Tag Archives: bullying

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.

No One Will Believe You

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Recently, I asked a friend for feedback on these first few articles. With her permission, I’m going to address a couple of concerns.

She said she was uncomfortable with the term, “the beast.” Was he really that bad?

And here we encounter a problem I’ve bumped my head against numerous times. She may have asked if the anti-husband really deserves to be called a beast, but that’s not what I heard. Without realizing it, my friend triggered a case of the Wild-Eyed Crazies.

What I heard: Are you exaggerating?

The scary part? I’m actually minimizing.

Folks want to believe only what they see. In the case of verbal abuse, emotional abuse, bullying and other cases where a dominate party violates the trust of those dependent on them, scars aren’t always visible. You can’t imagine how many times I wished the anti-husband would just hit me already so I could call the police.

It’s hard for those outside  the fractured family circle to understand the kind of torment these men dish out.  If I walked around covered in bruises, black eye, broken bones protruding through the skin, no one would question my angst. But we’re talking injuries you can’t see inflicted by actions no one else witnessed.  You’re just going to have to take my word for it and that’s a huge leap for those who can’t imagine anyone would purposefully hurt their own wife and children.

It also plays smack dab into the hands of the abuser.

Typical Family Time

The beast loved to verbally beat the bloody hell out of me and the kids right before company pulled into the driveway. Then as we stood there bleeding, he morphed into Totally Charming Man– witty, funny, man’s man, envy of wives everywhere.  Throughout the coming evening, he sat  back and watched, taking potshots at each of us in turn, saying things no one else could possibly understand without the subtext.

Challenge anything he said, I wound up looking like a heinous bitch. The kids react, he punished them publicly, making an example of them, showing his audience how fully he controlled his home. Was this abusive? Taken as an isolated incident, maybe not. Day by day, damaging friendships, dividing the individual family members from one another, isolating the family unit which no longer wants outside contact with the world– You bet it was.

Could anyone else tell what was going on?

Only if they’d lived through  something similar. Later, several friends came and apologized. One said, “I lived with an abusive alcoholic father for 18 years and you had red flags waving all over the place. I should’ve known.”

Appearances Are Deceiving

Ours looked like the perfect Christian home. Others wanted to model our success. But please understand—if you only saw us sitting in a pew an hour on Sunday morning, is that really any indication of what goes on behind closed doors?  If you come over once every three months for barbeque and cream soda, can you possibly have any inkling what’s going to happen the minute your car pulls out of the driveway?

Tell Me What Happened

I can’t. If I told you I was sexually abused as a child, would you ask me for details? Would you want me to recount the incidents, one by one so you could judge for yourself how damaging these might  be? Would you decide that fondling really isn’t all that bad and I should be over it by now? Or get into a discourse about how your neighbor’s wife was repeatedly sodomized and that is much, much worse. In comparison, what you describe doesn’t sound  like abuse at all.

And yet, abused women who live with hateful domination, verbal onslaughts lasting hours on end, raging fits designed to punish them for their crimes,  and constant  threats of violence  get this reaction all the time. Tell me a few incidents. Tell me what happened. The implied message? I’ll be the judge of whether this is abusive.

The very worst incidents are the ones I don’t want to remember. The words ‘domination’ and ‘manipulation’ and ‘bullying’ are codewords for memories that lap at the edges of the very stuff it takes to get through another day. I use them to talk about what happened without plunging back into the muck. A triggered memory–one that shows up without invitation– can set back recovery by days, weeks, even months, depending on  how long  it takes to find the shreds of truth that barely hold me up and weave them back together.

It’s taken years to even admit to myself that abuse took place. How can I expect you to understand in the thirty minutes before you head back to your semi-normal family and the husband who may annoy the crap out of you, but never would purposefully set out to destroy your soul?

Google This:

  • Emotional Abuse
  • Verbal Abuse
  • Sexual Domination
  • Manipulation and Control.

If you really want to help,  really want to understand, you’ll have to educate yourself. Material is out there, pages and pages of the stuff. You’ll have to put criticism to one side and realize that women and children coming out of these marriages are showing the *effects* of abuse.

Please try to understand:

That pain you see, making you uncomfortable, isn’t free floating out there in space.

Something caused it.

*Someone* caused it.

The pain itself is a pretty dadgum good indication the story is authentic and, Yes Virginia, it really was that bad.

Don’t  judge  victims based on your own observations. You can’t see the damage done to the human spirit with eyeballs. You can’t examine the broken and bloody soul, x-ray the innards, assess the wreckage. What you *will* see is a fairly put together woman who’s learned to shut up and play nice, peeking out around the very frayed edges who probably overreacts to seemingly minor statements.

You can’t expect a survivor to explain in ten minutes it took her a lifetime to understand.

Why Did I Stay?

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Why did you stay?

I have no idea.

All I possess are tiny scraps,  embryos that might grow into possible half truths that will never tell the whole story.

As futile as the exercise might be, I still wrestle with the question every single day.

You Don’t Have Grounds

At first I stayed because I couldn’t catch him at anything.  I was told bullying wasn’t actual violence, threats weren’t actual abuse, raging fits were differences of expression. Scraps of paper with women’s names and numbers in his wallet were meaningless. Refusing to introduce me to his friends we met while out shopping only showed a lack of social graces on his part and revealed  much more about my suspicious nature. Old girlfriends calling the house meant nothing.  Everyone drunk dials occasionally. Oh! And you didn’t actually catch him with the porn, now did you?

In the prison of my narrow world, no proof meant no grounds for divorce.

Woman, Submit!

I stayed because those in my church  were quick to assign blame for marital problems on wives, not husbands. Took years to realize this wasn’t personal but a result of years of women-blaming going way back to Adam, Eve and one tricky reptile.

Blame the woman. She’s suppose to be the helpmeet so get busy with the helping already. Your man struggles with sin? Clearly a reflection of the many ways you failed him as a wife. Want to read more on this, head over to this site. (Just not after a big meal.)

Any Father is Better Than Divorce

Later on, I stayed for the children. The anti-husband told me on numerous occasions that no woman would ever take his kids away from him. He’d get full custody, he’d make my life a living hell, he’d turn them against me, I’d never see them again.  I believed him.

Perhaps it was arrogance, but I thought I could protect the children by staying right where I was— a living wall between them  and their father, even if it killed me.  I could punch his buttons just fine, thanks much, deflect his anger away from them and take the hit while they ran for their rooms. I figured, I’m plenty big, they’re little. I can take it, they can turn eighteen and get out of this hell hole.

He hadn’t crossed the line into physical abuse at that point (although the line was getting mighty soggy) and the children would get an earful of his twisted thinking during visitation. And who knew what he’d do without someone around to call the police?  The idea of the beast, alone with a pile of hurting pups who adored his every word at that point in their young lives scared the crap out of me.

The problem with that reasoning? By that time, I had no idea where the lines might be so how could I judge if he’d crossed one or not? When he screamed at our twelve year old daughter over how long it took to wash the dishes, grabbed her bodily and pinned her against the wall over his head, shaking her—that wasn’t physical abuse, was it? When he berated the kids for hours at a time before whipping them across the backside until they bruised—that was just discipline, right?

A woman who’s been emotionally and verbally battered for over a decade is punch drunk. Reasoning? What does that even mean? More like surviving, one crisis to the next, waiting for the another round to begin.

Saying I stayed for the kids sticks in *my* craw these days. Maybe it was the right thing to do. Maybe if I’d been a little braver, left a lot sooner,  maybe I would’ve met a kind man who modeled love for the children.

This is my biggest regret and on this particular topic, hindsight hasn’t  help one bit.

I Must be Crazy

The fault must lie within the one whining about the difficulty of her outwardly perfect  life. Hadn’t I been told time and time again how blessed I was to have such a perfect husband? Handsome and charming and such a godly man! After the thirty-second time some lady cries at your dining table, confessing her sin of envy over your perfect marriage you, start to think you must be nuts.

Later, the anti-husband learned a little trick called, Gaslighting. Look it up. This made the last five years particularly fun.

God Hates Divorce and He Doesn’t Like Me Much Either

Whatever reasons, large or small, there’s one I identified only recently. I stayed because I believed  its what God required.

As a Christian teenager, I prayed for a husband. Through various supernatural answers to prayer, I came to believe God gave me this man. So if you pray for a husband and God gives you a monster, what does that tell you? Well, if God is good, then I must be bad.

Maybe I didn’t start out with such twisted logic, but the verbal and emotional battery eventually had its way with my psyche.  I deserved this man, this marriage. I was unclean, shameful. I needed to be punished. This was the kind of husband I deserved.

So I stayed, thick or thin, bad or worse. He was my cross to bear. I would be transformed through suffering into the image of Jesus Christ.

Bunkum.

I was not bad or unclean or shameful. I was, however, quite broken.

When I prayed for a fish, my enemy was more than ready to slip in a scorpion and at the ripe old age of eighteen, I couldn’t  recognize a loaf of bread if Gabriel himself made delivery.  (Vague reference to Matthew 7:9-11)

But broken or not, I was also  forgiven and covered in the Blood of the Lamb. Those miraculous answers to prayer?  I believed I was flawed, I saw what I was looking for.  And the man in question was more than willing to manipulate my emotions any way possible to get what he wanted.

If I’d had any understanding of a loving, protective, merciful earthly father, I never would have fallen for the lie. My Father in heaven is a good, good God and He never intended for anyone to live in a daily hell of one tyrant’s rage and control.

So why did I stay?

Once I learned to truth, I didn’t.