Sunday, December 13, 2009

Why didn't you just leave?

Those are the most hated words for an abuse survivor to hear. I am ultra ironic because I used to manage our local domestic violence shelter. So basically, I should have known better.

Should have.

About 5 months in to our relationship, my husband told me that I was worse than the terrorists who flew in to the World Trade Center. I was shocked at first. I could not believe that I could possibly be worse than those people. The worst thing I had ever done in my life was ripping a picture of a figure skater out of a magazine that belonged to the library when I was a teenager. Yep, that sums up my "bad" past. I am not condoning what I did, but certainatly it could not make me worse than terrorists!

But B was very smart. He only had to go to high school for one year when he graduated. His grades were always very high and I believed that he was smarter than me. So I believed that I was worse than the terrorists.

The first time he hit me was because I did not treat him well enough in front of his friends. I guess I was supposed to be more of an adoring girlfriend. I wasn't adoring enough because I disagreed with something that he said. Basically he said something that he was wrong about and when I corrected him, he flipped. He backhanded me two days later for it, after ignoring me for those two days.

One time we were at my house- I was living with my parents- and I realized that there wasn't any toilet paper in the bathroom. I opened the door a bit and asked him if he could bring me a roll from the hall closet. He said no. He said that it was my fault that I wasn't smart enough to look before I used the bathroom. He started yelling at me for being ignorant. Then he demanded that I take him home, but I was scared to get in to the car with him because he was in such a rage. So he picked up my purse and started taking things out and throwing them out the door in to the yard. Then he picked up a lamp and started smashing the living room furniture. He destroyed most of it. There was stuff everywhere. My Dad came home then and I just drove B home and I was shaking the whole time.

He was banned from our house from that point, for a year or so. I don't know why I did not break up with him. I think because I did not think that I could do any better. He was my first boyfriend. I was 22. No other men had wanted anything to do with me. I am overweight, although I weighed much less then than I do now. My Father- and yes I am over this now but it still hurt nat the time- used to tell me that boys wouldn't like fat girls. So at the time I was just thankful that someone liked me, a fat girl.

I always thought that he would change if I was only a better girlfriend/wife/person.

Once a friend of his kicked our cat. I asked him later why did he not say anything? He hit me.

He used to call me idiot, stupid, bitch, etc, all the time. He used to have our computer set up so that the password prompt would pop up and say "What are you?" and I would have to type in "A bitch" to get on. That was so humiliating.

If I would cry, he would kick me out of the bed and on to the floor. He choked me once because I would not pet the cat. I think the worst thing was having things thrown at me. I hated that. He would throw things all the time, or break my things. I was always afraid to let him know that I liked something, for fear that he would destroy it.

A little boy at my work gave me a teddy bear last year. At the time my heart was empty. This child had never really spoken to anyone until I started working with him. I felt and still feel a bond with him that can not be expressed in words. He fills me with such joy and loved me even when no one else did. He gave me this teddy bear that I cherised. I was always so afraid that my husband would destroy that bear. In fact, I remember once thinking that him destroying that bear might be the ONLY thing I would ever leave him for. That teddy bear was physical representation for me that another human being in this world loved me. And darnit, some days that was all that kept me alive.

He would leave me sometimes if we would go somewhere. Like once we stopped at a gas station on the way to visit his family. We were far from home. He got mad at me for something, I don't even remember what I did, and he left me. He left me there with no cell phone, no money, no nothing. My purse was in the car. I will never forget that feeling. He finally came back and said that if I was good, he would let me back in the car.

The worst happened last December. I think maybe a year ago yesterday, perhaps. I was making his Crystal Light. Fruit punch flavored. The jug it was going in held two gallons. I added maybe 2 ounces more water than he liked. It couldn't have been more than that, because the pitcher itself wouldn't hold much more. He was so mad at me. He started screaming at me, saying that I was a stupid bitch. An idiot. Something in my head clicked. I KNEW I wasn't stupid. To get your teaching license you have to take a series of tests. I scored in the top 15% over a 5 year period of time nationwide on this test. My University made a big deal out of it, and I got awarded this special certificate, etc. My grades were high, I had a 4.0. I knew I wasn't stupid, even though for years he had convinced me of that. So I told him that I wasn't stupid.

I knew that was a mistake. As soon as the words left my mouth I knew that I was in trouble. He threw that pitcher of Crystal Light at me. It was everywhere. We had carpet in our kitchen, a light blue. It was red. There was fruit punch on the walls, on the fridge, in the pantry, on my beautiful apron that my friend made for me. It was all over me. In my hair and on my body. That was the worst thing he ever did to me. Of all the times I was hit, kicked, slapped, called names, choked, abandoned at various locations, this was the worst.

I decided that night that I was going to kill myself. I took a shower. Then I got a knife from the drawer. He called the police. They are in my house and I remember being so embarassed because I had laundry in the basket that I hadn't folded yet. I had to promise that I wouldn't kill myself. They saw what he did to the kitchen and they made him leave. I spent the next two days cleaning the carpet. It never did come out and to this day it is pink.

We are going to have this little Christmas sing on Wednesday for the parents. Then afterwards we are inviting them back to our classroom for punch and cookies. I can not make the punch. I just can not do it. I can not look at fruit punch or drink fruit punch without thinking about that night.

So we went to marriage counseling. Not just any marriage counseling, we had the Dean of the psychology department at the University to meet with us in his private office. No one, and I mean NO ONE gets in to see this man. In fact, my friend is a therapist and he did not believe me when I told him who our counselor was. He only has one appointment, during lunch time one day a week and as luck would have it, the couple he had been seeing stopped going the day I called. He was $225 an hour. I thought for sure our marriage would be saved.

B called me names in front of the marriage counselor too. Blah. He told me that in his professional opinion, B loved the cats more than he would ever love me. And that he felt that B was the kind of person who wanted to be alone.

All of these incidents- he never once apologized for what he did. He told me that I made him hit me. I made him do these things. It was my fault. No one else would want me.

When I finally left him after the arrest, I arranged to go to the Water company to switch it in to his name. I had to see him in person to do this, but it was important for me that the cats have water in the house, so I did it. I also called the phone company and jumped through hoops to get the telephone over in his name.

The cable I left because he was paying the bill. When I found out he didn't pay one of the phone bills from when it was in my name, I decided to cancel the cable. I explained why, and they said that they would give him five days to call them and get it in his name, so there would be no interruption in service. However, he would have to pay the current rate, not the $5 or so cheaper rate I had locked in under my name.

He flipped out. The only way to avoid him paying the extra $5 was for us to go together in person and switch it. I didn't want to do that. The office is in another town. It was my day off. I work hard during the week. Plus, I don't want to see him. He threatened me and told me that I would get in to trouble with the court because turning off utilities is frowned upon. Then he said that he would put a restraining order on me if I didn't do what he said.

At first I was scared and I almost went and did what he wanted. Then I thought about it. I DID arrange for the actual utilities that were in my name to be switched, the water and the phone. I don't consider cable to be a life or death situation. And they gave him five days to call them. And $5 a month? He deserves way more punishment than that, so cry me a river. I was worried that he would file a restraining order on me, when my Mom said "And that will tell you to stay away from him... and you already DO stay away from him, so who cares? Let him do it! You haven't done anything to warrent a restraining oder!"

And that made sense. I mean, I haven't stalked him, harassed him, nothing. HE is contacting ME. Not the other way around. Besides, I would LOVE to tell my story to a judge right now. Let him file for one. I kind of hope he does just so that the judge can see what is really going on.

But back to my original statement. The question: Why didn't you just leave?

I didn't leave because I didn't know how.

If you have ever been floored by someone in your life telling you that they are a homosexual, you might understand where I am coming from. I had to come out of the domestic violence closet, so to speak. Here I was, a former employee of a domestic violence shelter, telling people that for 8 years of my life, I was a victim of domestic violence. Those are not easy words to say to people!!

I am basically a liar. And a hypocrite. Well, it's true! I counseled women and gave them advice that I wasn't willing to take myself. For what it's worth, at the time I thought that my abuse was not nearly as bad as the women's in my shelter. I always felt like my situation was nothing compared to theirs.

But abuse levels the playing field. It equals us all out. It doesn't care about race, religion, gender, education or economic class. That doesn't matter. It makes us all the same.

I was a good actress. I lied to everyone. I pretended to have a wonderful marriage. I made up elaborate excuses for his behavior. I defended him to my family. I would beg and plead with him to please be nice when he met my new friends. I lived in a constant state of fear that my illusion would come crashing down on me. And it did on more than one occasion.

I used to make myself sick with worry, always the worry. It was a horrible way to live.

My parents already knew he was a jerk, because of the fits he would throw in front of them. His way of isolating me was to turn my family and friends against me by acting terribly.

Why didn't I leave?

1. Where would I go? He knows where the shelter is because I used to work there. He knows where my parents live. He knows where my friends live. Where my Aunts live, even where some of my coworkers live. I couldn't afford to move somewhere, or else I would have. And this is coming from a person who HAS family to go to. Some people don't even have that.

2. What am I relying on him for? Money, for starters. He made almost twice what I make. I am a teacher. I love my job and truly I can not imagine doing anything else, but let's face it, it does not pay much. I am paying off bills now over a year long time period that I could have paid in full if I was still with him. Luckily for me he got laid off shortly after I left, so money wasn't something that was luring me back, like it had in the past!
Medical insurance anyone? I love my job but their insurance stinks. I lost my insurance when I left him.

3. I drove his car. He took it from me when I left. I had to buy a new one and then it got smashed by a ladder. Read a few posts back for that story LOL

4. I couldn't take my cats with me. My parents wouldn't allow it. I had to leave them behind and I mourn their loss :(

5. My freedom? I live with my parents now, so I am now back in to that following their rules thing. I wanted to dye my hair pink for Halloween, my Mom said no. I want to go shopping, Mom says no. At least I am not getting beat up though, so it is not so bad. But some people don't handle going back to their childhood as well as I have.

6. Divorce is expensive. I have no idea how I am going to pay for the lawyer I am going to in two weeks. I have no idea how I am going to pay for most things right now LOL

7. Everything I own is in storage. Fun.

So there is the short version as to "Why didn't you just leave". I could probably ramble on even longer about it, but I will spare you!

But please understand that no man or woman ever lives this way on purpose. They just can't see a way out at the time!

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