I’m a Survivor

1 in 3 women will be the victim of domestic violence in their lifetime. 1 in 4 men will be the victim of domestic violence. The numbers have shifted with the rise of same sex couples. This is not to say that women do not abuse men as well, because it happens too. No matter where I turn, it seems as though there is domestic violence all around. I wonder if the statistics are wrong. When you consider not only the physical abuse, but emotional, and psychological… Those can be so much more damaging. You wonder what can lead the timid housewife to “suddenly” kill herself and her children, or the husband to brutally murder his entire family. You must never discount the effects of emotional and psychological abuse. Sometimes you simply want to end the cycle of physical violence.

I grew up watching my dad abuse my mom. Both my mom, and my dad, at different points threatened suicide. Both my mom and dad abused me. I vowed to break this cycle. I vowed to find love, a love that did not hurt – a love that looked nothing like the faces that hurt me. Little did I know it had nothing to do with the outward appearance of man, and everything to do with the heart of man. The very characteristics that I thought I would escape, I was drawn to, in not one man, but two. I made the same mistake twice. Who knew I would run from one aggressive predator to an even more unpredictable deadly animal? I am fortunate to have escaped both of their clutches with my life – I know that. There are those women that have paid, and will pay the ultimate price.

I married young because I felt as though I had no other choice. 18 and pregnant, no desire to go to college, living with the boy with whom I was “madly in love.” What more could I do but marry him? Were the signs of an abusive relationship there? Yes. Did I see them in advance? Yes. Why did I get married? I loved him. I was scared. I saw no other way. We needed one another. In Chris, I saw the stability of my father. He was a provider, like my dad. I would lack for nothing. For the most part, I lacked for nothing – except when he thought I deserved nothing. The verbal abuse began while we were just dating. The emotional abuse followed shortly after. The physical abuse began soon after we were married and lasted throughout the marriage. My pregnancies suffered, my kids suffered, my kids are suffering now. I endured a lot all for the sake of love. Had I not joined the military, and deployed, I would likely still be with him. I was happy with Chris most of the time. I loved him deeply. He was my heart and my soul. I have never loved as deeply as I loved him. It has taken me four years to finally let go of him. It took me physically being with another man to break free physically, but emotionally, he still had a hold over me. I remained afraid of him, I remained truly, madly, deeply in love with him.

Brian promised to never hurt me. He promised the world. Words like silk easily turned to daggers. I was never able to love him. From the very beginning he was manipulative. He was emotionally and psychologically abusive. He preyed on my vulnerablitity because of the difficult time I was having with Chris. He built me up to tear me down. By the time I realized what was happening, I was so far gone. We weren’t even dating the first time he laid his hands on me. Let’s be real, I was so used to the abuse that him pushing me paled in comparison to being choked out, body slammed, or punched in the face. I married Brian against my better judgment, and he proved to be far more dangerous than Chris. Perhaps because Chris showed restraint. Perhaps because Chris showed remorse. Brian shower neither restraint, nor remorse for every time he laid his hands on me. He punched, slapped, pushed, body slammed, choked, slammed my head in the ground, tried to break my arms… Never did he apologize, never did he restrain himself. Bloodied my mouth, bloodied my nose… “If you didn’t do this… I wouldn’t do that…” Such has been the story of the past four years. I am finally free. He never loved me – and I never loved him. Letting go was easy. Breaking free, now, I didn’t know how I was going to do that. Luckily, the last time he put his hands on me, he left. I told his family that I was going to the police because I had pictures where he left marks on my body, and he filed for divorce that day. Couldn’t let a negro send baby boy to jail. I’d be two for two.

In any case, I believe that I have broken the cycle of abuse finally. I know the warning signs, and I refuse to ignore them. Never again will I allow anyone to belittle me. Never again will I allow anyone to hit me. I know my worth, and I will not allow anyone to make me feel any less. I will not accept blame, I will not be isolated. I will not accept emotional, verbal, psychological, or physical abuse. Power and control have no place in a relationship. A relationship should have equality. You know can feel if it’s right or wrong from the start. I can generally size a person up in 5 minutes. My problem has been “maybe he’ll change” “I’ll give him a chance” “he needs me” My desire to help people only causes me to get hurt in the end. Nothing wrong with helping people, but I draw the line at being in a relationship with that type of person.

Domestic violence is hurting our children. I had to stop and ask myself: What message am I sending my children? The message to my girls was pretty clear: You will get hit by a man that claims to love you. The message to my son: It’s okay to hit a woman. THIS IS WRONG!! With my mouth I was telling them: Don’t do what mommy’s doing! Don’t let anyone hit you! Don’t hit anyone. But my actions stated otherwise. Then one day, my son got punched in the stomach by his father. And here is the kicker! He waited weeks before telling me. Why? I don’t know… Because he didn’t trust that I would do anything? And why should he, when he saw his dad beat me up, then his stepdad, and I did nothing. Why would he think that I would defend him? I did of course. That is when it clicked. That is when I knew, Jess, it’s time for a change! I needed to love myself, and my kids more or we would have no future. I was in a downward spiral, on the verge of suicide. Even my kids weren’t enough to give me a reason to live.

When children are involved, I think they suffer the most in domestic violence situations. I recall my eldest daughter coming to me several years ago and saying “Mommy, you have us. We love you.” I was like “What? Silly girl!” In the softest voice she responded, “I heard you crying, and you said you don’t have anybody, and no one loves you.” My heart broke. I thought my kids were sleeping, and I was pouring my heart out to God one night after Brian beat me, and left. I was in such despair, I couldn’t see past my own pain. I couldn’t see my children. I wanted to die, and I couldn’t see the three beautiful gifts that I would be leaving behind. I thought I was hiding everything, but My Michaela, you can’t hide anything from her – she is honest to a fault, and my saving grace. She came to me, and let me know that I wasn’t alone – not only that, but opened my eyes to my selfishness. That was the beginning of my “okay, things have to change – I have to change.” I began to see my kids. They were hurting.

I was driving to work last night, and I began to think about my two marriages, and the differences in the abuse. In my marriage to Chris, I fought back. Often times, I gave as good as I got. Sometimes, later in the marriage, I even started the fights – if only to get a good hit in because of what he had done to me previously, I would catch him off guard, in his sleep, or out of the blue. I tried to knock him out, or kill him. I wasn’t strong back then though. Chris was crazy enough, but wouldn’t have actually killed me. He’s knocked me out cold many times, when I came to, he was scared to death, but that didn’t always stop the fight. If I called him a name, or cursed him, he’d hit me. But, Brian, that guy – I learned my lesson early on not to fight back. He tried to kill me. Fighting back only made things worse. Not fighting back didn’t help too much either. I think he would have killed me. The week he left, he had a dream that his arms were chopped off because he had “hurt me.” He didn’t tell me what he had done… The day he left, I didn’t lay a hand on him, I locked myself in the bathroom, but to keep him from busting the door down, I let him in, and he bashed my head into the floor multiple times, the scar is finally gone. He kicked me in my ribs twice, I had a huge bruise. And, I had scratches behind my ears from where he dug his nails in to slam my head in the ground. He tried to fling me down the stairs, when I tried to leave so he wouldn’t hit me anymore. I wound up running outside, barefoot, no phone, because he had taken it. I had nothing. He locked me out of the house when he left. I had to break in through a window. That was the last time… It was all planned in my opinion. He knew days before that he was going to hit me. I didn’t lay a hand on him. But, I never did. I know that he would put me in jail in a heartbeat if I ever touched him. I almost have to laugh now, when I think of the time he went AWOL… He had beat me so bad. I had a huge knot on my head. Or the time I started at McGladrey, my first week, and he gave me a black eye, and I had a crash course in putting on makeup. He has never apologized for his actions. He just runs away. Forgiving him has been the hard part. I do not buy his PTSD diagnosis. Not when I know what his deployment experience consisted of. He saw nothing. He did nothing. He never even drew blood. Heck, he probably stole the stories I told him. “Everybody in IOP gets mad at me because I don’t talk about my experience, but I can’t.” Um… What exactly was your experience??? Sitting in the lab in a Role 2, doing pregnancy tests, and malaria tests?? Stealing someone’s wife? In any case… For the apology that will never come, I don’t need it. Brian, I forgive you. This is my final goodbye to you. May our paths never cross. I pray you get help, and I wish you success in life. To Chris, my first love, do right by our kids before it’s too late, and do right by your wife.

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