Standing Up For Myself
“T” tells her story both for her own sake, so she can remember where she has come from, and to give strength to other women who may be in abusive relationships and need support to leave.
At the time I met my abuser, I had just ended a relationship with my son’s father and I was at a low point in my life. He came along and swept me off my feet. He knew what to say and what to do, and I thought I had found a beautiful relationship. My son was two and a half and he really liked this man. That meant a lot to me, especially since he didn’t have a relationship with his father. We were together about a year and a half when we decided to move in together. Everything seemed fine, although I think now that there were signs of what was to come, but I just refused to see them. He was aggressive. Whatever opinion he offered or suggestion he gave, I pretty much went along with it, thinking he knew best. He led me to believe that he was my savior. I used to think this man was too good to be true!
On Christmas Eve the first year we lived together he came home very late, drunk. I was furious. I lay beside him on the bed and asked why he had been so late, and he just backslapped me. Boy, was that a surprise! I remember it vividly because it was like a dark black cloud had come upon me, and then I came to, and just couldn’t believe this was happening. That was the scariest night of all because I never thought this would happen to me. I had seen my mother abused by my father and didn’t think I would go through this too. He made me breakfast the next morning and everything seemed fine. I really believed him when he said he’d never do it again. But it just got worse. There were many more incidents, including one when he almost killed me. He was choking me, had his arms around my neck, and I had to beg him to please let go. The look in his eyes terrified me — it said, “I’m going to kill you.” I was losing breath and I thought for sure that I was going to die that night.
He did finally let go. The day after, my eyes were really dark. I had a ring around my neck and it was red and sore. Thank God it happened on a Friday night — I didn’t have to go to work the next day. Again, he asked me to forgive him saying, “Please, I’ll never do it again.” Again, I did forgive him. But it continued for almost two years. He beat me up in front of his friend. I begged the friend to help me but he wouldn’t. My son was in the room, screaming. I got free and left. I stayed with my mother and then with a friend, but he called and sounded so innocent that once again I went back. We lived in a three family house that his mother owned. She lived on the first floor and his sister was above us on the third floor. When we fought they never helped me —not even the time the police came to the house. Another time they convinced me not to call the police. I was in a mess! Emotionally and physically I was just drained. And the fact that his family wouldn’t help me made it even worse.
Finally I really left, and that began another two years of insanity. I took out a restraining order and he in turn took one out on me! I assumed that wasn’t a big deal, and didn’t realize the ramifications. It was a horrible battle trying to get the restraining order against me dropped. I had to leave my job, partly because I needed to be available for court and because my supervisor said that my coming into work upset was interfering with my performance. He didn’t really fire me, but said they couldn’t deal with what was going on. They weren’t very sympathetic but I did understand their point. Fortunately, I found a part time job. It sounds weird that I needed my job to fit around court, but I did. It was two years of back and forth — he sued me and won, telling the court that while we were together he paid for everything (which wasn’t true). But the clerk decided the case in his favor and I had to pay $1000. Later this clerk said that if he had known this was an abuse case he probably would have seen it differently. I’m not sure, though.
My abuser spent about six months in jail for violating the restraining order. I felt like every day was summer because I could just walk around and not be afraid. I felt light and free, but then I got the call telling me he was being let out and I became terrified again. Although I thought I had developed strength through all of this (and I really had) I just felt the pain all over again. I had to constantly remind myself that I was strong and that I would continue to stay strong. Over time my life has turned around. I purchased a home, and now my son’s an honor roll student. This has scarred me and I have to work at making sure it never happens to me again, but my life is much better. Now I work in a health clinic and when I see women come in who have been abused (even though I’m not supposed to do it) I give them the hotline number and tell them to call because the help I received was such a blessing to me.
To other women I would say, trust your instincts. If you have the slightest inkling that something isn’t right, trust that and get help. If you can’t think of yourself, think of your children and what it does to them to witness the abuse. Doctors, teachers, employers — everyone needs to play a part in this. It’s not just the battered woman’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem.