But He Never Hit Me, Part One

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Fear took root before we married.

My life was sheltered. I’d dated a few church boys at an age where I probably shouldn’t have dated at all. When I met the beast at school, he seemed exciting and somehow mature. He had his own place, worked long hours (or said he did) and had manners

Yeah, I know. Took awhile to see the irony.

He spouted off things about protecting women and children. How a real man never hit a woman. Never thought to question just why he needed to be reminding himself so often. I was easygoing, compliant and obedient. The idea that men were somehow morally and spiritually superior already had a home somewhere deep although it’s doubtful I would have articulated the idea quite that way. From my mother came the notion that a woman was nothing without a man– any man. Combine all that with a simple naivete that tended to believe what I was told.

He said I was wonderful, different than all the other girls he knew. After that first kiss he said, ‘I know this is crazy but I’m falling in love with you.’ I wanted to be loved—badly. I had no feelings for him. High school meant Friday night movies, holding hands and a kiss on the front porch. You got a phone call on Monday to arrange your weekend or you didn’t go. I had an out-of-state, full ride scholarship and plans for the future. Trying to explain—and back off—brought on a torrent of shaking and tears. His, not mine.

After his declaration of undying love, he said he didn’t know what he would do if I broke up with him.

He would go crazy.

He would hurt himself.

He would beat up any guy I went out with next.

I told my parents and asked a few friends for advice. No one seemed to take this seriously. They said to break up if I wanted and move on. From my point of view, it didn’t seem so simple.

 Red Flags Waving

He showed me the holes he’d punched in the sheet rock of his apartment, drove down main street and pointed out the hole he made in the plexiglass sign when he heard that an old boyfriend had called to check in and wore a big bandage to cover the  resulting scabs on his knuckles. As time went on, he bragged about the people he beat up including random strangers standing in line at the 24 hour McDonald’s just because ‘he hated them on sight’ and ‘felt like beating someone up.’  Several months into the relationship, he pummeled one of his best friends—while I watched—for suggesting I be careful, saying my boyfriend who expressed undying devotion in my presence was seeing other girls behind my back.

When confronted, the beast did not deny a thing.  He didn’t repent. He never said he was sorry. He just drove the car over to his friend’s place and sucker punched someone half his size, beating him to a bloody pulp before the guy could get off his motorcycle. This incident proved symbolic for much of our marriage. He gets caught lying, beats up the messenger for being ‘disloyal’ and scares me into submission with an act of controlled violence against someone who can’t defend themselves.

I had no idea how to handle this. Passivity, not violence, marked my homelife. I decided to wait him out. I was leaving in a few months for school. I’d be gone, he’d be out of the picture. In the meantime, we had prom and senior activities. I could do this.

Right around graduation, he had a spiritual conversion. He began calling my mother and grandmother and asking how ‘to be saved.’ They prayed with him, bought him a Bible with his name etched in gold letters. My mother was thrilled. I saw little change and said so. I was informed that he’d prayed the sinners prayer, old things were passed away, all things are now new.

Nothing he’d done during our dating time could be remembered, held against him or taken into consideration. He was a new creature in Christ Jesus. After I left for school, he went on a wild campaign to become uber-church boy. I regularly got calls from family and friends telling me how broken up he was without me, how wonderfully spiritual and loving he’d become, how his conversion was a testimony to the power of God to transform sinners.

My, my– wasn’t I a lucky girl.

Today, I remember this. Back then, I was just confused.

 

 

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28 responses »

  1. I’ve not got my headset on but recognize that video thumbnail instantly, so many times have I seen “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

    I imagine it has been hard for you to write all that. Good to purge it, though.

      • Ida Mae, I to apologise for the overly intellectual response I wrote before. I got my foot in my mouth. What I should have said was something like what Morven said. Please forgive me.
        And I relate to your struggle with trying to forgive yourself. It wasn’t your fault. What is wrong with ‘wanting to be loved’? Nothing!

      • No need to apologize to me ever, Barbara! We’re all on the same page, wanting to understand how this thing works. Not too late to light a signal fire for those who follow behind us!

  2. What do we call a “system” that functions this way? By system, I mean the “church” that claims to be Christ’s church, but really isn’t? Christ is characterized by light and truth no matter the cost. This thing we call church works in denial and darkness that is oblivious even to common sense. A teen girl being told she can’t consider or remember violent patterns because the guy “found Jesus”? This can only be explained by people in the system who are getting personal reward out of chalking up another conversion in some way. Never mind the fact that this “miracle” of rebirth just happened to take place about the time he had to pull out all the stops to keep from losing the girl. And then, as subsequent years would prove, there was never any change of heart at all. Whatever this culture/system/network is that is putting itself off as Christ’s church, it simply cannot be the living, vital body of Jesus Christ. “Many will say to Me on that day….”.

    Ida Mae – it is remarkable that you have been delivered from all of this. So many women never see the light of truth and even if they do leave one beast, they are soon snared by another. Christ and His Word are our anchor, the only things worthy of our ultimate trust.

    • Its a shallow system that doesn’t understand that a rebirth is needed. Saying the magic words and shaking the pastor’s hand only puts you in the company with those demons who believe (only some don’t have the good sense to even tremble.)

      As you mentioned, no common sense. Anyone with a functioning brain should have recommended a complete separation to see if his repentance was genuine faced without the ‘prize’ he wanted and counseling/mentoring/discipleship for him, especially with his known violent background with a stable older Christian man who could see through his bs.

      • Was it a “known” violent background, in that people in that church fellowship knew of his violence? Yeah, the church in general needs to be more educated on abuse. It’s so sad how they blindly accept “in good faith” that someone has indeed changed just because of a profession of faith.

        The male who abused me for 18 years got heavily involved in a local Christian assembly when we moved to a new town. Nobody there knew about his violent past. They still don’t believe me when I tell them and I’ve been gone from him since 2003/04.

      • Oh yeah, it was known. He bragged about it constantly and still does. He’s very proud of his violent past and constantly tells the old stories and carries on about ‘what he’s capable of.’

        And during the few months before his conversion, I’d gone to several of my friends and asked for advice (not in an official capacity as counselors, just telling them of his threats to harm himself and others if I broke up and asking what I should do.)

      • Deep down I think he’s plenty happy. I believe he feeds on hurting others and causing them misery. In fact, he said as much to my own mother. That he enjoyed punishing us and ‘he really liked it’.

        The sick part I will agree with.

      • Actually Steenylou, I think you might be wrong there. These guys don’t feel bad about what they’ve done. They are not ‘sick’, as in needing therapy to fix their inner hurts. Yeah, they may have been hurt sometime in their lives, but that’s not the issue. The issue is their BELIEF that they are ENTITLED to wield power and control over others.
        Read George Simon Jrn’s book “In Sheep’s Clothing”. Then read Martha Stoddart “The Sociopath Next Door”. One in 25 people in this world have no conscience, or such a seared conscience that it might as well not be there.

        If you have no conscience, you never feel bad about what you’ve done.

      • Wow, really – happy? Hmm. The abusive ex was miserable, sometimes bemoaning how insecure he was, saying how sorry he was for mistreating me. Then his “apologies” never stuck, of course, and he’d revert back to mistreatment.

        Ah, well, God knows what’s going on in those peoples’ hearts, and the vengeance He has up His sleeve is better than anything any of us could ever deal out. I have reminded myself of that over and over through the years since having escaped from him, and now I am finally at a comfortable state of apathy towards him.

      • Yeah, Barbara, who really knows what goes on inside the heart and mind of any given person. I was just assuming that based on the ex, and even with him, who really knows. (shrugs) All I know for sure, based on what I believe, is God is the one to whom they will answer. People can change, but I’ve not heard of many abusive people getting over it at a deep level. I read about one on an abuse survivor’s message board, out of hundreds of stories from members, and in that abuser’s case it was largely to do with a mental health issue controlled by meds that made a difference for him.

  3. Oh, and I love the “Goin’ Down to the River to Pray” clip. I always thought that those white-robed people look like a bunch of zombies in a trance. I don’t think Christ is ever mentioned. And if I am not mistaken, the actors/actresses who played these roles in the movie were actually members of a local church choir. Perhaps the scene is not at all far from reality as Jesus is proclaimed (guess he is mentioned at least once) as having even washed away that armed robbery at the Piggly Wiggly Delmar pulled off.

    • Forgot to mention– Delmar was the one I had in mind here– that idea that now he couldn’t be held accountable for the armed robbery. Just couldn’t find a clip without the singing~

  4. Oh sweetie …. wish I could go back in time. Heartsick to read how the lamb was led to the slaughter, literally, by the beast. I’m so thankful you are no longer living under his roof, and I’m praying that you will be able to sleep at night. Lord, surround that little house with Michael and all the other archangels, please.

    • Thanks Morven. It’s taken years to really understand how young and clueless I was at the time and how unprotected and forgive myself for being so stupid.

      Afraid its an old story and doesn’t get any easier with the retelling.

  5. Your story here makes me refine some of my thinking. I recently wrote at post “How easy IS it to spot an abuser, when he is both Jekyll and Hyde?”
    http://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/2012/06/17/how-easy-is-it-to-spot-an-abuser-when-he-is-both-jeckyll-hyde/
    I talked about how the abuser can hide his evil side (his true nature) altogether while he is courting his intended victim, so the victim never sees any of the signs.

    In your story, the abuser was definitely, even DEFIANTLY showing his evil Hyde face during the courtship (‘courtship’ in quotes: – a better term would be ‘enticement and capture stage’). But from what I can gather, even though you were seeing the signs and were far from blind, your confusion over-rode the evidence of your senses. The church said “he’s great.” And being young, you believed them, rather than believing your own clear-sighted perceptions and gut feelings.

    Is the moral of this story something like this? It is not necessary for the abuser to hide his evil-Hyde face from sight during the early stage of the relationship, so long as he can confuse the victim so much that *she disbelieves what she’s seen*. And if her family and community JOIN IN with his agenda of tying her mind up in confusion, she’s totally snookered.

    • He wasn’t hiding anything with me, that’s for sure. I was scared and unprotected. He knew that and played it like crazy-nuts.

      I saw, I was afraid but I saw no way out. The conversion brought on pressure as he played the emotions of his new brothers and sisters– his crying, brokenness over the thought of losing me ‘to the world’ (by getting an education and becoming a professional), etc. I got so many phone calls from ‘friends’ worried that I was going to break his poor heart.

      There was plenty of other things that played in between leaving and marriage–constant barrage of phone calls lasting hours and hours every single night with tons of control tactics so guilt played a huge part. I thought I was failing at college (I had a 3.90 GPA– so where did that idea come from?) and thought I couldn’t possibly graduate. I was being told by family I couldn’t do better than this hard working, fine young man. Eventually I believed it was my idea all along and God’s will to boot.

      He was definitely trying to control/manipulate through the *threat* of violence to keep me feeling trapped and in the relationship. I think at some point he realized that my family and church members weren’t going to accept him without the so-called conversion. He spent a great deal of effort enlisting their support– although I learned after we married he was sexually unfaithful during this time frame as well.

      These people are parasitic. He learned the appropriate vocabulary for our religious group and outwardly conformed, saying all the right words and repeating the key phrases, echoing back things others said to him.

      Tactics changed after the conversion but quickly went right back before the ink dried on the marriage certificate.

      That’s tomorrow’s– going to be a tough one to write.

      • Wow, that rings so familiar. The abusive ex also enlisted various “friends” to phone me (after I left him) to say how heartbroken he was.

        And same deal on the rhetoric – he learned all the appropriate vocabulary, and how he should portray himself in public. I feel as though he used me as his teacher, to emulate what he saw in me as far as calmness and communication, and he’d do that with everyone but me.

      • He is a sociopath, clear and simple. Gets delight when he acts out of cruelty, feels strong when he hurts someone weaker than he is, and has absolutely no remorse. It is nothing short of a miracle that you and your sweet children made it out alive. What are the chances of getting a restraining order/civil protection order, or do you have one? Not that he’d pay any attention to one …. he believes he is, after all, above the law.

      • Highly unlikely unless I can catch him at something that I can document. So far, especially after Child Protective Services got involved, he’s gone back to veiled threats and codewords.

      • I’m trying to stay on the topic of physical abuse and violence but its tough to tell this story and keep leaving out certain details. There was a honeymoon phase that lasted from about mid-semester in the fall until we married, ending actually on the day we married. Note that I wasn’t actually in-state at the time but several thousand miles away.

        During that time I was convinced he’d really changed. Later all the other incidents of intimidation, bullying and physical abuse of the children were considered ‘slips’ or ‘back sliding’ when they really were the continuation of a pattern that started soon after we met up until I finally left.

  6. “I wanted to be loved—badly.”

    I’d be willing to bet that this statement holds true for almost every survivor of an abusive relationship.

    Thank you for sharing, Ida Mae!

  7. DEMONSTRATION VIOLENCE.
    I read this term recently in a secular DV article.
    Your ex specialized in demonstration violence. Beating up his mate who’d told you the truth to warn you about his sexual unfaithfulness – with you watching on.

    Demonstration violence (as the article told me) can also be used post separation during child handover. Kids are being handed over from one parent to the other. Dad gets suddenly abusive to mum, launching a sneering missile, or a verbal tirade, or stealing her car keys, or just plain hitting her, demonstrating to her and the kids that HE STILL HAS ALL THE POWER.

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