I had a totally different post that I was going to put up today but after reading several articles about Janay Rice and the trending hashtags on Twitter #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft, I realized that I should share my story too.
I'm sure many of you would never guess that I'd been abused during the first years of my marriage. I don't appear to lack self confidence and if you've met me in person, you know that I'm pretty vocal and don't put up with much ish. I came from a family of two working class parents, reared in middle class suburbia and my father never touched my mother.
So how did I end up in a situation where I was abused? The amazing thing is that it never happened while we were dating or engaged but it happened frequently and often after we were married.
My ex-husband and I met at church after I'd been to college and had a 4 year old daughter. I was friends with his older brothers and I thought he was mouthy. We use to hang out as a group because we didn't believe in sex before marriage. This group of friends went to a concert at Carnegie Hall and I was seated next to a man that I really liked. He'd acted like he really liked me too, so much so that the other males in our group left me alone, but that night he was just rude...seriously downright rude and nasty. So my ex-husband changed seats with him, made me laugh and was extremely kind to me. We started to date after that. Three months later we decided to get married, oh yeah and somewhere in there I got pregnant. So much for that no sex before marriage rule! *LOL*
Anyway, we married, moved with my daughter to our first apartment and about six months in, he started to hit me. At first it was just a slap here or there. Then it became punches and once he even punched me in the stomach while I was pregnant. Of course, my obstetrician told me to leave. Thankfully the baby was unhurt. He didn't touch me again for the rest of my pregnancy so I thought it was over...just a phase.
Fast forward a couple of months after my second daughter was born and I was slapped, punched, kicked or whatever almost weekly. So why didn't I leave? I did several times, but I came back because where was I going to go with two small children? Home to my parents? Nope, too ashamed to do that. The police put him out several times, but he always came back...and all the time we were going to church every Sunday...regular God-fearing folks.
My relief came in two ways. One I went to work one day with a short sleeve dress on and didn't realize that I had fingerprint bruises on my arm. A co-worker saw them and reported me to Human Resources. The woman in Human Resources was very kind and offered assistance. But I went home kinda ashamed that day and with plans to look for a different job.
However, the following Sunday the Pastor of my church stopped my husband & I and told us he needed to see us. My bruises had been noticed at church too. Guess I had gotten so use to them that I wasn't good at covering them up any more. Anyway, long story short we got counseling which the church provided and the beatings stopped. Seriously, he never hit me again.
But everyone doesn't get that lucky/blessed/helped. Too many times I would be in a circle of women and they would talk about what they would do if someone hit them. None of the replies made me feel free to share what was happening to me...actually they made me feel even more inferior and filled with self-loathing because I couldn't/wouldn't fight back. Well that's not exactly true, I did fight back once and ended up unconscious on the floor sort of like Janay.
What I'm saying by sharing my story and what the other women on Twitter and on the internet are saying is that if you feel that someone near you is being abused, be a source of help. Offer kindness, a place to stay, the ability to watch their children, money...anything that will help them get out of that terrible situation...not words that will shame them or make them feel inferior. Or baring that, like our mothers use to say, "If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all!"
I was lucky. I was helped. I was no longer beat but my children do bear the scars from that situation and for that I have many regrets. I'm no longer married but that was not the reason for our divorce. One of the things that I admired about him and still do is the fact that he went to counseling, got help and used the tools he learned in counseling to change his behavior.
I'm going to leave the comments open but if there is nothing constructive shared, I will shut them down. It's been over 15 years since I was in this situation so there is no need to pat me on the back ~ however, if my story can help one woman break free then it was worth sharing....