This is a multi-part series. A new chapter of my personal experiences will be posted every Monday and Thursday. Disclosure: If you have any form of PTSD, I do not go into the details of the abuse, but I do describe my time in booking.
Even now, I shy away from the word abuse.
I know there are women who have had it worse than I tolerated, and stayed. What I experienced, until it escalated, was something I thought would go away if I ignored it. I’m not going to go into details. At least not yet.
The first time he hit me was in mid-December. It wasn’t simple. The emotions are so much more complex than just mere fear. I was of course frightened. Embarrassed. Devastated. Heartbroken. I ran to my parents’ house with him following me in the car.
And after a day, I went back to him.
In mid-January, I went to the Women’s March. And when I came back, he wasn’t home. He was off getting drunk somewhere and when I caught him in a lie, the verbal abuse spewed out of numbed lips. He called me names a man should never say in front of his wife, let alone to her. I packed my bags and left.
And after twenty-one days of letting him talk his way into my life and courting me again, I went back to him. But he was ready for me this time. He was ready to put me in my place. To bend me into compliance. And to make sure I was punished for embarrassing him.
What I thought was going to be a night of finding ourselves turned out to be one of the worst nights of my life. Things escalated and I was fed up with his manipulation. In plainest terms, I fought back.
The police were called and I had been rendered to a domestic violence victim.
He was arrested for assault and my parents ushered me into the car and back to their home where I’ve been since then.
Two months was a long time to wait for our case to be seen by a judge.
My heart was racing. My thoughts were scrambled. I was too wired to sleep. I gave up around four in the morning. I unhooked my mirror off the wall and lowered it to the floor. I sat down, crossing my legs and just stared at my reflection. I stared at the kind of woman I had become, the kind of life I was being forced to live.
But it was going to be over. Finally. Two months of looking over my shoulder, wondering if he was going to be two steps behind me. I often wondered how he would behave should he had the urge to seek me out. Would he play the sorry man? Or would he finish me where I stood?
As I walked into the courthouse, I felt a million eyes on me. Felt the weight of their gaze on my shoulders. I looked down at my feet, willing it not to bother me. I didn’t belong here. How did I get it so wrong? I checked in with the state attorney, and I was pulled aside to be interviewed. I explained to her what had happened between him and I. Gave her the facts as concise as I could. I kept the tears back. Forced them back.
I was ice. And I wouldn’t give him one more tear.
She asked what happened when we fought, pressing for clearer details.
There was a knife involved. I remembered his face just a hair widths from mine. The hate so vivid in his eyes, wheeling in their sockets, his teeth bared in a snarl. Even then I wasn’t scared. All I felt was anger and the need to survive. But sitting there, re-living it, the fear came on so suddenly. So fiercely. I pressed a hand over my mouth hoping to stifle a sob I knew would open the floodgates.
And there he was. A couple of benches down, watching me with an amused grin on his face.
I was ice. I may have melted, but I wouldn’t break.
I took the moment to compose myself and finished what I had to say. Not even minutes later, his lawyer pulled me aside and asked what I wanted to see happen at the end of the day. I couldn’t help but openly gape. He was representing a man who assaulted his wife. A man who would have been a murderer if I hadn’t unearthed superhuman strength.
“He assaulted me. He deserves jail time.”
The lawyer smiled and shrugged. “Okay,” was all he said. And that’s when everything fell apart.
As his lawyer strutted around the courtroom, filing any ear he was close enough to whisper into, I felt my image begin to shift from a grieving victim to a controlling, lunatic of a wife. People were looking at me differently. My case was called and as I stood in front of the judge, the State’s Attorney bent into my own ear. She told me she was going to ask to have the case postponed so I could seek council regarding my fifth amendment rights.
He was pressing charges against me. Sixty days after the incident.
There was now a warrant out for my arrest and a public defender recommended I surrendered myself so I would seem corporative.
As if I had no choice but to comply. What was the alternative? Flee and live on the street? I took off my jewelry and gave my mother my purse. I was handcuffed and led away by an officer. All those eyes that stared at me as if I didn’t belong were now rolling. I was just another statistic.
My mother’s sobs echoed in my heart. But still, I remained ice.
Domestic violence is all around you, even if you can’t see it. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will experience physical violence in their lifetime. If you’re being abused and don’t have the support you deserve, call the hotline where trained advocates will give you the advice you need. You’re not alone. For more information, visit The National Domestic Violence Hotline website here.
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And as always, thanks for reading – Dani