Disclaimer: The story represented below is a true recollection of ongoing abuse I endured for a period of time in my previous abusive relationship, paraphrased as best as possible. I am not sharing this to gain sympathy, to be sought at differently, or to receive any form of accolades for eventually moving on. I am sharing this because there is such a heavy stigma with abuse that does not leave marks; the kind that cannot be seen by others. As I have moved on from my past and created a wonderful future with my current spouse, I would like to make it clear that this post is in no way being made to give the illusion that I still struggle with what my abuser did to me. I refuse to give him that power. With that said, this post contains graphic content that may offend, repulse, or trigger a number of you. Please read cautiously.
Each week as I drive the kids to see their dad, I am reminded of so many things that I am used to forgetting. These things usually range from memories that are half decent, to ones that leave me in a sweat, reduced to tears.
Tonight on the drive, I thought about my children and how nervous they are to see him sometimes; my heart broke. I couldn’t help but feel like part of this is my fault, my fault because I stayed and my fault because I brought kids into this world with a ‘man’ who is really a monster. I thought about all the times the blame was ever placed on me- from my peers, my family, and worst of all.. from him, the culprit himself.
I was reminded of a time a few months ago when I had to sit down with a man from Family Court Services to begin the court ordered evaluation process for parenting time. I had to fill out an excessively long and tedious packet that included questions about my relationship with the kids’ father, instances of abuse, and his parenting strengths/weaknesses. One question in particular that stood out to me, was one that read:
“Describe the worst instance of abuse.”
The worst instance of abuse. Abuse how? Mentally, physically, or emotionally? I was lucky enough to never have serious physical complications from his abuse; but the mental and emotional ones are almost harder to bare.
I didn’t know how to answer the question because anything I thought of saying made me feel
I remember wondering if I was comfortable enough telling this man I didn’t know -the first person to ever hear these words come from me- the extent of emotional torture and confusion I endured over periods of time. Won’t it just make me look like a pathetic psycho? I thought to myself.
I answered the question very briefly, and when it came time for my interview, I wasn’t expecting to receive the reaction that I did. He scoured through each question and quickly debriefed my answers with me, asking for clarification when needed and taking notes where possible..
Until he got to that one question.
“Describe the worst instance of abuse.”
I watched him read the question then read my answer, and he said nothing. It was awkward, because this is a total stranger sitting in front of me.. someone of the opposite sex.. who is reading the most intimate secret I have ever kept.
He looked up at me and asked if I wanted to explain. I began to cry; tears of embarrassment, mainly.
“I mean I’ll be honest, I feel dumb talking about this as the worst instance of abuse because I didn’t really have marks from it. But I would say it’s the worst.”
He waited for me to go on.
“When he used to get really mad about stuff; unimportant stuff that I couldn’t even remember right now, he uh.. he used to take me in our room and make me kneel in front of him on the floor.”
I was shaking at this point, because I had never went into such raw and explicit detail with another human being, ever. Steven was the only person who slightly knew what went on, but I always spared him the details.
“He would strip me down; naked. Making me kneel in front of him. And I just remember him standing over me and taunting me; bending over me and getting in my face and telling me how much everything was always my fault.”
He handed me a box of tissues.
“He would demand that I plead for forgiveness.. but it was forgiveness for doing nothing wrong.. I never really knew what I did. He insisted that I say sorry over and over while he spit on me repeatedly. I would kneel there.. naked.. as he spit on me. I would cry and shake and try to cover my face; he’d put his nose to mine, and spit.”
At this point, the guy was noticeably concerned about my recollection.
“It wouldn’t stop until I would break and say sorry. But I was always so stubborn.. I tried to hold onto my dignity for as long as I could after he tried to strip me of it. I would refuse to say sorry, I would refuse to beg him for forgiveness. Because I don’t beg for things I don’t need.”
I did not expect to cry so much during this interview; these were memories I had stored away and dealt with already.
“He would just get more and more mad because I wouldn’t say the things he wanted me to say. He would spit on me more. Tell me how worthless I am, how dirty I am. How ‘sprung’ I was for him. And when spitting on me didn’t make me break, he would walk up to me abruptly and grab my head as he unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans..”
At this point, I’m pretty sure the dude needed his own therapy session after hearing what I had to say.
“He would force me into sexual acts as I would cry and cry.. and cry. He’d call me a slut. A whore. A C-U-N-T. And as he was finally getting what he wanted; my total submission.. he would say, ‘See Bitch, you always do what I want, when I want. Maybe next time it won’t take you so long.'”
“After that, he would snap out of it and hold me in bed as I cried for hours on his chest. He would stroke my hair, tell me how much he loved me, and then whisper:
‘It won’t happen again.'”
It won’t happen again.
As I’m removing myself from the memory of sitting in that man’s office, telling him my worst nightmares that were once a reality; I’m realizing how loaded that sentence was that I would always hear from my abuser:
“It won’t happen again.”
It won’t happen again…. if you just say sorry the first time.
It won’t happen again…. if you don’t make me mad in the first place.
It won’t happen again…. “I promise.”
The cycle of abuse starts and ends with that one phrase, and as sad as it is, it’s one that many women hear often. I did not share this story to rehash old wounds or bring up memories that I have not dealt with, as these recollections have been in my rear view mirror for a long while now. I simply want to shed light on the importance of awareness, and speaking out.
As I drove and thought about how my children have to deal with the unnecessary backlash of his personality flaws and mistakes, I was reminded of how easy it is to victimize myself and place that “poor me” blame. The sliver inside me that identifies as a victim wants to cry and scream, “Everything is always my fault! I should have left sooner! I should have been stronger!”
…. but we all know, placing that blame on yourself will get you no where.
So many women stay in unhealthy, toxic and abusive relationships because they believe they are the problem. They believe they cannot find anything better. They believe they deserve what is handed to them.
All of those claims are false, and I am living proof.
I was once that woman, kneeling and dry-heaving on the floor.. grasping for what little dignity I had left.
I was once that woman, crying on the shoulder of my abuser, and believing him when he said, “Never again.”
I was once that woman, who was scared to leave because I didn’t think the grass could be greener on the other side.
Now.. I am that woman who has overcome obstacles I never thought I would live through. I am that woman who sees the beauty in accepting your past for what it is, and using it to motivate change. I am that woman, who wants to advocate for every woman.
Because no one should ever feel
for speaking truth about what their past (or present) entails. This stigma against transparency, this shameful dread that follows truth like a shadow; it is the reason so many women stay in toxicity.
And I’m hoping that by starting this conversation, we can move towards a new era.. where the cycle of abuse isn’t taboo.
Where “It won’t happen again,” means every woman has the resources to ensure that it won’t happen again.