October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Beverly Diehl is highlighting one story per day this month from a victim of DV on her Writing in the Flow website. I am honored that she chose my story to present today. Here is the link. You can also read my story below:
I was married to my abusive husband for 20 years. Before we were married, there were signs he might become abusive one day, but I missed them:
· He always blamed others for his mistakes.
· He would stop speaking to people if he was angry with them. It was always the other person’s job to reconcile with him.
· He had a volatile temper. For example, he would throw his golf clubs at the trees if he made a bad shot on the golf course.
The first 5 years of our marriage were good. The next 5 years not as good. The next 5 years were becoming abusive. The next 4 were very abusive, and the last year was hell on earth. However, I was determined to never be divorced for two reasons:
· I came from a divorced family, and I knew the pain of being a part of a broken family.
· I am a strong Christian, and I took my marriage vows very seriously. I wanted to honor the Lord, and do what I thought was right in His eyes.
It took me a long time to realize I was being abused, since I wasn’t being beaten. My ex-husband’s favorite tool was the “silent treatment”. Whenever he was angry with me, he would stop talking to me, and pretend I didn’t exist. He also used psychological abuse on me by swearing things that I remembered happening never occurred – making me doubt my sanity. He used economic abuse by keeping me on an allowance like a child, then withholding my allowance when he was angry with me. He used verbal abuse by calling me names, ordering me around like a servant, and raging at me.
I tried everything I could to figure out what I did to make him angry. I did whatever I could to keep the peace. I ended up “walking on eggshells”, changing my life around so that he wouldn’t be mad at something I did or said, or something I didn’t do or say. The problem was, nothing I did was ever good enough. I couldn’t keep the peace, or prevent his anger.
Then, he hit me with a belt one day. I went to our church, and asked them for help. He was FURIOUS! He was so embarrassed that I had “lied” about what he had been doing (his words). He never forgave me for that. I insisted he go to counseling with me. I didn’t know at the time that an abused woman should never go to joint counseling with her abuser. This made things worse. The counselor (who did not understand domestic violence) told me to explain to my husband the things he was doing that were hurting me. This gave my husband more ammunition to hurt me. The counseling sessions made me even more unsafe than I was before.
Once the pastors at our church knew what was happening, my husband never hit me again, but he did trap me on the floor, lock me outside my house, yank covers off me while I slept, and one day told me he wanted me to die when I went out in my car. The next day, he asked me very calmly, “How does it feel to know I want you to die?” I realized later that all these things are considered physical abuse.
Even then, I wasn’t fully aware I was being abused until he told me to tell our children he had never abused me. Something in me balked at this. I couldn’t do it. It would be a lie, and it would be telling my kids that it was OK for my husband to treat me this way, and it was NOT OK!
So, I started looking for a definition of abuse, so I could show it to him and say, “See, you have been abusing me”. But I couldn’t find a good succinct definition of abuse that I liked. In desperation, I finally called the National Domestic Violence Hotline. The advocate who I spoke to told me that I was being abused. She recommended I read Patricia Evan’s book “The Verbally Abusive Relationship”. I bought it, and realized my husband was doing almost every abusive behavior described in the book.
After that, I decided to leave him. Within 6 weeks I had gone to my local women’s crisis center for free counseling, found a lawyer, and gotten a restraining order, kicking my husband out of the house.
That was seven years ago. I have received a lot of individual counseling and have joined support groups for victims of domestic violence. With the help of the Lord, I consider myself mostly healed. I am remarried, and my new husband is very loving and supportive. Every now and then I feel the effects of my past abuse if my husband is upset with me, but we work through it. I am not ashamed of my experiences, and will tell people about it; though I don’t go around announcing it to everyone I meet.
My advice to someone who is being abused is to get educated about domestic violence, and get help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−SAFE(7233). Also, you can check out my Get Help page for other websites and books that can help you.
Perhaps parts of my story sound familiar to you. If you are a Christian woman who is in an unhappy marriage because her husband is treating her abusively, please know that God does not want you to be treated this way. He loves you, and would never treat you this way Himself. He would want you to seek information and help. You are the daughter that He came to die for as it says in John 3:16 – 17:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.