This is my story of my marriage to an abuser. Warning: descriptions of violence and abuse may be triggering. In this chapter is the first time police got involved.
My oldest daughter had regular visitations with her father, and I began encouraging those to be longer than they were before. About two months before I was due with our third child, she went for a week-long visit. We picked her up, and the night just seemed to go wrong. He was harsh with her, critical of me, and complaining of everything. We had done some shopping, and when we got home, I hurried through the kids’ bedtime routine, to try to keep them out of the way. I knew he was spoiling for another fight, and I was dreading it.
It started as soon as I sat down. We argued about my oldest daughter, about disciplining the kids. He claimed he was going to take over the discipline, as I was too soft, and told me some of what he was going to do, scaring me. I objected, and as soon as I did, he started yelling, saying I didn’t respect him, I didn’t care for him, I was always criticising him, and he could never please me. At 9 months pregnant, all of a sudden, I really felt like I couldn’t handle this. So I got up, and walked away, in the middle of his ranting. I locked myself in my children’s room.
I heard him in the house, and I thought he was putting on shoes to go out. He wasn’t. Instead he was looking for me. He found the locked door, and it seemed to enrage him. He roared, and the door burst open, hitting me in the thigh. My toddler daughter started screaming, and my older daughter started crying.
He grabbed me by the wrists and pushed me down the hallway, yelling the whole time. I could see my older daughter behind him screaming for me, trying to catch up. I could see my toddler screaming in her crib, reaching for me. He pushed me against the wall, and yelled in my face, holding my wrists, pushing them against me with every new rant. I begged him to let me go. I begged him not to hurt me.
In my panic, I thought he was going to kill me.
He finally let me go, and turned to the girls’ room. He yelled at my daughter to get back into bed, and was going to get our toddler. I ran for the phone and called 911. I told the operator what had happened, and that he was getting our kids, and I was scared.
He came holding our toddler, and pushing my oldest in front of him, and demanded to know who I was talking to. Then he told me to hang up the phone. He asked if I had called the police. I ignored him, and just kept talking to the operator, who could hear him. I then asked him to give me our kids, and he refused. The operator offered to talk to him, if he would give me our children, and he agreed. I took our kids, and ran with them into their bedroom, crawling on their bed, holding them, crying and shaking.
The police came, and one officer came in to the room with me, and one stayed with him. The officer helped me to calm down, and took me into the other bedroom, so they could look at the door he had broken open.
I was able to calm myself and calm the children, and tell the officer a bit of what had happened. He left the room, and told me I could put my children to bed again. I did, and as I left their room, I saw my husband, in hand cuffs, being escorted out by police officers. He looked at me, in shock, and there was a look in his eyes of horror. I looked at him, my heart hurting, both because of what he had done to me, and because he was being taken from me.
I called a friend to come stay with me while I waited for the police officers to return for my statement. They informed me that he would be charged, and I had no say in that. I was also told that everything I said in my statement may be used against him in court.
Many victims won’t press charges, out of fear, out of love. Where I live, domestic assault is an automatic charge.
The court process was surreal. I didn’t have to testify, and he pled guilty to his charge, was convicted of domestic assault, and was given a suspended sentence, with time served (about 7 days), and probation of 12 months, with court ordered counselling. He was released, and part of his probation was a no-contact order with me, except by his written consent.
I had packed a suitcase for him, and some personal items, and I had written him a letter every night while he was jailed. Friends picked them up, and dropped off 2 dozen red roses, with a note, telling me he was very very sorry for what he had done.
Very quickly, contact began, against the advice of the agencies around me. He was there when our third daughter was born, and visited the whole time she was in hospital.
Child protection services was the only thing that stood between him and his moving home.
Most victims go back to their abusers very quickly. It takes a typical victim an average of 7 attempts before they leave for good. Some never get to leave. For info on leaving: Create a safety plan.
It was like the fear and shock and outrage was a dream, and I just missed him. It was as if I wore rose-colored glasses when I looked back at our history. I didn’t think I was abused, and I excused him. I claimed this was an out-of-character moment for him, that he just “snapped” and he would never hurt me on purpose.
On the advice of child protection services, I began counselling myself with a local women’s shelter outreach worker. She showed me the cycle of abuse I lived with was typical – the continually escalating controlling behaviour and disrespect, the outburst of violence (yelling, physical assault, continually escalating with each outburst), the remorse and promises, usually with a gift of some kind, and then the honeymoon, of feeling like it will finally be better, until he starts criticising and demanding again.
It shocked me to read that, and recognize the behaviours described there as my life. To see the phrases I had heard over and over again as being classified as verbal abuse was like a slap in the face.
Many victims of abuse don’t know they are victims. They don’t know that there is help and hope. There are a lot of misunderstandings and myths about domestic violence. The truth is, anyone can be a victim. But you don’t have to stay a victim!
Finally I acknowledged that I was an abused wife. I was humiliated, ashamed, and so very very angry that I let this happen. I felt guilty that I had exposed my children to this, that I had lived with this for so long, and that I had submitted to this, thinking this was “normal”.
Over the four months that I began to recognize my situation for what it really was, I began seeing red flags in my continuing relationship with him. He was pushing to reconcile as quickly as possible, using my faith to justify it. “God hates divorce,” he would say, “and He doesn’t want us separate. ‘What God has put together, let no man tear asunder.’”
Religion is often used to abuse. Just because someone claims to be a devout follower of a religion doesn’t exempt them from being abusive. Check out these articles on religion and abuse. New studies are suggesting that certain kinds of religious fundamentalist beliefs actually contribute to incidences of abuse.
He kept asking if I knew “what you did wrong that contributed to this”, or if I acknowledged “your part in all this”. He would say things like, “I was wrong, and I take full responsibility for my actions, but you kept pushing me, and I felt rejected by you, and that’s why I lost control.” There was always a “but” involved.
To be continued…