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Domestic Violence

August 11, 2008

I’ve hesitated talking openly about this. Mostly because it’s highly personal, and hard to talk about. I may seem matter of fact, or flippant about it with my words, but that’s my defense mechanisms at work. I’m not sure I can get it all out at once, so this may be in a few parts. Hang with me though.

So much of who we are is shaped by our experiences and how we cope with them. This year long experience had a huge part in where I am now. I try not to let it have too much control over my life, but there are times when those old insecurities come out, and I have to fight to remain who I am now and not fall back into old habits.

I met T fresh out of high school. I worked in a store in his neck of the woods and saw him occasionally. I thought he was so cute, and seemed very sweet. I don’t even remember now how the first date was set up – but it was perfect. We went to the movies and I swear I had the biggest smile on my face after our perfect good night kiss.

Things got serious pretty quickly, then came to a screeching halt when he cheated on me. Now, with hindsight, I wish I had walked away at this point. But, I was young and in love and gave him a second chance.

He didn’t hit me until we had been together for several months and were practically living together. I honestly can’t even remember what I had done to upset him. You’d think that the very moment your life changes, the details would be stamped into your brain, but everything that happened since the first time erased them.

I know it hurt. I know I was pissed off. I know I was going to leave him. I know I yelled at him – ready to hit him right back. He dissolved in a sobbing mess. He was sorry. It wouldn’t happen again, I just made him so ANGRY!

Whatever I had done certainly didn’t merit this sort of reaction, but in the end he had almost convinced me it did. I remember feeling ashamed. I remember picking up the phone 100 times to call my mom and putting it down again and again. I was drowning in my emotions, and too scared to reach for my life line.

It slowly escalated after that – it wasn’t over night he just beat me all the time. It was hard pushes, shaking, slaps, then punches and kicks. He only hit my face a few times. I would just make up excuses – for myself, mostly. It was about survival now. It was about gauging his moods and adjusting myself to fit them. Unless he drank. Then, no matter what I did, I was in for it. One night stands out in my mind, because I think it’s the one and only time I fought back. He was angry at me, and had been drinking. I was in the bathroom, he came in and threw me in the shower, and was punching me. This time, I fought back. I got up and pushed him as hard as I could.

Mistake.

He grabbed me by my hair and drug me out of the bathroom, into his room. He kicked me and punched me. Then he decided to throw me out of the window. He lived on the third story. He almost succeeded. The window broke (with my head), and I actually thought he was going to kill me. I still don’t know what stopped him. Later, his 6’5″, 300 pound room mate came in, shook his head and left the room. He never once helped me. And, he could have. Years later he has apologized, but the mark is still on my soul.

I’m lucky in the fact that he never put me in the hospital. He was a small guy, but packed a pretty good punch.

I’m lucky that I got out of it. The sad part is I never got the guts to leave. He met someone else, and left me.

The scarring is much deeper than cuts and bruises. It destroyed my self esteem, something that had always been pretty high. It left sexual scars that are still around. It made me hate myself, be ashamed, doubt my self worth, and sometimes those feelings creep back in. It changes you in ways you can’t imagine, unless you’ve been there.

People say “why didn’t you just leave?” – it was never that simple. I really don’t have the words. Again, you can’t know until you’ve been there. It’s a lot deeper than it appears on the surface, and usually the abuse starts quietly and builds up to the physical.

I don’t fancy myself an advocate for domestic violence, because I didn’t do anything about it. I allowed it – and while I know there is more involved, that’s the hard truth that I live with at the end of the day. If you knew me, you’d be shocked that I let it happen – I’m a strong woman – not your typical abuse victim, right? Wrong. I don’t feel like there is a typical in this situation.

I didn’t post this for sympathy. It was a huge part of my life, and since this blog is about my life, I wanted to include it. I also felt the need to share, because my friend Tricia is addressing this issue on her blog as well – though from the other side. That’s right, her three part series on domestic violence looks at the abuser. It’s a really important/great article and I encourage you to read it. Because when you read stories like mine, it’s easy to hate the abuser – call him/her names, etc and forget that this is a real person, with issues that need to be addressed, in order to stop the cycle.

My biggest wish is that just once, I had called the cops, turned him in. The cops were called on us once, and I lied for him and nothing happened. I’ll always wonder who else he has hurt and what I could have done to stop it. And there are times, at my low points, that I still blame myself.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. August 11, 2008 5:34 pm

    Hugs Jen. It’s hard to piece together how it all works from the outside, even sometimes when it you yourself looking back on it. I’m just glad you got out ok, because look at the amazing woman you are now.

  2. August 11, 2008 6:37 pm

    Hugs.

  3. August 11, 2008 7:23 pm

    You’re right Jen, I am shocked and although I don’t ‘know’ you really I feel like I have gotten a good idea of who you are over the past nearly two years (two years!). Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. August 11, 2008 8:55 pm

    Jen: I am so, so incredibly proud of you!!

    Thank you for sharing this. Thank you for having the courage to tell your story. I truly believe that the more we tell the stories, the more we’ll rip down the shrouds of shame and secrecy still enveloping abuse, and our daughters will be safer because of it. We have to speak out so that our sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, uncles or colleagues will stand up and demand that their peers stop violence against women.

    From my heart to yours, I wish I could hug you and help you to truly believe the abuse you experienced is not your fault. Regardless of what you did and did not do, regardless of whether or not you left or stayed–nobody deserves to be humiliated and abused. Period. You did not allow this, he perpetrated this.

    More than 25 years after the Battered Women’s Movement, we are still asking, “why doesn’t she leave?” when really we should be asking, “why doesn’t’ he stop?”

  5. August 12, 2008 5:45 pm

    I was also in a violent relationship and I think that’s why I work in family violence now. It’s incredibley brave of you to talk about and you should be proud of how far you have some.

  6. Jess permalink
    August 13, 2008 4:34 pm

    I just blogged about domestic violence because I had seen a movie on it. I’m so sorry you had to go through this and I am glad you were strong enough to get out. Your post might of helped someone else who is in need of taking that first step.

  7. Cyn permalink
    August 13, 2008 9:37 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story. I volunteered at a women’s shelter. You are right. It is very hard to leave. I believe that the stats that it takes a women seven times to leave. Or maybe it was 2.

  8. Cyn permalink
    August 13, 2008 9:38 pm

    meant to say 3

  9. August 15, 2008 3:21 pm

    (((HUGS)))

  10. August 28, 2008 8:00 pm

    Jen: I’ve created a page at Shout with links to people’s posts about family violence, and included this post. You can find it here: http://www.shoutdaily.com/bare-naked/

    If you know of more, please let me know.

  11. awickedstepmom permalink
    August 28, 2008 8:40 pm

    Jen, I linked off of shout to get here. Thanks for sharing, I know how hard it is to just say it and how hard it is to admit that you lived like that. In a small way, you have helped me to remember that I shouldn’t blame myself even when I am at my lowest. And you shouldn’t either.

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