The first time he physically harmed me, he threw me against the bathroom wall and began to choke me until I almost passed out. Hardly the last thing on your mind, in light of the twisting and contorting in an attempt to get air or the freakishly persistent gurgling emanating from your throat, should be how the light flooding the bathroom behind this monster never quite seems to illuminate his face. However, as I struggled to look at him through blurring eyes, my head wrenched to the left, I was bewildered by this, perhaps even more disconcerted at how evil he looked at that moment than the fact he had his hands constricted around my neck. The disbelief and shock did not set in until he dropped his hands away from my neck and stood there in front of me as I remained glued to the wall against my will. His chest heaved almost uncontrollably, his nostrils flared, and his eyes burned with anger. Without a word, without warning, he jerked his right arm forward and hit me square in the chest.
I stood there for a moment or two, maybe more. My brain froze, and I could not think. I could not move, and I could not speak. The shock of what happened had me immobilized. “Who was this monster before me? What just happened? It had to be a dream; this can’t be real.” And what, exactly, was the catalyst for this ambush? My transgression, my sin against him was something we all take for granted: I put makeup on before going to work – part of a daily routine, working or not. For this I was accused of being unfaithful. For this I was called a whore.
What I refer to as “the Honeymoon Syndrome” was not present for me during the four years I was abused and tormented and bullied and battered and used as a punching bag, threatened, hit like a man, kicked around, and struck repeatedly in the head with his fist and cans, or beat on the legs with wood and metal bars. He felt no need for apologies, for as he ended up revealing to me all too bluntly and proudly: “Women need and deserve to be smacked around sometimes. You picked the right one this time.” In that moment, all hope left me, and I became empty. A shell trapped in chaos, a place of torment created by him just for me. Kevin had practice. He had several previous attempts with which to perfect his insidious, diabolical plan, and he amended his methods as needed.
Once the charade evaporated, there was no love. No affection, compassion, mercy, or tenderness. This masquerade of his was no longer necessary, for in his mind, I was not his partner, nor was I his equal. For the first few months after I struggled with reconciling my importance, or lack, thereof, to him. Being driven first by emotion – love, compassion, affection, admiration, kindness – I could not comprehend how a human being could denigrate someone so terribly. How they could use, lie, manipulate, and steal the very essence of another’s core, and lay it to waste and devastation without having any pangs of conscience and obliterate their dignity and sense of self-worth – and call it love. My logic came up with the only answer it could given the circumstances: I was yet one more object of obsession and control, merely a puppet to manipulate. His possession, his paycheck, and his punching bag.
Even more bewildering to me is the beast lurking within Kevin. Human beings are by nature very social creatures. We seek out associates, friends, and partners, because we long for those connections. Because it fills specific voids and erases our loneliness. To belong, to love, and to be loved in return: this is our nature. How then, can so many act contrary to this and deliberately cause harm to those whom they are closest? So this is how it feels to be with a monster.
A monster. Who in their right mind would stay with a monster? An excellent question prompted to turn up in your thoughts at just the right time. Perhaps the observant among you would notice the placement of the italics in the preceding sentence. Abusers are able to gain control of us –absolutely any of us – by taking this “right mind” away from us. They shower us with attention and then wear us down, starting by giving us small negative mental pricks here and there disguised as compliments. It is suggested to us that we don’t need the makeup and can go without, because we are beautiful no matter what. We are told it would be ideal for us to take time off from working so we can focus on ourselves as a reward for working so hard all the time. What those words really mean is that they do not want you calling any attention to yourself so others won’t notice you. They want you to be held captive within the confines of your home so they can monitor everything you do and hide you away from those who just may not be completely unaware of “that thing” that just isn’t quite right.
But little by little, those veiled suggestions turn into overt verbal abuse. And abusers are quite skilled at making it seem like nothing initially. Seemingly before you know it, however, you find yourself completely stripped away, and you feel unworthy if not entirely devoid of value. This is extremely beneficial to the abuser, because they need you in this confused, chaotic, and morose mental state in order to move into the next phase of the relationship: battering.
Sure, people heard things, and gossip eventually made its way around that deep down inside, neighbors suspected that those arguments were always something more than heated exchanges of words spewed out in temporary anger. Rumors about thumps, bangs, and crashes that never quite made sense. Stories about days I would not leave the house and sounds of crying that would go on for hours. And in all of this, not once did one of them stop by. Never did they ask if everything was okay. They threw a tent over the elephant in the living room and called it a coffee table.
As violent as Kevin was behind closed doors, it was kept out of view for a long while before it made its explosive public debut. It was bad enough that neighbors heard these things occurring yet not one of them responded, except to talk about it amongst themselves. Imagine my horror to see just how nonresponsive people can be when he physically abused me in public.
You would expect that if a crowd of people witnessed a man attempting to physically restrain a woman while holding up a grapefruit-sized rock in his free hand, they would intervene on her behalf. However, once I pushed him away and yelled, the group of people congregating in the parking lot on the hill dispersed when they realized I had seen them. You would further hope that if more than one person witnessed a man punch a female in the head as they walked down the street, they, too, would intervene. Instead, the driver in the car opted to keep driving after they gawked, and the person across the street actually stopped walking just barely long enough to make sure no one else saw them and then took off on foot down a side street.
Since this post exceeded 2000 words, I split it in half so you could get a break from reading. The second part immediately follows.