My Domestic Violence Story
The neglect, the silent treatments, the emotional affairs and pornography, the walking out and walking away during normal disagreements, it all seems like just a couple going through a rough patch in their marriage, right? Except it was like this from day 1.
As if I had arrived and not fulfilled a fantasy and, therefore, deserved everything I received.
I had moved countries – left behind friends and family, hobbies and organizations, familiar streets and favorite stores, to be with him. It had not been an arranged marriage but a full-blown romance.
From the first week, I tried to leave because my insides knew something was wrong. But the pain of leaving was as great as the pain of staying. My inlaws also constantly stopped me at the door and encouraged me to resolve whatever had inspired the conflict instead of going anywhere or telling anyone the truth.
Even then, I intuitively knew I was being punished by him, though at the time, I couldn’t understand why. Ultimately, the conflict was something that could have been easily resolved. Instead the emotional abuse from him began, which can take a variety of forms for victims. It does not necessarily equate to verbal abuse.
On top of it, everyone around me (I lived with inlaws) told me it was me. That I wasn’t wearing enough makeup or because I was still attending university or because I wouldn’t have a child yet or so many other things.
I soon got into the mindset that I could change things, that I could do things differently and it would be great again.
For the next several years, I worked my butt off proving myself: cooking all the time, listening to and prioritizing everyone else’s issues over my interests and hobbies. Little by little, I lost myself.
It was when God gifted me a child that I started remembering how to stand up for myself in little ways.
I remember being pregnant and being kicked out of the house while my husband watched and I cried simply for asking my mother in law if she was upset with us for going to a prenatal class. After wards, my husband angrily blamed me for causing the whole scene and I remember my sis in law patting me on the back that evening for not shouting back, for not telling anyone. I spoke about the incident to a loved one yesterday, for the first time, after 10 years.
I also noticed patterns. When my husband was stressed out by normal things like a mortgage, he was more abusive. So I rallied for us to rent a place instead and saw the difference. Buying properties had become almost like an addiction for my husband and his family though so even while happily renting, properties were continuously purchased and eventually the patterns would repeat after we moved into new homes.
With each passing year, things got slowly better in one way but also worse in other ways. I should have realized that the huge difficulty I felt in having a relationship with this unpredictable man was not how it was supposed to be. For domestic violence victims, the lines become blurred because so many of the right things are woven in with the wrong ones until someone has a hard time separating the two.
Toxic habits get excused, options to resolve things get exhausted and it becomes a matter of: tolerance or walking away.
By this point, I had been trained to keep things to myself, not tell relatives or even my own family, and not have time for friends of my own and to put myself last. I had been punished for being myself, for being independent, for standing up for myself and rewarded for focusing on domestic chores and my inlaws, and staying obedient.
So when did I start to wake up? When he started crossing new boundaries, boundaries I allowed NO ONE to cross and which symbolized rights given to me by my Lord such as physical violence on my person.
I would never ever have imagined the man I agreed to marry to be capable, to ever lift his hands in the wrong way. But I had no time to think about that when it actually happened.
It was an evening. Probably in the summer months because I had been talking about getting ice cream with my son. He was not interested in coming along and chose to stay in bed. I had been noticing some odd behavior, even for him, on top of that. This time, he would not even respond to anything I was saying as if I was invisible and it felt hurtful. I was exhausted. I told him I was going to get ice cream with my son and then I was going to stop by his sister’s houses to possibly get some help with our problems and I went downstairs to get my things. That’s what triggered it. Even the second time, years later, it was standing up for myself that triggered it.
I remember him coming down the stairs really fast as I was grabbing my keys and phone off the charger where I had left it in the kitchen. He came up to me and said I needed to be taught a lesson and I felt the fear before I could comprehend it, something I had never felt before. Then, a loud slap across my face triggered all my defenses. I screamed and ran and ran and screamed and, thinking back, I cannot remember where exactly my 3 year old son sat or stood but I knew he saw everything.
I remember dashing for the door and having it closed on top of half of my body while my son was being pulled from my arms. He wanted me to go and leave my child behind. I stepped back in and was thrown to the wall where I folded to the floor. In that moment, I realized if I wanted to be there for my son, I had to make it out alive. I made another dash out the door and ran next door to my brother in laws front porch and rang the bell like I had never rung it before. I looked and sounded like a crazy woman.
I tried hard to unjumble the words as they came out of my mouth. To be honest, I cannot remember what I actually ended up uttering. I can only guess due to the other parts I remember clearly (parts of my memory are still blacked out).
My sis in law who had been visiting their home came to the door though and responded:
“Well, you must have done something to deserve it.”
Suddenly, I lost it. They were masters at provoking me and this time was no different.
After a number of expletives, I found my voice.
“If your husband or your sister’s did that, would you also say that she deserved it…or that you did?”
My words echoed in silence as I was ushered in, away from the door, away from the public eye.
My maternal uncles came soon. Everyone talked all over the place. Exhausted, I was given a room upstairs to rest. I sat there until my mamoo came and told me to pack some essentials and that I would be spending the night with him. That I did not need to stay here.
When you’re in a mindset of survival, you don’t think about documenting bruises or calling the police or which uncle or your dad 500 miles away or how many times this may have happened already and whether there is a pattern. You either shrink back to stay safe or you run.
**Check back next week for Part 2**