Daily Archives: June 21, 2012

But He Never Hit Me, Part Two

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To my friends: Several have called or emailed, concerned for my current situation. Some of you know parts of the story I’ve been unable to share here on the blog which might heighten your concern. Let me reassure everyone that the situation has not changed.

The fear I struggle with comes and goes. It’s current and on-going and once triggered it comes back in all its fury but there are no new developments to report.  At the moment, we have peace. I am the one who lacks peace and thus, this series of articles.

I so appreciate your concern! Thank you for loving on me from afar~

Part Two

One point bears repeating. The man never changed.  Once we married, his vocabulary changed but his actions  did not and  the anger witnessed towards others now turned my direction.

He now identified as a conservative Christian and acted accordingly, at least in public. He quit cursing, quit drinking, and quit smoking but added all those back in, one by one. He had a hair-trigger temper and exploded on a regular basis.  We had a few good months during our engagement, a brief honeymoon period that ended the day of our wedding.

The first couple of years consisted of a cyclical, systematic need to control based on one principle—he had to have his way.

I know you will find this plenty hard to believe, but I had a smart mouth. It’s one of the reasons I got labeled rebellious and unsubmissive, particularly by some of the men in our church. But when someone wakes you at four in the morning to starch and press their work jeans before heading off to a construction job because they demand perfect creases, knowing full well  you face a twelve  hour day on your feet plus a two-hour commute, then stands over your shoulder furious that  you’re doing it wrong  while doing absolutely nothing because ‘this is your job and my wife will do my laundry the way I like or else’—well, a body gets a little cranky.

I tried to be careful never to attack him personally, call him names or demean his manhood  but it would be a lie to say I never crossed the line. I was smart with a dry sense of humor. When something bordered on the absurd,  I pointed out that fact.  His logic and ability to reason seemed pretty limited, probably because he wanted what he wanted when he wanted it without backtalk. Logic, truth and reason had nothing to do with anything.

I could point out something bordering on the ridiculous and he couldn’t really argue.  Unable to actually come up with a reason for his demands, he used anger, rage, manipulation and control to gain compliance. But the fact remained, I refused to do everything I was told, particularly concerning the housework.

I stood up to him. We conflicted on a regular basis.

And then he backhanded me.

Ida Turns Political and Skirts the Issue

Aha! You said he never hit  you.

Indeed I did. I said it constantly. In fact, I forgot completely for more than two decades. If someone asked—and they did a few times over the years at the oddest moments—I always said no.

Almost thirty years later I’m sitting in the counselor’s office and he asks the same question. Did he ever hit you? I give the usual response. My legs are crossed, one foot swinging away like crazy and the counselor narrows his eyes, turns sideways a little in the chair, settles his shoulders and grins at me, tipping his head in that come-on now, we’re all friends here way of his.

Really? He never hit you? Not once?

And I said, ‘But it was an accident.’

And the counselor takes a big breath and closes his eyes, shaking his head up and down, up and down, yes, yes, yes, yes, and I’m staring across the room wondering where in the blue blazes that came from.

I remember the kitchen wallpaper and the gingham curtains I made in the window so at least three years after the wedding. We’re having a fight. A run of the mill, end of cycle, blow-off-his-rage fight. Nothing special. He is yelling, I am trying to be reasonable. Trying to make him see. . . something. He walks off, I follow. I see  him whirl around and BAM. He backhands me across the face, connecting thoroughly with the side of my head.

I remember staggering. I recall not being able to focus my eyes. I remember my mouth open and slobber on my shirt. And his face, inches from mine. His voice totally changed from the raging maniac to the penitent sinner. “I’m sorry! I’m so, so sorry! I’d never do anything like that on purpose, you know that right? Right? You know I’d never hurt you, right?”

I remember not being able to answer.

And then the clincher–“ Don’t ever do that again. You have no idea what I’m capable of.”

So back in the present, the room is spinning and I’m blacking out as the light fades from the edges of my vision. So cliche’. I think I just might throw up all over the counselor’s shiny shoes and a part of my brain is processing. . . processing.

Mr. Smarty-pants counselor says, “So he didn’t have to hit you again, did he? He put you in your place and you complied with his demands.” And I want to smack the counselor but I’m aware enough to know this is misplaced or transference or some other such thing and I am hating myself all over again for being so stupid for so, so long.

No one ever bothered  asking twice.

My therapist was right. Things changed dramatically from this point forward.

I learned to do as I was told.

But He Never Hit Me, Part One and a Half-ling

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Before I left, I’d never heard the term, ‘triggering.’ I learned mighty quick after my first panic attack in the hardware store.

If understood correctly, it’s a term for any experience which ignites an emotional reaction based on past experience, but rooted in current events. A trip to the pet store for kibble today may send a survivor running for the car, blowing into a paper bag  even when she’s thoroughly forgotten the incident  where her spouse blew up over the dog food  ten years prior. (And yes, Oh Clueless Ones, you can forget an abusive incident or three, especially when  frequency rises to the point it becomes your normal.)

So quick disclaimer. This series is likely to cause triggering. The writing is as specific as possible and that can make the phenomena worse. The only time I’ll venture into the abstract is when I just can’t face something myself.

There’s good reason for this. Much has already been written about men beating their wives. Few will argue that it’s naughty and for many, this is the invisible dividing line. Did he ever strike you? If not, then it follows that:

a) the man isn’t dangerous and

b) he isn’t a threat and furthermore

c) the woman is not in danger and probably exaggerating anyway cause she just looks like the type.

In fact, the beast employed this line himself on numerous occasions. “You have no right to be afraid–I NEVER HIT YOU!” Well please, sit back down whilst I slobber all over you in gratitude.

I am fully aware that for Outsiders, this sort of bullying/intimidating crap, when told in generalities, sounds unbelievable particularly when the man in question appears to be such a fine, upstanding member of the community. The victim comes across as unreasonable and perhaps a little high strung.

Victim: “He threatened me with a gun.”

Clueless Authority Figure: “He held you at gunpoint?”

Victim: “No. I was making dinner and we had a fight. I asked him to stop calling me names. He got mad and went and got his gun and started cleaning it at the table right in front of me.”

CAF: “Cleaning a gun isn’t exactly the same as threatening you with one, now is it?”

Victim: “You don’t know him like I do.”

CAF: “When you argued, were you speaking to him calmly or did you raise your voice?”

Victim: *Silence*

The truth? This woman is terrified. I remember. She’s also stuck. She cannot explain herself, she can’t articulate her fears, and moreover, she doesn’t have the emotional energy to try to reason with someone who refuses to hear. And just to make the experience even more emotionally scarring,  she’s now getting the same old, two-sides-to-every-story runaround.

The Good Lord gifted some with the ability to communicate so others can taste the experience, even if only for a short moment. On a good day, I’m able to remember hell and share a spoonful. This series of articles tries to speak for women who’ve lived under tyranny who can’t tell their story.

Just be aware— Normals get a taste. Survivors get a flashback.

If you find yourself hiding in the tub clutching a pool cue, then sweetie, take the cell phone. You just might need to call a friend or trusted counselor. Emotions shoved below surface can bite our backside in a most annoying manner when we’re barely treading water.

*Part Two coming this afternoon unless I decide to take up cross stitch.

**If any of my counselor-type friends can add something here to make this clearer, please comment and I’ll add it to the end of the post for future readers.

 

Morven   adds:

It’s really hard for those who have never been in a domestic abuse relationship to understand how that gun, just quietly lying on the table, even unloaded, could silence you. There are no words adequate to describe how you were feeling, other than you were terrified …. and silenced. The message was clear: shut up, behave or you are dead.

There is no doubt your posts are going to trigger survivors. Reading your story might feel to some like their fresh scab is being ripped off. As hard as this may sound, that scab has to come off and the poison underneath has to be cleaned out. If you are a survivor, and reading Ida Mae’s posts are hard, do what she is doing and vomit on paper, just as you might have to literally vomit into the white china throne in your little room after you have written down your feelings. Get it out, call a friend, go to the local shelter or your police station and find a female cop. Press charges, and ask for a copy of the report before you leave the station.

There are people out there who will help you.