Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Breaking the Silence


Chris Brown and Rihanna, Whitney and Bobby…while domestic violence seems to be deservedly discussed more than usual these days, there will never be enough awareness.  Most survivors keep quiet when faced with the ignorance that often surrounds this issue.  We may be more inclined to repost violence related issues on social networking sites (along with fellow women's rights advocates), or get into heated debates on the topic, but nobody ever REALLY shares what happened to them.  I was reading the detailed description of Rihanna being beaten, and I realized she had no choice in what the world would know.  Most of us don't want the world to know, and then the cycle continues - nobody talks...nobody notices...and society as a whole ignores the needs of the women involved.  It’s taken me 16 years to tell my story, and now, as a mother nearly twice as old as I was when I was that scared, manipulated 19 year old girl, I’m done being silent. 

I wish I could say I’d left it all behind and it didn’t affect who I am today.  I wish I could say that the nightmares were gone, that I didn’t still have random “sightings” where I’m convinced it’s him when it really isn’t.  I wish I could say that I didn’t have PTSD breakdowns, complete with flashbacks, every time I see someone get hit, strangled or held at knifepoint in a movie, leaving me sobbing in a bathroom.  Over the course of 16 years, these things have subsided dramatically, and the panic attacks are just about gone, but everything still lingers.
People often hear about domestic violence and their most immediate response is to question why the abused stay.  I’m not going to begin to explain the complexities of the masterful manipulation I endured, or the details of how I ended up with him because my big heart just wanted to help him.  If you haven’t been through it, I don’t think anyone could ever understand what being beaten, spit on and raped (sometimes at knifepoint) on a daily basis does to your confidence, or what it does to a person to live in fear that the next time he strangles you or lightly drags a knife across your throat will be the last time.  If you’ve never TRULY feared, begged and pleaded for your life, it’s difficult to convey.  However, perhaps I can shed some light on what it’s like to try to leave, and maybe, just maybe, I can stifle some of the ignorance surrounding this issue and that immediate assumption that these women should “just leave.”
For starters, I was quickly disconnected from family and friends in the manner that many abusers do, which was aided by the fact that we had no phone.  Eventually I lost my job as a nanny, because rather than help me when they saw me come to work with bruises, they fired me without notice and sent me off to be with him 24-7.  My boyfriend had no car and I worked 45 minutes away, and while I understand their apprehension, I loved their daughter probably more than they did, and I was never late since it was my only time away, despite the fact that he would often keep me up all night on purpose as another means of control.  I was crushed when I was fired - losing my utopian alternate life, and having to say goodbye to a little girl that I loved dearly, without any warning.  I remember crying to him that I lost my job and him saying, “remind me to be nice to you tonight” and a few hours later, having to drive us home from a friend’s house after he broke my nose, since he didn’t know how to drive a standard transmission. 
When I think back to the times I really tried to leave, a lot of attempts ended up in the deadbolt room.  There was a bedroom where we lived that oddly enough had a deadbolt on the door.  A broken one at that, so it could be locked and then he could put the knob in his pocket.  Let’s just say good things never happened in the deadbolt room.  But during a specific escape attempt, I remember being locked out of the house in the middle of February without a coat, because I fled as quickly as possible.  Since I had informed him I was leaving, I was outsmarted and my keys were removed from my purse before I left.  My shirt was torn all the way down my back, because that’s how hard I pulled to get away, and that’s how hard he held on.  I actually had quite a few shirts that met their demise that way.  So I stood there, bare back in the cold February day, while being mocked and laughed at on the other side of the door - so much for leaving. 
Another time I was supposed to go visit my parents.  Instead I ended up locked in a cluttered closet for over 24 hours, crying, terrified and hungry in the darkness, feet and fists sore from trying to get out - never knowing if I’d be released or just left there to rot and die.  Consequently, my parents were understandably upset that I never showed up, and yet I couldn't tell them why.  Their disappointment and my shame played beautifully into his agenda of keeping me isolated (in addition to literally locking me up in isolation).  But the most significant memory of trying to leave him was what came back to me so clearly when I was reading the details of the Rihanna/Chris Brown beating, and it was what inspired me to write this.  The time I got away set a number of things in motion that allowed me to get away for good.  However, the beating that preceded it was witnessed by about eight of his friends (all male), and NONE of them stopped him, NOBODY helped me, and they all just stared…
We were in the parking lot of this apartment complex, and we were getting ready to leave and saying goodbye to his friends when some more of his friends pulled up and he got out to talk to them.  Eventually he got in their car, and I saw him lean over and snort some coke.  This was something I never did, and he actually didn’t either (he had in the past, but not while we were together).  I did not want to see what his already explosive anger would be like on coke, and I was livid that he did it.  I immediately went to start the car, and he jumped out of their car in a fury.  The passenger window was still down all the way from when we were saying goodbye to the first set of guys, and I had an old two-door with giant doors/windows.  He screamed that I would never leave him and reached in for the keys from the passenger window.  I swung both legs around from the driver’s side, and tried to kick at him to keep him from getting the keys.  At that point, he grabbed my ankles and pulled me through the window, so my back and head slammed to the pavement from the height of the window.  He then proceeded to kick the living shit out of me IN FRONT OF ALL OF HIS FRIENDS.  They did nothing.  They stood and watched.  They didn’t even ATTEMPT to stop him. 
When it was all over I was “allowed” to leave alone for the first time.  I picked myself up and got into my car.  I remember going to a gas station payphone and calling a dear friend at the time, who was my ex who lived in another state.  Since I was ripped away from all my friends and family, this guy was about all I had left who he didn’t know about and hadn’t cut me away from.  That day set in motion events that led to a plane ticket sent so I could go live with my ex and his parents, and to this day I’m still grateful and feel that I owe them my life.  But not everyone has someone like that, and not everyone is so lucky.
So the next time you’re inclined to think, “Why don’t they just LEAVE!?” I hope you will remember my story.  It is not so cut and dry.  I didn’t even have any children with this guy, and we weren’t married.  I also had the advantage of moving halfway across the country for some time, in order to prevent any follow up harassment and potential for going back to him.  As it was, years later he was still stalking me at my job, but enough time had passed that I was invulnerable to his manipulation.  But my point of all of this isn’t just to help people understand the difficulties of leaving, and it’s not some public display of trying to cope.  I’m a wife and a mother now.  I am so far from the person I was at 19, and yet, I still carry her with me.  I still say “I’m sorry” way more often than I should, and could probably stand to work on my self-image.  But I realized tonight when I decided to write this that despite all the positive changes I've made in my life since that time, I’ve been contributing to the problem.  I’ve been silent.  Nobody wants to talk about these things, and my hope is that if one more person comes forward, it will make it that much less taboo to discuss. 

I’m the woman you see at the co-op bagging produce in her little mesh bags and wearing her baby – not someone you’d envision getting beaten bloody on a daily basis.  But we’re here.  We exist.  We have stories, and we need to share them and support one another.  We are your mothers, your sisters, your friends, your coworkers, your daughters and even your grandmothers.  We bag your groceries, teach your children, serve your coffee, and even serve in congress.  Survivors are EVERYWHERE, they are just often silent about their struggles.  People shouldn’t be dismissing them based on their inability to leave a dangerous situation, they should be trying to HELP them. 
When all of this happened to me we lived in a duplex with thin walls and as I mentioned, no phone.  I used to scream and plead with the people on the other side of the wall to call the police.  They never did.  EVERYBODY has the power to change this when you suspect something may be wrong.  Don’t just sit back and watch it happen, thinking it’s none of your business.  I intend to teach that to my daughter one day, and I only hope that she will understand it all.  That she will be empowered and not get into the same kind of trouble.  It breaks my heart hearing about all these young girls tweet about gladly and willingly letting Chris Brown beat them.  I just can’t even wrap my head around that mentality.  I spent at least 10 years trying to come to terms with the fact that it wasn’t my fault.  I’m still not entirely sure I’ve convinced myself, but I do know I’d never wish it upon myself no matter who the guy was.  It makes me question the future for my daughter, and makes me realize there’s a tough job ahead in getting her on that road to empowerment.  It all starts with breaking the silence.  The more we speak up, the greater the chance that people will listen.  So I ask you to please share my story, so one more voice can be heard and the awareness can spread.
“In the clearing stands a boxer, and a fighter by his trade
And he carries the reminders, of every glove that laid him down or cut him
‘Til he cried out, in his anger and his shame
I am leaving, I am leaving
but the fighter still remains”
   - “The Boxer” by Simon and Garfunkel

Thank you for reading my story


Julian@connectedmom said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

I tried to comment earlier! I hope it works this time! Thank you so much for being strong enough to share your story. I hope that it is an inspiration for others!

Kayce Pearson said... [Reply to comment]

I just want to say how amazing you are for putting this out there. I can't imagine how hard that must have been. This is an amazing piece, and I really really hope that those that have read it will change how they view this. Or that they help someone in need of it, instead of turning a blind eye like those you talk about in here. This needs to be talked about, it needs to be seen and shown how destructive not doing anything truly is.

I am sending so much love and so many hugs, and I hope tonight, you take it easy on yourself because this couldn't have been easy to put out there <3

Mrs. Squish said... [Reply to comment]

I too, am a survivor. I have had nightmares and flashbacks, and because my worst events took place during pregnancy and the first year of my daughter's life, I almost completely lost several memories. There are events I remember well and some I have a very hard time
Recalling. If people are yelling and screaming I feel my spirit sinking into my toes. Confrontation makes me queasy. I will deal with the fallout the rest of my days... It's really altered my path quite significantly. Thanks for sharing, it was a trigger but I feel that our path to healing sometimes needs a challenge to remind us why and how things are much better when we look at perspective.

Amy said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you so much for your courage sharing your story Mrs. Squish! Stay strong! It DOES get better with time...

Kathy said... [Reply to comment]

Amy - you are so strong. thank you so much for sharing your story.

Ashley2022 said... [Reply to comment]

It was never your fault, no matter what you did or what he says you did, or him even telling you its your fault. It's how abusers manipulate. A REAL man would never hurt or strike or be violent towards a woman, no matter what. Your story brought me to tears.

goneva said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for sharing. You are a strong and amazing woman. I know you will do everything in your power to teach your daughter to be strong and self confidant. Bless you. I feel for all you have been through. It makes my experiences seem minor.

Very23 said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for writing this Amy. You are so strong! I admire you for putting this piece out into the world, and I'm sure it will influence people to act in the face of domestic violence. This is really powerful.

Sarah at Bella Luna Toys said... [Reply to comment]

Dear Amy,
Thank you for sharing your story, and letting the world have a glimpse of what it's like to live in a physically abusive relationship. I am so happy to read that you finally got away from the relationship. Wishing you much strength and courage as you continue to shine light on this subject, and offer courage to other women.
Many blessings,

Heather H said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for posting this, Amy. You've done a great service to women in bondage and survivors everywhere.

Gabriella States said... [Reply to comment]

This has inspired me... To share my story... Which is current.
I hope one day to have a friend who can help me leave.

Id like to speak with you.

wren64 said... [Reply to comment]

thank you Amy for your courage and voice. I agree to be very gentle with yourself after putting your story out there, you have made yourself vulnerable which, paradoxically, takes great strength and a lot of emotional energy. Our stories are changing the world. Here's a link to copy and paste if you or any of your readers are interested in my little film about healing from childhood sexual has a positive tone.
I had panic and shame attacks making it but I agree how important and necessary it is to be speaking up. Blessings and warmth to you, Wendy

Mary said... [Reply to comment]

Since I have been in the very edge of the same problem, I heartily applaud your speaking out. It is time that everyone began to know how devastating this problem can be. The sad thing for me is that I still love the perpetrator of my problems, but I do know better than to be in the same place alone with him. I do call the police when I spot a problem, and hope it is the right thing to do. Thank you, and my you receive Heavenly Father's richest blessings.

Genevieve @The Way of the Peaceful Parent said... [Reply to comment]

Amy, I shared your post yesterday but didn't have time to write to you here in your blog. I just want to write some words of support, care and empathy. My heart really goes out to you, I shed tears reading your story and imagining the courage it must have taken to write and publish it.

I'm a survivor of physical and sexual abuse, it's a very difficult concept that those who haven't been through this level of terror, literally living in fear for your life on an ongoing basis, find it hard to imagine what it could be like and what it takes to survive and heal. You are one beautiful brave woman and I thank you for sharing your story, you're a hero in my eyes for sure. Love, peace and blessings, Genevieve

KARA said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you for sharing your story. I also posted a DV post this week. I did not suffer on your scale but understand the not leaving, the shame. This is very brave. I am not sure we ever find peace but getting your story out I believe helps x

Lyn said... [Reply to comment]

Fortunately neither of us were killed. I wasn't in your kind of situation, but grew up with physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. I was able to leave as I got older. It was easy to leave. Easy, that is the crucial difference between us. I cannot imagine how you found the strength to leave your horrific situation .
I will keep the 19 year old you in my heart forever and I send you Blessings for all your pain and your path going forward. Thank you so very much for telling your story. May your courage inspire others to tell theirs! And may we all, men and women together, break the silence, and do what we can when we suspect domestic violence.

Post a Comment