my own demise, I relied on my wits to save me. Nothing else was helping. Following him around the yard and begging for his attention was fruitless, and so I backed myself into a corner and came up with a plan.

I had learned the art of sarcasm at a very early age. It was one of two forms of communication my family used – humor was the other. I was tired of him insulting and criticizing me, so on that day, the day of my decision to stand up for myself, I decided to show this man who had been abusing me for years just how badly I was hurting inside.

On that day I decided to deflect the degrading, humiliating comments he hurled my way.

On that day, I became my ex-husband.

Instead of him attacking me at 10 minutes after 4, as he usually did when he came home from work, I attacked him. And I was relentless, sometimes coming up with things that were so hurtful I found myself patting myself on the back.

I thrust my sharp witty knives deep into his heart, and I kept twisting them and twisting them and twisting them until I saw his shoulders slump and his body wither. I felt empowered.

When the week was up, I asked him, “So how did you like living with yourself this week?” He didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. When I explained what I had been doing the week prior, he retorted, “You’ve always been a bitch.”

While my intention was to stop behaving like him when the week was up, I found I couldn’t stop. The power I felt from inflicting pain on him was so intoxicating, I could see why he benefited from his emotional torture. I felt absolutely powerful. I could control him by belittling, humiliating, and degrading him.

But I felt that my spirituality was suffering and I literally had to bite down on my tongue to prevent myself from inflicting more pain. I had seen him wither over the days of my abuse. His shoulders slumped. His posture showed defeat. My belittling him had an effect quite opposite of my desired result. I had hoped he would recognize himself, but he didn’t.

Still I felt we could save our marriage if we worked together. But he refused to accept any responsibility for the direction in which our marriage was heading, and he really didn’t care.

The day it almost became physical – an important decision

Everything changed for me the day he raised his fist to me. Having seen professionals on television discuss the escalation of domestic abuse, and knowing from reading about it that everything would only become worse, I decided I would not stick around and have my children witness their mother being pummeled by their father.

By the time the attorneys demanded we seek counseling before the divorce, it was too late for me. I decided, after talking to a priest, after reading several books about the effects of divorce on children, after attending Alanon meetings, and after reading the Bible from cover to cover, that I could no longer stay in a loveless marriage.

That decision was prompted by an event that I might have missed if I hadn’t decided to sit in my own back yard.

I never visited with the neighbors because I couldn’t stand watching everybody get drunk. But on this evening, after I had put the kids to bed, I joined my husband and our neighbors at our picnic table.

The wife sat next to me while her husband sat across from us. My husband stood next to me with his foot up on the picnic bench. The wife and I talked for quite a while when suddenly she looked up at my husband and announced, “She’s not crazy!”

I remember looking first at her and then at him, utterly confused. He was seething with rage.

“Really,” she told me, “he told us you were so crazy you were about to be admitted to the loony bin.”

Apparently, when he realized I might be leaving him, he informed all of the neighbors that I would be institutionalized. It probably didn’t help me that I had previously gone on and on like a lunatic about the dying trees. I don’t know how he planned on explaining his children being gone, too, but he had come up with a pretty convincing story about why I would be gone.

Still, the decision to divorce weighed heavily on my mind. Would it make my children stronger to stay in a marriage filled with strife, or would it be better for them to be away from the drinking, even if it meant living below the poverty level?

I struggled for months with the issue and eventually decided to leave him and take the children with me. It was not an easy decision. I loved him, I wanted to spend my whole life with him, but I was tired of the emotional torture and the alcohol and substance abuse, and I was tired of sharing my bed with Budweiser.

STDs are a form of abuse

Years after our divorce, as I sat on the couch watching Oprah, I listened to a discussion on chlamydia. I knew chlamydia was an STD – I had it shortly after my youngest daughter was born. But I never really understood the implications of having a sexually transmitted disease. The incident flashed before my mind when I focused on the word, “transmitted.”

I remember clearly my gynecologist’s reaction back in 1984 when he told me that I had gotten a sexually transmitted disease only months after my youngest daughter was born.

I remember the way the doctor looked at me – confused. I had said, “Hmmm, well, then I guess I got it from my husband.” And here I was, years later, sitting on the couch watching Oprah, remembering that look. Did he think I was a delusional understanding wife? Or did he wonder if I had a lover?

I never considered, after having just given birth to our youngest daughter that my HUSBAND had gotten this disease from somebody else UNTIL I watched that Oprah show years later. I felt so immediately stupid I could have hit myself. Instead, I just shook my head at how gullible and ignorant I had been throughout my marriage. I had allowed him to abuse me again and I wasn’t even aware that I was being abused by one of the most powerful methods of abuse – betrayal.

Effects of domestic abuse on children

Though I put my children through years of poverty, I know now that I made the right decision. It took me a couple of decades to build up my self confidence, but I did it. When the marriage fell apart, I worked on myself and my children, and I’m reaping the benefits of those rewards now. I don’t think my children would be the adults they are today had I stayed in that abusive relationship.

Children who see abusive relationships either seek those same types of relationships because they are familiar with them or they become abusive themselves. How could I expose my kids to years of emotional torture with their own future spouses or raise children to feel comfortable in abusive surroundings?

In the years since my divorce I realized that I had allowed my ex-husband to manipulate and control me. I was frightened by him and I couldn’t speak up for myself. In the years between then and now, though he never asked, I have forgiven him. I didn’t want to carry the burden of hatred or vengeance with me. I didn’t want my anger at the way he treated me to influence my actions for the rest of my life. I wanted to forgive him so I could move on.

I feel sorry for the man I chose to love who was incapable of loving me back. He still doesn’t recognize that his alcoholism contributed to his overall depression and to the state of his life. He obviously needed help. But I did too.

Had resources been available to me back then, I would gladly have agreed to accept the help that is now offered through such organizations as the National Domestic Violence Hotline and Help Guide. Nobody should have to live life as a puppet.

Resources:

If you are being emotionally, physically, sexually, or spiritually abused or tortured, today is the day you say, NO MORE! Get the help you need by linking to either Help Guide or the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

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