As a survivor of domestic violence, the effects can continue years later after the abusive relationship has ended; especially, if children are involved. This recounting may seem a bit rushed, however, it would turn into a book if I added the overwhelming details of the hell that was my life.
I am struggling, almost 20 years later, to quell the ghosts of my past and break the cycle of abuse. I have four children from a previous marriage and I rarely speak of them, with the exception of the oldest, because I’ve been kept from them. Their father has basically convinced them I decided not to be a mother any more and that’s why I left. As if!
I spent six long years in a very abusive and escalating marriage. I married young, had low self-esteem and had four children in six years. I was verbally, financially, mentally and physically abused.
I actually didn’t realize I was a battered wife, until I took a college psychology course and we covered domestic violence and “The Cycle”. I was learning about my life. It was mind-numbing at the time. My life could have been a case study in my psych book. Talk about mind-blown!
I was typically cut off from friends and had little contact with my family. I had no money of my own and had to ask permission to buy anything. I couldn’t go out alone, without permission and needed to be home when expected or I would be in trouble. Even certain songs, such as Wilson Phillips, “Hold On” or Ace of Base, “The Sign”, were off limits. Walking on egg shells was my life. I tried to be perfect so I wouldn’t get in trouble. Such a fallacy in that train of thought.
Pretty stupid…didn’t even know I was being abused. I thought it was normal for the husband to get mad at his wife for not cleaning the house at 8-months’ pregnant. After all, if I hadn’t been so lazy, I would have had dinner ready for him after working so hard all day. When he lost jobs, it was because I had bugged him at work. I deserved the screaming, beratement, bruises, slaps, and hair pulling. I believed him when he said he was sorry for throwing a baby rattle at my thigh so hard it swelled around the impact site (just one of many examples).
Years later, I did journal about my existence and the horror story I was living. I was good at keeping this horrific secret. The only way my family found out was because we had stayed with them briefly and I forgot to take my notebook out from under the mattress. I learned to hide my journaling because it made my ex-husband angry to see in writing what he was doing to me.
Over the years the violence increased. We tried marriage counseling. That led to separate counseling sessions. In turn, it led to the doctor telling me to keep a bagged packed at all times, because my ex-husband was a ticking time-bomb. He told me I was in danger. Funny how the mind tricks us into thinking we can handle certain situations. Even after he attempted to smother me, twice, I stayed. He denies that fact, but it did happen.
Can I remember everything that happened to me? No. Why? I was diagnosed with Battered Women’s Syndrome when I was hospitalized for depression. To this day, almost twenty years later, I believe my ex-husband to be a mortal threat to me. So many memories are gone. I remember bits and pieces. I hardly any happy times even though I know there were some. I’ve even forgotten some of the precious memories I had of when my children were small.
I do remember one Christmas Eve that my mom called. She called to tell me my ex-husband had been arrested for attempted murder. He had beaten a woman he knew, in the face, with a BRICK! What started it? She owed him $50.00. WOW! That was worth disfiguring her, a long recovery and incompetent police work that led to a whopping “E” felony (the lowest felony charge).
Ironically, I remembering being happy. For the first time, I felt safe and I was already 3,000 miles away from him. Oh, I didn’t mention that, did I?
Through a serious of what can only be described as a family court circus, my ex-husband gained custody of our children. Back then, police reports covered nothing. I was “mistaken” about the abuse. “He wouldn’t do that”, an officer had told me regarding my unlawful imprisonment (in my own home). After all, I had been in the ‘psycho ward’ at one point. I wasn’t reliable to know what I was suffering at his hands. The police were good about discussing my hospitalization in hushed tones. They ate up every word of his charismatic lies.
The time came, many years later, when I left under the cover of darkness; before the morning sun came up. My mom was with me at Greyhound. She was the only person who knew I was leaving the state; headed for California. At least California took a stance on domestic violence. New York didn’t even have stalking laws back then. Lucky for him; bad for me. It was legal to terrorize someone and those who did it; knew it!
Fast forward several years. I learned to be independent. Learned I could have a healthy relationship and I didn’t need to be beaten or abused to be “kept in line”. Learned I didn’t need to have permission to go have a drink with my coworkers. That took years of asking my then boyfriend (now husband), if “it was ok”. It took constant reminders from him saying, “you don’t need to ask my permission”.
I eventually remarried and had my fifth child; his first. I needed to prove to myself I was not a horrible mother. I needed to know I could take care of a baby; that I wasn’t worthless as a woman. That there was a man out there who wanted me; damaged as I was, with four children.
I hid my youngest daughter’s birth from my other children; after they started speaking to me again. They were living with my mom because my abusive ex-husband followed me to California; luckily he went South and I was up North.
I was afraid the kids wouldn’t understand about their half-sister. When they found out, they didn’t. I started a new family without them. I couldn’t disagree. I didn’t set out to. Over the years, my oldest son, was the only one to really engage me. My other children were awarded back to my ex after he was released from prison. He had rights after all. Who cares a psychiatrist said my oldest daughter, who was my spitting image, was in danger of being abused because she looked like me. The courts sure didn’t. Way to go there law guardian. I think he forgot he was assigned to look out for the welfare of the children…I digress…
The court was the only blinded fools who could not see my ex-husband gained custody to make me pay support. The kids never saw the money. Never saw the hell he put me through. Never saw me struggle to eat with unrealistic support payments. New York makes the non-custodial parent pay til the children are 21. That finally ends this year. However, the on-going circus that is family court, is a punitive place. There is no justice for the children. There is only name-blaming and punitive-ordered support. It would have been an undue burden to prove my youngest son was still in school. He quit and has been working for over a year. Oh, he’s getting married too. That will disqualify my ex from support. My other son moved out, which would have done away with that support, except my ex-husband failed to legally report it to the court; and of course, no repercussions there. Let’s not talk about the $3,000.00 in braces I am paying for that were never put on my daughter. Family court…the biggest joke in the free world!
Another time hop to the present where my oldest child is about to be a father any day now. Sadly, he believes I am not entitled to be alerted before the rest of Facebook. I apparently, have some misconstrued entitlement issues, simply because I’m his mother. Insert where I didn’t get to speak to him for 10 years and hid the fact he had a sister. Where because of my status, as his mother, I’m not facing the hard truth about my past. He insists on “keeping it real” for me.
His reality has never seen me sink to the floor in the closet, while trying to get to work, questioning what I could have possibly done to be treated so horribly. Question why my ex was allowed to go unpunished for all his misconceptions. I know he committed disability fraud, but proving it was another story. No one wants to stand up to him. He is the perfect abuser and loves his “authority”.
I honestly had thought my son and I were beyond this. He retains his passive-aggressive nature and he is verbally and mentally abusive to me. He cannot see he treats me the same way his father did. He has never hit me, but he prefers to cut me with words and will wait for them to heal before he begins again. While I love all of my children, with all of my heart, I will not allow the cycle to continue!
I have set boundaries. I am of worth. I am entitled to respect. It’s hard when you need to force that lesson upon your child(ren). We should be celebrating a very exciting chapter in his life. Yet, he chooses to “allow” me crumbs of his existence and I am not a charity case. He has no idea the true trauma I have experienced. He has no idea how many memories I have lost due to abuse. He has no idea what I have gone through. If he feels he is entitled to judge my actions, I pray he never has to make life-altering decisions where his family is concerned. You see, had I not boarded that bus all those years ago, his anger wouldn’t be aimed at me. He sorrow would be visible as he shared his life achievements at my grave.
Please help break the cycle. Share this story. Share your story. Silence is the enemy.