An Admission ...
Please excuse my absence - pregnancy and the birth of my beautiful baby girl have completely exhausted me. (In the best way!)
I plan on writing - eventually - about all things baby, but ... I have something more pressing to write about.
Domestic abuse has had a light cast upon it, all thanks to a video of some football player slugging his fiancée in an elevator. After watching the video I learned that she (the football player's fiancée) married the man AFTER the incident and I, like so many other Americans, reacted with "Why would she marry him?" ...
I thought heavy and hard about that sentiment - and I got mad at myself. I am far removed from the abusive relationship that I was once in ... I had let myself forget exactly how bad it can be ...
It took me YEARS to even admit that I had been in an abusive relationship. YEARS. And this is the first time publicly. I let myself disguise his abuse as "not really abusive" because I never got a black eye or got punched in the face. I was ashamed. I was afraid. And both of those feelings still have residue in this admission.
Once upon a time, I was married to a different man. This man was mean. He was manipulative and controlling and jealous and consistently made me aware of how much he hated me. His hate was contagious - and instead of hating him, I learned to hate myself. He was big, and scary, and loud ... And when I would vocalize my unhappiness he would get bigger, scarier, and louder. We lived in a dodgy part of town, and despite the risks of threat in my neighborhood - I chose to hide on the streets at night instead of staying inside with him. He would grab me and push me against walls. He would pin me to the ground and would scream in my face. He would grab me so tightly that I would have black and blue arms. He threatened me. And one time, when I tried to fight back, he put me in a chokehold ... I remember thinking that those were my last breaths. And then there were his words ... All so full of hate and rage.
What makes me mad is that I can still hear his manipulative and ugly voice scoffing at me. I can imagine his reaction to reading this - and how he would pin this all on me by saying that either "I drove him to that place" or by denying it all together. My stomach churns to think about him. There is such a large part of me that didn't and doesn't want to put this online. But it's MY truth.
I felt trapped. I tried to run away - but I was too embarrassed to admit what was happening, to the people around me. I'm sure my parents weren't completely fooled - but I remember thinking that I couldn't tell them what was going on because they might try to actually kill him. Most of my friendships had dissolved at his hands ... I felt like I had nowhere to go. No safe Haven. He controlled my money. He controlled my life. I knew I wanted out ... And then I got pregnant.
I stayed because of my baby. I stayed because I thought my son deserved a father.
Thank God for my son. He was what gave me the strength to leave. He reminded me that I could do great things - like have him! He reminded me what love and happiness felt like, and through him I found courage. And I left. My son saved my life! And again, through the grace of God, I found a man worthy of my love and worthy of my son. And that man helped me forget how bad life had once been.
The shame hasn't totally gone away ... I felt I had let God down, my parents down ... I was distressed about the stigma of being a divorced single Mom. I was embarrassed to be another American statistic. All that guilt came on TOP of the crumminess of the low self esteem I was suffering from. I almost never talk about this - there are TONS of people who I've let assume that my husband is the biological father of my son. (He's not. BUT, he's so much MORE!) My first marriage scarred me - but it also shaped me to be much stronger. For myself and for my children.
My husband now, IS my son's father. And thanks to him, our little guy will grow up knowing what love and respect look like. The perpetuation of hate ended when I left that other man. I married a man who made everything better. He taught me all about love and happiness. He endured me softening my jagged edges and leveled me back out.
Why do women in abusive relationships stay? The reasons are endless ... But it's not because they're stupid or weak or foolish. They know deep down that they deserve more. They have secret plans to leave. And I hope that one day they leave without looking back! We need, as a country, to band together to help them ... Not shame them. Why they stay has NOTHING to do with why they are abused. We should shift our focus to the abuse - and not the victims.
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