I AM A SURVIVOR
I was around 23 when I met my ex-husband, and I had a three-year-old son from a previous relationship. He was my knight in shining armor (or so I thought). He had everything together. Handsome, kind, had a great job and was very much into me. He accepted my son and seemed like he wanted nothing more than to "take care of us." I'll never forget when he surprised me with a trip to Las Vegas. I was excited. I had never been and was thrilled that he would do something so nice for me. Even now as I look back.. there were red flags that I was too young and inexperienced to notice.
My son and I moved into his home within six months, and around six months later I was pregnant with my first daughter. My family loved him. I started noticing his jealousy and temper about six months into my pregnancy. He didn't want me going anywhere without him. Not to dinner with my friends, not shopping during the day. He wanted ALL of my time. I didn't mind. All I wanted was a family and a home. I was "flattered" that he "loved" me so much that he didn't want to share me.
The abuse didn't happen overnight. It just progressed. From throwing me against a wall, spitting on me, kicking me to finally one night after my second daughter was born, he was so out of control that I couldn't hide it anymore. We had come home from a family function, and towards the end of the night, a family friend's husband said something mildly inappropriate to me. I can't even remember what it was, but my husband was furious. The whole way home he accused me of wanting to "fuck that guy" and of being a "whore, " and as he was driving, he was hitting me with his right hand. Once we got into the house, I was crying hysterically and asking him to "please stop." If I had a dollar for every time, I said that I would be rich by now. I begged him. I professed my undying love. I swore that I wanted no one else. He just got angrier and angrier. He ripped my clothes off. Every stitch, until I was naked. He then dragged me out the front door, threw me on the porch, closed the door and locked me out. Naked. After a few minutes, he pulled me back in. I begged him to stop. He punched, kicked, pulled my hair out and spit on me. He yanked me into our bedroom where he picked up a mirror and broke it over my head. Then he sat on top of me and held a gun to my head saying that he would blow my head off and then his. I begged for my life. I told him I loved him. The last thing I remember was his hands around my throat, choking me, as I lay there, naked, on the carpet, with him on top of me. All I could think about was: my babies, that they wouldn't remember me, and who would raise them? When I woke up, I was naked on our bed, and he was crying. He thought he killed me. I was able to pretend I was ok and put a T-shirt on at least. Once he thought it was over, I ran out the front door, to a neighbor's house, screaming and banging on their door. As they opened the door, he came from behind and punched me in the back of my head. They struggled to get me in and called 911. He returned to our house and returned with a shotgun screaming that he would blow the door off the hinges if they didn't open it and send me out. The police came. I refused medical treatment until I was so black and blue and unable to move the next day that my mother made me go. I was a solid black with bruising from my neck to my knees and had broken ribs and a broken tailbone. He was arrested and so began the backtracking, covering up, the pathetic excuses I made for him and the written words on every hospital/police document that said: "Victim refuses to cooperate." Even though I refused to help, the DA picked up the charges and the state sent him to prison for four years. Now 27 with a six-year-old, a 20-month-old and a ten-month-old, I was single and had three kids. His parents owned our home, and they came one day, locked us out and refused to let me even have the kids clothes. I moved in with my dad and step-mom, found a great job and tried to put everything behind me.
Fast forward. About a year into my husband's sentence I decided that my children needed to know their father and I started visiting him in prison with them every other weekend. I drove 6 1/2 hours each way. It broke my heart to see him like that. He was ashamed and very sorry. He promised that he had learned his lesson. I mean who wouldn't learn from going to prison right? I begged my family to forgive him. I forgave him. For two more years, my children and I visited every weekend. The state released him after about 37 months. Part of his parole condition was that he could not live with me. But we did. Every Wednesday, his parole officer would come for a "visit," and I would take the kids and leave. Things were okay for a while. It seemed like we were going to be able to put things back together.
Then it started again. Not as severe or so I thought. More mental. My ex-husband would lock me in our bedroom and smash all my make-up, hold me down and spit on me. He would tell me I was a "whore" and a "slut." Say "go ahead and leave me. No one will ever want you .. your worthless". He would unhook the battery to my car so that I couldn't leave when he was at work. Once I figured that out he resorted to taking the spark plugs to work with him. He would make me cower in a corner trying to protect my face because If he bruised my face, my family would know. Then when he was all done with this, he would want to have sex. I remember finding a spot on the wall or something to stare at so that I could leave my body. That's the only way I know how to explain it. I was a shell of a person. I was once outgoing and fun and always smiled, and I was now quiet and sad and empty on the inside. A friend's husband once asked "Rachelle .. he's hitting you again isn't he?" and I said "no... he isn't Steve. He just pulls my hair every once in a while.. don't tell me you've never done that to YOUR WIFE!" (which was a total lie.. he did much more than pulling my hair!) I will never forget the look of horror on his face. And then he calmly answered "no .. I have NEVER pulled my wife's hair. Ever. I would NEVER want to hurt her". I think this is the first time that I realized that this wasn't normal and I honestly and truly was shocked. I was in complete denial. I didn't want my kids to know my pain, so I pretended that It never happened. I remember saying to myself "he's a good man, I have a great life if this is something I have to deal with once a month then it's worth it." But I was slowly dying. I was ashamed to tell anyone. How could I? I was the one who begged my family to forgive him, and I went back. These efforts went on for seven more years. I finally secretly packed little by little so that he didn't notice, rented a house, moved and filed for divorce immediately. Here's the catch though. I did not leave him because of the abuse. I left because he was having an affair with the neighbor. I was 37 years old.
Today I am 45 years old. I have been on my own for eight years. I have not had a serious relationship since. My ex-husband married the neighbor with whom he was having an affair. He moved her into our home about a month after I left. I devoted my time to rebuilding my life and taking care of my children. I asked for no spousal support, profits or rights to our business that we built together or anything from our home. I wanted my car, and I wanted out. 15 years and I walked with a small u-haul. I didn't care. We split custody of our children.
I still have a hard time coping. My family still spends much of their time with him and his wife. Their excuse is that I asked them to forgive him. What they don't realize is that just because I didn't tell anyone what was going on after he came home, didn't mean that it wasn't happening. My father even told me one day that it was my fault. That I just couldn't "learn to keep my mouth shut." Until recently .. I partly believed him. It was my fault.
I struggle not everyday.. but some days. Some days I see myself as a warrior with the strength of an army. Other days I see myself as weak. It's all self-talk. If I think about all that I've been through I cry. I'm angry sometimes. I have a hard time having a relationship with men. Some days I feel like there's something wrong with me and other days I feel like a million bucks. Sometimes I feel like a victim, and other days I feel like a survivor. The hardest part is my self-esteem. I have to work on that daily. And when I say daily, I mean every single minute of every single day. He took that from me. He obliterated it. Yes.. I know that was a tactic to keep me there, but the mind is a tricky thing. I don't have much of a relationship with my family. I don't want him to be a part of my life and as long as he is a part of theirs I can't be there. So he took that from me too. He is a constant reminder. I want no part of that.
There is hope though!
My children are now all over 18 and are GREAT! I got out in time. I run a successful business. I have my own little home, and I have wonderful friends. I would like to have a relationship with a man someday. It will take someone special and patient to understand me. I have my ups and downs. I'm terrified of getting close to a man. But I want to. I want to know what a healthy relationship is. I want to feel like I have someone in my corner. That will never betray me. I am hopeful. And for the most part, I am happy. I am proud of all that I've overcome. I will keep reaching for the stars. I will daydream of having a good man. And I will tell myself daily that I am not a victim.
I AM A SURVIVOR.