This is the story of my escape from domestic violence. If you have not yet read part one, please click here to read the story to learn how this all began.
My Story (Continued): Sleeping With the Enemy
I moved in soon after, and I immediately began to see the problems I had been trying my best to ignore. He did find another job quickly, as he told me he would. However, I came across termination paperwork from his previous job. He didn’t quit; he was fired. I asked him why he lied, but he got angry at me for questioning him. He said that he really did quit, but that the manager was a friend and keyed it in as a termination so that he could collect unemployment benefits. Once again, I believed him. I wish I could tell you that lying to me was the extent of his abuse, but then I would be the liar. No, it was much worse. He began limiting my contact with the outside world. He was allowed to have friends, but I was not. I had a cell phone because I had one from before the marriage, but he would not allow a home phone or internet service. I wasn’t allowed to make friends at work or in the neighborhood. He never once allowed me to find a new church, despite all his promises that he would. When grocery shopping needed to be done, we did it together or he went out to do it on his own. When we would argue, I was never allowed to storm out, but he would leave and disappear for hours on end. Sometimes he would stay gone until the next day, but I was never permitted to know where he was. I believed he was cheating on me, but I did not have the proof to back up those suspicions. He abused his dog. I witnessed him punch and kick her when he was angry. I once watched him grow so violently angry at the dog for eating the cat’s food that he choked her, then held her by the neck and beat her head against the bedroom wall. In my fear, I did nothing to protect that poor animal. At this time he had not yet put his hands on me in a harmful way, but he put his fists through walls and cupboards, slammed doors, threw things, and would scream at me and say things I would never dream of repeating. His favorite attack was against my Christianity. “You call yourself a Christian, but a good Christian wife would never ______.” (Fill in the blank with anything I ever did that displeased him, such as suggest something for dinner that he did not want, come home 3 minutes late from work, call my aunt on the phone and tell her about something he had done, etc.) I believe he liked to use that attack on me because it would reduce me to tears every time. He seemed to enjoy breaking my spirit.
It did not end there. In addition to everything else, he also did drugs, smoked and drank alcohol. One afternoon I had to stop by home during the middle of my work shift, which was not something I commonly did. I arrived and found him with a bag of drugs on the coffee table (I think it was marijuana, but I don’t know enough about drugs to know for sure). He was alone, but insisted had had a friend over, and the friend must have gone left it behind. He swore up and down that the drugs were not his, thought it certainly appeared that he was caught red handed. I often smelled cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana on him when he would return from spending time with his friend.
Another way he managed to control me was through our finances. Money would disappear and bills would go unpaid. We had our water shut off more than once due to non payment. One one occasion, after getting an eviction notice, my aunt ended up paying our rent that was very behind (though I was never told how far behind it was). I was never allowed to know where the money was going, and that included my own paychecks. I was no longer believing his lies, but I was trapped. I was too scared to leave. Not only was I scared of the violent anger I had witnessed in this man, but I also thought I had nowhere to go. I was an adult, and had entered the marriage of my own free will. How could I turn and run away just because things weren’t going as I had planned? I also had my marriage vows to consider. I wanted so much to work through the problems and just be a normal, happy, newly-married couple.
The last way in which he abused me is the part that’s hardest for me to talk about. He was sexually abusive. He was obsessed with pornography. He also seemed to get a certain enjoyment out of forcing situations upon me which were demeaning and made me horribly unhappy. As a very conservative Christian woman, I cannot bring myself to go into a great deal of detail on this, but suffice it to say that sexual abuse/control was a powerful weapon at his disposal, and he had no qualms about using it.
Changing of the Tides
It didn’t take long for me to become pregnant. That news came as quite a shock to me because I had been actively trying to avoid it. I was so scared that he would be angry that I threw the pregnancy test out in the apartment complex dumpster where he would never find it. I didn’t know how I was going to tell him. Little did I know that the opportunity was going to present itself that very night. Once again we were fighting, but that night he became angrier than ever before. He pulled off his wedding ring, threw it at me, and told me to leave. (The fight was because I had pleaded with him to work on his anger.) He told me to pack my things and get out. I am not sure if he actually would have let me go when it came to it, but in that moment I genuinely believed I was being kicked out of my home and had nowhere to go. Frightened though I was, I told him about the pregnancy. Wow, what a change I saw in him in an instant. He suddenly became so gentle and loving. He told me how sorry he was and assured me that everything would be okay. Here was the man I had known before we were married. He was finally back, and all it took was having a child together! I was blissfully happy, and so was he. Everything was becoming just as I had dreamed it would.
Unfortunately, the happiness was short-lived. Within a matter of days he was back to his old self. I had become so sure he was cheating on me, but I needed proof. I did something that was not in my nature to do. I picked up his phone and called his voicemail, and there it was; I had been right all along. All the pieces of the puzzle were coming together, and I realized I no longer trusted anything my husband told me. After that, I got up the courage and called his ex-wife and asked her what had really happened in their marriage. I needed to know the truth, once and for all. She told me everything, and the story was so much like my own. Not surprisingly, it was nothing like the lies he told me about the crazy ex-wife who kept his son from him by telling all sorts of untrue stories about him to a judge who bought it hook, line and sinker. My worst fear of all was realized when she told me that although he did not start out as physically abusive, in time he had begun hitting her. I knew then and there that any man who was capable of hurting a helpless dog and a woman pregnant with his own child was capable of harming anyone. I became so scared for myself and the new life that was growing inside me. That was the day I began plotting my escape. I was not going to stand by and allow this man to hurt my child. Protectiveness of my baby began to give me strength that I had not had before. I called credit card companies and had him removed from my credit cards. I tried to put some money aside in the hopes that he would not notice. My plan was to return to my aunt. (I knew then she would help me, especially since I was pregnant.) I tried to leave him once but I went back – as is common for domestic violence victims. It’s not easy to work up the courage to leave and stay gone.
The day I left for good stands out in my memory as one of the most frightening days of my life. I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember clearly that he became more violently angry that day than he had ever been before. He grabbed anything within his reach to throw at me: a box of soda cans, unopened cans of soda, shoes, even the coffee table. He tried to force me into the bedroom to keep me from leaving, but I fought back and tried to get away from him. He tried to slam the door on me and the doorknob hit my pregnant stomach so hard that it actually left a bruise. I ran into the closet and hid to call 911. I had just long enough to give them our address and beg for help before he was back in the bedroom again.
His demeanor had changed. Here was the tender and loving husband again, begging me to come out of the closet. I did as he asked, but I was in tears and scared half to death. He took me to the bed and sat me down, asking me why I was so upset. It was as though the man sitting next to me had no idea what had happened a few minutes before. He was forcing me to kiss him, demanding me to calm down and trust that he loved me and everything would be okay. I asked him to stop, but he kept going. The next thing I knew, he had me pinned down on the bed and was forcing himself on me, completely deaf to my hysterical pleadings for him to stop. I thank the Lord above that the police knocked on the door before he was able to fully undress me. He answered the door perfectly cool and calm, and tried to convince the two officers that it was all a big misunderstanding. Looking back, I wish I had showed them the marks on my stomach and insisted that the police arrest him then and there, but at the time I was a frightened 22-year-old who wanted nothing more than to escape. I let the officers leave without filing a report, but I did at least have the foresight to ask them to escort me to my car so that I could get safely away. I didn’t care about fighting back or making sure he got what he rightfully deserved; all I cared about was protecting myself and the baby. I left with my car, my cat, and all the clothing I could carry in my arms. I drove straight to my aunt’s home a couple of hours away. I was able to return a week or so later with my aunt and a police officer to retrieve some of my belongings, but I had to leave my job behind (which also meant that I lost my health insurance while pregnant) and I lost the majority of everything I had worked for in my young life.
Even after all of that, I still tried to fix our marriage. I did everything I could to honor the marriage vows I had taken with him. I told him that I would stay married to him if he agreed to go to counseling, but I refused to move back in with him again until I felt safe. He went to exactly one counseling session. The pastor of the church I had grown up in asked me to step out of the room while he spoke with my ex-husband before beginning the counseling session. A little while later, my ex stormed out the church and refused to ever return to counseling again. To this day, I still have no idea what was said that made him so angry. I finally filed for divorce when I realized it was over.
It did not end there, however.
Click here for the last post in this series where I share how the story ended, and to learn about where my life is today.