The daring boldness to speak. Many of us most likely took this for granted before we became entangled with our abusers. I cannot say that I was unappreciative of this ability before Kevin, but I never knew how much it meant until it was taken away. And once I left, I never for one second believed that I would ever be able to speak unhindered, unreserved again. While I have not been silent speaking out about the experiences I lived through, this loss of speaking freely has hindered me in many ways. Today, I came to terms with the fact that my fight against his evil, twisted voice to purge it from my mind is going to be harder and take longer than I could ever possibly want. I do not want to exert this much effort to be free of him, I just want him to go.
I have had a rough week keeping myself even remotely stable, and for this, I apologize to Kerwyn, publicly in front of everyone, as well as thank Jessica for the talk this morning. (We were both working, but she made time and got me back down from outer space). When I get in one of these moods, I get testy, irritable, and very, very, very impossible. There is no pride at this, I am admitting a simple fact. Had I gotten through the experience of filing the police report and being done and over with it, I dare say, I would have needed a few days before I got back to normal. However, I have had the displeasure of seeing Kevin three times since last week — three times since I filed the police report. Once he looked at me, and even though I felt like crawling into a hole, I did not turn away. Once he passed, I began shaking and felt physically ill just from the fear of him being in the immediate vicinity of me. He is the source of every insecurity, and I detest this. I feel at times like I have been reduced to a child, but life doesn’t stop because I saw Kevin. I just have to stumble along as best as I can until I get my bearings.
Something was different about today, but I cannot for the life of me figure out what it was. All I know is that by this morning I was in urgent need to be among the sisters and brothers in my congregation. Commenting has been hard since one of the girls at work and I almost ran Kevin down with her car on the way to pick up lunch for the senior managers. I remember how irritated I was that day to think about how angry I was to see Kevin out walking around on the streets, free to do whatever he wanted when he abandoned his wife and left her alone to raise their daughters, having to work two jobs to get by, and sadness for his daughters for not having the sort of father they are so deserving of having in their lives, to show them what a good male role model is supposed to be. And I was furious and torn inside for weeks afterward, as I rehashed how the judge told him he wouldn’t have to admit guilt if he didn’t contest the order. I hated how he always seems to get away with everything… and then my thoughts again turned to his wife, the wife he hid from me and lied about the fact he was really still married… and how he laughed about almost smashing her head against the tile floor of the bathroom. His indignation at the fact that she chased him out of the house with an aerosol can because she was in fear of him… and how amused he was that *she* was the one arrested for domestic violence.
I have been in mourning for his family, and the son/brother/uncle/nephew/father/husband they lost to his addiction, his greediness, his violence. For the damage they have had to clean up time and time again. For the danger he subjected his wife and children to. I have been trying desperately to wrap my head around the fact that some people truly just do not care about what they do to others, as long as they get what they want. I have been trying to swallow the intense feeling of disgust for a man who put his hands on his own mother. For the record, his mother never admitted to the younger sister that he did hit her, but the way she described it to me, the only difference was it was her instead of me. I have cowered like that, shrunk down against the wall and floor pushing so hard in hopes I could just fall through the wall, that it would give under the pressure, and I’d escape. I could be free. I could fly away.
Tonight, as I re-read the material for the congregation book study and the Bible study, I found my thoughts wandering back and forth to this. I became disgusted with so many things that he has tainted, I almost screamed. Then I read Jeremiah 4:19, and everything stopped. I was in this position before, back when I first began studying and going to meetings at a different congregation. For a while he was supportive, and initially he would tell everyone how proud of me he was. But as time went on, he withdrew. He became argumentative about this, too. See, he noticed I was changing, because I had developed enough of an appreciation and love for what I was learning about Jehovah, that changed with what I learned. Change meant he was losing control. He doesn’t like to lose control of anything.
When the verbal assaults didn’t work, he became voraciously abusive about going to the meetings, too. Physically. I remember the first time he ran my head into the doorframe. He told me that I was absolutely not leaving the house, and I was to go back to bed. I refused, telling him he wasn’t taking this from me, and before I knew it, I had a massive headache, and my ear was bleeding. I told him to get away from me, I cleaned up the blood, took my shower, and I went to my meeting. He did this multiple times, each time getting more and more violent, more and more adamant that I was not to leave the house. The last time he did this was the worst. I stopped counting at five. I was dizzy. Disoriented, and I was bleeding so much that it was on the floor, my robe, the sink, the doorframe… and the cat who I thought I had hid safely away before coming downstairs. Right before the last time my head met the door frame, I saw his head poke in the bathroom, ears straight up, staring at Kevin. I tried to scare him away, because I didn’t want him to get hurt. I had to clean up the bathroom before I got in the shower. Have you ever tried to clean blood out of scared, hissing, biting, clawing cat’s super white fur? I calmed the cat down before I got in the shower, and I went upstairs and got ready for the meeting. I was punished when I came home.
After that, when Kevin discovered the door frame wasn’t a deterrent, he broke a board on my right leg, dragged me across the room by my hair, where he tossed me into the corner, and tried to inflict some damage. When he stopped, I simply stood up, composed myself, and told him to move out of my way, because I was getting ready no matter what. After that, he discovered the efficiency of the metal bar. He learned where to hit me to cause enough pain.
My point in telling you this is not to make you feel badly for me. I don’t want you to feel pity. I want you to focus on something I forgot about myself. Jeremiah 4:19 brought all this rushing back when I read the words, “o my anguish, my anguish! I feel great pain in my very heart. My hearts pounds within me…” and then he says, “I cannot keep silent.” Jeremiah suffered physically and emotionally, but he never stopped doing the things he needed to fulfill the assignment given him by Jehovah. It was not out of expectation or demand that he did so. It was out of love. Out of appreciation of the urgency of the message he had to deliver.
And I remembered a few conversations I had with a few people after I left Kevin where I told them in greater detail the things Kevin did to try to keep me from progressing, and they said that I should have just believed in my heart and that would have been okay. That God would understand if I acted out of self preservation. And the first thing that came to my mind was James 2:19. “You believe there is one God do you? You are doing quite well. And yet the demons believe and shudder.”
I asked them how under any circumstances that I should be okay with compromising what I wanted.. no, what I *needed* for myself, just to save my life. Would that have been worth it to them? They said they would rather live and have to believe in silence than to put themselves through what I let Kevin do to me. Then I read to them Luke 12:4, 5. “Moreover, I say to you my friends, do not fear those who kill the body and after this are not able to do anything more. (5) But I will show you whom to fear: Fear the One who after killing has authority to throw into Gehenna. Yes I tell you, fear this One.”
I explained to them that my reasons for going had nothing to do with doing what was expected of me. Kerwyn can tell you there is not (or was not, at the time) any one person on this earth who could have made me do anything I didn’t want to. No, I did this, I persevered through all of it and continued struggling to go to the meetings and study, because like Jeremiah, my heart was boisterous, but I was so propelled by the love and appreciation I came to feel for Jehovah, that I could not stop myself even if I wanted to. It lit a spark in my heart that would not burn out, and I was so driven by it, that I happily endured so that I could see to my spiritual health. So I could make progress and one day become baptized.
And I further explained to them that the mere act of believing was not enough for me, that I was moved enough that I was willing to endure to show that love and appreciation. I was simply only trying to do for myself what I needed to do. Willingly. I kept pushing myself to go until it was no longer physically possible. Did I willingly, repeatedly subject myself to extreme punishment, and did I feel fear? Yes. I also feared that Kevin would one day kill me, but I would rather lose my life knowing that I was faithful to Jehovah and therefore be retained in Jehovah’s memory to be resurrected. I was, in fact, more fearful of doing something displeasing to Him because I did not want to damage the relationship that I had built with Him despite Kevin’s attempt to keep me from doing otherwise. There was far more dread in my heart in the prospect of being permanently cut off forever just for the sake of trying to save my current physical life. A life that was not safe from Kevin anyway!
While tossing all these memories around in my head, I thought about commenting on one of the questions. For me, this would necessitate a little personal information added in. I was unsure, and I had doubts. Had I not just lived through four years of suffering and conditioning to be silent in all things at all costs? Absolutely. The problem is, I detest that silence that allows the abuser to have power. On the other hand, I was conditioned to never, ever, ever speak out of turn or anything unscripted. Lifting up my voice in some situations fills me with anxiety.
The entire car ride there was filled with dread. I was quiet, for if I do this thing, people will respond. I remained undecided and overly nervous up to the reading of the question. And I had this thought come into my head that I was tired of having Kevin thump around in my head, and my had went up against the will of my logic. My false logic. Tainted and conditioned and warped logic. As I answered, I felt eyes on me, the same way I would when Kevin would come into a room and stare at me. The difference is, Kevin was looking for a fight. The brothers and sisters were just listening to me as I revealed something dreadfully personal. When I looked up, about half of the congregation was looking at me. I felt physically ill. I felt doom coming at the end of my answer. I was still expecting Kevin to be there to ruin it. They hesitated a moment and sat quietly before the next person pierced the silence that hung in the air by raising their hand. My hands shook uncontrollably for the next ten minutes, but I survived.
I wasn’t dragged out into the lobby and slapped for my transgression, for lifting up my voice. At the end of the meeting, I was, however, greeted by hug after hug, question after question, apology after apology. These kind, dear, sweet men and women who have become my family now knew my story. It wasn’t such a fast climb to the top after all. Some thought it was surprising that I came in on January 6th and was baptized 7 months and 14 days later. They learned it was a hard road, and I meant to be there. I fought to get there, and I opened up that crazy thing called vulnerability and let them all in, if for a brief moment, to see the pain I endured. So they could be encouraged by the fact that I, too, love Jehovah enough that I endured the devil in Kevin.
I am sure now that there will be more questions over the next few weeks. I am okay with that, and I no longer feel shame for what he did to me. If it means that it can help one of them, if they know someone who is going through it, if a study is enduring it, or if they even suspect it’s happening, I want them to know that there is someone in the congregation who is open to someone needing to reach out. So precious time doesn’t have to be wasted trying to find someone they can speak to. No one should be left hanging.
In my case, I feel extremely spoiled. Jehovah provided what I needed to get through. He gave me strength, and in the end, everything I prayed for in urgency, in desperation, was given me a thousand-fold. I have been blessed with safety, I love the congregation I am in, I have “adopted” a family there, and Jehovah also blessed me with a kind, loving, compassionate man who will appreciate, protect, guide, and nurture my growth. Someone who will treat me with mercy and respect. A man that loves his mother and always strives to deliver on what he promises. My Kerwyn. 🙂
I have so many reasons to lift my voice and be heard. So many blessings. So many, in fact, that I *can* fly.