It seems, for some reason, we keep the things we need to talk about the most the quietest. We hold them in our hearts and minds and never really get them out. We do this to protect ourselves; to keep people from knowing that we aren’t perfect; to put up a persona of “perfection” and self sufficiency. If they know what really happens or what has happened in the past, then we become vulnerable. Vulnerability leads to guilt, shame, hopelessness, and so forth and so on. I’m tired of being quiet.
Recently, on social media, a friend posted about being a “survivor” of domestic abuse. I never thought of it that way: surviving. We don’t talk about these things because it makes us uncomfortable. Therefore, we never know what words to associate with the situation. Her story helped me. It made me come face to face with that fact that things have happened to me, bad things, and I’m not helping anyone by keeping silent. It’s time to end the silence, the stigma, the shame. So here’s my story.
I have an amazing husband and three beautiful children, but my life wasn’t always this way. When I was 19, I became pregnant and got married to a high school boyfriend. At first, the abuse was simple, verbal assaults. I was lazy; I needed to do more; I needed to be a better wife. Then, it became more about control. I wasn’t allowed access to the checking account. I didn’t have any money, unless he gave it to me. I wasn’t allowed to get a job. I was completely dependent on him. Now, at this point, you may be wondering if anyone knew or if I tried to get help. No. I didn’t tell anyone because I felt like it was my fault, somehow. Obviously I was triggering these events in some way. So, I dealt. I kept quiet. It became worse. He became worse. The simple verbal assaults became more intense, lasting longer, and began including threats. Grant it, if you know me, you know I’m not one to take much of that, so I spoke up; defended myself. That’s when the physical abuse began. It isn’t what you’re picturing in your head. I wasn’t black and blue, hiding behind sunglasses at the market; I didn’t have a broken nose or even bruises, at first. He knew where to hit, how hard to hit ,and when to hit. If a mark was left, it was gone by morning. We had one baby and one on the way, so things calmed down while I was pregnant. (Mostly due to me being monitored closely by a doctor who wasn’t an idiot and saw the signs.) Once my second son was born, the abuse began again; mostly verbal. I decided to take college classes online and finish my nursing degree. I found a scholarship to pay for the classes, so he was okay with that. Once the online classes were finished though, I needed to do my clinical part of nursing school-which meant leaving the house. While I had scholarships to cover this, plus financial aid to help cover the cost of daycare for the kids, he wouldn’t go for it. I would “find someone else, ” is the way he put it. In all honesty, he knew if I ever became free, found a way out, I’d never look back. He was right.
I would like to say I went ahead with nursing school, despite his efforts to keep me out. I didn’t. I stayed home, kept house, played with my babies, and suffered silently. No one knew. I remember one time in particular, I had prepared supper (steak, potatoes, etc), and obviously did something wrong, so he threw his plate at me. My son, age 2, thought it was a game, so he did the same thing. At that moment, I knew something had to change. A few weeks later, I had the flu, and the kids were crying. Life was happening, and he couldn’t handle it, so he threw our recliner at me. Again, I knew something had to change. I just didn’t know what. I was scared to talk, scared to move. I didn’t dare tell my parents. I’m from the south, so had my daddy known, the term” 6 feet under” would have been more than just a saying…. So I kept quiet. Silently suffering, barely surviving.
One particular night, my oldest (age 3 at this time) was whining in the recliner beside me, while I rocked my youngest (age 1). I don’t remember what he was upset about, but he was 3, so it could’ve been the color of his shirt, who knows. Regardless, my (at that time) husband went to slap him. It was going to be a hard hit, I could tell due to his hand being raised back so far. I grabbed his arm as he went to swing and pushed him backwards (with the one year old on my hip). The look in his eyes was eerie, almost possessed. He reared back and knocked me and the baby to the ground. That was the end. I stood up, laughing. I told him to get out; I was calling the police. He left, thank GOD. I grabbed my kids, called my sister, packed a bag, and left.
He filed for divorce several weeks later. I didn’t even try to argue with the terms, I just wanted out. My parents were helping me, and I slowly began to tell them certain things that had happened. Little bits and pieces, not all at once. Most people get a restraining order in cases like this. I didn’t. I got a death certificate. He committed suicide later that year. Was it my fault? No. Tons of therapy later, and I can say that. No, it wasn’t my fault.
We don’t talk about it. We keep quiet, live our lives, and pretend “that” never happened. It did. It matters. It shaped me into who I am today. God has a plan for everyone. But I know his plan was not for me to stay there and endure that for that long. No one I knew had ever gone through that, so I didn’t know who to talk to or what to say. I know many since then who have suffered. If you are suffering. Please don’t be like me and suffer in silence. Don’t just survive. THRIVE! God’s will for your life includes hope and future. I will be glad to walk with you, stand up beside you, and listen to you. Get out. Get help. It’s time to end the silence, to stop feeling guilty, and to live the life God has already mapped out for us. My story is just that: mine. Everyone’s is different. Regardless of your story, abuse : emotional, mental, verbal, sexual, or physical is NEVER okay. It is NEVER your fault. You CAN get help. You DESERVE better.