Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Why I Stayed.

#WhyIStayed I knew his threats were real.  #WhyILeft As a young mother of 21, I found the courage to leave a marriage of #DV for the safety of my son.

There's a hashtag going around Twitter right now that past victims of domestic violence are using to tell the stories of why they stayed with their abusers. All of this is coming out in response to the media craze about Ray Rice, and the video of him punching his then fiancee {now wife} in the face, until she was unconscious. 

I don't follow sports.
I watched the world series once, when the Diamond Backs played the Yankees, and I had a crush on the Yankees pitcher, Andy Pettit.
I don't read sports news, and I don't even know what team Ray Rice plays for, as a matter of fact.
I don't care.
I've seen the video of his fight with his girlfriend, and I've seen the comments and the reactions from the public, and from the NFL, and it got to the point that if I heard one more mother fucking person say something like "Well, we don't know what she did or said before the video to get him to punch her" or "You know it takes two to tango...maybe she had it coming." I was going to lose my fucking mind. 

I decided instead to tell you why I stayed. 

When I was growing up, I wasn't given the best examples of how men and women are supposed to treat each other. Healthy relationships weren't abundant in my life, and I was raised by an abusive man, who was primarily physically abusive towards my mother. Growing up, I felt the same way a lot of the people leaving shitty comments on the Ray Rice video seem to feel: like she should've done something about it, and since she didn't, it was her fault what was happening to her.

I was a kid.
I was pissed off, and frustrated, and scared all the time. 
Most importantly, I was wrong.

I didn't realize just how wrong I was until I met Jackson's dad.
Up until we met, I was a hell raising wise ass, who took no shit. I always said that if a man put his hands on me, I'd fuck his world up. I was tough, I was confident, I knew everything, I was untouchable, in my opinion. I dated one guy briefly who out of nowhere grabbed me by the throat in an argument, and I smashed a porcelain ash tray into his nose and left. I never saw him again. 

That was how I always assumed I'd handle things if a man was every violent with me again. 

And then I met Jesse.

It started out, I was going to keep our relationship casual. I was in control, I knew what I was doing. 
And then I got pregnant.
We decided to keep the baby, and figured moving in together would be make things easier, in an attempt to try to make it work and be a "family" for the sake of Lainie and this new baby.

I was determined to make things work.

It started out, that he teased me a lot. Making jokes about the way that I dressed, or did my hair, or my how much make up I wore. I'm a busty girl, and pregnancy definitely adds to that department, and being a punk-rocking 20 year old, most of my shirts showed some cleavage. He would make jokes, and I would laugh them off. And then he'd make more. And then his jokes became more harsh. And then they weren't funny anymore....and then they weren't jokes anymore. When teasing me didn't get him what he wanted, he would aim to make me insecure. 
He'd say things about how "gross" I looked, or go so far as to say that the way I dressed embarrassed him or made him feel like he was out with a hooker. 

Let me make it clear at this point, that I did not dress like a hooker. I dressed like a 20 year old who had a pretty kick ass body at that time. Tight jeans and tank tops, nothing made of pleather, no thigh high boots or bunny fur jackets, ok? 

It started with little comments that made me feel bad, but about things that seemed little.
I was determined to make it work, to make him happy, so I just figured I'd adjust my wardrobe.

It didn't stop there. 

Once he realized he'd gotten into my head, nothing was off limits. 
He gave me shit about my hair, my make up, my shoes, the way I talked, the way I walked {did you know I wiggle my ass too much when I walk?!}, everything. I started to feel worse and worse about myself. Once he was done with my outsides, he went after every little thing I did. I was a shitty cook, I didn't wash the dishes right, I bought the wrong groceries....the list goes on. 

I started asking him to approve my shopping lists. 
Making dinner made me a nervous wreck. 
Nothing I did was right. 

What I didn't notice was that the worse I felt about myself, and the harder I tried to please him, the more control he gained. 

The next thing I knew, he'd alienated me from my friends because he didn't like any of them and didn't want them in "his" house. I'd bought all new clothes, I had to have him approve my outfits before leaving the house, and I didn't do anything without his permission. 

None of that was enough though. 
He became suspicious of me, and every move I made. He went out of town for a weekend once and told me he had thought about putting cameras over the front door to make sure I didn't have any boys over, but instead decided just to have his friends "check up on me". 
I was 6 months pregnant.
When I was 7 months pregnant, and as big as a whale, he'd make me take Lainie with me any time I left the house, even for a moment, even if I was going to run an errand on his behalf. He'd check the timestamp on my grocery store receipt, and if there was too much time {in his opinion} between that stamp, and when I arrived back home, he'd grill me and Lainie until he felt satisfied that we hadn't gone anywhere else, or met up with anyone. 

And eventually with the control, came the humiliation.
I had started to get really pissed at how I was being treated. I wasn't a child! I did nothing wrong, I didn't deserve this! I started doing small things as a way of rebelling: throwing out my grocery store receipts, inviting my "banned" friends over and hanging out with them outside so he couldn't technically kick them out, etc. 
When he saw he was slowly losing control, he upped the ante.
He started humiliating me, in private at first, and then in front of his friends, and even in front of Lainie. 

I remember one night I came home from visiting my sister, and he didn't believe that it had taken me 20 minutes to drive home. He grabbed me when I walked in the door, and insisted I account for every second I had been gone. When I didn't comply he got angry. He insisted I had met a man, had sex with someone. I laughed in his face - how ridiculous! I was out-to-here pregnant, and swollen, and tired! I hadn't left the house unsupervised in months! Who exactly was I screwing?! 

In order to prove that he owned me, he shoved his hands down the front of my pants and into my underwear to "check" and make sure I hadn't been with anyone. 

I never told anyone about that before. 
It was so disgusting, and so violating, and so painful and rough and mean, and just plain fucking crazy. 

I felt completely alone, and totally at his mercy. 

And that's when the physical abuse really kicked off. 
He threw things at me, poured soda, ice water, hot Starbucks on me. He dragged me by the hair from my bed to the shower, and threw me in it with the water on full hot. He'd hold me down scream in my face, grab me by the hair and make me look at him, threaten to kill me.
One particularly bad night, he came home hammered drunk, and woke me up to make him some food. 
He sat in a chair in the dining room and watched me make him his dinner, not saying a word. When I was done, I turned to hand him his plate, and he just stared at me. 
Finally, he started counting: "3....2....." My hands were shaking. He paused forever between each number. I had a feeling I knew what would happen when he got to 1, but I stood there frozen. 
Finally he whispered "One...", and lunged out of his chair toward me. He tackled me to the ground, and started hitting me. 

I was pregnant with his kid. 
I had a 4 year old daughter. 
My family was not even on speaking terms with me because I was with him. I'd lost all my friends, I had no money, and I didn't even own my own car. 

I felt completely stuck there.

And, because of the intense emotional abuse that had preceded all of this, and the slow, methodical breaking down of my self esteem, my confidence, and my self worth, I believed I was to blame. 
I believed I deserved what was happening to me on some weird level. 

And that's why I stayed. 

I always thought "I'm stronger than that. I wouldn't be a victim. I know better. I am not my mother. I am not weak. I would fight back, I would leave."

What I didn't realize is that they don't hit you when you're still strong, when you're still aware, when you're still connected to the resources you need to get out. 
They hit you much later, after they've taken that all away from you. 

Once you're broken. 
Once you're scared. 
Once you're completely dependent on them. 

Once they get you to believe that it's your fault.

I don't talk about any of this often, or with many people. Most of what I wrote here today, I've never told anyone in it's entirety. 
But maybe we should talk about it more. 
I remember talking in some very small way about having been in an abusive relationship before, with some young girl, and her response was "You don't seem like the kind of person who would let a guy hit her in the face or abuse her."
I understand that she meant it - weirdly - as a compliment, but there was so much wrong with that statement I couldn't even begin to address it. 

Maybe more strong women should tell their stories, so that people stop thinking it only happens to certain types of girls. 
So that the girls it's happening to stop thinking it's only happening to them. 
Or that it's happening to them because they're weak. Because they're not strong enough to fight back. To get out. 

Every nine seconds a woman in this country is abused. 
Maybe we should talk about it.

If you are currently experiencing domestic violence, there is help available. 
Get out. Get to a shelter. Let someone know what's going on.
National Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1-800-799-7233

Don't let your story end like this.

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