Saturday, October 13, 2007

Why doesn't she just leave?

I am listening to my son Dan's podcast he taped at the One voice Walk in memory of Cheryl Dawson and other victims of domestic violence.

One victim gives her account of her life living with her abuser.
Her story could be many victims accounts.
Pieces of it could be mine.

I have hesitated to write details of my abuse because I've wanted to shield my children from hearing what their Mother was living.
I wanted to spare them the hurt,pain and embarrassment I perceive they would feel.

I guess I need to start at the beginning. It didn't start in the months preceding my entering a domestic violence women's center or shelter as it is known.

It started in my childhood,I guess it would be fair to say actually at my birth.
I was not planned,my Mother's fifth living child.Her first was stillborn and I truly believe his death shaped the family dynamics forever.

I was premature and cost the family in fiances they were hard pressed to afford.The other kids could be treated by a general physician,I required a pediatrician.
I was always reminded of the circumstances at my birth and early months every birthday and any other occasion my Dad deemed necessary.

I grew up feeling by my mere existence I owed a great debt to my family.I felt ashamed to have caused so much trouble.
Some of my earliest memories are ways I tried to compensate however inept I was at that age.

I never asked for a need to be met.I of course would never expect a want to be taken care.
I tried to eat as little as I could so there would be more for the rest of the siblings.
I took on the responsibility of the 4 younger siblings who followed me at preschool age.
I tried my best to be intuitive of the needs of my family and met them the best I could sometimes before they even knew they needed them.
I grew up a scapegoat and people pleaser.

I was verbally abused almost on a daily basis by my father and even my older brothers.I was reminded that I was an inconvenience.
I will never forget the words of one brother who said to me "when we were told of your impending birth I thought great; it meant we'd have more of nothing".

My father became physically abusive to the point of cruelty as I got older.
I suffered sexual abuse at an early age,my first memories are of age 4 until I was almost married at age 17.
My father was not my sexual abuser but other male members of my immediate family.
I was told once that by using me it kept his girlfriend from becoming pregnant.
I was told I owed it to him by another.
I was told it was happening to protect the little ones.And,even if I told, no one would believe me which turned out to be true at the age of 44 when I finally told my Dad.

One evening the physical abuse by my Dad was so severe he threw me from room to room and my Mom stood by and watched.As a Mother myself,I can't imagine choosing to let someone harm one of my children right before my eyes and not stepping in to stop it.
I don't know if she felt I deserved it,felt too afraid herself to step in but I will never forget her just standing in the doorway and my eyes pleading with her to do something.
I was truly afraid in his rage he would kill me.
I had cuts on my face from hitting the objects I was thrown against and my jaw was badly bruised.I was 15 years old.
He threw me out of the house and even though others interceded on my behalf he had me thrown into the juvenile hall that night.
I slept on a cold floor with a thin blanket and mat and fought off two lesbians.That was my first encounter with that type of sexuality.Until then I hadn't even known it existed.
I loved my Dad but hated him at the same time.

Because of the molestation I suffered from depression and had bouts of rage.My Dad constantly was punishing me for my "temper".
Of course, I know now the relevance of the acting out but back then had no idea why I was the way I was.
The behavior only reinforced how much of a drain I was on my family.
In those days male children had much more importance than female children had anyway and a difficult female child had even less worth.
I attempted suicide more times than I can count.
I became street smart and dared anyone to confront me.
My Mother would say I'd go where angels dared to tread.
I became notorious for my aggressive behavior as if it was a badge of honor.
Finally,I had found a voice.I had become somebody;I wasn't invisible.
I hated it but relished in it at the same time.
I also was what we now know as anorexic.It didn't have the name back then.

Fast forward to first marriage.It also was abusive.As I've learned, no wonder I made that choice.
I learned in therapy we make some of the choices we do in order to psychologically work out unfinished business with someone else such as a parent.You've heard the saying,"she married her father".True.
I was married at 17.I was pregnant.Not by accident but by choice.
I confronted my Mother that summer we wanted to be married because we knew things were progressing to a physical state of no return.
I was told "there would be only one way I'd be married before I finished high school".
So I took that avenue.
In my immature way I saw it as an out of the family home.
After all, he loved me and I'd live happily ever after.

Only days into the marriage I saw a side of this person I had known 2 years already that I didn't see before.
A few months into the marriage I found evidence of adultery.
A year into the marriage I learned it was the start of physical abuse,financial abuse,emotional abuse and spiritual abuse.
In some ways this was even more devastating than living with my family because I chose this life.In my birth family I had no choice.

The children came along,Dan and his sister.In my mind he was a good Dad because he didn't hurt his children.What else did I have to compare to?
He was a lousy husband but we were Catholic and divorce was not heard of.You made your bed so you had to lay in it.

The abuse became more harsh and frequent.I was thrown down the steps.I was punched repeatedly.My jaw was broken once.
Bruises,black eyes,dislocation of joints were frequent.of course,I made excuses and hid what I could.
He was always sorry afterwards.That somehow made it tolerable.
I later learned that's the honeymoon phase of the cycle of violence.
At least he was admitting he was sorry which was something my Dad never did.
So that had to mean he genuinely loved me,I thought.
I never understood how vital the "but" that followed the "I'm sorry's" was.
Anytime an apology is followed by a "but" it negates the statement preceding it.
But,if I hadn't,but if I had,Bit if I would or wouldn't.....

Eventually the marriage fell apart and he filed for divorce.I counter filed and a custody battle ensued.It took months for it to end and was harrowing at times.
The thought of losing my kids was unthinkable and sent me into nervous episodes I could hardly function.He did kidnap the kids once right from my arms while their little fingers were gouged into my skin.I was physically unable to stop him.
He found where I was because I was talked into believing a cop I could trust him.To this day I remember his face and his name.And,I've had somewhat a distrust of law enforcement ever since.
Eventually I prevailed.
The financial abuse continued through irregular support payments.He stole my car away from the parking lot of my apartment complex the night before our divorce hearing.

He made promises never kept that he would help with this or that for the kids.
I learned to be self-sufficient and not depend on him or any man for that matter.

Meanwhile, one of our firemen buddies became a close family friend and we began a romantic liaison after my divorce.
He was a kind and gentle man,very compassionate,very patient, very interested in me and my children and helpful sometimes at a moments notice.He was dependable and I believed I began to love him and he proclaimed to be in love with me.He was the total opposite of what I knew and I found him refreshing.
He begged me to marry him just about on a weekly basis.

During that time I was advised by the child support division to confront my ex about delinquent payments of child support.
How insane that advice was but believing in authority I bought the lie hook,line and sinker.After all,you should be able to trust authority that they know what they are doing.

Long story short,he threw me over the steps and I could see the hatred and anger and rage in his eyes as he did it.I knew if I landed on the basement steps I would die and I had to get Dan and Steph out of there.I twisted my body hard as I could to go into the opposite direction and landed on the landing by the door.I was paralyzed on my whole left side.
He was screaming and cursing me to get up and get out.I told him I couldn't,that I was paralyzed.He ran down the steps,opened the screen door,picked me up by the back of my shirt and shorts and tossed me onto the driveway.
The kids were crying,Stephanie was hysterical.
I couldn't move except for scooting on my good side across the driveway towards the car.
The neighbors across the street came running over to assist me.
I had them get me in the car and start it up.
I was able to steer the car with my good hand and brake with my good foot.
I got us home and sent the kids in to get Paul.

He had me admitted to the hospital under his insurance and said we had just been married and he hadn't had a chance to put me on his insurance.
I was admitted under an assumed name for my safety.Paul watched the kids for me and I had an in home day care and he took off work to take care of the kids I was in charge of as well as a couple parents who took personal days.
I was in his debt and grateful.

He continued to hound me until I finally married him.I was encouraged by family and friends I would never find someone who would love my kids as he did and someone who adored me as he did.I didn't trust my own judgement that I wasn't ready for another commitment at that time so 7 months to the day of my divorce I was remarried.

He changed on me literally on our wedding night and never was the man I had known all along.
He wasn't physically abusive but emotionally detached from me.I didn't understand it then but it was the quest of "winning " me that was the challenge.Once I was his so to speak it was over.
We remained legally married for 22 long years.
It wasn't always bad but it sure was hardly ever good.
Two more children came along to mix in with my previous 2 and his previous 4.
Everything about our lives together became a challenge.
Not wanting to have another failed marriage, broken family.I stayed. I didn't put the pieces together that it was failed staying together.

The pressures of the failed marriages were great.I was silent about so much that was going on being embarrassed that once again I couldn't keep my life together.
I felt I was financially dependant.
I had been available for him to continue his education as I had in my former marriage because that was what wives did for the betterment of the family.
Even though at times I worked three jobs,I didn't see myself as self-sufficient.
We went through a few family crisis',a flood which devastated us emotionally,financially and materially.
I did all I knew to do to put us whole again.
We went through a more than two year legal battle in a class action lawsuit following the flood.
My emotional state was becoming more fragile although I didn't recognize it.

I was working long hours,physically depleted and getting no support at home.In fact,he was more distant than ever and I was sure he was having affairs and if not physical they were for sure emotional.He was flaunting it in my face.
All our friends knew.I shouldered the embarrassment and humiliation alone.
I began involving myself in my own risky behavior to compensate. I was acting out in desperation hoping he'd notice and I'd be important enough for him to discontinue his escapades.
I became isolated among crowds of people.They say no man is an island;I beg to differ.
I was alone in every way.
I wasn't necessarily lonely because of the people in my life but I was alone.
I was grieving for the marriage I had hoped we would have and wasn't going to happen.

We had separated a couple times and then reconciled.
My daughter was getting married and as the Mother of the bride I immersed myself in wedding plans while working full time and a couple part time jobs because I was now living alone.
At one point I fractured several ribs in an accident and couldn't work for almost 2 months.I was financially depleted before I could go back to work.
About 4 months before the wedding he asked for another reconciliation.
I wanted more than anything for an intact family so I agreed.

The strain of shouldering the wedding plans almost by myself were taking a toll unbeknown to me at that time.
The wedding week was upon us.
Out of town guests,showers,rehearsal dinner which I took over because the grooms family wouldn't and then the wedding preparations themselves.
Virtually no help. People had said they would help and didn't show.
The Mother of the bride was racing down the street at 10:10 to get dressed for a 10:30 wedding.
The food distrobution was up to me.The picture taking fell to me to oraganize that day.
The cleanup was falling on my shoulders.
My apartment was a wreck from the week and food preparations for the wedding.
I was to return to work the day after the wedding.
I had about a total of 12 hours sleep for the week. I was beyond exhausted.I was physically numb and my emotional state was frayed.
I was saying goodbye to family members I hadn't seen in years and hadn't been able to spend the time with I would have liked because of undependable so called friends.

The evening of my first day back to work Paul informed he still wanted a divorce.He told me had used me the last 4 months making me think we were reconciling because he didn't want me to have a scene with his mistress at the time. She was one of the ones who had promised to help with the wedding day.She was a so called family friend and former neighbor.
Someone I considered a friend.

I was devastated.Previous to us reconciling I became involved with someone who treated me different than anyone had and it was going somewhere.I told him it had to end when Paul and I decided to reconcile and he moved away.
All I could see in my head when he delivered that devasting statement that he had used me was what I had given up and would never have.
I can't even describe the hurt I felt and didn't want to ever feel again in my life.The betrayal was enormous.
I had nothing left to fight with.I was depleted.

I went into the bathroom and deliberately and methodically took every pill that had been prescribed to me and went out and sat down waiting for whatever was going to happen,happen.
I was quiet,unemotional,distant.I felt I was in a black hole and could never climb my way out of it.I felt I was falling deeper and deeper.
I felt total hopelessness and helplessness.
I just didn't want to hurt anymore.

This will be part 1 of the story.I will finish it in the next post.

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1 comment:

emb450 said...

Wow! Quite a story. ...& none of these abusive people were ever brought to justice? Unreal.