Marion in Florida.
I'm lucky to be alive and I know it.
When I was twenty I married a man who I believed was my knight in shining armor. He was a dream come true. Little did I know that he would become my greatest nightmare. The abuse started about six months after our marriage. At first it was just pushing me around a little and shoving me out of his way while yelling at me. It gradually escalated to slapping me and then hitting me. Every time he abused me he said I made him do it. I couldn't please him. Once when I cooked something he didn't like he threw it on the floor and then smashed the rest of the dishes on the table, all the time yelling "You're a dumb bitch and you can't even cook." The name calling got uglier as time went on as did the harshness of his attacks. Unfortunately to make matters worse his rule was sex on demand and it was rough and degrading.
Over the length of our marriage, I had to go to the hospital six times. Each time telling them I brought it on me by being clumsy, saying I fell down the stairs, tripped on the curb, or banged my eye on a cabinet door. Although the hospital called the police, who questioned me, I never admitted to being abused. Somehow I felt ashamed and knew that if I said anything my husband would make it worse for me. He threatened to kill me if I said anything.
The last time I was hospitalized for five days, I finally hit a breaking point. I'm sure my broken arm, broken jaw bone and broken ribs sort of pushed me over the edge. This time when two people from a special unit that deals with domestic and sexual abuse came Ito question me, I askedfor help. When I was released from the hospital they got me into a shelter for victims of domestic and sexual abuse. The women at the shelter helped me with not only trying to find my way back to life as a person, they helped me navigate the court system, first filing a restraining order, then filing a charge against my husband for abuse and eventually with the papers necessary to file for a divorce. My husband got six years for what he did to me and swore he would get even.
I knew that I had to leave the state if I was ever going to be safe. The shelter staff helped me get a national restraining order, and helped get some money for relocation. II have moved three times since then, changing my hair cut and color and still living in fear that he will get out and find me. I don't have a cell phone because I 'm afraid he'll somehow be able to track me through the GPS. I've been told that there are ways around that with today's cell phone technology but I don't want to take the chance. I lived without one before and can do it again.
I made the mistake of allowing another man to be friend me and we began to live together. It had been years now since the abuse and I thought it was safe and he was a great guy. But shortly after we began to live together he started the abusive talk and slamming things around the house. This time I was smart enough to get out .fast! Once again I moved, having saved just enough from my waitressing job to buy a bus ticket. I called a national hot line for victims of domestic and sexual violence and they put me in touch with a hot line for the area I was in. Luckily I found a shelter that had a room open. (sometimes there are waiting lists). I am there now. I am still suffering the impacts of being abused. I flinch when anyone moves to quickly around me. I can't stand it if anyone around me raises their voice and seems like they are going to get into an argument. I often break down in tears and have to go to my room, which they call "my safe space". Just because the abuse is over doesn't mean the emotional pain and scars go away magically. I'm not sure they ever will.
I am afraid of what will happen when my time in the shelter is over. I don't know if I will ever be able to stand on my own two feet. I don't know if I will be able to get a job (even though the shelter is teaching me interviewing skills and helping me with my self-confidence). I don't think I could waitress again, my hands shake a lot and the kitchen noises are loud and that really makes me uncomfortable.
In my wildest dreams I can't imagine being really happy and not afraid. I don't think I ever want another man in my life. That thought of it makes me nervous and I get anxiety attacks. One thing I am not sure however is that I am lucky to be alive. I have read up and know a lot of women are killed by their abusers. I am one of the lucky ones.
Kenna Marriott is on the Board of Directors of a Domestic and Sexual Abuse Center in Florida. She is also on the Board of Directors of a center for the mentally ill. The names are withheld to protect the women in the stories. She is also an international award winning author of Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda.Lessons, Learnings and Insights From A Mother About Her Daughter's Battle With Cancer, available from the Focus On Women bookstore.
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