Category Archives: Domestic Violence

But He Never Hit Me, Part Three

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Woke at four needing to get some of this down. It’s like knowing you have surgery the next day. Just spent the last couple of hours getting a first draft on paper and realized, I can’t face this again for awhile.

Usually, I get thoughts down, then sit on a piece like this for a few hours,  going back  through four or five times for clarity. Not sure I can this time around.

My apologies for the poor editing. When I’m able, I will go back and rework for clarity. It may be awhile.

My husband spent the next twenty-five years ruling our household through cultivating  fear and the *threat* of violence

Following the incident related in Part Two, things get murky. When I try to wrap my mind around the last twenty years, I find disjointed fragments, ugly memories like buried splinters clogging my thoughts, popping up in the middle of sentences to block the flow.

My original intent was to work chronologically, but that’s just not going to happen.  Some things happened so often they  became almost daily occurrences. I’ve  listed a few below in no particular order.

Pets

He beat and choked the dogs when angry. This started with our second dog, a high strung, larger breed that whined and barked constantly when outside. He held the dog off the ground by a choke-chain, feet dangling and beat the dog with a belt as hard as he could until I became hysterical. I’d scream at him to stop, he’d tell me to get back inside and not to interfere again. When he looked up, his eyes were empty. No emotion—almost like nobody was home.

This happened over and over until I talked him into selling the dog. I told him I wouldn’t ever put up  with that sort of animal abuse again—it was morally wrong. I still see that dog’s tongue hanging out of her mouth, hear her crying.  I wish I could go tell her I’m sorry.

Later, he confined his mistreatment of animals to shoves—his definition for kicking with a steel toed boot, sending the animals flying across the yard. Another favorite involved choking and dragging a dog by the chain. He would become angry at one of us and turn on the nearest animal, find some fault and let fly. Then he glared at us and stalked off. This happened so often, we learned to appease him so he wouldn’t mistreat the animals. When confronted he claimed ‘it never happened’ or ‘there was no connection to any of us and it was all in our heads’ and ‘we must have had a guilty conscience.’

Toward the last, he designated one of the dogs as mine—a small breed female with a yappy nature. He decided  he hated my dog in particular and threatened her constantly, heaping verbal insults and threatening to  throw her through a window or against the wall. She weighed less than ten pounds. I had no doubt he meant me, not the dog. The pup wasn’t the one who made meatloaf for dinner.

By the way, he was the one who insisted we have pets. For some strange reason, the idea of adding a new pet to the household met with  mixed emotion.

However despite the fact that it was his decision, we were responsible for all care and training. As we were home during the day, this was logical  however it brought an uneasy dynamic. The dogs were ‘disciplined’ for lapses in training which were ‘our’ fault because, according to him, if we had done our job and done as we were told, then the dog would be perfectly trained by now. But we were all ‘lazy’ and ‘never did anything right’ and ‘he was the only one who ever did anything around here’ and now ‘look what you did.’ Later, he simply mistreated an animal and glared at us accusingly before storming off. The message was the same. This animal is suffering because of you.

Verbal Threats

He constantly warned me and the children not to set him off because if we did, ‘he wouldn’t be responsible for his actions’. I heard this so many times, it replays in his voice inside my head. Another favorite line— ‘once I start, I will not stop.’

He seemed proud of his past and his capacity for violence, repeating the stories of unprovoked attacks against innocent bystanders who ‘had it coming.’ He said over and over that he ‘still had those thoughts’ (this with a faraway, half-crazed look in his eye) and “why, why, why didn’t God deliver him when he had asked and prayed and begged for so many years?” And then the kicker—“ But He hadn’t. You have no idea the kind of thoughts I have. You don’t know what I’m capable of.” The last part was delivered deadpan, glaring  before stalking off and punctuated by cursing and  door slamming.

He came home from work on a regular basis and spoke in very graphic terms of wanting to beat up his co-workers—of how he’d do it, how he couldn’t restrain himself forever what with them all being such assholes and how he couldn’t stand to look at them without wanting to bash their heads in. Later, I recognized the same expression on his face—the veins standing out in his neck, the purple, swollen look to his skin, the eyes bugging out—when he was angry at me for not having his laundry done or putting leftovers in his lunch when clearly, I should have read his mind and known he didn’t want that meal twice.

When I related some trivial happening by someone in the family his reply was always the same (but only if the story was about a woman.) It always caught me by surprise. I’d learned to keep most stories to myself and only related those I thought were funny. He would turn, that same furious, bug-eyed look and raise his voice—‘if my wife did *that* I’d put my foot so far up her ass she’d never sit again.’ There were several colorful variations on this one, but it always involved feet and a woman’s ass.

Which brings up another point. His threats were always aimed at me, but spoken as if speaking of another.

“If my wife ever (threatened to leave, spent too much money, refused to make dinner, went out with her girlfriends)—then I would (take the kids and she’d never see them, turn them against her, kick her ass, make her wish she never had, teach her a lesson she’ll never forget)”

“No woman will ever–(treat me that way, speak to me in that tone of voice, walk out on me, take my kids, refuse to do what I say, neglect the house)”

“I’ll never put up with some woman who–(disrespected me like that, spoke to me that way, treated me like scum)”

To which I’d say—‘hey, your wife is standing right here.’  To which he would glare and stalk off.

So either he had a whole boatload of other woman around or these threats were all aimed my direction. The thing is, I don’t remember ever doing even one of the things he mentioned. I never threatened to leave him, or charge up the credit cards, or take the kids away. I guess this was a pre-emptive strike. I do not remember one of these aimed at a man. When confronted, he simply said he was talking about someone else and never made any threats.

Weapons

Early in our marriage, he was obsessed with knives. He had a huge collection and carried two at all times, everything from tiny pocket knives to huge sheathed hunting knives. Later, he added throwing knives and martial arts weapons to the collection and practiced knife throwing in the yard. When he felt ‘threatened’, he would open a long blade and walk around hiding it behind his hand, blade point held down by the fingertips, handle up past his wrist and walking with his hand next to his leg. He made sure I saw.

When I protested, saying there wasn’t any danger in the middle of the shopping mall, he assured me that ‘he could tell’ because ‘he knew people’ and ‘he would protect me.’  The men I saw him glaring at were usually much smaller than him and minorities and it sure looked to me like his staring was intended to provoke a response.  I hated going out with him anywhere.

A few years later, his dad bought him his first  handgun. Then another. And another. By my estimate, he had close to forty when I left. He also had at least twenty shotguns, and an equal number of rifles of all sizes and calibers plus many duplicates ‘as an investment’ and buckets of ammunition for every gun. He obtained his concealed handgun license, went to the range on a regular basis and kept  a loaded pistol in the car, down by his feet. We had toddlers. I protested, fussed, begged but my objections to so many guns—loaded and unloaded—made no difference. He eventually bought a massive gun safe which was crammed to overflowing. It made no difference as he had way too many to ever fit inside.

For the last ten years or so, he had two loaded guns on his person at all times, one tucked into his back waistband so he could reach around and grab it easily and a tiny revolver tucked in the top of his boot. He seemed to take a certain delight in showing these off to other men at every opportunity.

On one occasion, a few months before I left, he confronted three of our grown children with a loaded pistol in our garage. He was angry because they came in late and claimed ‘he didn’t know who they were’ and ‘saw a suspicious vehicle on our road’ (his own truck.)  Problem with that? His daughter recognized the pistol, knowing it was the largest  he owned and buried at the back of the massive gun safe. It would have taken quite a while to find it, load it and wait in the garage for the kids to arrive.

 That’s all I can stomach at the moment. More later.

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.

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.

 

 

New Series: But He Never Hit Me

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Articles have been few and far between. I’ve painted pretty flowers, painted ratty walls and painted my nails. Whistling in the dark. Sometimes this business of open disclosure is tough.

I’ve been avoiding. Seriously, completely, absolutely avoiding for months now. Thrashing around the bed last night, I realized that freedom comes with speaking the truth. I’ve spoken on intimate topics before but this one has me stumped.

Living In Fear

Late at night I wake to noises in the house. I listen for the dog to bark, then remember  the pup knows the beast. Sometimes I picture his truck in the driveway, a knock on the door. When I answer, he  blows off my face with his favorite shotgun, then goes after my babies before turning the gun on himself.

Then again, maybe he hires someone else to do the job. That car that keeps circling the block? Why keep looking at the house that way? The truck blocking the drive when I try to pull out? I don’t breathe until it moves on.

I wonder if the news will reach my new friends.

I wonder if it will hurt.

But He Never Hit Me

I lived with him thirty years. I know what he’s done, what he’s threatened, how far he’ll go to exert his manhood, to exercise complete control. Without doubt he is fully capable—and killing all of us would be the ultimate last word. And yet I cannot scrape together enough for a restraining order.

He is careful. He rides the ragged edge, staying within the law. Funny how well versed he is in the finer details. I cannot point to one incident, one definitive moment and convince a jury that this man is dangerous.

I feel crazy. To those who see only his charming side, any such talk would sound like a one-way ticket to a padded cell. But I am *not* crazy. Enough darkness leaked out around the edges over the years to earn him a reputation and those who lived with him, those closest all know. Its the main reason the grown children refuse contact.

The writing won’t be pretty. I’m triggering like crazy just thinking about reliving this nightmare.

This will take several days. Please remember me in your prayers while I write. Planning to take it in small chunks chronologically and post as I go.

Tempting to write another article on sex. As tough as that topic was, it’s way the crap easier to emote on the horrors behind the bedroom door.