Dealing With Spousal Abuse

 

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.

71 comments

  1. Thank you so much for sharing your story. That alone takes incredible courage and strength. I know you will inspire people reading this, and that is priceless. The best thing here that I see is your call for people to get help. This is absolutely not something to deal with alone. And I’m so glad that you’re healthy and recovered. That’s truly amazing.

    • Laurie says:

      Natalie, you’re so right when you say it’s not something to deal with alone. Part of how abusers win is that they isolate their victims, and this is why choosing to step out and get support is so vitally important to recovery.

  2. Wow Laurie I’m so sorry you went through that. My mom was abused by my stepdad (and yes they are still married) and I used to beg her to leave him when I was in high school in college, but alas, unless someone is ready they can’t see the big picture, and it’s very hard to understand why. I hate to speak ill of the dead, but I’m glad he is gone for your sake and piece of mind, and maybe in some way he can find peace wherever he is. It’s a tough situation. 🙁

    • Laurie says:

      Oh Tonya, so sorry to hear your mom went through that and I hope things are better today. I hope he’s in a better place too. He deserves to find the love he longed so hard to have. 🙁

  3. Kirsten says:

    I’m so glad you shared (and even though I don’t want to be glad someone is dead, I’m glad that you don’t have to live in fear of this man anymore).

    I think there is an important lesson in your story – abuse doesn’t always start immediately. Just because those warning flags haven’t escalated into actual abuse doesn’t mean they WON’T. My own situation (that you read about this morning) was less than one year total. I’m pretty sure something physical would have happened if I’d stayed – but there is no telling.

    So important to see the warning flags and not take a chance. Get out.

    • Laurie says:

      I think so too, Kirsten, in regards to your situation. It’s kind of like the frog in the boiling water thing: sometimes it happens so slowly that you are too comfy to notice things are getting bad. Glad that both of us aren’t in those types of situations now, my friend.

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I’m so glad for you that you could close this chapter and move forward. I think domestic violence is a largely misunderstood issue. The more people talk about it, hopefully the conversation will improve and more options for those affected will become available. Thank you for adding your voice.

    • Laurie says:

      You’re so right, Kate! People don’t understand. They say “Just leave”, and it’s not that simple. Hopefully more awareness and education will help.

  5. Kara says:

    I think these “why I stayed” stories are so important. It seems like so many are quick to judge and blame the victim. Thank you for sharing your story, Laurie. I’m glad to hear you no longer have to worry about your ex.

  6. Your story hit directly home this morning because it mirrors that of my mother’s horrible experience (due to an arranged marriage as is customary in Indian culture). Some people are quick to say “Well why doesn’t she leave?” because they cannot relate, but as you pointed out, there are layers of emotions and self-destructive views that compound the situation until it reaches a point of run or die. Thank you for following your spirit and baring your past because I know how difficult that is to do.

    • Laurie says:

      Oh, Kassandra, so sorry your mom went through that. I hope your mom is safe now: I know how close you two are. Yeah, as difficult as it was, if it can save another, I will do it gladly. Hugs, my dear sister in Christ.

  7. Thank you for sharing your story, Laurie. It’s one we need to hear. I think almost every woman knows someone or was a victim of abuse, which is extraordinarily sad. I feel blessed that I never dealt with abuse in any of my relationships but I have helped women who were leaving their abusers and I know it’s a difficult thing to do. From the outside, it seems so easy and obvious but as you shared, there are lots of emotions, including both love and fear, that make them stay put. I’m glad you were able to escape and find happiness and love with Rick.

  8. Thank you for sharing your story Laurie, it takes courage and it may help someone who is dealing with a similar situation. Unfortunately, too often our society blames the victim. This happened in the Ray Rice case. Before the videotape was released, there were some who said she instigated it and hit him, while he was defending himself. Others pointed to her marrying him, to show that it “must not have been that bad” or that she was with him for his money. Many do not understand battered woman’s syndrome or how people deal with different situations, and should not judge. So thank you for shining a light on this important problem.

    • Laurie says:

      “Many people do not understand battered woman’s syndrome”. You hit the nail on the head there, Andrew. I only hope this post will help women (and men) see that they can get out, and help others see how important it is to be compassionate towards these women and men who are living in abusive situations.

  9. Through reading your posts, I have come to see you as a wonderful combination of toughness and grace – of strength and vulnerability. This painful episode of your life, in my mind, adds a dimension of triumph to your character. The fact that you had the courage to leave an abusive man is one triumph. The fact that you are sharing your experience now is another. “The enemy comes to kill, steal, and destroy,” and he did his best with you. But it didn’t work. Instead, you are living the abundant life, and it’s spilling over for others. I have no doubt that your words will touch the hearts of women and men in abusive situations and give them the strength to reclaim their lives.

    • Laurie says:

      Awww, thank you, Prudence. 🙂 That verse, John 10:10, is a verse that we use often in our house. As Paul Milligan says “The enemy uses challenges to destroy, God uses them to help us be overcomers.” He is indeed good.

  10. Mackenzie says:

    Laurie, you are so incredibly brave in so many ways. Brave for leaving, for fighting for your life, for LIVING your life, and for sharing your powerful story.

    Many, many hugs to you my friend. May you always be blessed! XO

  11. Gretchen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this! I’m sure getting it out there was not easy….I came from an abusive home. My mother was very religious and took her marriage vows seriously, even though the abuse. When I moved away to college, I never looked, back, but it is so sad to see that my mom will not leave him. He keeps her locked in the house, she has never met her only grandchild, and I even have to sneak around to call her. I only wish she could read this…

    • Laurie says:

      Oh dear, Gretchen, I’m so sorry to hear that. Know that I am praying for her, and for him. He needs help just as much as she does. Sad stuff. 🙁

  12. Laurie, you are so right, you are meant to share your situation and hopefully the negativity that you felt will help someone else. You should never make excuses for someone’s behavior. We are all worthy of love and respect and we need to demand it or move on. It’s easier said than done, but it helps when you read other’s stories.

    • Laurie says:

      “We are all worthy of love and respect and we need to demand it or move on.” Well said, my friend!! Thank you for your continued support and friendship – it means the world!

  13. I can’t imagine how tough this was to re-live through writing, but I am glad you shared your story, as I’m sure it will reach someone who needs to hear it. I’m also very happy you got yourself out of that situation. While I haven’t been in a physically abusive relationship, I’ve seen and experienced all sorts of verbal abuse, which can still take its toll on the psyche. The important thing is remembering that we deserve to be loved in a positive way, and that we deserve to be surrounded with supportive friends.

    • Laurie says:

      Yes, verbal abuse is definitely just as bad as physical abuse, although people downplay it lots. Verbal abuse takes a serious toll on one’s self-esteem. Thank you, Erin, for the wonderful comment.

    • Laurie says:

      Keep standing strong, Brad. You are loved and you are wonderful, just the way you are. Remember that the abuse was not about you: your abuser was/is very, very sick in the head. You are AWESOME and deserve the very best – remember that.

  14. I salute you Laurie, for being very brave and for sharing this to all of your readers. I felt abuse too, but emotionally, I’m not yet ready to share it with other, I love your words “You deserve better, and your kids certainly deserve better”.

    • Laurie says:

      Clarisse, stand strong, my friend. You are wonderful and you are loved – remember that and refuse to let those past memories destroy your current life. You are an overcomer, my friend!

  15. Oh how awful, Laurie! I’m so sorry you had to go through such a horrific experience. Thank you for having the courage to share it. I’m sure that your story will help people who are suffering realize that there is hope. I hope that anyone who feels trapped in an abusive relationship will read this and have the strength to leave. Thank you for being so open with your experience.

  16. Autumn says:

    I know how hard this must have been to write – so thank you. It is important to talk about it. It’s important for victims to know that they shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed. And stories like yours show that you can overcome it.

    • Laurie says:

      Indeed!! Until I wrote this post, those memories were so distant that they’d long been forgotten. It seems almost as if they’d happened to someone else. Healing is possible with the right tools.

  17. Kathy says:

    “being alone was scarier than knowing what to expect from the man.” Oh Laurie, no person should have to put up with abuse and I’m glad you got out of the situation. That statement so powerfully sums up how many women feel….that they need to have a man at all costs. It seems so unlikely in this age of women’s liberation and rights that women still feel incomplete without a man. I guess one or two generations isn’t enough to overcome millennia of genetic programing.

    • Laurie says:

      I think it’s more the love than the man, you know, that they feel they need. This is where, for me, Christ was so liberating. Knowing that I am loved unconditionally by my Creator means I don’t need anyone else. 🙂

  18. Wow, thanks so much for sharing this Laurie. I have witnessed emotional abuse to a member of my family (it still happens to this day) but have never knowingly known someone impacted by physical abuse. My hope, out of your story and the many others, is that this will continue to shed light and bring about real action. The criminal justice system far too often is a joke when it comes to this issue. I think it points back to some of our misplaced priorities as a society and the belief that “you” as the person involved somehow deserve it for some reason or another.

    • Laurie says:

      John, you’ve hit the nail on the head here. People just don’t get it. Yes, the abused does have a responsibility to take control of their life, but at the same time, there are such a host of other emotions involved in these types of situations that even the abused themselves are often unaware of, and those emotions impact the ability to make smart decisions.

  19. Oh Laurie. I am so sorry. But thank you for sharing your story. I had a friend in high school in an abusive relationship. And none of us could get through to her. He was her first “real” boyfriend and I think she was afraid of losing him. I’m glad you’re free of him in every way possible and I don’t care of that makes me mean.

  20. Laurie, you are so brave and wonderful. I am so sorry you had to endure such pain. I can’t believe how much this issue has come to light since the recent incident — this is so many people’s story, yet it’s different for everyone. It just makes my heart break. I am glad you are free of that now. Thanks for your courageous wisdom, friend.

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  23. kat ~ frugalvoices.com says:

    You give voice to all the silent victims out there. Me included. Thank you, Laurie. Thank you.

  24. My first year of social work school I interned at a Domestic Violence shelter. Every woman had a story and all of them were unthinkable. I’ve never understood how people can, “blame the victim” and assume that she (or he-many men are also victims of intimate partner violence) is “just as bad” as as the abuser because she (or he) doesn’t leave. No one deserves to be abused and no one can understand what it’s like to live in that fear unless they’ve lived through it. So thankful you now have a man who gives you the love and respect that you deserve!

    • Laurie says:

      Me too, KK. 🙂 It’s a welcome change from putting up with spousal abuse. I only hope more women will see through stories like mine that they can find, and do deserve, a better life.

    • Laurie says:

      Thank you, Lisa. 🙂 I am blessed that this time in my life is by and large forgotten, and I hope it is an inspiration for others in this type of situation to move on to better things as well.

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