Trigger Warning: Domestic violence, description of violence, both physical and verbal
There are many different types of abuse in this world. It varies by culture, social class, age, societal norms, and is not limited by gender or age. While openly reviled by most, there are those who are fine with it and often put blame (in THIS case, I’m discussing women, and myself, certainly not dismissing others who are abused, but for the sake of clarity I want to mention that) on the woman for “staying”. There are infinite reasons why women stay with their abuser, my “reasons” are mine and mine alone. Sadly, other experiences may vary…widly.
Someone made a comment to me a few years ago. They asked me why on earth I would still discuss domestic violence when I’d “escaped” it after being widowed. I think people do speak before thinking about it most of the time and this was no exception. It reminds me of the lady, whom I did not know, at my late husband’s wake, who said, “Don’t worry honey (open casket directly behind me) you’re still young! You’ll find someone again.” Sometimes you just stand there, deer-in-headlights look on your face and just nod. Becoming silent and burying the topic just isn’t the right thing to do in my opinion, so here I am.
For me, my introduction into the world of domestic violence began with the slow, simmering rise of alcoholism in him. Starting out with what might be considered “average” drinking on the weekend, wound up, some 15 years later, an average of 140+ beers a week, starting at before 5:30 A.M. and culminating in passing out every night. He was fueled by a rage that always presented itself during the drinking (and eventually just in general) and would result in a “zero to sixty” abuse scenario in just a few seconds. Oddly enough, it would be a drunken crash at 100 mph into a telephone pole that would eventually silence him forever.
My middle child, much younger at the time, was old enough to recognize that something was terribly wrong. He would contact his grandparents (not my parents) and he would be told to take the phone, go to his room and call them during the “abuse” (referred to as arguments…ok) and they would talk to him until the arguments were “over”. I guess my youngest, hiding under the bed was on her own. One of my biggest issues with domestic violence is the normalizing of it by others (enablers). Instead of acknowledging what is wrong, the abuser is somehow placated and the person abused is the issue. While we don’t discuss it too often, there are times when my child remembers and they are damaged from it. It makes me sad.
My own family never really did anything to help me either. In fact, as time went on, I was walked around by those around me on their tiptoes, carefully eliminating the topic, ensuring I was left to my own devices. I came around my family more often, doing anything I could to get out of the house and escape the misery for a few hours, but no one ever asked if I needed help or what they could do TO help. Isolation, control, poverty and misery always surrounded me. The condemnation of others, albeit subtle and roundabout, was daunting to say the least. No one realized the sheer inability to do anything to get away. As I’ve mentioned before, calling desperately on the phone one fateful evening as I literally unwrapped a lamp cord from around my neck, I was told by one of his parents, “NO ONE is going to help you with your problems.” Thanks, good to know where I stand.
I always knew I was alone. The family knew. My neighbors. My friends knew. No one EVER asked me once if I needed help or what they could do to help. It was just a situation where people would just not mention it. Sometimes, when I was in so much despair and needed to talk, people would tolerate my talking about it, but the subject was always dropped or changed with no assistance offered. There is a shame, a stigma around it that people don’t like to acknowledge. They will click to make an angry emoji when someone posts about a child, animal or adult who is abused and say how “something needs to be done!”, yet the stigma remains. They pass along Facebook posts that say, “Share this if you think domestic violence is wrong!” Ok…I clicked a button, so I helped right?
When I’m asked from time to time why I stayed, it’s a very confusing question. I didn’t stay because I was head over heels in love. I stayed because I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Yes, shelters exist, but it’s not that easy. The shelters are full, have waiting lists, multiple issues with crime, assault, stealing and certainly don’t cater to children with Autism. Why should I have had to leave? I can’t tell you how many times I screamed at him, “Why don’t you just leave and we’ll divorce. Just put the kids on your insurance and just leave!” He said his parents told him that if that happened, he could live there, not work, so I wouldn’t have any money coming in, and they would support him. Do I know if that secondhand information was 100% true? Who knows, but when you are IN the situation, and hearing things like that, you are afraid.
When I look back at that gradual simmer, I wonder how it became normalized. I recall the night he demanded that I sign a vehicle title that I was the owner of. It was a tax thing if I remember correctly, and he wanted ownership so he could sell. I didn’t sign fast enough and asked what was going on. I got slammed into the paneled kitchen wall and was told that my ugly, fat ass had better sign, or I would “pay”. Due to my asking questions about it, he tore my computer (desktop) out of the computer table, ran out the door with it to the end of our street and tossed it over the pier into the bay. Everything I had was gone. He never apologized.
The cycles of abuse as depicted are somewhat accurate in the graphic above. Obviously, life doesn’t follow a graph or meme, but in many cases, these events as shown can stay relatively close to how they are depicted. Living in a perpetual ticking time bomb like this is exhausting, mentally and physically. It took me many years to shake off the feeling of terrible stress and anxiety that would rise in me at 3 P.M. when he would normally be getting off of work. It’s amazing how you truly can be triggered and although the word is now becoming something that is mocked, being triggered is very real. Almost ten years later I can say the anxiety from that time of day has diminished to an almost non-existent level. I rarely notice it, if at all and for that I am grateful.
It’s easy to share a link, but I believe it’s really important to know it’s out there. I didn’t and I wish I had at the time. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is there twenty-four hours a day. Please call if you need help or someone to talk to. Click the link <—- and you will be taken to their page. You can call or chat on the page and there are lots of other resources for you there. If it’s at all possible, counseling is out there and I did go to it for a long time. I don’t think I’m ever going to be 100% healed, but I’m stronger and happier now as time has passed. Not everyone “escapes” it like I did. However, you are not alone, even though it feels like it. Please reach out and ask for help. You do NOT deserve this. EVER.