I finished his control over me

This Next Door Solutions client agreed to share her story with us for our 50th-anniversary Survivor Story series.

Your muscles hurt. Your lungs hurt. Your skin hurts. Lastly, your heart hurts.

My (now ex-) husband had assaulted me before, but this time was different. He wanted me to plead for mercy; to fear for my life. Above all, the words that followed twisted the dagger even deeper: “shut up or I will finish what I started.”

Instead, it was I who finished his control over me. 

The next day, he left for work as if nothing had happened. Once I could no longer see the car, I called the police department. Their hands were tied, they said. My anemia caused marks on my skin to quickly fade, and without bruises, there was no physical evidence. Without a 911 call or a trip to the ER, there was little they could do. I was frustrated, mad, disappointed…but luckily, they suggested I call Next Door Solutions (NDS).

Image by Teri Vershel https://terivershel.com

Before packing my bag and whisking the kids to the Community Office, I recalled the many prior incidents. Abuse comes in many forms – some invisible to the naked eye. He was cruel, preying on my emotions to diminish me. He withheld our money, making me feel wholly dependent on him to survive. He attempted to use our children as leverage, creating psychological scars not just on me but also on them. And he was ruthless with violence, striking me and then talking about what I – not he – could do to prevent it from happening again.

The prior night added a new form. As our children watched and cried for him to stop, he put his hands around my neck and squeezed. This was not one of those “your life flashes before your eyes” moments. This was survival instinct kicking in, trying to free myself from this animal.

Once I arrived at Next Door Solutions, the staff helped me secure a restraining order and provided me with the help, guidance, and compassion I needed to rebuild my life. And now I want to help others rebuild theirs.

“Don’t worry,” some might say, “it’s just a marriage spat.” “It happened to me too, but we worked past it,” claim others. I can’t judge those women; I don’t know their specific situation. But their advice can lead to a sense of forgiveness that engenders more violence, to a sense of justification that emboldens the attacker and slowly chips away at the victim. The numbers don’t lie; the statistics are real. And the people have names, lives, stories, and above all, a right to peace. Abuse happens way too often, and the more we publicize the truth, the more likely it is women will not go back to their abusers. Not all go back…but many do, and of those, some end up dead. A senseless crime, preventable one with the right support and attention.

Given the threat of using kids for emotional leverage, I urge women to tell the police and get a restraining order. It’s not perfect, but it will prevent the abuser from requesting an amber alert against you as revenge. This sounds so simple, but the process is confusing, especially for a survivor of abuse who is likely still in shock. My lawyer prepared me: the children were with me: safe, sound, and more importantly, protected from further harm.

NDS support has been essential to get my life back on track, but everyone should know new obstacles will arise. I am remarried to a wonderful husband who has helped me, and my children, to cope, heal, and grow. Some women may enter into another abusive relationship; I am glad I am not such a statistic. However, we have had to go to court twice because my former husband, who now lives in a different county, feels he was wronged by the system and wishes to prolong his hold on me. It is no longer physical, but it is still mental abuse and takes its toll. I have all the legal protections afforded to me but exposure and contact can still be harmful.

Abuse victims are NOT broken, regardless of what the abuser may have said. The mistreatment can cause cracks, but with the proper care and attention, these can be fixed. Much like a beautiful vase, mending the fractures with gold makes the artwork even more beautiful. Pain may hurt, it has the ability to change a person for the better. My family and I are proof.

Survivor Story 6: Fear

Fear. It’s the ultimate four-letter word. Have you ever seen a movie where the bad guy captures the hero’s family and the protagonist says: “whatever you do, don’t hurt them”? That was me.