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Saturday, October 1, 2011

Domestic Violence Awarness Month...

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.   Since this is a topic so close to home for me, I think I would like to share my story. 

Honestly it is June right now, and I am writing this with a scheduled automatic post date.  I'm writing this now because I recently read something that...well I guess you could say that brought it back to the surface.  Now it's been on my heart for a month or two and I thought I could take some time to really write it out, share my story and maybe if someone out there reading this, and is in a situation they can finally find the strength to do something about it.

My Story (as told by me)

When I finished high school in 1993 I dove head first into work and college.  I was head strong and proud.  I had started dancing in a more serious competitive group and my long skinny body was looking more toned and muscular.  I was still skinny, but healthier looking.  The rips in my abs gave me a confidence that I had never had before.  I knew what I wanted in life, and I intended to get it.  It's amazing how naive I was.   It was the next summer that my cousin set me up with this guy that she worked with.  He was a handsome fellow, had a nice car, a good job (so I thought at the time) and he seemed really nice.  He was 7 years older than I was, and divorced.  His daughter lived with his ex-wife, but he only saw her once a month because her mother wouldn't let him see her (her fault of course)
My mother really didn't say much about me going out with him, only it probably wasn't wise to date a man with a child.  You are going to love my response  "Mama, its a free meal and a movie....it's not like I'm gonna marry the guy or anything"

Our first date, he actually opened the door for me, took me to a nice restaurant and was the perfect gentleman. When he took me home he actually asked if he could kiss me goodnight. When I said yes, he took my hand and kissed the back of it. The next morning I found roses and a teddy bear in the front seat of my car with a note telling me what a good time he'd had.  Be still young girl heart...

He was actually the maintenance "supervisor" at a mill that I had applied to work at.  So when I got the job that just meant that we would see each other periodically during the day. At least once a week I would come into work and find flowers, cards or some sweet gift in my seat. It would make my heart skip a beat...after 6 months he asked me to marry him and I said yes.

It wasn't long after that, things started to change. He would say things like "Why don't you try to wear your hair this way, I bet it would look good" I would try it for a while, then when I fixed it differently he would get mad.  I remember one morning he picked me up for church and didn't like my hair so he pulled over and raked his hand through it messing it up and telling me I looked better with a rats nest on my head than the way I fixed it. I was so embarrassed to walk in church with my hair all a mess, but I had nothing to fix it back with and really what could I do?  We were almost there, and he was driving....what were my options?  I just smoothed it down best I could and rode on to church. Of course after church...he was sorry, he didn't mean it...I was beautiful...blah blah blah...

There were other signs too:  He would loose his temper and blame it on stress of the wedding, stress of finding us a place to live together, stress of this or that it was always one excuse or another.

One night I got a really bad headache while we were watching TV. I laid down on the couch thinking that maybe it would go away, but it just got worse. I finally decided to go home,  I never slept over, and it never entered my thoughts to sleep over. When I told him I was leaving, that I didn't feel good he slapped me on the back of the head.   I remember saying that I was breaking up with him...because he'd HIT me!!! He swore it was an accident, that he'd really barely touched me and that it'd happened when he was moving his arm from around me. ... My head was hurting so bad that just lying it on the headrest of my seat was painful, so I thought maybe it was an accident, maybe he didn't really hit me, just bumped my head while he was moving his arm...I guess I just really wanted to believe him.

In March a few months later, we had met somewhere to go out, and the plan was to leave my car at the restaurant then go see a movie or something. When we were leaving the argument started. We were really going at it and I decided that I wanted to go home, and just get away from him, think about things. I got out of his car, to get into mine and the next thing I knew I was pulling my foot out from under his tire!!!! On the way to the hospital, he swore he was just leaving, he didn't realize I had stepped in front of the car...it was an accident. You know, they say love is blind, but I think that more than anything I didn't want to believe that he actually tried to run me over! Of course we told it his way, it was an accident...

The night before the wedding in August, 1995, I knew I was making a mistake. But I was young, and I didn't want to be embarrassed. All those people were coming, we had all those gifts, and it would be so embarrassing to cancel it NOW!  We argued that night, and for the first time he actually grabbed me and shook me, everything before that I could say was maybe an accident. That wasn't.  You don't accidentally grab someone and shake them like that.  I was scared and his daughter was standing there watching..crying.

I walked down the aisle with bruises on both arms. I remember praying at the back of the church "Please God don't let my daddy or my brother see the bruises" I was wearing long sleeves with mesh inserts on them..(I don't have a picture available) but for the most part my arms were covered, except for the see through sections from the shoulder to the elbow...where the bruises were.

It was only a few months after the wedding that he slammed my head into a light fixture that caused a large gash at my temple. These things continued to happen for the next couple of years, things that were avoidable and just a result of his lack of ability (maybe desire) to control his temper..

In November my best friend died, to say that I was alone during my darkest times would not be an exaggeration.  I was alone.  At the funeral home I was trying so hard to be strong, not get upset but seeing her casket, and then her mother..I couldn't control my grief any longer, I just started sobbing.  I could hardly let her mother go..the pain was so intense.  When I finally gathered myself and moved out the door he looked at me and said "I think you are faking, she's dead she's not coming back..get over it"

In September of 1996 we argued over a deck of cards that I accidentally kicked when I walked by. He hit me in the stomach, hard enough to knock me across the room and knock the breath right out of me. I was on the floor trying to breathe ...but I just couldn't... I remember being on my knees bent over just trying to breathe in, but the air just kept going out.  I didn't know what was happening but I really thought I was going to die. That's when I realized I was in real trouble. I started thinking I need to do something, but if I leave I have to tell what is going on, why I am leaving. So I waited, tried to gather my thoughts and figure out what I would do, where I would go, and how I would pay for it. 2 weeks later I found out I was pregnant. 6 weeks pregnant according to the ultra sound. So my thoughts went away from figuring things out to making things work. After all now there was going to be a baby.

The week of Thanksgiving I started to spot, I went to the Dr, and the ultrasound showed that I was still only 6 weeks along and there was no heart beat. He said the baby should be measuring 12 weeks by then, and the heart beat should be showing on the monitor. I don't know that hit caused the miscarriage, but I don't know that it didn't either. They scheduled a DNC for the next morning and sent me home.  That night I actually started to bleed and bad. He wouldn't even get up. I honestly thought I would bleed to death before morning. When I finally got to the phone and called the Dr.s office they said for me to get there right then. Mark wouldn't leave until he showered and shaved...The nurse had to assist me into the office because I didn't have the strength to walk. The Dr said I was bleeding out, had lost too much blood because the fetus had lodged in my cervix just holding it open, allowing me to pour blood. Mark  started to cry..I love you, baby I'm sorry, I love you.... but after they gave me a shot to knock me out and sent me home..that same man, you know that one that said he loved me?  He left me knocked out in the car while he went into Bojangles and sat down to have breakfast.

I was so depressed, so hurt.  I just made it through the next year, going through the motions, putting one foot in front of the other and trying to get through. Things got a little better, then they got worse again.

It was Christmas of 1997 when I found out I was pregnant with Cameron.

In March, my cousin (who was only 13 at the time) walked in on him choking me. He was holding me by the throat against the wall with my feet about 12 inches from the floor. Had she not started screaming he may have killed me that day. I owe her my life, I truly believe that she saved me that day. That is when my family found out about the abuse.

During the months of my pregnancy the abuse was no longer physical, but more emotional/mental.  You are so fat, you are huge I hope that baby comes out soon because pregnancy has made you such a bitch.  You better quit eating that because no one is going to want to be with a fat girl...I can't tell you how many times I wanted to kill myself.  The movement of my unborn baby is why I am here today. I hated my life, but I couldn't see a way out. If I left he would drop me from the insurance, I wouldn't have any money, I wouldn't have anywhere to go and no way to pay for it.

My mom bought a house (she's in real estate) and started to fix it up. So I would have a place to move when I could.

I moved out when Cam was 8 weeks old. It took Mark shaking my 8 week old baby to get me to move, but I did. I moved into my dad's house while my mom and step dad finished renovating the old house I was going to live in. The house I still live in today.

In the next couple of years Mark took Cameron, stabbed me, kicked in my door and stalked me. He had my self esteem so low that I was ashamed to leave my house, I was fat (at 98 pounds) ugly, worthless, stupid. It took years to get just a little grain of self confidence back. It's amazing what a man will do to you. (I mean the wrong man, the one that doesn't deserve you).

I remember when I got my old yearbooks out.  I was going through the attic, came across those book and started reading all the nice things my teachers wrote. Telling me how smart I am, how wonderful I am. My friends that wrote how nice and pretty I was.  That was a turning point for me.

Not that I thought I was beautiful, but it made me remember that I did have friends, people liked me, I wasn't the most beautiful girl in the world...but my stomach didn't churn when I looked in the mirror either...It's hard to explain why that helped me, but it did.

There are many more things that happened, and I can tell you things that will make you shake your head and wonder why I stayed. The only reason that I can come up with is that battered women's syndrome is a very real thing. You stay because you feel like you have to, you are embarrassed enough from the way things are. You can hear all these people whispering about your personal life, b/c you feel like everyone knows. The humiliation kept me there, it didn't help me leave. When I did finally talk to someone they would tell me what they would do and I would want to scream YOU DON'T KNOW, YOU DON'T LIVE IT, IT'S NOT THAT EASY!!  It really isn't.  You have to feel like you are doing the right thing, you have to feel like you tried your best to make it work, you still have that voice (that often "religious" people put there) saying that you made a promise before GOD and you are braking that promise.  Leaving is hard, even when you don't love them anymore.  Leaving is hard because it means that you have failed.  Here is a secrete...YOU DIDN'T FAIL - YOU WON!!! If you leave you have won, you have freed  yourself from this captivity and are on your way to finding happiness.

Wes and I met in October of 1999.  When we started dating and something would happen that I thought he would be mad about I would get physically ill.  I would cry and throw up.  I remember being late to something once, and calling him. "I can't come, I'm sorry.  I'm late and just go without me" I remember him just clear as day saying, it doesn't matter, we will get there when we get there and if the others can't wait then to hell with them.   I have believed for a long time that God brought us together, to help each other.  I needed him to get back some sort of self worth, he needed me to help him quit drinking.

I left Mark in October of 1998, now here we are in October of 2011 and I am such a better person now. I still have my issues, I still have that voice in the back of my head telling me that I don't have friends, people don't like me, they only use me for fill in the blank here, but my life has come a long way. My husband, Wes, would never hurt me, he would die before he let anyone else hurt me or Cameron.  In Wes I have found a feeling of safety that I never thought I would find again.  The first time he wrapped his arms around me I felt safe, the knot in my stomach just released and I felt like nothing could ever hurt me again.

If you are one of the many women living in a violent relationship, I'm telling you this so that you can see that you are not alone in your world of pain. This doesn't have to be your story, this doesn't have to be the end for you, ...your story has just begun! Something so much more is waiting for you just around the other side, you can beat this  and you will find the true love of your life. You will be amazed at how great things will be! 

1-800-799-SAFE (7233) call now, they will give you the help that you need.


Rachel said...

Sitting here choking back tears.

I am so very sorry.

And I am so very glad for God getting you out of that situation and for giving you safety and love with Wes.

It's hard for me to read. Because you don't realize how many GOOD women are being hurt like this.

My father never wanted me. He beat my pregnant mother and kicked her in the stomach. She only kept living because of me.

It was surreal to drive past the home she lived in with him. She showed me the window she crawled out of with me.

And it hurts to know that the only reason she finally left him - was because she knew he would someday hurt me. It hurts that she didn't value HERSELF as much.

And today - I see a transformed woman. Someone who you would never guess had endured those things.. God and an amazing husband have done that.

So thankful that you were rescued. Thank you for sharing this... you are amazing.

Jessica said...

This post broke my heart. I am so sorry that you had to live through such a nightmare. At the same time, I'm happy that you managed to leave and to reclaim your life from that monster. I think the fact that you're sharing your story is BIG. I've never been in a domestic violence relationship, but from what I've learned about them, it's often the case that victims feel isolated, afraid to share their stories because they live in fear of judgement. I am going to be sure to share this post with others. Thank you for sharing.

Beth Zimmerman said...

Thank you, Kelly, for sharing this! It is poignant and real and powerful! And I just want to tell you that I have always seen you as beautiful! I love you, sweet girl! I'm so glad you found your way to peace and safety!