I am sharing my story with you in hopes that my nightmare might help someone see that no matter how bad things are, there IS a way out. Help is needed to get out, but it IS possible to escape abuse, even with kids. I hope to show others they are not alone, and that together we can take a stand and make a difference. Together we can stand up against domestic abuse and violence. The following are parts of my story in more detail.
The Cycle of Abuse Continues Until You Face Your Demons and Take Time to Heal.
I married my first husband young and quick. I was under the influence and made many poor choices. Then I got pregnant and everything changed. I immediately got sober and stayed sober, leading me to see who my husband truly was. He was emotionally abusive all the time, but only physically abusive once or twice. He was extremely controlling, he controlled what I ate, who I could talk to, and more. He was always accusing me of cheating on him, when in fact, he was cheating on me. I stayed with him for three years, telling myself that I had to suffer the consequences of my choices; until one day, after a night of fear for myself and my daughter, I decided I had suffered enough and I left him the next day. He stalked me for a while after we divorced, and this is where the second monster of my story comes in.
One of my first husbands’ friends had become a close friend to me as well. He stepped up as my protector when I divorced. He would sleep on my couch to make sure I was safe, and he would check on me during the day. He soon began working for my father, and our relationship grew into a romantic one as he took on the role of father to my, now two-and-a-half-year-old, daughter. I ignored many red flags, but it was not until about three years later, shortly after our son was born, that he struck me for the first time. I was struggling after a very rough pregnancy and thought I deserved it because of how crazy I felt and must have been acting. Then when my son was seven weeks old, my doctor prescribed an antidepressant for my postpartum depression, but he told me not to take them, that despite what the doctor said they would mess up my son, and I did not need them, I just needed to get over it and stop acting crazy. About a week later I tried to kill myself after a long argument with my so called "protector" who was telling me to “go ahead and kill yourself, you are hurting your kids by acting so crazy anyway”. Things were never the same after that. He used this against me for the rest of our relationship and built up many more things to constantly use against me as proof of how "crazy and unstable" I was. Things grew progressively worse, but I began treatment, I was seeking help and learning a great deal along the way. Unfortunately, I still believed his words, I believed that I was truly the entire problem, that if I could just fix myself then our relationship would get better and he would finally show that he cares. If I could just do enough, then I could fix us, and he would love me again.
We got married about a year and a half after my son was born, and our honeymoon is a great example of how the rest of our relationship went. On our honeymoon I did everything he wanted to do, and he refused to do what I wanted. The only thing he agreed to do that I wanted, was go to the dance night at the hotel we were staying at in the Dominican Republic, the Dominican Disco (I love to dance). But on the last night of our honeymoon, when it was time for the disco, he picked a fight with me because I tried to show him something I found interesting on Facebook, but he wanted to watch cartoons in Spanish instead of talk to me. This hurt my feelings, so I decided to step outside and take a few deep breaths. When I returned, he told me he would not go to the disco anymore because of my behavior. Unsure of what I did wrong, I apologized, and begged that he still go with me, but he said my apology was not good enough and continued to break me down, calling me names, saying I was a “psycho” a “selfish bitch” a “cunt” and more. I finally lost it and ran at him in rage. I felt so betrayed and broken, but what happened next, I did not expect…. He put me in a chokehold and squeezed my neck tight. I thought to myself, "he is going to kill me on our honeymoon!" The next thing I remember is being on the bed and opening my eyes to see the phone on the table next to the bed. I stood up quickly and ran to the corner. He yelled at me and blamed me for being “out of control” and claimed, “I was making a scene” and that “we could have been arrested in a foreign country with how I was acting”. He could not believe I would act this way on our honeymoon. I ruined everything. I was terrified, I said nothing. I did not sleep and stayed in the corner the entire rest of the night. The next morning was my birthday, and we were to fly home. He woke and we almost went to breakfast, but halfway there he made us turn back, claiming “everyone was looking at him like he was an asshole when really, I was the one out of control”. I wanted to die, I wished he had killed me. We did make it home, and halfway there he changed his behavior to act as if he understood. He said he still loved me despite how I acted. His actions were never mentioned. He was never held accountable for strangling me, I knew better than to mention it.
About five months passed and we fought often as I grew weaker mentally. Then one day, on the way home from a camping trip, I was exhausted from the lack of help I received with the kids and the non-stop demeaning remarks and anger from him because I had asked for help, and we got stuck in traffic for hours. He would not let up, telling me how I was just like my first husband, calling me “manipulative”, “sick”, “a shitty mother”, and much more. I finally broke and flung my arm over and hit him in the chest. I then pulled over the car and got out. I yelled at my husband to leave me there. I then saw a bag with some basic camping stuff and a pistol in it, and thought to myself, “that might be a good idea to have with me if I am going to be stranded on the side of the highway”. I reached for the bag. I had NO intention of using the pistol. I may have had the thought in the back of my head of using it on myself at a later time, but nothing more, it was impulsive and instinctual for survival. Then he got out of the car without a word said.... he did not ask me to put the bag down or say anything about what was in the bag.... he just came at me and punched me in the eye, grabbed the bag, then strangled me with his hands around my neck as he threw me to the ground. There I sat, afraid, feeling defeated and helpless. He got back in the car in the driver's seat and yelled, "get in or I'm leaving your ass”. My daughter snapped me back to reality as she yelled, "Get in the car mom!! Get in!!" So, I stood up and got into the car. It turned out that many witnessed this, and two couples called the police and said a man was strangling a girl and there may have been a gun. We were pulled over shortly after. I was afraid and in the mindset that I had caused all of this, my heart ached for my children, I was so ashamed. He proclaimed he was trying to stop me from killing myself, and I admitted to hitting his chest and said nothing of what he had done to me. I was a fool. I was then arrested and taken to jail. The entire time, I fully believed I deserved what was happening, that I was the problem and I was a monster.
All of this turned out to be a great blessing in disguise. I was offered diversion since I had no previous trouble with the law, and I was sent to domestic violence treatment, where I learned what a healthy relationship looks like. I learned how to do my part to stop the violence and I learned that I had the right to be treated with respect too. I also went to group and individual counseling. As time went on, I got healthier, but my relationship got worse and more dangerous. He became very physically abusive, especially while I was on diversion, because he knew any call to the police about domestic violence would land me in jail and on probation instead of diversion, no matter who did what. He would threaten to call the cops and tell them I was hitting him when I was not touching him, but in fact he was punching me in the stomach or throwing me to the ground. I stayed with him for about 2 more years. During this time, he strangled me on two more occasions, he left bruises on my arms, fear in my soul, and chaos in my head. The physical abuse was hard, but the emotional abuse was so much worse.
He was able to control me as long as he did because he made me believe that I was unstable and crazy, that I was mentally ill, that I did not remember facts correctly, that I, in his words "destroy everything I love". He used my first marriage as proof and would say I am reacting to my first husband and not him, or he would say that I’m “the common denominator”. I did act out at times, I did act crazy at times, because I was dealing with gaslighting, physical abuse, and severe mental abuse. I was trying to survive a world of extreme pain, confusion, and fear. I hated when I got to the point of breaking, because I knew every time I messed up, it gave him a way to blame me for everything and a way to ignore his own part. Mostly, I hated when I acted poorly because I did not want to be that person, I wanted to be better. He strived to push me past my breaking point, he delighted in my chaos. However, I was still seeking help, and I eventually learned to stay calm despite being in the midst of immense pain, fear, and confusion.
I began standing up for myself, only to be met with words such as “the things you have done are far worse no matter how you look at it” and “there is no way in hell I would ever let my kids be raised by just you, to turn out to be like you” and “I should have let you die!”. I tried to hide money so I could seal my arrest record after completing diversion, for I knew it would play against me if I found a way to leave him; but he would find out and take the money. Then one day, despite knowing that he had a great deal to use against me, and despite the fear I had of losing my children, or my life, or worse- my children’s lives... I worked with my counselor and planned a way out. I sought a restraining order and filed for divorce, but my time in hell was not over. The final protection order hearing is one of the worst memories of my life. I froze on the stand, struck into fear by the look in his eyes. I failed to say many very important things. For example, I failed to mention that he strangled me and bruised me, or pushed me down, and more. I admitted to fighting back at times and I was not offered the chance to explain the years of work I had done to change my behavior and remain calm no matter what. He used my mental health history against me, combined with many lies. The protection order was taken away, and supervised visits between him and my son ended. Once again, I felt helpless and hopeless. I felt unworthy of protection and I hated myself for not speaking up, for not telling the entire story, for freezing, for putting myself and my children in more danger. During the next 8+ months I lived in constant fear. I was in disbelief of how horribly the civil justice system works and was lied about in so many outrageous ways. Even my family was lied about many times throughout the divorce proceedings. I also began to see the immense amount of damage our relationship had caused my children. My daughter has PTSD with extra anxiety due to her hypervigilance. My son has developmental delays due to trauma. My children were far more aware than I realized, and they experienced situations that they never should have. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to forgive myself for this.