When you are trapped in abuse, there is never any such thing as an easy choice.
Do I tell someone he is verbally shredding me apart when we are alone, or do I make an excuse for that time you catch him bugging out on me in public? Would he know if I told? Would there be punishment to follow? Would the abuse get worse? Would the person believe me? Would there be confrontation? Would anyone help me? Would they make excuses for him like I have?
Do I tell someone that he grabbed me by the arm, threw me against the bathroom wall, choked me, and punched in the chest and I wore this turtleneck in warm weather to cover it up, or do I lie to them when they ask and tell them I was just cold in the morning and didn’t think about wearing a light sweater over a t-shirt so I would sweat in the afternoon? Would he know if I told? Would there be punishment to follow? Would the abuse get worse? Would anyone help me? Can anyone make it stop?
Do I tell someone that he overdrew my checking account after sneaking my debit card out of my purse as I slept so he could take his “friends” out on a $1400 crack binge and that’s why I can’t pay my rent, or do I tell them that I must have mistakenly paid something and forgot that I did? Would he know if I told? Would there be punishment to follow? Would the person believe me or would they scold me like I was an irresponsible child? Would he really kill me father? Would he?
Do I tell someone that he dragged me out of the house in the middle of the night by force and drove me into the woods, that the last thing I remember was a tire iron being lifted above my head before the blackness, that he threatened to leave my body there and flee the state, or do I say nothing? Would he know if I told? Would he take me back there again and follow through? Would he really put my family through that? Would he care? Would he ever get caught?
Do I tell someone that he was able to get the month from my 401K for another crack binge with his “friends” by throwing me into the dressers, dumping the drawers on the floor, pummeling me and dragging me off the mattress by my hair as I feverishly dug my feet into the bed, my nails into the carpet tearing off the ends like paper, throwing me so hard into the mattress that it pushed off the bed, that he threw into the end tables tumbling the alarm clock, the lights and random trinkets about the floor, that he put the stockings around my neck and tried to choke the life out of me, that his sister heard everything that happened on the other end of the line until he picked up the phone and told her he had to call her back, that she didn’t send the police to help me when she knew what was happening, and I gave into him, let him take my money as he mocked my begging to spare my worthless, wretched life, or do I hide in the house, away from the neighbors, shunning the windows and door so that it stays our dirty little secret? Would he know if I told? Would anyone believe me? Would anyone help me? He wouldn’t really hurt my mother and sisters, would he?
Do I tell someone that he sold the food stamps for crack again, or do I scramble to find a food pantry that will let me double-dip even though I had already gone that month?
Do I refuse his demands to call my family for money because rent was due and he smoked up my money again, knowing that my non-compliance will earn brutal physical punishment, or do I call them and beg, plead again, telling them in another grandiose lie that I won’t ask again as he waits there staring me down so if they no, he can blame me and shred me apart into a weeping ball in the corner again, skin blackened in places I didn’t know could bruise?
Do I tell the police he is working for as an informant he is beating me and talking my money for drugs as they work him feverishly to net all the dealers they can, all the while aware of what he is doing with my money, or do I keep silent because they don’t care? Because around here they protect their informants better than the public. Because it was okay that he let that foolish woman who tried to back over me with her car because he owed her $40 violate the criminal order of protection the town gave me without my even having to show up to court. It was okay for them that those dirty people trampled their junk in and out of my home, carrying weapons, and plotting all kinds of evil against their foes.
Do I tell the police at my door, the officers who came because the neighbors called and wanted sleep, the police who cannot reach me through him as he blocks me at the door that I am not okay? That he has been beating the crap out of me for hours, that I am hurt, that I am afraid, that I need help or do I stay silent and lie because they are more than 2 feet away from the door, the door that he now can slam shut and throw on the deadbolt and do something worse to me before they could get in to help me?
These are but a small handful of the thousands of decisions I was forced to make during the 1,551 days he abused me. Always forced to choose between immediate safety and postponed harm or imminent ruin. Living in that kind of fear with someone who is abusing you is impossible to describe. It is impossible to make anyone who has not been there understand the very real, constant fear I had even second of my life. I was in my early to mid 30s. I wasn’t ready to die. I was afraid pain but knew he could always do worse. I knew he was a monster, and some monsters cannot be controlled. Some stack up their friends in the right places and take away so many of your choices. Some know and turn the other cheek, because even in his lying manipulation of them, even as he wears his mask for them, cooperating with the monster brings them benefits that looking out for me does not. I had no one to protect me. I had to make the choices in the moment that were safest for me. It’s called self-preservation. It’s called trying to minimize damage. It’s called walking on eggshells as someone aims a torch and pistol at your back. It’s called acknowledging the fact that this person I cannot get away from because he keeps me locked up in the house, because he doesn’t work outside the home, because he has people watching the house, because he monitors everything I do from the second I wake up until I sleep, and sometimes watched me as I slept, would kill me in an instant, and walk away without caring if anyone found me. It’s acknowledging that he was so much stronger than me physically, I could not fight him off.
I chose life in the instant even as I knew I was dying inside and it no longer mattered. I chose to do what would cause me the least amount of pain, because I didn’t know that I could get away without him catching me and killing me or my family. Yet you stand there and wag your finger at me, insisting I was free to leave at any time if I really wanted. If it wasn’t so bad. If it was really abuse. You know nothing. You see with blinded heart. You hear with stopped up ears. You think with a mind that has been shrouded in shadow. You know nothing.
And I stood at the precipice that last chilly December morning, and in an instant I pictured how that weekend would end. I thought about my family and the burden of having to lose a daughter so violently. I thought about friends I had not been allowed to see in years. I thought about everything I had lost in my futile attempts to appease the beast in him, to please his overwhelming expectations, to soothe his anger that had turned into an inferno no one could stamp out. I thought about the pain I had endured. And I made another impossible choice. I acted like I was composed when I walked out that door, desperately exhausted from not sleeping, in so much pain from the attacks I endured for those ten hours, and I quietly said goodbye to my entire life, my belongings, the work and effort and time it took to acquire them, the financial documents I was not able to steal away from your watchful eye. I left the memory of me behind, and I cut my loses… something I have always considered a bargain, considering the fact that you were about to take my life. Your anger had changed. Something in you had changed. Your eyes were empty that morning, even in all their anger, and I knew if I didn’t leave then, that if I came back, I would be making the choice to end my life at your hands.
Sometimes what’s best isn’t always easy, entirely possible, or convenient. Sometimes to get everything, you have to give up everything in return. It’s been hard since I left on December 14, 2012. I struggle. I am a financial nightmare. I battle PTSD that is too strong for me to wrestle into submission. I have nightmares where all I can remember is the pain and the evil in his eyes. I can’t have a bank account. I can’t qualify for a loan. I can’t afford to live on my own, and I still have not been able to get the car on the road… yes the one someone gave to me outright. Still sits waiting for her tags.
I sleep with the bedroom door locked. I lock the bathroom door. I will not do into a dark room with my back toward the door. I cower around people when they are angry.
The most inconvenient of all is how far away from everything and everyone I live. But this has turned out to be a blessing for me, and I believe now more than ever that my decision to flee, to leave everything and start from zero so far away, has brought me peace where most others might not be able to find it. Even with all the battles I wage every day, this has been a place where I can be away and apart from, long enough to build myself back up. With moments like these that have managed to replace some of the evil that was pounded into my mind………. This is where I call home…. these channels of water that weave through the wildlife refuge like threads in a tapestry. And not even his evil can take this away.