Aware Pt. 2

Just walk out the door.  When you leave an abusive marriage, you are surrounded by a forcefield, making you impervious to all future harm.  Once you pull yourself up by  your bootstraps, end your chronic need for a relationship, conquer your fear of being alone, you drive into a new world filled with pink sunsets.

According to the movies.

I become angered whenever an individual casually says, “Why don’t you just leave?”  It indicates an ignorance about the mechanics involved with abuse and rebuilding one’s life.  As though a person who has made controlling and misusing a person their favorite pastime, will just let that go without a fight.

Of course, escaping an abusive relationship is a huge step in the right direction, it is just that – a step.  My first real life account of domestic violence was Tracey Thurman (now Motuzick), when I was about 11 or 12.  She met Charles “Buck” Thurman in 1979, married him in the spring of 1981, and they separated in the autumn of 1982.  For eight months, he stalked and harassed her to the point that her friends filed a complaint on her behalf.  In this time, she called the police on Thurman 19 times.  On June 10, 1983, Thurman violated a restraining order, prompting Motuzick to call the police.  When the police arrived, Thurman attacked Tracey, stabbing her 13 times.  The police officer, in a profound lack of judgment, took the knife, but left Thurman unsecured, allowing him to grab their son, and stomp on Tracey one final time, breaking her neck. Tracey’s account of this story can be heard here.  Connecticut’s Family Violence Prevention and Response Act of 1986 was essentially created after Tracey’s ordeal.  The most prominent change is that the abused individual is no longer asked “do you want to press charge,” but rather it is up to the assessment of law enforcement to determine whether or not a crime has been committed.  Again, progress.

And yet, Yvette Cade still happened. Yvette’s tragedy received national attention, thanks in part to Oprah Winfrey having her on her show.  Again, this is the case of an estranged couple, where a wife had taken out a protective order against her husband.  What makes this story different, however, is that Prince George’s District Court Judge, Richard A. Palumbo, dismissed Yvette’s protective order three weeks prior.  Her estranged husband, Roger Hargrave, showed up at her job at T-Mobile, doused her with a Sprite bottle filled with gasoline, and set her on fire.  She spent three months in the hospital, and has had dozens of surgeries.  Her physical appearance has been altered forever, due to having the guts to leave an abusive situation.

There is no magic bullet once you find yourself in an abusive situation.  Most domestic violence resources will prepare you for the threats that loom once you leave.  Once you remove the abuser’s primary means of control – unfettered access to you – most times they become even more unstable.  I was stalked for a year and a half.  In that time, I had developed my own personal police officer (who came so often, I don’t think he believed that I was not still involved with my ex-husband), and he assaulted me in a public hallway outside of my cousin’s home.  It wasn’t until he was ultimately arrested, I refused to drop the charges, and they (miraculously) had record of every single report against him I had ever filed, that he stopped harassing me regularly.  (This, however, did not stop him from physically abusing his current estranged wife, including breaking her jaw.)

One of the most eerie facets of domestic violence is the offender being positively oblivious to their problem.  Thurman originally was there to beg for Tracey’s return, yet when he was angered by the police presence, savagely beat her.  Hargrave, shortly before his trial, attempted to call Yvette from jail.  I am willing to wager that any woman who has endured domestic violence could recount a similar story.  I would also believe that they would admit that they still exist with a certain amount of fear.  Even now, almost eight years later, when my ex-husband was in town for a mere 18 hours for Finge’s graduation, I was ridden with an enormous amount of anxiety.  It’s not something that you just “snap out of.”

I commend Tracey Motuzick and Yvette Cade for using their experiences to help other women.  Tracey is still involved with The Susan B. Anthony Project. Through the Yvette Cade Fund, Yvette has used her own story and testimony to push for legislation to protect victims of domestic violence.

The path to leaving is not easy.  Abusive people will use anything at their disposal manipulate you into coming back.  Your friends, family, church members, children – nothing is off limits to them.  There were days where I didn’t know if he would be outside of my job, or sitting in my home waiting for me.  Despite the fear and uncertainty, it is all worth it.  I have never regretted the day I chose my own well being, and the well being of my children, over an unstable person so mired in his own insecurities and self-hatred, his only outlet was to attack.

It can’t be said enough.  Your safety is worth the struggle.


Aware Pt. 1

In addition to October being Breast Cancer Awareness month, the incomparable Flahy Blak Chik brought to light the fact that it is also Domestic Violence Awareness month.  She has a great testimony on her blog, and I recommend you check it out not only for that, but also helpful statistics and information as it pertains to domestic violence.

Those of you who have been with me through the years (do you recognize it will be almost SIX?!), know of my own experience with domestic violence.  Of course, a man that batters a woman has issues on top of issues, but I don’t want to focus on that today.  I want to talk about why I stayed, and why I left, in hopes it can help the next person.

My marriage was ill-conceived and ultimately, unhappy.  However, we were both raised in religious households where children out of wedlock was a problem that needed to be “fixed,” and divorce was the most unsavory of options.  He obviously did not want to be there.  I felt trapped.  He frankly, was not a stand up guy, so it was no surprise to me when, less than four months into our marriage, he pushed me down for the first time.  Subsequently,  incidents where he would show disrespect or disregard for me and our family in general became common place.  Even when he was not pushing me, or physically restraining me from leaving, he would break things, or exhibit other violent behavior.  He would blow up, I would bundle up the kid(s), leave until he cooled off, then I would go back home.

I stayed because I believed that due to my own unhappiness, I somehow provoked his outbursts, or exaggerated their meanings.  Simply put, I thought it was my fault. To divorce him, I feared, would be letting my entire family down, so I lived my life around his outbursts.  My hair began to fall out in clumps, I gained a tremendous amount of weight, and I was fatigued beyond measure.

My family, unable to remain silent finally spoke up.  Though unaware of the whole story, something was obviously wrong.  My initial reaction was to gloss over everything.  I believed that I could handle it, despite his escalating behavior.  Halfway into the conversation, something clicked in me and I was blessed with the strength to tell my father everything.  The family that I was so fearful of disappointing did everything they could to support me, and provide a safe place for me.

I am grateful that my support system came from within my family blood lines, but it does not have to be limited to that.  If your loved one has become isolated, or exhibits other symptoms of abuse, speak up!  Even if the person being abused rejects your help immediately, know that with abuse comes a great deal of shame and embarrassment, so do not take it personally.  Make it known that you are there them whenever they are ready.

If you are being abused, mentally or physically, LEAVE.  As I will highlight in the second part, it will not get better.  You can not “turn” someone into an abuser.  It is who they are.  The same person that I was married to, remarried and savagely beat his second wife as well.  Abuse is not something that you “deserve.”  Get out and get HELP.  Though Flahy Blak Chik included the contact information in her blog, the numbers for the National Domestic Violence Hotline are as follows:

1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
1-800-787-3224 (TTY)

Always know that you are worthy of help.