A victim of domestic violence has a lot of anger inside toward the perpetrator. Before I escaped my ex-husband I attempted suicide because I did not know that I could escape his prison. I did not know I had choices. I could walk away, although it wasn’t easy, or I could just sit there and not take any control over my life or my son’s.
There were many times when I thought about attempting suicide and there are many things that I wrote, much of which makes no sense now, during those brief periods of depression. My writing helped me to think things through. Consequently I have many journals that I will probably burn some day.
But what did being a victim of domestic violence look like for me? I think people get pulled in by dirt, we want to know what actually happened, it is glamorized in a way by the media as they write about a murder or rape in ways that will make us want to read more. Perhaps this is why we are so caught up with the victim and the perpetrator and not in helping the woman survive.
Being a victim, I find it difficult to tell you in detail how I was raped or forced to do things, that for my first sexual encounter I felt degraded and dirty. The whole time I was married I felt like a prostitute, because sex was the main topic of our conversation. The first time we had sex was three months after my ex-husband and I began dating, when I was only 16 ½. I thought I was showing him I was not easy and if you moved too fast they would never marry you. After we had sex, he turned to me and said, “If you had waited any longer, I was going to have to get me some pussy somewhere else.” I never used those type of words because talking about sex was new to me. But what a tale to tell for your first sexual encounter.
What did I know? I didn’t date anyone in high school except him, well, and a short stint with a younger boy who was always chaperoned by my mother. My family seemed to trust my ex-husband, at first, and I was so insecure about myself that I didn’t feel I had many choices. There were a couple of times before we were married that he abused me, physically, sexually, and mentally, but it didn’t phase me really. My maternal grandmother had known of the violence his father had put upon his mother, but I didn’t understand psychology and I was trying to make my own decisions. I thought things would be different with us. I didn’t have any good role models to choose from and I was used to abuse in my own home. What was the difference? We lived on a farm in the country. Not many kids talked about going to college back then, except the really smart ones who my mother would say “are going to make something of themselves.”
Our honeymoon was spent in a cheap hotel where his sister and some friends dropped by to smoke dope and drink beer. I was six and a half months pregnant and scared about the decision I had just made for the rest of my life. He was a sailor in the Navy, and our marriage began not by trying to adjust to each other, but by having his buddies over constantly. I didn’t mind it so much at first because they were good to me. When we moved to California, the drugs and booze accelerated, and the parties became puke all over the floor and strange men, whom I never got to know, sleeping in my house.
I am not going to say I never tried drugs, but I was never exposed to them until I got married to my ex-husband. It never got out of hand for me because I saw what idiots it made out of people and how they were controlled by the substance. I had enough damage in my life, and a son to raise, so I certainly did not want to deal with messing my head up even more. And I certainly didn’t like to have it around my son, because it was setting a bad example. My ex-husband didn’t seem to have values about raising children. He had never wanted children anyway, which is what he told my stepfather after he announced we were getting married. He wasn’t very knowledgeable about family planning and I depended on him too much. Without values, he approached our marriage like he was the boss and if he felt like living that way, then the “kid” would have to learn. But learn what?
We were on a miniature golf course one day, and he felt I had been “behaving poorly” for quite some time toward my marriage. He handed me this piece of cardboard looking substance and told me I needed an “attitude adjustment.” I asked him what it was and he told me it was a little speed, it would “perk me up.” I had seen him take it with some strange men, whose house he had taken my son and I too on a day out. He had behaved much differently then he did with pot and I didn’t think it was just speed. I said that I didn’t want to take it, and after much arguing he said he was going to yell at the top of his lungs and create a scene if I didn’t take it. The thought of that was so humiliating and I knew he would commit such an act, and I figured that maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal. Unfortunately, I had taken acid, not speed, and my little body was not quite capable of dealing with such a foreign substance, unlike his 200lb, 6’2” physique.
For about 26 hours, I had no sleep as the liquid had left my eyes. After a delayed reaction of about 4-6 hours, my mind went to another world. Thoughts were racing through my head and I kept talking trying to get them out. My ex-husband kept yelling at me to cut it out saying “It can’t be having that kind of an effect on you, it never did anything like that to me.” I went to get my son who was crying and his body seemed strangely long and his cries sounded very odd to me, like he knew. And, as if he knew, I told him everything would be okay and laid him on the bed, asking him to close his eyes and go to sleep and without fail he did!
I raced upstairs to a neighbor, who was also familiar with drugs. She was more supportive and “processed” me through the ordeal. But I couldn’t stay there, because I had to keep going, so I tried to go to bed. My ex-husband had some of his fantasies fulfilled that night, although, while I saw it, my mind was on another planet. The night went by I don’t remember how fast or slow, and the next day I went to my job. As a hamburger waitress I noticed everything people said came out slowly and oddly like a weird movie. I moved in what seemed like slow motion. It was only later that day that I began to feel my body coming back to me. Luckily, while my ex-husband had fun in bed, he didn’t like putting up with my talking from the drugs, so I never had to have this experience again.
Can you imagine what it feels like to be told constantly, as if you were planning to leave, that you would never amount to anything without him in your life to support you? What did I know living in a state thousands of miles away from the abusive family I was raised in. I didn’t even tell my parents what was going on until the end. It wasn’t anything different than what my stepfather did, except he never sexually abused me. My mother had mentioned something about doing what your husband tells you to do because he is the man of the house.
Well I did all of what I was told until he left for what is called a “West-Pac,” or an U.S. Naval tour of the Western Pacific. That was the first time of my life to be alone. Just me and my son, no parents or husband to tell me what to do. I was 18 then and working and I had made some close friends on the job. My ex-husband hadn’t left me enough money for all the bills, and with my minimum wage I barely had enough to eat after feeding my son. My friends from work helped me as much as they could, and we all got together to have fun once in awhile. Through this I met this man, who worked there as a second job. To me he was like Clark Gable, or some other Hollywood heart throb. He flirted with me and was nice to me and then one night I allowed myself to be in the “movies.” I never intended for a marriage to be about having an affair. However, at this point, it was clear my husband was doing the same thing (I had found a letter from another woman). This man made love to me and spoke to me like a woman. He wasn’t trying to have anything except sex, so it wasn’t like he made false promises. It could only last a short time anyway, because he was leaving the state to go and have a second chance with another woman. At the time though, I didn’t care and I wasn’t single anyway.
This affair however, along with my boss finding out what was happening to me, as our friendship flourished, ended my marriage. I had grown up. For the first time in my life I had some clear vision of what I wanted for my son and I, and that was to have a good life, not a family that was into drugs/booze and wild sex. Why was I doing that to myself anyway? Did I want to live this way the rest of my life? And here I was almost 19 years old, I was still young, men were attracted to me and I had the world out there, I could do whatever I wanted.
My ex-husband returned, I told him I was leaving him, and this caused endless battles where almost everything in the house was broken. One day after a huge fight he picked up my son and said he was leaving and I would never see my son again as long as I lived. Once again, I believed this fool and thinking quickly I picked up a piece of glass and slit my wrist twice. Perplexed by my move, he actually freaked out and drove me to a hospital. Of course the entire way he told me I would be thrown in jail or a psycho unit because it was against the law to try and kill yourself. My doctor was a prince. I tried to lie, for fear of jail or a psycho unit, but he told me he wouldn’t sew it up unless I told the truth. At that point the room was getting foggy and I thought I was really going to die, so little by little I told him what my life had been like. He made me promise I would see a therapist or a minister and then he would let me go. I did and I left, trying to figure out Plan B.
Plan B was to escape without his knowledge. It was tricky because he stayed home from work for about a week or two, saying it was a family emergency. He told me he wasn’t going to let me out of his sight, because there was no way in hell I was going to leave him. So I fucked him, anyway he wanted and cajoled him into thinking the marriage was forever. In the meantime, a neighbor woman who knew what my life was like allowed me her home to call my parents and make secret plans. Getting on that airplane was the most satisfying feeling I have ever had, feeling that my troubles were finally over. I cried when I touched down in Ohio, because even though I didn’t have a plan, being away from the perpetrator seemed like nothing else could go wrong.
** (See below comments) By now though you have read the first chapter and know that I never raised my son, and in the final chapter you will hear the details of what happened during the divorce. Leaving the perpetrator does not necessarily mean that your troubles are over, it only means that you do not live “their” life anymore. They will still try to haunt you, stalk you, kidnap your children, and harass you. After all, you may just give in and that is their only hope. Why would any power hungry person want to give up that which they can devour and rule in their kingdom? The key lies in your strength, in your persistence to move forward, knowing you will NEVER turn back. And eventually the jerk will go away!
**Absent Hearts Missing Pieces: The Story of a Survivor has been archived and is no longer available for purchase. I added a couple of chapters here to reach out to women who are abused in a relationship. I also share this for women who have lost their children to a divorce and long ago when courts did not know how to deal with the topic of domestic violence. The Family Reunification laws did not occur until a few years later and by then, it was too late for my son and I.