Saturday, April 4, 2015
D is for Domestic Violence
I was unsure about writing this as my D but there is no other D that I am more passionate about. I think it would probably be easier to talk about it as an aside or in an abstract manner, but I am not built that way. That is not how I think or how I write. This is a personal issue for me and I imagine the only way to discuss it is to open the way I do with most topics. I will explain my own association which brings me the understanding and compassion that I have for the subject.
I was in an abusive relationship 23 years ago. He was a monster. When I finally got away from him I didn't date again for 17 years because I couldn't figure out what signs I had missed and didn't want to make the same mistakes again.
I don't like to ever think of myself as a victim because I have always been very independent and outspoken. I have always taken care of myself and have sincerely, and quite naively, never feared any person or situation. Because he was actually crazy, however, I didn't defend myself. I was pregnant when the abuse started and my desire to never make things worse, coupled with the understanding that his rage had no limits, was the only reason that I never tried to fight back. I doubt anyone who knew me just a few years earlier in high school would have imagined me ending up where I had. But there I was.
He was an absolute puzzle to me. I like to really get to understand people. I am very good at it. There was no understanding him, though. Nothing needed to set him off. He would switch from happy(ish) to violent with no warning. He controlled every aspect of my life. I wasn't allowed to answer the phone or the door. I was not allowed to have company and I was not allowed to go anywhere without him. He would not let me be alone in my home. If I went to the bathroom, he came with me. If I took a bath, he would sit on the toilet the entire time. My family and I became all but estranged. I now understand that all of these are common tactics for abusers. At the time, however, it was beyond my comprehension that a person could behave the way he did.
He liked to taunt me when he was going to hurt me. Sometimes he wouldn't end up hurting me because, I guess, the threat was enough fun for him. Asshole. He often used objects to hit me in the head. He said it didn't leave a mark. I'm sure it did, but my hair covered it. Dickhead. He dragged me through the apartment by my ponytail at 8 months pregnant. He chased me with a hammer. And the night before I had Audrey he actually broke her crib throwing me into it and then pummeled me so many times that my entire left side was bruised when I went to have her the next morning. Motherfucker.
The worst was a couple of weeks later, however. I was not listening to him. I was exhausted and wanted to take a nap. But I wasn't allowed to take a nap in the bedroom because he couldn't see me. I took the baby and went to bed anyway. He kept coming in and peeking around the door and making creepy voices to wake me up. I got pissed and told him to leave me alone. He tore into the room and jumped on top of me on the bed. Audrey was sleeping in the crease of my armpit and he was on my belly. He put his hands around my throat and choked me. I could tell by his eyes that he wasn't going to stop. I kept trying to get him off of me but couldn't. I was thinking that there was no way I could leave Audrey here with him. I was desperate to get away. I needed to get him off of me. I noticed that the white ceiling beyond his head above me was turning blue. I knew that was it.
I woke up. Obviously. But I had no reason to believe that I would. With help, we were able to get away from him that next week. I found a police officer and asked him to take me back to my house and remove my boyfriend because he was abusive. He asked me whether or not my boyfriend lived there. I said that he did but assured him that only my name was on the lease. He asked me if he had lived there longer than 2 weeks. I said that he had and could not believe the direction it seemed this conversation was going. He then asked me if he had ever received a piece of mail at the apartment. I told him that he had. The officer finally told me that my apartment was his legal home and I did not have the right to remove him and make him homeless. He could only take him if he was arresting him. He asked if I had proof of the abuse. He noted that I was neither bruised nor bloody and then asked me if I had any witnesses. I looked at my witness, my 3 week old daughter, and thought, "This has to be a joke."
No joke. He followed me to my apartment and offered me an escort. He said I had 5 minutes to collect all of our things so that we could move out of my home. No shit! This was the law in 1992. And it was 4 days before Christmas. The officer told me that we could go to a homeless shelter if I wanted to and that I could press charges against my abuser in the morning. But, he assured me, without any evidence or witnesses he would not be charged. So, with that encouragement, I left the state.
Last year when the video of Ray Rice knocking his fiancée out was released, someone posted it on Facebook. A friend of mine commented that we had no idea what the woman had done to instigate the situation and suggested we wait until the whole story came out because a lot of women like to try to get attention for saying they have been abused when they really haven't. I knew that people thought that way, but I was offended that someone I had called a friend would say something like that. It was like she betrayed all women. She betrayed me. I was pissed. I was sorry that typing in all caps was the best that I could do because I desperately wanted to get in her face and scream.
There are certainly women who are viscious. When I was pregnant a girl I knew stole my pregnancy test and told her boyfriend she was pregnant so he wouldn't leave her. When I found out I told him the truth. It was the first time I knew of someone doing something so low. I accept that some women will lie for attention or to get back at a man. They exist. They are awful, spiteful people. But to go into any conversation about a woman being abused assuming that they may not have been? That is not only cruel, but its dangerous. You cannot hold every woman accountable for things that other women have done. It is incredibly difficult for a woman to even come forward. There is often a lot of fear, shame, dependency and loneliness in the back of their minds that they have to come to terms with before they can even think about seeking help. No facet of society (and especially any member of the female half of it) can initially question the validity of an abuse declaration. Their protection needs to be the first instinct and action. Any legal violation against the abuser will be investigated and dealt with accordingly. If the investigation finds that she was untruthful, she is an asshole and the law will take care of that, too. But we have to always begin with an instinct to believe and help. The alternative is unthinkable.
I don't have a passive bone in my body. I am tough. I am smart. I am resourceful. I am strong. I am brave. I am responsible. I am independent.
And I was abused. It can happen to anyone. And it does. I am quick to point that out to people when they look for reasons to disbelieve a woman's accusations of abuse. No one knows what is going on in another persons home. My abuser was, quite literally, a sociopath. He could convince anyone that he was a good guy. It was fascinating to watch. The converse, however, was a nightmare to experience.