(Jasper, IN, USA)
I never told because the first time he put his hands around my neck, I was in shock and afraid. Sure he had gotten in my face and screamed at me, but he had never put his hands on me. I immediately felt it was my fault, that I had pushed him too far and that I had yelled too loud. I felt sorry for him when he apologized and told me he wanted to kill himself. I saw a broken man who made a horrible mistake. I saw a man who needed love. I saw a man I wanted to love unconditionally.
I was also pregnant with my first daughter. I was afraid of being alone and being a single mom.
I never told because the years of being controlled through finances, a single family car, and my spiritually driven commitment to stand by my husband and not disrespect him to others did not seem wrong. The evolution of our marriage seemed entirely reasonable at the time. I never thought that not participating in our finances was weird because he made it look like he wanted to take the burden off of me. I never imagined having a single car in our family was wrong because we were saving money and being economical. I needed to stand by him, and when we did get counseling, it always got manipulated to be about me and my issues. So I let it go.
There were months, between events. Months when I convinced myself that life was healthy and we were growing up together. I convinced myself that he loved me, that he was sorry. I convinced myself that nothing in the world would make him do it again. I convinced myself that this time, the "help" he swore he got would be enough to teach him more ways to control himself.
I never told because the times it happened, he always followed by threats of suicide and words that made me take responsibility for his actions. I never spoke up because I was afraid of losing everything. I was scared that telling would show the world I was not good enough. I never told because I was fearful that people would call me a liar or insinuate that I was crazy.
I never told because I had sex with my husband when it hurt or until I cried and I thought I was giving him my body like a “good” wife was supposed to. I never told because how do you tell someone that the person you love most, takes advantage of you in ways no one ever should.
I knew when he put a hole in the bedroom door over my head that I would never leave. He lied and cheated yet I knew I would forgive him. I looked at my children and saw that they needed their dad. I felt I had to be more forgiving and more loving. I thought that I couldn’t face their stares asking me to be a better wife so that Daddy doesn’t get so mad.
I never told because I did not believe I was worthy of anything else. I became so worthless in my own eyes that I couldn’t love me either. I felt lucky to have my partner in my life. I was scared when he would ignore me. I would cry when he withheld his love and attention. I felt scared of messing up so bad that one day he would leave my children and me.
Then he left. One day, with his goose, cooked, I found out the full picture of his financial manipulations, his infidelity, and his lying. He decided that I no longer made him happy. He left my children and me. You would think this is the end. But, you would be wrong.
You see you do not get to walk away from your abuser when you have children. He gets to control and manipulate you through them and the courts. At first, he was content to move right on to another relationship. Then I am about to finish school, have a career, and have success. Now that he is finally married to this woman, he comes after me by threatening to take my children away.
He now gets to throw around comments about my parenting and how I am not a good enough co-parent. He gets to demand I do not deprive him of that which he threw away. He wants to stand on his soapbox and intimidate and manipulate me into giving him more and more. He controls the court through finances because there is no way I can afford the battle this will be but he can. He gets to invite people to come in and examine every decision I have ever made in the last three years. He gets to use the courts to continue his scare tactics and manipulations.
I never told because I was ashamed. I was devastated. I was disgraced. I never said because I did not want to face the world and proclaim to all that I was one of the ones who stayed. I did not want to admit that I was not the one who chose to leave. And, but for the fact that my partner was unfaithful and realized his ability to manipulate was coming to a close, I would remain trapped in a never-ending cycle of abuse and tension.
I never wanted to see the look in my kid's eyes or hear their words of accusation. I never wanted my little ones to look at me and question what they have to do to make sure their future husbands won’t leave. I never wanted to hear my baby tell me that if I had just yelled less at their daddy, he would have stayed and we would be a family.
But now, I am telling. I am speaking because what happened to me was wrong. I am telling the truth because other women may be stuck in the same lie and need someone to tell them that they can get out. I am saying because if I have to go through this battle, I need to start by being honest. I need to tell because I need to start loving myself enough to stop doubting my story and my right to live a life without intimidation, abuse, and manipulation. I am telling because people should genuinely understand that violence is not always big black eyes or broken bones. Abuse is silent and sneaky and emotionally and mentally destructive. Abuse reported is not prerequisite to the definition of violence. Many times since beginning the healing process I have asked myself why I did not get out. I can only say that I did not get out because I felt stuck in the lie that I was good enough just if others thought I was a good wife, mother, and all the other labels I had strived to become. I had attached my worth to other’s opinion of me. I connected my worth to being a wife keeping her husband happy. I had attached my value to the act of showing the world that I was strong enough to hold on.
But I was not strong. I was weak. In many ways, I just wanted to have that all-consuming love story that triumphed over adversity. The problem is, adversity is not being mental, emotionally, and physically damaged. No that is not misfortune. That is abuse. And today I choose to come out and admit that I was the victim of domestic violence. I am one of the women who stayed. But I am also one of the women who got out. I will not return to destruction or intimidation by a man desiring power and control. I will not back down to the attempts to scare me into capitulation. I am the strong woman my children can admire because no woman or person for that matter, deserves what I endured and what I am overcoming.
In all my searching for why women accept- why I consented - abuse in their marriages, this fact strikes me: The abused see their abuser's actions as flaws they can repair if the abused are the perfect partner. The victim sees their abuser as flawed and concludes that if they get rid of all their deficiencies, the perpetrator will change. If you can love him enough, be a good enough wife, be a good enough mother if you can be everything he needs you to be, his character will change, and he will love you as you deserve to be loved. My friends, this thinking will lead you further into the darkness that compromises your self-worth and your self-efficacy in life.
You are enough! I am enough! No flaw or deficiency in you is an acceptable excuse to be hurt physically, emotionally, or mentally.
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