28 December 2015

Shattering Silence: A Stand Against Domestic Violence

My name is Sam and this is just a part of my story. There may be others similar but this one is mine, please try not to criticize if you know me or the people whose names I've changed specifically for this post. This was my past year's experience....unless you were here with me to counter it then keep the hate to yourself.  Each year for my birthday I try to give back to others by taking something I've learned and sharing it. My 24th year was a big one! This isn't my favorite share nor do I enjoy writing about it.....but it's relevant and I know there's more of you out there. Let's start simple with a definition....

Domestic violence....
and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other. Partners may be married or not married; heterosexual, gay, or lesbian; living together, separated or dating.

Examples of abuse include:
name-calling or put downs
keeping a partner from contacting their family or friends
withholding money
stopping a partner from getting or keeping a job
actual or threatened physical harm
sexual assault
Violence can be criminal and includes physical assault (hitting, pushing, shoving, etc.), sexual abuse (unwanted or forced sexual activity), and stalking. Although emotional, psychological and financial abuse are not criminal behaviors, they are forms of abuse and can lead to criminal violence.

 The Backdrop: 
       I was still a teenager when my family started talking about marriage. Surprisingly, not a topic I'd ever really looked forward to. I valued myself and relished the feeling of freedom. Most little girls became giddy at the thought of a ball gown paired with princess heels and a prince on a valiant white steed carrying them off to be domesticated (gag).  I was personally more entertained by the thought of being the first female war lord (imagine Mulan minus the love junk), slashing all adversaries down with a sword larger than myself to maintain leadership over my set kingdom. Apparently my ambitions were slightly off from the usual expectation. With 3 kids at the age of 18 I was badgered daily over my relationship status and how the proper thing to do would be to marry to make my situation more appeasing to the general public. 

The Reasoning:
        When I was young I had always loved kids, but never thought I would have my own. An accidental pregnancy at 16 while I was class president proved otherwise. There were options but none seemed more viable than loving the life I created. After starting my family young I decided I wanted to finish it young as well having 4 beautiful girls by the time I was 20. My plans of having no offspring of my own had changed drastically and I couldn't be more thankful. To this day I wouldn't change a single part of who my children are. 

The Mistake: 
    I never expected a story book romance, the world can be a cruel place and most people set themselves up for disappointment right from the start with their unrealistic expectations. The sick part was the fact that I knew X wasn't right for me and I chose to step farther into the relationship instead of getting out like I should have. Why? Because, it was easier....leaving takes so much work and energy and involves so much change. This is where I blame myself. Hindsight is 20/20 and some times we can't see things clearly until they're behind us. That change was not something I put at the top of my list with all the young children and work to keep up with. It should have been a priority, it effected me daily and I underestimated how much damage it could actually do. I had beautiful kids and most smiled upon my family with praise at a job well done. I could deal with this. It wasn't actually that bad....was it?? 

The Outcome: 
      Let's fast forward through 3 years of marriage. Each year things got continually worse. Out of shame and fear of judgement by others I tried to deal the best I could. Only letting the secrets out when the wounds were to deep and the tears fell to hard. I wasn't a crier. I wasn't weak. My best friend of 10 years (Mercedes), knew this so each time she got a break-down call about how badly it was going she'd beg me to get out. I'd realize how stupid I felt crying over a man and become defensive, telling her it was going to be okay and that I could handle it. I had to suck it up for the kids. Fast forward another year....I can't handle it. X had managed to gain control that I never realized I lost. Not only was I losing the control, I was losing myself.  Instead of a weekly blowout, fights started to become daily. Here's a sample list of common occurrence:

* Any time you go out with a friend or speak to someone you will automatically become a whore, slut, skank, c^%t. 

*Whenever you go out with a skirt, dress or a shirt with the V-cut neck you will also be called the above names and be accused of sexual adventures you could never imagine.

* When you try to argue for your respect you will be assumed to be mentally ill/crazy and be told that you are sick and need serious professional help.

*They will threaten to tell your boss whatever may be necessary for you to lose your job so that you are financially isolated and unable to leave because they have cut off all resources.  

*When you threaten to leave, you will be told how worthless you are and how no-one could ever deal with you, let alone want you. You will also be threatened with loss of your children. If you go, they will make sure you lose everything you've ever loved. If you go they will make good on promises they made you years ago about what would happen if you leave them. If they can't have you then no-one will have you.  

* When you say you're going to tell family they will counter with saying you are mentally unstable again and that if you tell you'll also get a one way ride to the insane asylum. You will be reminded of how lucky you are to have that person and that you should be on your knees in praise instead of being so disobedient. My family had very little knowledge of these incidents because to me it felt like admitting failure. I was failing as a woman, I was failing as a mother. X's family however knew of a few because they happened in a back room of their house or he'd go there after a big blow out. With respect to them I never remember them saying it was deserved or completely my fault. I remember them saying that it had to stop. Not just for me or X but for the kids. They knew it was getting worse and it wasn't healthy. They knew the tempers involved.  

* You will need to keep the spice alum on hand for any given fight that can turn physical. Not wanting to seek medical attention at a doctor's office for a swollen lip that wasn't healing I discovered that this pickling spice will painfully suck out pooled fluids causing the swollen area to minimize. I used this method five times in one year.

*You will need to keep windows open in the house when possible. Some times X would escalate from the usual fist throw to the choke hold. Believe it or not this can actually be more powerful than any shiner you've had. When the person with their hands around your throat weighs at least 100lbs more than you and your eyes feel like they're about to burst from the pressure you will try to scream for help with whatever oxygen you have left.....make sure that window is open so your neighbors can hear.  

* You will need to blame the bruised eye or facial marks on the rowdy kids you have at home and their toy throwing. Be ready to have people second guess this one.....it never goes over too smoothly with suspicious friends or family. 

*You will need long sleeve (non V neck shirts) for the matching arm bruises for the times when you try to walk out the door and they find it necessary to stop you by holding you forcefully in place where you stand. 

The Escape: 

        People will tell you to be strong enough to get through the rough times....that's crap. The real strength is needed to leave, not to stay. On a clear summer night the girl I was, before this relationship, came through to me. She pleaded for change. Everything in me felt like it was dying, I begged the stars for the strength to make it happen. I told X for months that it needed to change, I received the usual backlash for such suggestions. The victim in me became furious, I started making my changes. When I started to show control I was met with the utmost force. 

 My bank accounts started to clear out....finances were drained. 

My cell phone chargers would be cut.....

Any interaction would lead to police response, on this specific day he argued that he needed his guns before I could destroy them....they made him leave....and he took the guns with him.... 

The front door was smashed which meant it was necessary to go buy a new door...with new locks....it was wintertime, so it couldn't wait.  

He attempted to forcefully remove the kids from the house until I "smartened up" and had time to think about how stupid I had been...this lead to my mother showing up because of my hang up call yelling for help. When she got to my house I was being dragged....she told him to let go and for the kids to get in her car. After she showed up X called to have family send the cops, I was told to be fully responsible of course.....I assure you I wouldn't free bleed for nothing. The patrol insisted they couldn't arrest just one, they were told I was the attacker. So for me to walk....X got to walk too. It was after this altercation that I started filing court papers. He was now living with his new girlfriend and I had hoped that would keep him occupied. 

After pink domestic dispute reports piled up to a level that couldn't be ignored I filed for a protective order for myself and the kids (times when he'd say he was taking them for a visit he decided to not tell me where they were or bring them home, those were rough nights). Alarms to detect unwanted presence and cameras to record any interactions were also installed.  

When it seemed like I was finally making some progress I started receiving court papers backed by his newly discovered soul-mate. The first accusing me of being an unfit parent and that the courts needed to remove the children immediately from me before harm came to them......the charges were dismissed and the kids never had to leave home, The second accused me and the people around me of extensive drug use....tests were conducted and results taken to court.....negative for all drugs and substances.  Now that I had all of my family court issues in order I thought there'd be breathing room with less tension involved....again I was wrong. When I paid in full and I filed my divorce papers X contested it. 

The Conclusion:

I don't have all of the answers and I don't know exactly how it will all play out but I know this battle has made me a much stronger version of myself, for that I am grateful. It's worth every lawyer fee and every trip to court. I finally stood up and did the things I needed to.  Never was I more disappointed then when I finally woke up to see how wrong I was living. Letting someone else have that control over my life just wasn't me. I didn't even know how bad it had gotten until I got out. I couldn't be happier now. No-one should feel that much despair. I know there are things I could've done differently and I know I don't make the best victim. My family seemed so shocked that I concealed so much. But that's where the silence comes in, and we're silent out of embarrassment. Most who talk to me or seek advice do it because I seem strong to them. To those who thought my situation was ideal, I am sorry. To all that I hid the truth from and told much more pleasant lies to, I am sorry.    
         I can tell you that if you're still reading this than it probably resonates with you or a past situation you were in or friends, parents or grandparents were in. You are not alone. It's not "just" you, you are not wrong or crazy and there are many ways to get out of a place you never should have been. The first part of solving this problem is realizing that there's a problem and not being ashamed to admit it. Shame for such things is not yours to carry, it is their actions that wronged you. There needs to be less silence and more action. Shame has no place here. It can happen to anyone and does not care whether you are a weak or strong person. Control is not love and love does not mean ultimate control. The important part is to have the ears and support you need to stop whatever violence issue you may be in and understand that there is nothing wrong with you. We can only decide our own actions. Accept nothing less than what you'd want your daughters or sons to have. If you wouldn't find it acceptable for them then you definitely shouldn't deem it acceptable for you. It's really never to late to write yourself a better ending. 

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