In honor of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I’m republishing this post about my ordeal with domestic violence. If you’re suffering with domestic violence in your home, please don’t give up hope and please go to a safe place, such as a battered women’s shelter, as soon as possible. You are not alone!!
Here we go again. I’m feeling led by the Lord to share intimate details of my past life, which I’m none too happy about sharing ;-), but I know that a large part of my purpose here is to help and encourage others, so for that purpose, I will share.
Today I want to talk about the Ray Rice incident. Let me start off by saying that I have no personal knowledge of the situation or their relationship other than what we’ve all seen on TV. But when you hit a woman so hard that you knock her clean out, that is a serious danger sign in my opinion. But I digress: this post is not about the Rice incident specifically, but about the dangers of spousal abuse.
I spent four long years in an abusive relationship, and another decade and a half after that hiding from the man who said that if I left him, if he ever saw me again, even if it was twenty years from then, he’d kill whoever I was with and break both my legs.
I ended up in this relationship because my self-esteem plummeted after my parents’ divorce and I was so self-focused that I was looking desperately for someone to love me, as I felt abandoned by my parents. Me not recognizing the difference between feeling and fact was mistake number one.
Feelings are fickle, my friends. Don’t ever let them be your guiding decision to do anything. Now, your gut instinct, that’s one thing: feelings are completely another. Anywhoo.
For the first year of my relationship with “Dan”, all was well. He was overprotective, but I thought that was wonderful. Bad sign number 1.
He Started to Change
Year two is when things started to change, and they escalated from there. I won’t go into too many details, but suffice to say that what you’ve seen in the movies is pretty accurate of a serious abuse situation. I’ve spent entire nights lying awake with a shotgun pointed at my head, waiting for the moment when he’d finally lose his head and pull the trigger. And no, gun control won’t help situations like this. Crazy people do what they need to do to get guns: legally or illegally.
I stayed because the fear of being alone was scarier to me than the comfort of at least knowing what to expect from the man I’d been with for four years. I didn’t know anything different, and yes, he had great qualities too. He was funny, sweet and kind. He took care of me, and would never, ever let anyone else hurt me. And he looked like Brad Pitt. 🙂
All of these things were excuses I held on to for why I could/should stay. Then one night it got really bad, and I knew that “its end was the way of death.” I knew that if I didn’t get out that I would one day die at his hands.
Leaving is Not Easy
Leaving was hard, and for many, many months there were calls to the police as he stalked me at work and at home. The police did very little in those days, they saw it too often in my neighborhood and I’m sure they were sick and tired of dealing with it. Things are different now, I hope, in that arena, although I know a lot of abused women these days will refuse to press charges against the man they “love”. Let me tell you: if you really love someone, you’ll press those charges and force them to get the help they need. Or you’ll get out and never come back.Enabling the one you love is not love at all.
After the year of stalking and one attempted murder (I never told anyone), I moved away. When I moved back to my hometown a year later, I started living my life in sort of a self-induced witness protection program. I refused to work anywhere where he might find me, had an unpublished phone number, and basically hid for a lot of years. When I went out, I made sure to be surrounded by my group of guy friends. But I never went places where I thought he might be.
My experience with domestic abuse had major league negative affects on my self-esteem. For years I allowed several people in my life to treat me badly. I allowed emotional and verbal abuse. After all, I figured, it wasn’t really abuse. It wasn’t really that bad.
There is No Acceptable Abuse
This is a crock of poo, my friends. Emotional and verbal abuse, financial abuse, controlling and manipulating behavior are all forms of abuse. Don’t put up with them. Get help, and if the abuser in your life doesn’t change, cut them out of your life. Don’t ever allow yourself to be abused, controlled or manipulated in any way, whether it’s physically, emotionally, financially or whatever.
If you have trouble setting boundaries in your life, read this: Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life
There’s also a version that focuses on helping you set boundaries in marriage: Boundaries in Marriage
And another that focusing on setting boundaries with your kids: Boundaries with Kids: When to Say Yes, When to Say No, to Help Your Children Gain Control of Their Lives
In 2003, at the age of 37, my ex abusive boyfriend died of a heart attack. This made sense: the man had had a broken heart all of his life, the result of an abusive father who he had always longed for the approval of.
I cried the night I learned he died, tears of relief. For the first time in many, many moons, I was free. I didn’t have to hide anymore. I could live like normal people. I am still intensely and innately aware of my surroundings in all situations. I still regularly scan crowds for signs of danger. Not in a scared way, though, but in a smart way. I am now in control. And I don’t put up with crap anymore. If you mess with me or my family, I’ll take you down, no questions asked. And I have learned to set healthy boundaries where others are concerned. If they treat me in a way that is abusive (they generally don’t though, because I’ve learned to set boundaries) I call them out on it and stop it immediately.
You Deserve Better
The point of this post is to plead with and encourage women and men who may be in an abusive situation, whether it be physical, financial or emotional abuse (all are equally bad) to get help immediately. Don’t be afraid of where you’ll go, what you’ll do, or how you’ll support yourself. There are many programs these days to help you and any children you might have with that.
But please, don’t put up with abuse. Your spouse/partner or other abusive person in your life has issues and needs accountability and psychological help if he/she is to truly get well. And you deserve to be treated respectfully. A note about the Bible and its instructions in marriage: yes, it says you are to stay married, but it also says you are to honor your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit. Allowing yourself to be abused is not honoring your body, and God would never, ever want you to stay with someone who is abusing you if there is not clear progress toward healing being made, and what’s more, walking in love with that abuser means holding him/her accountable for their actions, so love him/her enough to leave them.
Whatever you do, don’t downplay the situation, especially if you have children. You deserve better, and your kids certainly deserve better. Don’t pass on a legacy of accepting abuse to your babies. Show them that abuse should never be accepted, and get yourself and your kids out of there, before it’s too late.
You are wonderful in God’s sight; treat yourself as the child of the King that you are. Know that there are programs available and people who have been there that understand the torture you’re going through. Get help and be safe, my friend.