This story is an excerpt from "Why Doesn't She Just Leave?" compiled and edited by Heather Stark, MPA and Emiliee Watturs, MPA. This book is an excellent resource for those looking to understand why women (or men) stay in violent relationships, and is available for purchase from Amazon.com.
From the outside, it sounds so easy to just say go, get out, and leave. But, you don't go. The reasons are as varied and complicated as the relationship.
For me, it was made worse. Because it was the death of a dream. The dream of loving and being loved. I believed in forever.
I would have to admit to failing, No one wants to fail.
Guilt. Knowing you are not perfect. Having a mother who said this was your fault. Her words were - you made your bed, you sleep in it. You chose to marry and if you divorce him, you will go to hell. Divorce was more shameful than anything. What would people say?
It is your fault; he says so. Your own mother says so. But, it is not about you. I was 21. My daughter was a baby.
The biggest reason I stayed was FEAR.
There was no doubt in my mind about how hard it would be to survive. I am not talking about the day-to-day taking care of life. I am talking about the fear of my ex-husband. Knowing he would stalk me. Knowing he would find me. Knowing anyone who helped me was going to be in danger. Knowing I could be responsible for someone else getting hurt. He was very clear about his intention of finding me no matter how long it took. He was clear about hurting anyone else in my life who tried to help. He was very clear about my dad. He would remind me that my dad had a bad heart and he would not be able to live through the turmoil.
All these things kept me there for a long time.
I made a couple of attempts to get out. I was able to talk him into letting me move to a new place and wait for him to move there. It only worked for a day or two but it was a start. That move showed me just how far he would go to control me. He once drove from new York to Texas when I didn't answer the phone for 20 minutes! It was ugly when he arrived. I had no idea he was coming or why he was so angry. Luckily, a girlfriend was there. After she left, I ran out and hid until he calmed down. It took 2 days.
I can tell you exactly when I knew I was leaving, for good. No deal making, no talking, no pleading. I was crouched in a corner of our home, between the kitchen and my daughter's room.
I was hiding a kitchen knife behind my back. He was standing in front of me. He was going to hit me, again. I was the only person between him and my daughter.
This was not the life I wanted her to know. I loved her more than my life.
I couldn't do it anymore. I would rather be dead. That simple, I would rather be dead. Dead was better.
It has been more than 30 years and I can still see his eyes. I can still feel the fear.
With the calmest voice I could find, I told him, "This will be the last time you ever touch me."
Somehow he knew something was different. After a few very tense minutes, he backed up and went to bed. I spent the night in that spot.
He left for work the next morning as if nothing had happened. The second he was out the door, I got my daughter, ran to the car, and rented a truck.
I loaded all my daughter's things - clothes, toys, bed, chest, and my clothes. I remember the shoes I was wearing. Black ballet slippers.
A neighbor, whom I really didn't know, helped me with the bed and my chest. I think he understood, but he never said a word. I was so tired I was afraid I would faint. I knew this was my only chance. I had to be gone before my husband got off work.
The last thing I did was stop by the bank and take out $500 cash. Why $500 and not more, not everything? I have no idea. With my daughter, $500, clothes, toys, and a twin bed, I was on the road. The journey began.
After 5 years, and more moves than I can remember, I was able to obtain a divorce. his did not stop the stalking, the breaking and entering, the calls, or the abuse. Even after he remarried he would still call, threaten, and break into my home, when he could find us.
For almost 7 years I lived in fear. We would move and hide. Change cities, states, names.
He would find us, break into our house in the middle of the night. I would be hurt. The police were no help. By the time the police would arrive, it was over. Orders of Protection were worthless. His parent't couldn't keep him away. My friends and family were long gone. They had been hurt and couldn't risk it anymore.
The fear was worse than I ever imagined.
And then it ended.
He continued to abuse other women. He was abusive to his second wife.
His second wife divorced him.
Then he killed his girlfriend.
He hit her on the head while they were walking down the street. He hid her body.
He served time for murder.
He says she made him do it.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Domestic violence is a problem with devastating results and staggering costs. A 2003 study by the CDC estimated that domestic violence cost the U.S. economy more than $5.8 billion in a single year. According to the World Health Organization, other studies have estimated the annual costs of domestic violence in the United States to be as high as $12.6 billion. The Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women notes that, so far, in 2011, 18 Minnesotans (15 women, 2 children and 1 man) have died as a result of domestic violence related homicides. In 2010, 28 Minnesotans (17 women, 7 children, and 4 men) lost their lives in domestic-violence-related homicides.
Ending domestic violence requires families, friends, neighbors, business owners and faith communities willing to get involved and provide a circle of support. Our community’s response is critical both for victims' safety and perpetrator accountability. Victims must be provided the protection and support necessary to improve their circumstances. Perpetrators must be held accountable for their violence and given appropriate penalties that require changes in their behavior.
From October 2010 to October 2011, HOPE Coalition provided services to 437 women, 112 children, and 77 men who had experienced domestic violence. These services included crisis intervention, advocacy, support groups, safety planning, information and referral, and legal advocacy. Of those served last year, 70 women and 80 children stayed at the Haven of Hope, HOPE Coalition’s domestic violence shelter. HOPE Coalition outreach advocates assisted victims in filing 41 Orders for Protection and 15 Harassment Restraining Orders.
Please help us reduce the costs of domestic violence. If you or someone you know is struggling with abuse, please call HOPE Coalition’s Haven of Hope (1-800-369-5214), the Day One Crisis line (1- 866-223-1111), or local law enforcement. You can learn more about domestic violence by visiting the HOPE Coalition website (www.hope-coalition.org) or inviting a HOPE Coalition staff member to present for a group of interested individuals (651-388-9360 extension 11).