**First and foremost I need to issue a trigger warning for this blog. I’ll be discussing domestic violence and verbal and emotional abuse. If you or someone you know is in an abusive situation, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.**
For a long time, I had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I was a victim of domestic violence. When I thought of domestic violence, I’d picture black eyes and broken bones. I didn’t have those. Though I experienced two instances of physical abuse during my first marriage, the constant verbal and emotional abuse caused the most damage.
My Story Of Abuse
I met my first husband (let’s call him Mike) when I was 16. My boyfriend worked with him, and they became friends. We would spend time with him and his family pretty regularly. As a young girl with very low self-esteem, my little heart would pitter-patter when this 25-year-old man would flirt with me. It didn’t dawn on me at that age that what he was doing was essentially grooming me (I later found out that he was quite fond of teenage girls).
After I graduated, my boyfriend and I broke up and I was devastated. During a particularly hard day, I called Mike and told him what had happened. I was young and extremely vulnerable, and he struck. He offered to take me out to lunch, and I accepted. From that point on, we were inseparable. He continued to live with his girlfriend, a fact I chose to ignore.
Mike’s girlfriend eventually had enough and kicked him out. I let him move into my apartment, naively believing that I was going to be the one who fixed his broken heart and help him heal. The honeymoon stage felt real; he bought me things, took care of me, and treated me like the most wonderful woman in the world.
Once Mike knew that he had me hooked, the mask fell away, and the abuse started. Even in the midst of constant cheating, gaslighting, lying, and daily abuse, I married him and had my two boys. Every argument consisted of him telling me that I was worthless, fat, ugly, and disgusting. He’d say nobody wanted me, that I should be happy he loved me at all. Our arguments often involved things like the need to buy diapers, food, or anything for the boys. Spending our money on anything besides Mike threw him into a rage, which amounted to financial abuse.
But Why Didn’t You Leave?
I did leave Mike three different times during our marriage, but I’d eventually go back. When I’d leave, he’d alternate between crying, telling me how much he loved me, and calling me a fat bitch, followed by a threat to kill me. During one separation, he kicked in my front door in the middle of the night and threatened to snap my neck. His girlfriend — sitting in the car, watching him kick the door in — called the police and got him arrested.
People might look at my situation and think I was crazy for going back. What those people don’t understand is that I’d been beaten down and made to feel worthless. I didn’t think I could raise my boys without his help; believing every nasty word he’d ever screamed at me, and no part of my brain could conceive of me being able to make it on my own. I truly believed that I was this horrible, ugly, terrible waste of space who had absolutely no worth.
I’ve purposely omitted the effect his abuse has had on my boys; that’s their story to tell. What I will say is that they were there for every terrible moment. Every scream, every damaged wall, and every tear I shed added to their trauma. We were all held hostage to this man’s moods.
Eventually, I gathered the strength — with the help of my amazing family — to leave him for good. I filed a restraining order on him, and I had him arrested after he broke it. I testified against him in court when he physically assaulted his new wife, and I worked on myself as I built a new life for myself and my boys.
And I did create a wonderful life. We weren’t rich, and we did struggle a bit, but we were free and safe. The three of us became a team; healing, growing, and living our best lives together.
Verbal and Emotional Abuse ARE Abuse
My goal with this post isn’t to garner sympathy. It’s to help people understand that verbal and emotional abuse IS abuse. Though I’d been married to this man for a brief period of time, the damage done was significant. It’s taken me twenty years to work through the fear and pain to build a positive sense of myself. And even with that progress, there are still moments when l struggle.
A perfect example of that is now. Even as I write these words and share my story, my body feels tense and my breathing shallow. The fear he instilled still lurks within me. To this day, I can’t hear a man yelling without feeling a wave of panic. I struggle to remember that I am worthy of goodness and love, and with guilty feelings for the trauma my boys have been put through.
I’ve been through some horrific experiences, but now I have an opportunity to share my story and educate people on this important subject. Abuse comes in many forms besides bruises and broken bones. It can also include:
- Name Calling
- Not letting you leave a room/house
- Taking your phone
- Driving erratically to cause fear
- Controlling money/not allowing access to money
- Anger when denied sex
- Any physical violence
Again, if you or someone you know is experiencing any of these things in their relationship, the National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-7233. You can also contact safe houses and shelters in your community. What you’re experiencing isn’t your fault.
Choosing to reach out for help can be the strongest step you’ll ever take. It can be the first step to a safe, new life.
To read more about domestic violence and how to protect children read this article How Do We Safeguard Our Kids From Toxic Relationships?