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Breaking the Silence

June 7, 2010

Those of you sending me money, relax. Your secrets are still safe. This post is not about you.

I’d like to hijack my own blog that I have tried hard to make mainly about my writing and talk about something very personal.

For over a decade, I was married to a man who abused me in every way imaginable. I don’t say this to get pity, in fact, I’d almost rather not talk about it so openly, however, I feel strongly that silence perpetuates the problem. I talk about this with the goal of educating others and hopefully helping someone who is either in the same situation, or about to be.

I won’t go so far as to say I was utterly fooled by him when we first met, but pretty close. He put on a good front and pretended to be someone other than who he was. It was easy because he was two very different people. He was gentle, loving, caring, promising me the world. He would never hurt me, never yell at me, keep me safe and I could trust him. I couldn’t ever bring myself to fully trust him, but I chalked that up to being sexually abused as a child.

When I met him I had just turned 21, and was looking at life with desperation of needing to find someone to make me okay. Someone to accept me and to love me. Someone who would fix this hole I felt in me. So, instead of proceeding with caution, I jumped in with both feet and left my floaties on the side of the pool.

It didn’t take long for things to start to get a bit rocky, but he was good at painting the problems to be my fault. He was very subtle at first, playing a game of emotional push-pull that served to suck me in further, made me desperate to make things right so he’d be happy with me again. By the time I moved to be near him–we were in separate states when we met–I was too far invested in thinking he was the one to pay attention to the warning signs.

That’s not to say I didn’t see them. I did. I justified his behavior and blamed myself. I’d always known I wasn’t acceptable, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to me that the man who wanted to marry me would find me such. I let him twist my thinking and use my words against me until I couldn’t win and had to acquiesce even when I KNEW I was right. He would argue me into a corner and I would eventually just give up and tell him what he wanted to hear.

That was the first phase.

Then he began isolating me. My old friends were all bad for me–which some of them were–but I had no opportunities to make new ones. He was extremely possessive, but not in the traditional, after-school special way. He would constantly accuse me of cheating on him and it just became easier not to have contact with other people. He hated my past and I was careful to cut out hanging around anyone who knew anything about me.

He started calling me names. Horrible names I won’t repeat here. He told me I was worthless all while switching to being loving and telling me how blessed he was to have me in his life. I could never find my footing.

Let me pause for a moment to tell you that I was not a weak woman. Not to say that women who are abused are weak, but what I mean by that is I used to beat the crap out of boys who simply mouthed off to me, my friends or my sister. Everyone knew if you messed with me, expect to find yourself bloodied and missing a few teeth.

He cowed me.

I was terrified of him, but even more terrified of losing him. His biggest weapon in the beginning was threatening to leave me. At that point, I was so wrapped up in him and our relationship, I felt I couldn’t survive if that happened. He even broke up with me once, but took me back within a week.

We got married right before my 23rd birthday. At this point, I was hoping being married would stop him from threatening to walk away and make him see that I did want only him. He picked a huge fight with me THE DAY AFTER we got married. Nothing was good enough for him, especially me.

Still I stayed.

We moved to another state several weeks after getting married and that’s when things went from awful to utter hell. At one point, he held me down on the bed by my throat and repeatedly punched me in the face. I became a master at hiding bruises and tears. He would keep me up for days on end fighting and beating me. It was around this time I tried to kill myself.

He started using rape as a punishment. There are ways he abused me that I have only uttered to one other soul because I am so ashamed I let him get away with them.

One year, I asked him what he wanted for his birthday, and he told me “a new wife.” I never knew which side of him I was going to see on a daily basis, and I became hyper-vigilant trying to read him. If he didn’t smile at me, my heart would race and I would shake because I knew something bad was coming. We even tried counseling, but he quickly stopped going as soon as he realized all that he had done to me would come out.

It took me years to finally start to gather my strength and pull away from him emotionally. By that time, I wasn’t speaking to my family and only had one other friend who was a mutual friend of both him and I. But I started to look around and see that I wasn’t crazy, that I wasn’t all to blame, that I *gasp* wasn’t that horrible of a person. From that point, I started to pull away emotionally, but it wasn’t until several years later when I began making friends on Twitter of all places that I found the strength to leave.

It took me about eight months from that point to get him out of my life, but I did it. I now have my family back and am working on walking through the leftover carnage. I managed to get out alive and find myself again. I will NEVER go back to that place.

So, if you are in an abusive relationship GET HELP. Get out. Do not make excuses. He had the ultimate excuse, he was bi-polar. He couldn’t help the things he did, which is utter crap because he could. He chose to treat me the way he did. He chose to take the actions he did. It didn’t matter what I did, a real man NEVER hits a woman. He NEVER calls her names. He NEVER isolates her or demands her to be anyone other than who she is.

I’d like to take a moment and list the warning signs I saw but ignored.

  • He had a huge problem with my past relationships, especially anything in the physical realm and would make me tell him every detail. I once heard a caller on Loveline ask Dr. Drew about her boyfriend who did the same thing and his immediate response was to tell her to get away from him.
  • He called me names
  • He threatened to hit me
  • He isolated me from family and friends
  • He told me no one would love me besides him
  • He constantly threatened to leave me
  • He couldn’t control his temper and would hit other things before he ever started hitting me
  • He would refuse to let me sleep in order to argue
  • He constantly accused me of cheating
  • He demanded I change to better suit him and his needs
  • He told me I was worthless
  • He made me solely responsible for his own happiness

There are dozens of others, but these are the main ones that he used to pull me into a place where I was so wrapped up in him I couldn’t see how to get away. If you have someone who is doing ANY of these things to you, tell someone. Do something to get away. There are always options no matter how bleak things seem.

If you need help, please get it. Please do not wait as long as I did. Call the police if you have to. There is no reason for you to be treated this way, no matter how you may feel about him or yourself. Trust me in this.

So, now that I have broken the silence, I sincerely hope it helps. I know it was very difficult for me to write about this, but I feel like I can breathe even better now. I know that I am worthwhile. That I am a generous and beautiful woman who is now surrounded by people who love me for who I am. I walk forward excited about what life holds and thankful for those who are walking next to me.

I will find a way to forgive myself for allowing him to treat me. For staying with him for so long. I will not allow him to hold any further power over me, nor will I ever give that power to another. I will not allow myself to be crippled by shame or hate.

I will never be silent again.

After careful thought, I decided to edit this post and include one of the songs that meant the world to me during this process: RED Let Go.


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59 Comments leave one →
  1. June 7, 2010 12:11 am

    You go, girl. It might sound trite. It’s not meant to be. I only know the strong you. And knowing this only makes me see the strength more clearly.

  2. NL Gervasio permalink
    June 7, 2010 12:19 am

    Very proud of you, honey! And glad I could be here for you through this last year. *hugs*

  3. Tina Lynn permalink
    June 7, 2010 12:21 am

    Been there. Done that. So glad you got out. Now you can live. *hugs* *squishy, squishy hugs*

    • June 7, 2010 1:03 am

      Living is exactly what I’m doing, on MY terms. Thanks for the squishy hugs, they rock!

  4. June 7, 2010 12:48 am

    I clicked on Pauline’s RT of your post. Something in the title drew me. I want to offer you these words: You do NOT have to forgive yourself for allowing him to do these things to you. It was his choice! You did nothing wrong. You did everything you were taught about what a good girlfriend and wife does. He manipulated the situation and preyed on your past. He used your words and your fears for his own benefit.

    Don’t blame yourself! Should you have left earlier? Maybe. But if you weren’t strong enough he would have dragged you back and possibly killed you. Should you have stood up to him? You did. You tried. But he took away people who would support you and keep your self-esteem from being ripped apart from you.

    Thank you for speaking out. Don’t hide behind the shame. You shouldn’t be ashamed of what he did. It’s easy to for a grown man to beat a scared girl.

    Stand up. Stand proud! You got out. And with this post, maybe you will help someone get out. Maybe you will help someone recognize the signs of where a new relationship might be going? You already make a difference.

    I don’t pity you one bit. I praise you! For your strength to walk away and risk it all to save yourself. You did good!

    Kindly,
    Sara

    Saving For Someday
    http://savingforsomeday.com
    http://twitter.com/saving4someday

  5. June 7, 2010 1:47 am

    Hugs sweetie – just hugs.

    That was a very brave thing you just did for 1 leaving and 2 talking about it. It has probably very cathartic as well. I think you are an amazing woman and proud to know you.

    • NL Gervasio permalink
      June 7, 2010 2:31 am

      OMG! You got the bat-bunny monster! Awesome.

    • June 7, 2010 2:57 am

      Thank you so much, Tracey. I’m proud to know you as well.

  6. The Man-Hating-Man permalink
    June 7, 2010 4:14 am

    Im so very proud of you beautiful soul. You have grown much in the short time I have known you, rekindled your fire, stolen back your self. Your core. You are an inspiration to many, and I will forever love you both for who you have been and who you are.

    • June 10, 2010 8:43 pm

      As the only soul I’ve told everything to, I have to say that you inspire me.

  7. The Man-Hating-Man permalink
    June 7, 2010 4:15 am

    Oh and btw… you’re extremely HOT!

  8. Rubi Jayne permalink
    June 7, 2010 4:34 am

    I am so very proud of you for what you did. So few manage to accomplish the leaving, even fewer even contemplate it.

    Thank you for sharing. I hope it helps someone.

    *hugs*
    <3<3

    • June 8, 2010 11:45 pm

      I sincerely hope it helps someone as well. Thank you for your words of encouragement.

  9. June 7, 2010 4:38 am

    Good for you for leaving and for writing this post. I’m off to retweet in hopes other women will find strength in your words. Peace to you, my friend.

  10. June 7, 2010 4:46 am

    I know all of this too well. It does get better.

  11. June 7, 2010 4:47 am

    lol, that would be AFTER you leave the jerk. (additional comment)

  12. June 7, 2010 5:11 am

    It takes a hell of a lot to find a path to breaking out of an abusive situation, so I admire your courage and strength in finding a way. I hope the process of rediscovering the rest of your strength and personality is a joyous one, as you recover from this.

  13. June 7, 2010 5:56 am

    I’m glad you found the way and strength to get out while you were still alive. I second what Sara said though: you didn’t do anything wrong. There’s nothing to blame yourself for in any of this, so don’t ever say that again…not even inside your own head.

    Way to go, girl.

  14. June 7, 2010 1:55 pm

    I’m proud of you. I know we’ve never met in person, but I’m very proud of you.

  15. June 7, 2010 1:57 pm

    I admire your strength to leave and your bravery to share your story. You are fabulous.

    • June 8, 2010 11:47 pm

      I just wish I’d had the strength to bury him in the desert….um, I mean….leave earlier. Yeah, that’s what I meant.

  16. June 7, 2010 2:06 pm

    Especially when you are strong, it can be hard to leave: you’re used to being able to fix it!

    I’m so, so glad you could leave, and wish you many sunny days and squishy hugs from here on.

  17. Ari Marmell permalink
    June 7, 2010 2:50 pm

    Wow. I know it must have been incredibly hard to write this. I’m in awe of your emotional strength.

    I know a lot of people need to hear this sort of thing. On behalf of those who do, but lack the ability to speak up yet–thank you.

    • June 8, 2010 11:48 pm

      You are very welcome. It is my sincere hope this reaches someone who can get out much sooner than I did and go through a lot less.

  18. Shawna permalink
    June 7, 2010 3:19 pm

    You’re very brave, sweetie. I’m very proud of you. I hope breaking the silence brings your some closure, some peace, as well as perhaps help someone else.

    I know what it’s like to walk on eggshells, constantly trying to anticipate moods. It breaks down even the strongest woman–and never doubt it for a minute, sweetie, you are a strong woman.

    • June 8, 2010 11:49 pm

      You have been there for me in more ways than you are probably aware of. Thank you for that and for your continued sisterhood.

  19. Amberlinn permalink
    June 7, 2010 3:58 pm

    I am so proud of you. You are beautiful and strong. Family is always here, even if it has been a while. Love you no matter what.

  20. June 7, 2010 5:06 pm

    A very moving post. From a very wonderful kitty.

    I am glad you are finding yourself again, and you seem quite happy now that you are on a good path.

    You have friends all around, and we love you for YOU.

  21. HDF permalink
    June 7, 2010 5:07 pm

    That wasn’t the indieregister.. that was ME (dang auto-login BS)

    • June 7, 2010 5:13 pm

      Good, because I prefer the wall-eyed monster to the typewriter. Thanks H, you are included in those friends who helped me.

  22. Kait Nolan permalink
    June 7, 2010 5:28 pm

    Oh honey. {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{HUGS}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}

    I’m so proud of you for leaving. You are an amazing, special, STRONG woman. Love you kitty.

  23. June 7, 2010 8:44 pm

    1. I’m proud of you.

    2. I love you.

    3. He’s a dead man.

    • June 8, 2010 11:51 pm

      I don’t know what else to say except I love you too and thank you for never giving up on me and welcoming me back with open arms.

  24. NL Gervasio permalink
    June 8, 2010 1:39 am

    And yeah, what CJ said.

  25. June 8, 2010 10:40 am

    Wow, I don’t even know what to say other than you have amazing courage and I admire you.

    • June 8, 2010 11:51 pm

      Thank you. I just wish I’d read something like this before I met him AND not had my head up my….um…paid attention.

  26. Jason permalink
    June 10, 2010 8:30 pm

    Good for you. I read and see this happen to so many women so many times over the years, that you would think there would be some handbook by now. I mean, how many lifetime movies are just about the hell you went through?

    I wish all women knew there are decent men out there, and if you got a bad one, just step out the door, and don’t look back. Seriously. I’ve seen so many women stay in suck relationships because the dude has beaten them down in so many ways. I saw it with my mom, with my grandmother, with my stepmother (huh…there seems to be a theme here) with my now wife and her ex-husband…etc, etc. Women, if you’re not happy…get…the…f*ck…out…. it’s honestly that simple.

    Thanks for opening up to us, that had to take a lot of courage and hand-wringing. But don’t forget there are truly good men out there. So don’t give up on them yet.

    • June 10, 2010 8:42 pm

      Thank you, Jason. You make a very good point. I promise I haven’t give up on men as God saw fit to bring an amazing man into my life recently.

      The problem with a handbook is every woman thinks it won’t happen to them.

  27. June 12, 2010 12:12 am

    This post hurts my heart. I am so sorry you lived in this situation for so long. I am glad you found the courage, strength & support to break free. I am sending you many hugs and good karma and waves of fortifying energy to build you up to where you deserve to be. ❤ Thank you for speaking out on behalf of women in this situation.

    • June 16, 2010 7:04 pm

      Thank you so much for all of that. I’m sending that energy back to you because I know you are in need of it as well.

  28. June 15, 2010 6:04 pm

    Hello, HC…

    Wow… I grew up in a home with a DAD like that. It took me 15 years to realize that I was loved by God and that I was worth something. From then on, I became stronger and my self worth grew and grew. Of course I stumbled hugely after that because I was so young and naive and had a bad start, but I found my place and decided to reinvent my parenting skills.

    My children are number one. I refuse to do any of the things my dad did. I am blessed to have husband that is NOTHING like him and if was at first sign, I would NOT have stayed with him.

    (When I was pregnant with our first one, we actually didn’t get along and he wanted me to get rid of the baby). Yes, we were married. About 6 month later was when I found out I was pregnant. I told him I’d rather get rid of him than the baby. I was soooo ready to defend myself and baby and be on my own than to be thrust back into an abusive home.

    It turned out that his mother had her nose in our affairs and she was dictating him in our marriage. He grew up and loved me more after all. ;0)

    Never. Ever, again. Ever…. My heart goes out to those who hurt and suffer because they are either ignorant, brainwashed or too scared to realize or see what abuse is. So, so so sad that things like that happy.

    ((Hugs)). I’m so glad that you finally got out of it. I hope that those ghosts no longer hunt you because what he ‘taught’ you was oh so wrong!

    • June 16, 2010 7:04 pm

      Thank you so much for sharing this. It is horrible how we take what we learned as children and try to apply it to our adult lives only to find we’ve invited the pain back in from different sources. I’m proud of you for choosing your children over everything else. That is how it should be.

  29. eldestdaughter permalink
    June 16, 2010 3:39 pm

    I’m going to write my response before I scroll through your reader comments, because if I read that first, the images in my head will submerge and be lost to consciousness. I have no doubt you know what I mean.

    Like you, I met my man at twenty and, like you, I was just grateful to have someone love me. David, I’m going to call him David, was a dozen years older and therefore, in my eyes, wiser. The subtle game of emotional push pull not only sucked me in, but so activated my childhood wounds that I quickly fell into the role of very unbalanced girl to his very patient man; he was my savior.

    It was easy to isolate me. My family relationships weren’t healthy and I had no friends to speak of, except a best friend who was busy playing mother superior to my recalcitrant child. Moreover, I was so damaged that I could not honor my own response to feeling isolated and controlled, except to struggle with my partner, which was perfect because feeling crazy was my set point. My childhood, which included sexual abuse in conjunction with being raised by a Jekyll and Hyde drunk, had made me an expert at walking barefoot on broken glass and making it look like I was dancing Swan Lake. I was tailor made for an abusive man.

    At the start, David’s abuse was so subtle that I didn’t see how I was being groomed to be the crazy (and battered) woman to his wise Zen master persona. Before I left, however, he had beaten and controlled me in all the obvious ways; I wasn’t clueless. Like you, I responded by taking us to counseling where I was told that flowers weren’t a real apology for a beating, but I wasn’t buying it. We got engaged. I was so invested in things being fine — being fixable — I didn’t see, until long after I left him, that David was both a drunk and a sexually violent man. For abused women, the truth submerges and all that remains is the glassy surface of a perfect lake. That’s all we want.

    Here’s the lucky part, just before my 23rd birthday, I walked away from David and into the arms of the man who married me, a man whom my family adores to this day, even tho we’ve been divorced for years. In retrospect, my husband was both very good to me and also a “healthier” more socially acceptable version of abuse, but that’s another story, and I’m not here to cast blame.

    My wake up call with David, I kid you not, was a soap opera. In a single scene I saw that, no matter how angry they get, a man and a woman simply do not resort to the kind of behavior I was being subjected to. I still shake my head when I remember that.

    Here’s the real corker. Upon meeting my fiance, my abusive alcoholic mother immediately saw through him. Of course she did; takes one to know one. But I could not hear her words. Her own behavior had so damaged me that I could not see the love she also had for me, nor believe her concerns for my welfare, which were genuine. Whatever doubts I was harboring at that early point in my relationship with David, I dismissed them in that moment. Like you said to Jason: The problem with a handbook [or a warning from family] is that every woman thinks it won’t happen to her.

    Thank you for everything you have shared in this blog. I am SO proud of you. Not only did you pull yourself out of an insidious and lengthy cycle of abuse, but you took the risk of telling your story in a public forum. There is no greater courage.

    I also have a special, personal, thank you to say. Reading this entry in your blog brought me the clarity I needed to finish my own. I’ve been struggling for far too long with the latest piece, and now I know why. Thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you.

    Dina
    aka Sins of the Eldest Daughter

    PS – I have decided to post my response to your blog (with a link to you) as preamble to the post I am now writing. I hope you don’t mind. Truly. Like you, I have taken my struggle to a public forum as a way of encouraging understanding for and conversation about a difficult topic (http://dinarozellebarnett.blogspot.com/). Again, my thanks for your courage and your willingness to speak out. May your new life open to you with the sweet beauty of a budding flower.

    • June 16, 2010 7:02 pm

      Dina,

      You don’t know how happy I was to read your comment. I’m so sorry that you went through all of that, however, I am thrilled to see the journey you are taking to becoming the strong, amazing, beautiful woman you are. I am more than happy to have you post your response and link it. I think the more women we are able to help through our experiences, the more we are able to walk forward in communion. I applaud you for continuing to look at yourself and the pattern of abuse you survived. It’s not an easy thing to do.

      • EldestDaughter permalink
        June 17, 2010 12:37 pm

        Thank you so much for the reply. I was both pleased and relieved to get the green light on my plan to post, having realized too late that my enthusiasm may have carried me right past blog etiquette; I am new to this. So thank you, again. I posted the blog last night to much positive response.

        Sending my best,
        Dina

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