Coping After Domestic Abuse

I don’t usually talk about this, but I think it’s time.

I survived more than three decades of abuse at the hands of several different abusers.

Warning: The contents of this post may be disturbing and/or triggering to some readers.

To the best of my memory, the abuse started when I was around six-years-old. I was sexually abused by an uncle and three male cousins (the reason for specifying gender will become clear later on). This abuse entailed everything from voyeurism to physical sexual assault.

I was also molested by an old man who lived down the street from us when my sister and I were kids. That started at around age eight. I was made to watch slide shows of things I couldn’t even process while one thing led to another. I can’t elaborate any further on that right now.

My father beat me with a belt on a regular basis, from around the age of eight until I left home at fifteen. When I was in the fourth grade, I had to stay home from school for an entire week because my father had given me a horrible black eye.

When I was a teenager, the beatings with the belt became even worse than they had been before. I was sometimes made to take off my clothes and he would beat me while I was wearing only a bra and panties. The open wounds in my flesh were so bad that I was often unable to put clothes on again for several days. This also prevented me from going to school sometimes.

There were even times when my father would straddle me across the chest, pin my arms to the floor with his knees and press his forearm into my throat. I couldn’t breath. My face felt like it was swelling and I could feel globs of saliva running out the sides of my mouth. I wondered if it was blood and, if I was dying. He would let up just long enough for me to gasp, taking in a tiny bit of oxygen, and then go right back to strangling me. This went on until he grew bored with it, I suppose.

When I left home at fifteen, I married (with the consent of my parents) my eighteen-year-old boyfriend who I had been sneaking around to be with. I think my parents consented just to get rid of and silence me; I had started protesting the abuse and threatening to go the authorities.

Inside six months, my teen husband became abusive as well; he beat me when he was drunk, which was most of the time. He broke a kitchen chair across my back once. Another time, I was sitting in the driver’s seat of our car, refusing to let him drive because he was shit-faced, so he bashed my face into the steering wheel.

I only stayed with him for about a year. I got away because he was too drunk and/or high to notice (or care) that I was leaving. I ran away to another city where I stayed with friends.

Over the years, I was in and out of several other abusive relationships, and in and out of the emergency room as a result.

When I was twenty-five, I met a man through a mutual friend who I had grown up with. The man I met would soon become my second husband. He was handsome and charming and he treated me like a queen. He was vibrant and exciting and everyone loved him. He was the life of every party and, as embarrassing as this is to admit, I felt honored to be with him at the time. When he proposed marriage, five months after our first date, I eagerly accepted.

Things were not so bad for the first few years, although I discovered that he lied like healthy people breathe. But, hey… he wasn’t beating the shit out of me, so anything else I had to put up with was tolerable.

We had been married for four years when I became pregnant with my son. I was so happy! I was about to turn thirty and I really wanted to have a baby. My pregnancy was high-risk, and I was on bed-rest for most of it. Needless to say, I had to quit my job. That was OK, though; his salary allowed us to live comfortably enough, which was great because I wanted, more than anything, to stay home and raise my son. We both agreed that I should do just that.

Things went steadily downhill after my son was born. The ex became more demanding and even seemed jealous of our baby. A lot happened over the following few years and before long, we were living under the same roof, but in separate bedrooms. We weren’t legally divorced, but our marriage was definitely over.

The point I’m leading up to, is that he eventually became physically abusive as well. During the last beating he gave me, he was pounding my head on the floor repeatedly. I was certain that if he didn’t stop he was going to kill me. So I stopped fighting back and played dead. If he thought I was dead or unconscious, maybe he would stop. It worked. He jumped up off of me and ran out of the house. He left me there, not knowing how badly I was injured or if I was even alive.

Our son was seven-years-old at the time. He left him there too. I’m glad he did, but what a shitty thing to do to a little kid. For all he knew, our little boy would wake up and find his mother dead in the bedroom floor. He stayed gone for a couple of days and I let him sweat it out for a while, but my son started asking for his dad and it was getting close to Christmas, so I called our mutual friend (who was becoming less “mutual” by the day). My ex was there. I asked him to come home. He did.

I had tolerated a lot of abuse in my life; I had grown accustomed to it, in fact. One thing I promised myself, though, was that I would never let anyone hurt my son. I honestly didn’t think my ex would ever do what he did. But he did.

A few months later, he attacked our seven-year-old son. He was throwing him around the room like he might have done another man in a barroom brawl. Then, suddenly, this great big man was on top of my little boy in the kitchen floor twisting his arms and shoving down on him over and over again, like he was trying to push him through the floor. I was beating on his back and screaming for him to get off of my baby. I don’t know what finally made him stop, but when he did, he got up and ran out the door just like he did the night he had beaten me for the last time.

He called and said that he would be staying with a friend from work until he could find an apartment. He offered to keep paying all the bills at the house until I could get on my feet. I agreed. His tone sounded slightly remorseful, but he never asked to speak to our son or even how he was doing.

Payday came a few days after he attacked my son. My ex went and deposited about $2000 into an account that I had recently opened for myself. Bam! That was mine now and he couldn’t touch it. The second those funds were available, I packed everything I could fit into my Toyota, went and picked up my son from school, and we left town. We’ve never been back.

Things have been difficult since we left. We’re basically in hiding to this day. He doesn’t pay child support and I don’t pursue it because it’s not worth getting him riled up. We’ve spoken on the phone a few times since I left, and the last time I heard his voice, he was telling me that he would “hunt me, gut me and cut my throat” and then teach “that kid” a thing or two about manners, i.e. beat him into submission. I filed a police report (they called it a terroristic threat) and cut off all contact. That was a little more than three years ago.

We’re doing better now, but it’s been a very rocky road. I was able to attend a program through the women’s center at our community college to update my computer skills. I have a good job that pays OK and provides health insurance (the ex dumped our son off his insurance even though it didn’t cost him a single penny to keep him covered).

My current (and final) husband, and love of my life, has been an ongoing source of support in every way. I know this is the real deal, because it doesn’t hurt inside. That scared me at first; I was worried about not having that all-too-familiar knot in my gut. Then I realized that not having it, for the first time in my life, just might mean that I’m finally safe.

I was devastated yesterday when I read the news of Jana Mackey’s death. My initial emotional response was utterly overwhelming. I was sad and outraged; I even felt scared.

Given my history, it would be very easy for me to slip into the mindset of hating all men. Before Mike, every man in my life had been an abuser, and the abuse had been going on for more than three decades. I’m sure anyone could understand how that might screw with a person’s head.

But I am raising a boy! He deserves better than to have a man-hater for a mother. He didn’t cause any of my problems, he was simply born into them. And I have to make a conscious effort, every day of my life, not to dump my baggage on him. Sometimes it takes a little more effort than usual, like when I read about Jana Mackey. I had to reign myself in by using an exercise that I learned a few years back. It helps me refocus my thoughts, and avoid misdirecting my anger and/or having a full-blown anxiety attack. I ask myself two questions: What do I feel? And what do I know?

When I read about Jana Mackey, I felt rage and hatred for the man who had been accused of killing her. I felt a great sense of loss and deep sadness because a woman who had committed her life to helping reduce violence against women, had been murdered.

But what did I know? I knew that a woman had been murdered. A man had been arrested as a suspect, and that man is now dead as well. This did not lessen the sense of loss that I felt over the news of Jana’s death. But it prevented me from flying into a rage and taking out my anger on people who had done nothing wrong.

I think it’s important to note here that when I refer to “taking out my anger” on people, I am not referring to physical violence. I am strongly opposed to even spanking kids. But I can run off at the mouth and say things that I wish I hadn’t, and can’t be unsaid.

I made the small mistake of taking my exercise public yesterday. In a discussion about Jana Mackey on another blog, people were screaming “scumbag” and “murderer” and the like. Someone said that there will never be a trial by which the suspect is found not guilty, which seemed to imply that this definitely means he was guilty. I pointed out that neither will there be a trial in which he is found guilty.

Well the shit hit the fan, as I expected it would. In closing, I have a few things to say to some of the people I had it out with:

You may not like what I said, and you may not agree with it. I may have offended you or pissed you off beyond all measure. The timing was probably bad; you may think I was insensitive or uncaring. You are entitled to your feelings and opinions, whatever they may be.

But don’t you fucking dare try to twist my words into something I didn’t say or even imply, in an attempt to paint me as someone who sympathizes with abusive men who kill their girlfriends. And how fucking twisted does someone need to be to suggest that I, or anyone, could view this horrible and very real tragedy as an episode of CSI?! Talk about sick… You are the one who undermined this poor woman’s tragic death by making such disgusting comments. You disgrace the name of feminism and you sicken me!

PTSD affects my world view, but I refuse to let it become my world view. If part of what I have to do to avoid becoming incapacitated, or misdirecting my rage at the decent men in my life, is to separate my feelings from available facts, then that is what I will do. If it makes me unpopular with other feminists, then so be it. It’s preferable to the alternative.

So the next time a woman says something “unpopular”, perhaps those of you who trumpet your support for women will stop and consider the possibility that said woman has come from a completely different place to where you’ve come from. Or maybe it’s the same place, but she’s found a different way of coping and managing her pain. At the very least, perhaps you’ll take the time to ask a question or two before attempting to humiliate, belittle and shame her for voicing an unpopular point of view. She might not be as unfeeling as you think; it just might be that she’s feeling a hell of a lot more than she’s able to properly manage at the moment.

And just to avoid any confusion, this is not an apology. I am the first to apologize when I feel I have done something wrong. I do not believe I have, and I will not take responsibility for the shitty, abusive behavior of other people. That’s something else I’ve learned over the past couple of years.

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23 responses to “Coping After Domestic Abuse

  • dn2erth1137

    Thank you for sharing such personal thoughts and experiences. I applaud your courage and am glad you have pushed through a lot of the pain. You are not alone; millions share your story. Continue to encourage others through your honesty.

  • Mike

    I’m so proud of you for being brave enough to post this, for being who you are in spite of what happened to you.

    I love you!

  • Lottie

    Thank you, dn2erth, for your kind words of support.

  • Lottie

    Thank you, Mike, for always being there. I don’t know where I would be without your constant love and support. Like I’ve said before, you are my rock.

    I love you too!

  • Rj

    I appreciate you sharing such a personal story. I hope that more women will. I, too, have eluded to my own story in a few writings on other blogs. Now, I have committed an entire site to it.

    http://www.RandiJames.com

  • Lottie

    Thanks Rj! I appreciate the support. I’m only on a quick break from work right now, so I’ll check out your blog tonight when I have more time.

    Thanks again!

  • Feminist Language « Rambling On

    […] I guess I am. As a survivor of domestic violence myself, I’m here to say, without apology, that asking why victims of domestic violence stay is not […]

  • Lottie

    RJ,

    I just finished reading your blog. Since I didn’t see a way to comment, I wanted to post a message for you here. I hope you see it.

    Thank you so much for sharing so much of yourself and your experiences. Your message is powerful, and motivating. I was particularly touched by Lessons Learned, but all of it is great!

    Please keep writing. I will keep reading.

    Thank you!

  • jesurgislac

    Re: my comments on the “feminist language” thread – I’m new to this blog, and hadn’t (yet) read this post.

    Have to admit that if I had, I’d have thought twice and thought again before I responded to you – not that I want to take back anything I said, but that I do understand a bit better why you might take issue with an abstract discussion on a topic close to your personal experience.

  • Lottie

    You made some very good and valid points in the other thread and I do appreciate your comments there. Thank you very much for this one too.

  • jesurgislac

    Thanks for your response.

    I am filled with admiration for you for surviving and getting away from that abusive husband in particular – on Sunday night I got a phonecall from a man I’d known for years who only now felt able to tell me about his uncle’s abusive behavior to him and to his cousins when they were all children. It made me shake with rage listening to him – not only that this had happened to him, and to other children, 4 decades earlier, but that no one had stepped in to stop it. No one could, perhaps – but still. An adult man used to beat his daughters and his nephew, and verbally abuse them, and no one stopped him.

    I hate that. I admire you.

  • Lottie

    It is indeed heartbreaking and infuriating.

    Thank you for that last comment as well. It means a lot…

  • For my wife « The Odd Blog

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  • saintpaulgrrl

    Thank you for sharing this painful part of your life with me, Lottie. I hope that the path ahead is a much brighter one than the one you left behind. I’m here for you. ((hugs))

  • Lottie

    Thank you for reading through it, Bonnie. With Mike and “John” and friends like you, I know I’m headed for a much brighter future. ((hugs))

  • Heidi

    It takes courage to talk about this. Thank you for doing so.

  • Lottie

    Thank you for the support, Heidi.

  • Victoria

    Lottie~
    You are an AMAZINGLY strong woman. You are an inspiration to me. I recently left my abuser. The world is becoming a wonderful place to be in πŸ™‚
    Stay on the upswing!!!

    As an aside- does anyone know where I can find documentation on what we women do to cope when we are in our abusive relationships??
    ie: drinking; which was my coping mechanism while I was under my abusers control

  • Lottie

    Dear Victoria,

    Thank you very much for your comment. I’m glad to hear that you’re out of that situation and that the sun is shining brighter for you now! I know the feeling! πŸ˜€

    As to your question, I don’t know of any documentation on the subject. I took loads of pills, myself. They were all prescription, but I probably walked that very fine line between using and abusing them, to be honest. Staying medicated numbed the pain, as I’m sure you know. I also slept a lot, largely due to all the pills I was taking, but it’s also what I wanted to do! Sleep was a coping mechanism because it allowed me to escape.

    I think it’s worth mentioning that I do not recommend these methods of coping. If someone feels trapped in an abusive relationship, I would recommend contacting a local Family Crisis Center. They help victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Besides helping to provide a safe place to live, they often provide counseling, legal support, and a variety of other practical services.

    To find a Family Crisis Center in your area, simply google “family crisis center” and the name of your city or town. They also help domestic violence survivors who have managed to get away on their own, so you may find it useful to contact a center yourself.

    I wish you all the best, Victoria! You are amazingly strong as well and hearing from you has inspired me too! Feel free to comment here anytime. I’d be interested in hearing how things are going for you.

    Take care,
    Lottie

  • Victoria

    Hello Lottie~

    I will tell you a little bit more of my story.

    Hopefully other women REALLY listen and LEAVE!!! BEFORE IT HAPPENS TO THEM!!!

    The father of my children manipulated the court system. Agreed to sit with me and discuss divorce then filed a restraining order against me. The restraining order was granted in his favor. He LIED and the court refused to hear about the abuse he subjected me to because HE filed before I got to court.

    I haven’t seen my daughters (7 & 11) in 160 days; he is denying me visitation, and so is the children’s “therapist”. I have sent her multiple emails with detailed descriptions of the abuse and she still refuses to meet with me and also denies me visitation.

    I filed a motion with the court for a GAL and stated Parental Alienation. He objected to the motion. I have sent the court multiple letters and documentation regarding PA, and the therapist. I think the therapist may be seeing the forest through the trees because she finally recommended to the court that a GAL needs to be appointed.

    In my hours of research, I have found that this happens all too often. When a man thinks they are losing control and power, they use the last and worst thing they can, the children. Men will LIE and MANIPULATE the system to keep hurting us in a last ditch effort to keep the power.

    Temporary Hearing is set for Dec. 15th. I am my attorney; tried to get a pro bono through NH & MA without success. At this point I think I am the one who needs to stand up for me anyways; everything happens for a reason.

    Each of us has our own coping mechanism to numb, bury, deny, hide, run away. I am sober 4 1/2 months (wow, I actually had to stop and figure out how long)! That said, if any woman finds they’re reaching for a negative coping tool THAT IS A HUGE RED FLAG!!! It also gives him ammunition in court.

    I know how scary it is, I lived it for over 10 years. I did not think I had the strength to go on, but each and every day I get stronger and more determined.

    Lottie; Thank-you for your blog! It helps me to vent and also to get the word out there. I may ask you sometime to lmk how you did your own blog. The time is coming that I post my entire story, I just need to be patient.

    Until I talk to you again, be well kind woman.

    ~Peace

  • Lottie

    Dear Victoria,

    Thank you for sharing your story here. I’m so sorry for all you’ve been through. I can relate to some of the things you’ve shared. My ex-husband is extremely manipulative and also lied to the courts to get his way in our divorce. (That’s a long story that I may write a new post on one of these days.) Fortunately, though, my son is still with me. I cannot even begin to imagine the pain of losing him and I am so very sorry for the agony you must be experiencing over being separated from your children.

    You said something that I think bears repeating:

    That said, if any woman finds they’re reaching for a negative coping tool THAT IS A HUGE RED FLAG!!! It also gives him ammunition in court.

    Absolutely! I couldn’t have said it better myself!

    Congratulations on your 4 1/2 months of sobriety! Keep up the good work and keep fighting the good fight! I’m glad you found my blog and I’ll look forward to hearing from you any time you’re up to it! I’ll also look forward to reading your blog when you’re ready to make one. It’s very easy and I’d be happy to help you when the time comes.

    Have a good weekend and enjoy your holidays as best you can, all things considered.

    ~Lottie

  • Olivia

    Wow… your all so very amazing! iv been away from my abuser sins the 22nd march 2011!! iv got my court case at the end of this month (october 2011) and im very scared! but seeing all of this has made me fell strong!!! thank you πŸ™‚ x

  • heather

    im a year 26 year old was in a relationship with a man that i though was the love of my life we dated for years then got married the day we got married he said that i was his bitch and he rapped me he brainwashed me he hit me he was verbaly abusve he gave me an std i found out later on in our marrage that he was cheating on me i also found out that he tried to hurt my younger brother i am ended up divorcing him last year i am still dealing with a lot of flashbacks from my x husband i put up with domestic violence for 4 years with that man i can’t let that go and its eating me up inside i have gone to domestic violence classes they do help a lot but you have to let them help you get through the hurt the pain and let the classes teach you the signs of an abuser i ended up getting a tubal done because of my std so i dont have any kids i want to let everyone know that reads this do not ever let any man put a hand on you or call you out you name because that is how it starts then before you know it your in a abusve realtionship and its not worth the pain the marks that he leaves on you will go away in time but the words and the memories will never leave you

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