*Picks up mic. Lifts head up high. Speak loud and clear.*
“Hi. My name is Tonia, and I am a domestic abuse survivor.”
THAT is a hard sentence to type. To admit to. To claim. To speak aloud. It has taken me a solid two hours to pep talk myself into writing this. And it’ s going to be even harder to publish this. Because the fact is, there is A LOT of shame in admitting you have been a part of that sort of violence. And rationally, the shame should belong only to the one acting out the violence. But there is noting rational in abuse. All of those who can say so casually “Why the hell doesn’t she just LEAVE?” and “Obviously she LIKES it, she gets off on it…if she didn’t, she wouldnt stay!”….well, you just don’t KNOW, you don’t understand. Its a tangled web. Its never that simple. Well, it is, but it isn’t.
Warning, this blog is going to contain triggers for those who are still dealing with the healing process. But i am going to be 100% real because all I can keep thinking is the years I spent believing I deserved nothing but the abuse and no one ever told me differently. So, maybe just maybe there is one woman out there who will read this and realize she deserves a safe place to fall, that she is a beautiful amazing person, that love and hurt do NOT go hand in hand and never should. Maybe you will recognize some familear themes between my story and yours. And if I can reach one single person and make some sort of difference…than the fear and shame in myself can be damned.
I have actually been in 2 abusive relationships. Both of them were physical, sexual, emotional abuse. i can sit here and recall so very clearly the first time…the night that set the pebble rolling down the hill that set off the avalanche. I wasn’t hit. I was yelled at. By this man who I had always felt safe around. He was angry in a volatile way and it scared me. I kept backing up from him and he kept stepping up to me and eventually I was pinned against a wall in the laundry room cowering as he stood an inch from my face and screamed at me. The next week he got angry and flipped our coffee table over in a fit of rage. Within a month was the night my friend and downstairs neighbor came upstairs, opened my front door and yelled “HEY! Get off of her!” as she found him straddling me on the living room floor. I was crying and he was blowing the blood from his nose all over my face in anger. I had tried to defend myself, had thrown a hand out to protect myself and had made contact with his face while he punched me repeatedly. He ran out the front door when my friend yelled at him. And I sat there apologizing to her for seeing what she saw, for being so loud that she had heard me downstairs, for the fact I had tried to stop him and had gotten blood all over that was now getting on her shirt as she held me.
Thats the first thing I started to do. Apologize. A lot. For everything. For his bad days. For pissing him off. For being a shit starter. For making him get so mad he had to hit me. For looking at another man as we walked down the street. For wearing the wrong clothes. For everything. he’d hit me in front of the kids and I wouldnt even FEEL his hits because Id be too busy calling over my shoulder to my children “Im sorry, Mommys ok. Please go in your room.”
Because oh god, my kids saw it. saw too much. THAT right there is so much more guilt than anyone can understand. To know the hell I lived through my kids lived through with me. I cannot rewind time and fix that. I would if I could. I would take a million beatings alone in a room without them if I could erase the ones they saw or heard. It reached a point where they had a routine. the minute he started to yell, the oldest children would take the youngest into the bathroom to hide behind a locked door. I’d be ducking blows and out of the corner of my eye I would see my 8 year old carrying my infant son into the bathroom and I would just be thankful they were safe. Only one time did he raise a fist to one of my children. i stepped between them and spoke up and received one of my worst beatings. I was 9 months pregnant at the time;. I ended up with a black eye and multiple cuts and bruises. One week after I gave birth he kneed me repeatedly, 4 or 5 times in my abdomen, almost broke my nose, and blackened my other eye.
Why didnt I leave? Why didnt I call the cops?
Because abusers are not stupid. He started out making me feel it was all me, all my fault. I MADE him that angry. I MADE him hit me. I was crazy. I was a bitch. No one else would want to be with me. I was luck y to have him. He got me to quit my job so he could control the finances. He told me if I ever tried to leave him he would take the money and get me evicted. He would call CPS and get my kids taken away. He would have me killed. He would have people watch me. He woudl come back after hurting me and he would apologize, tell me he loved me, cry, slip it in there that I had MADE him so mad and it was somehow MY fault.
In other words, abuse is an emotional mindfuck. excuse the language, but it is.
And then a few male friends woudl speak up and say “We can stop him, we will kick his ass, you will be safe.” And you think “They just don’t GET it. They cannot stop him. Because you knwo how truly crazy and capable he is. And because he has grown in such proportions with his monstrosity that you cannot fathom anyone being able to stop him. Because at that point you are so very small. Even when you DO try to fight back or protect yourself. Your biggest efforts are NOTHING. Your nails in his face are just marks he can use to show others “Look how crazy she is. look what she did.” Because he goes to work every day and can gather those witnesses to pity him, to hear his stories and see those marks and you stay home all day. So, you get a voice mail from an ex girlfriend of his calling you every name in the book when you finally have him arrested, telling you she just KNOWS he wouldnt have hit you unless you hit him first and its all your fault. and the people at church tell you how God hates divorce and that you need to just pray and love him.
So you try. You really TRY. When he is raging you try to reach out and put a hand softly on his shoulder to calm him, thinking if you stay calm he will calm down. But he is faster than you expect and bites your hand and you actually HEAR the skin pop and break between his teeth before you feel it. And it gts infected and hurts like fire everytime you bend your finger or wash dishes for a solid month. A month with a physical reminder of how you deserve nothing better. Just like the time he wouldnt stop yelling and you just curled in on yourself on the bed crying and he stood on the bed over you and kicked you in your ribs with his boots on and cracked a rib. Or maybe two. You don’t know because you never went to a hospital. It just hurt every time you lifted your baby or even breathed deep. For a long time. Or the time he choked you, had you pinned down on the floor in the hallway and your preschool age son was standing right there watching and you tried so damn hard to gasp out ‘My baby, my baby”, wanting him to stop doing it in front of your son and he wouldnt stop and all you could think was “Oh my god Im going to die. Hes going to kill me” and you werent even afraid, you just didnt want your kids to see it. And then you came to, after he choked you unconsious, and he was just standing in the kitchen pouring himself a drink. And he use dto call you “Mutt” because thats all you were. Nothing more.
And you would wake up, feeling like you couldnt move, your brain all fuzzy and slow and he would be on top of you doing what he wanted and he would just say “Shh. I’ll be done soon”and you cant stop him or tell him no because you keep drifting back to sleep in the middle of it. (He told his brother, who told me years later, he used to slip some sort of pill into my drink. I never understood WHY, because I never withheld sex from him. I knew better.
You stay through it all because you truly really 100% BELIEVE you deserve it all. Every bit. Close friend start to realize what is going on in your life and tell you to lave and all you can think is “You dont know how bad I am, how much I make him angry so he HAS to hit me. ” They dont understand. he is SUCH a good man. Youve sen him cry. He has gotten down on his knees and begged you to forgive him. He cant help it. He didnt mean to do it. It wont ever happen again.
Except it dos. it always does. Thats just the honeymoon phase. Thats what they call it. The part where he is apologetic and sweet and wonderful. The man you fell in love with. And you both are so happy for a short time. Like newlyweds.
But it always happens again. Always. And it brings so much shame. Because no girl grows up thinking ” I want to find a man who hurts me and makes me cry.” I had this ideal in my head of getting married and having babies and living happily ever after. When it all went to hell, I blamed myself. He already blamed me, and the evidence was pretty clear that he was right.
i’d take showers and wince in pain as my hand hit a bump on my head under my hair as I washed my hair. I would have to pick out clothes that would hide bruises and bite marks and scrapes. I figured out the perfect blend of foundation and powder to hide facial bruises. I kept my phone near m at all times just in case. Not that it mattered. The first time i tried calling 911 he snapped my phone in half and tried to choke me. I screamed for help and two men in a neighboring motel room chased after him. I sat there feeling so ashamed as police officers came to question me and fellow motel residents looked on in pity and the clerk who worked the desk stood her tiny barely 5 foot tall petite frame in my motel room doorway until the cops came, just in case he came back. I was grateful. For the men who tried to catch him. For the kind officers. For the clerk. But I was also very ashamed. Because this isnt what I wanted. I wanted love and tenderness and happily ever after. Now I was just a statistic. That was shame.
And the time I tried calling 911 and he pulled me half through an open window in my home to where he stood on the porch to stop me, to wrench the phone from my hand. But I HAD dialed it and they heard my screams and they came anyway. And this time they caught him. and I freaked out when the officer on my porch told me they got a call in that they had him and they were going to have him park the van at the bottom of our driveway and I freaked out and told them not to let him do that. Because I thought if he came back towards this direction he would come here and kill me. And then the officer had a camera and after I wrote a statement with shaky hands he told me to stand under the porch light so he could photograph my bruises and scraps. the long black and blue bloody scrape that went from my wrist to my upper arm where he pulled me through the window. The huge bump on the nape of my neck. I turned my back to that officer, lifted my hair to reveal the bump so he could take a couple pictures, and felt so very ashamed of who i was and where I was.
I felt I failed these men. Hows that for irony?
Because I knew their demons. i knew what had first created that rage in them when they were young boys. I saw them at their best as well as their worst. i wanted so badly to be good enough, pretty enough, whatever enough to be able to heal them and change them and help them and save them.
The first guy got arrested one night. In the midst of a rage that left my livingroom , my newborn son and myself covered in blood. He’s been locked up for almost 5 years now. He gets out in another 4 years. That thought terrifies me. He keeps tabs on me. That is the curse of a small town. He has people watching me. He still writes me and he words things as if we are still together and I will be waiting for him when he is released. I believe 100% that he WILL come looking for me when he gets out and if things dont work out the way he has them twisted in his mind…I do truly believe he could snap and kill me. I worry a lot about that.
The other man lives only a few miles away. I still have nightmares about him. the night I finally got up the nerve to tell him to leave was the most terrifying night ever. I shook like a leaf and clutched my cell phone in my hand that as in my pocket, ready at any moment to call 911. I had friends right across the street waiting for my call for help. Now that I look back I cannot understand WHY I didnt just have them there WITH me that night. I think in my heart I knew I had to do that alone, finally stand up to him. And I did. He didnt rage like I expected. instead, he begged me not to do it, cried, made me falter in my self doubt. After he drove away I just cried. Cried for a failed marriage. cried for my son who would never know his father. Cried for my failure.
I don’t blame myself anymore.
The beauty of getting out of a storm is that the sun can come back out and help you see reality. Not that twisted mess he has you believing in your own brain. But REALITY.
Reality is, I never deserved a bit of it. We are all humans and at times we might be annoying or grumpy or stupid. But we dont deserve to be made to feel small for it. We dont deserve to be hurt physically. Maybe there ARE plenty of pretttier or smarter women out there. But i am me and if you dont like it, you LEAVE, you dont stay and pummel and batter and beat down.
Thats not a real man. Its NOT. there is nothing manly about a man who hurts a person smaller and weaker than them. There is nothing brave about intimidation tactics. The shame is not ever in being a victim. the shame is in choosing to hurt another person when what you SHOULD do is walk away.
Their demons were never mine to battle in the first place.
If you are with a man who makes you feel like you deserve those tears you cry, those marks you hide….please dont believe it. Not for one more single second. You have so much potential and beauty and marvelous wonder and awesome abilities and talents and thoughts that are all your own. Dont you ever forget that,. It is HE who doesn’t deserve you. You just have it all a little mixed up in your brain right now, how it really is. And thats okay. Because I was there myself. I understand. I really do. Im just begging you now, to do what you need to. For your kids, if you have any. For yourself. Because that is NOT love. THAT IS NOT LOVE.
that first step is scary as hell and harder than you think.
But once youre over that hump…..i cannot even begin to describe to you how free it feels to laugh out loud. To dance. To not flinch. To not base the potential outcome of your entire day on what sort of mood a man wakes up in that morning. Last night I took a shower and while washing my hair it suddenly popped into my mind out of the blue how long its been since I’ve felt a lump on my had while washing my hair. Now I wash my hair and its just hair….no reminders of pain. I havent had to cover up bruises or lie about marks on my body in a long time. I cannot put into words how GOOD that feels. My body is my body and no one touches it unless I let them. And no one hurts me.
If you are in the middle of a domestic violence situation right now, please seek help. You can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24-7 at 1-800-799-7233. Their website is: http://www.thehotline.org/. Check it out if you need help or if you are interested in helping in some way.
We all have a voice.
Don’t let yours be silent.