I have been living double life for so many years now I hardly know what it is like to live only one. Strange to say it, but it is true. Years ago I spent time with a man who did everything he could to break me… and he nearly succeeded. He left me with a bruised soul and shattered sense of security. The cruelty I suffered at his hand is unmatched by any other I have known to date. To say I was a battered abused woman couldn’t be further from the truth. I still am. The truth is I will always be, but I have come to realize I get to choose how I am affected by it all these years later.
I still have nightmares. I still fear things I would have never feared before. I find myself always at the ready to cross paths again with the man who stole my safety. Or am I?
At 21 years old I was a carefree, happy young woman who had the world at her feet. I was full of energy, excited about life and all it had to offer. I don’t remember days I wasn’t smiling. There was so much to be happy about. I had a good job at a happening bar, I was loved by my friends, and I wasn’t tied to anything but my next adventure. Things were great.
Being the new person at my job I was getting to meet really cool people who were all extremely welcoming. I remember looking into the kitchen one night and seeing a blond haired, blue eyed man working away in there. He looked at me just as I was looking at him, lustfully. We smiled at each other and I returned to my tables with a new skip in my step. This became a regular thing every night. We would flirt and smile at each other. My heart would flutter a bit when I saw him walk into work and I knew I was smitten. I was smitten from the first smile he cast in my direction the first time I saw him.
Little to no time went by before he asked me out on a date and I jumped at the invitation replying with an excited yes without hesitation. We went out on our first date and he was charming, fun, sweet…perfect. I was caught up immediately: youth has a way of doing that. I was sure it was love within only months and he reciprocated the feeling by wanting to be near me as much as I wanted to be near him. If only I had known then what I know now…
Fast forward through six months of absolute bliss to the first night I would discover he was not what I believed him to be. We began to argue about something trivial and he became irate. He raised his hand slapped me across the face. I recoiled in shock holding my cheek, mouth gaping open. He crumbled to the floor crying with his hands cupping his own face begging my forgiveness. I didn’t know what to do. This man who had been nothing but kind to me had made a mistake and felt so awful about it. I shouldn’t have pushed him with my words, right?
Again, if only I had known then what I do now…
Months went by without another incident and I had pushed from my mind his mistake and my own. We were blissful once again. That was until we argued again. This time, he didn’t slap me, he balled up his fist and punched me so hard I fell to the ground with stars in my eyes. Again, he crumbled crying asking himself what he had done and what was wrong with him. He begged me to help him to be better… he loved me so much. I had to help him. He didn’t mean it. I thought it must have been something I did to make him so angry that he could hit me. After that, I became a punching bag. Each time he would beat me worse than the last, crying afterward begging for my help.
I was blinded by the good times we had, pushing aside the bad, and I truly thought I could help him. That it had to be me and not him who was at fault. Things would only get worse. He began to beat me without remorse. He called me names and told me I would never be able to do better. I believed him. Strange how someone can break another down enough to make them believe there is love in being beaten. Expert manipulators are powerful, professional even, in what they are capable of doing.
Over two years passed and I had resigned myself to a life of beatings and bad love. He would come and go as he pleased, do as he pleased, and I was to be accepting or I would be beaten. One night we were out to a movie. It was a comedy and we were about halfway through the movie when I looked over at him and he at me, to find him laughing with the dead eyes. I stared into them and saw nothing. It was the most terrifying thing I’d ever seen. I did my best to act normally when I excused myself to the restroom. I concentrated on my pace as I walked out of the theater, keeping it slow and steady. I passed through the door into the hallway, took off running and slipped into the bathroom. I pulled my phone from my back pocket and called my parents. My mom answered to hear her daughters shaky voice telling her she was going to die and she was scared. That is a moment I will never forget, begging for their help… having to beg for help. I can’t imagine what that must have been like for my parents.
A couple of days later I was moving out of the house to a location which no one had the address but myself and my parents. I hid. I hid and I healed for as long as I could.
After all these years, I still sit back and wonder why I allowed myself to become the person I had been. I often wish I had never met that man or lived that life, yet however strange I am, in some ways, fortunate for my experience. I learned who I was and who I needed to be. I learned I was strong, useful, good, and worth more than he or I had given me credit for. I learned I wasn’t wrong in my desire to save another, just misguided when it came to who I was saving. I believed the lies of someone who never valued me, just as so many others do. I am not the only one who has suffered at the hands and manipulation of another… We are not so few and far between, but we can and are better than that life. We are worth the world for we are strong.
How to get help
The “Black Dot Campaign” is a way to alert others to your plight. By drawing a black dot in the palm of your hand you can discretely signal others for help. This new campaign has helped women to ask for help without their abuser noticing, which for anyone who is being abused is a wonderful thing considering abusers do not agree with their victims asking for or receiving help.
The Family Violence Center or FVC is a place for abused women and children to seek refuge from abusers as well as counseling. Their hotline is open 24 hours a day.
417-864-SAFE or visit their website at http://www.familyviolencecenter.org
The Victim Center is another wonderful place for victims to seek refuge. They too offer counseling and support, educational classes, preventative classes, as well as medical care.
24 hour crisis line: 417-864-7233 or visit their website at http://www.thevictimcenter.org
Remember you are not wrong in loving your abuser. I loved mine. What I learned is simply that I needed to love myself. I needed to see who he was and who I had become and evaluate what that looked like from the outside. I had lost so many good people to him and I was alone when I didn’t need to be. I wasn’t weak, I was just lost. If you are being abused, know you are not weak. You are as strong as I had always been. Only the strong can endure such cruelty and still face the day. Those of us whom have lived it, or are still living a life of abuse are capable of anything, including choosing ourselves over our abuser and living a life of happiness and security.