How I survived Domestic Violence:
The first few times and why I stayed
Women’s Lives (#womenslives) is a campaign that is helping impact how women live around the world. I am writing this series to bring some awareness and to share my story after all these years. Many people don’t understand domestic violence. They wonder why the victim doesn’t just leave. Why doesn’t she just pack her bags and leave? Well it’s not always that simple. Here is my story……
On June 10th, a beautiful summer afternoon I walked to the gas station to hook up a phone at my new apartment with roommates. Across the parking lot I spied a cute guy, blonde hair, and a convertible. I felt like Barbie and my Ken just pulled up (He really does look like a Ken doll, I swear). I pulled together every bit of courage I could and yelled out “can I come home with you”. He looked my way smiled and went into the store.
I felt defeated. I tried not to watch as he came out of the store. Jumped in his car and started the engine. Next thing I knew he pulled up right in front of the phone booth, said “sure anytime”. He leaned over and handed me his name, number and drove off.
That night I called Duane. We went out to a lake and talked for hours. We were joined at the hip from then on……..After 3 days I moved out on my girlfriends (who protested their hatred of this guy). About a week after meeting Duane he woke me in the wee hours of the morning and asked me to marry him.
Its at this point I pause the story and explain my (18 year old) thought process. I came from a broken family. My mom left my bio-dad when I was 3. Married another man and had kids with him. My step dad was a good dad but I knew I had a “real” dad. I longed for him but never knew him. I only saw one picture of him two times in my life. At 18 I just wanted a “real” family where we all had the same last name. I wanted my happily ever after. Someone to love me forever and for me to love back.
So now back to Duane and I. Of course I said yes to marrying him. We were married at the courthouse annex on July 15th. Yes, only a month and five days after I met him. We lived in a small trailer park (maybe 20-25 trailers) on the outskirts of a small town. A friend of mine had a trailer right up the road. We immediately began trying to start a family. Six weeks after we were married we had our first fight.
I have always been afraid of confrontation. So when we started to argue I just wanted to get away and let the situation cool. I screamed to him that I was leaving and I quickly turned for the door. As I reached the door he was on my heals. I made it to the front yard before he grab me and tackled me to the ground.
He sat on my legs and held my arms down with his hands. He was telling me to calm down. I was panicked and spit in his face. That was when the first hit came. He punched my right cheek hard. I remember being dazed and looking to my left. I saw the neighbors door open and I screamed for help. The women quickly shut the door. I remember laying there hoping she was calling the cops although none ever came.
As soon as the door was shut he jumped off of me telling me how sorry he was. He didn’t mean to hit me. He helped me up, dusting me off very gently. My face hurt so bad and I couldn’t hold up my head. He took me inside, still apologizing and put ice on my jaw and neck.
I sat there holding the ice while he kept blabbing on about how sorry he was. He gave me some medicine to help with the pain too. I remember being stunned, afraid to move or speak. I really hoped the police were coming. I kept waiting to hear the sirens. When none came, I told myself when he went to sleep I would leave. And I did.
As soon as he was asleep I went to Jessica’s house and called my Grandfather in Washington. He told me that he couldn’t tell me what to do and that I had to make a decision (he did tell me no real man hits a woman) and stick with it. I talked with my friend and replayed the entire fight with her.
I decided to go back home and sleep through the night. In the morning when he left for work I could take all my stuff and leave for good. That morning I woke up to spasms in my neck so severe I couldn’t hold my head upright. It was tilted to the left and kept jerking. He was already gone to work.
I forgot the night before and how my neck became that way and ran to the emergency room. Jessica went with me and told the hospital who had done this to me. They diagnosed me with whip lash and I left against medical advice; before they brought in the cops or even discharge me. I was scared of the truth and the unknown.
By the time I got home it was late evening and Duane met me in the driveway. He was the same person I had fallen in love with. Kind, gentle, sweet, and so very caring. He helped me in the house made me comfortable and cooked for me. We never spoke of the previous night again.
A few weeks later I found out I was pregnant and I knew in my heart I could never leave. I had to have MY family. Duane had a hard time keeping a job and we soon had to leave the trailer park. We decided to move further away for a better job opportunity. We drove to Tampa when I was about 3 months pregnant.
We didn’t last long there either. Soon we packed up again and headed back to Michigan 6 months pregnant at this time. We were very poor, didn’t have furniture or much of anything. Life was perfect between the first time he hit me and the second. We were happy and in love! We did have a few board games and a deck of cards. Duane and I passed a lot of time just playing games back then.
It was during a game that I noticed something in my husband that scared me. When he lost or made a bad move he would get so upset with himself. Sometimes he would even punch himself in the head. The first few times I ignored it. Thinking he was under a lot of pressure with the baby coming and his new job.
The next time he hit himself it was during a game of Scattergories. I rolled the letter S, set the timer, and went to writing down words. He sat there stumped, getting more aggravated as I wrote. And then he hit overload and began punching himself in the head. At this point I again, like the day I met him, got brave and decided to say something. I decided to speak up and I called him a baby for hitting himself over losing a game.
That was all it took. He looked at me with a darkness and blankness to his eyes. His breathe was rapid in and out of his nose. I remember watching his nostrils flair. He jumped up throwing the game as he went. I yelled “what the HELL, you jerk” standing up as I did so.
He grabbed me and thew my upper body over his knee, cracking me like a branch over his knee. I fell to the ground crying, scared and unable to move. Duane immediately fell to my side apologizing for what he had done. Then another burst of anger hit him and he started hitting himself again. This time kicking a hole in the wall.
By the time he came back to my side the apartment was trashed. It could have been seconds or minutes that passed, I was unsure. I lay there in the middle of the living room almost 7 months pregnant and unable to move from my stomach down.
He was back at my side when he told me that we needed to call an ambulance and had to tell them that we were just wrestling around when it happened. At this point you have to realize the fear I was feeling.
My attacker is also my lover, my only friend and the father of my child. I was also scared for my child’s life. I couldn’t feel anything from my waist down. I couldn’t feel my baby move either. I believe that at this moment my brain was in a survival mode and I only thought of help for my injuries.
Before he could get dressed to go to a pay phone there was a knock at the door. It was the police. A neighbor had heard my screams and called for help. To bad I wasn’t ready for the help mentally. After calling an ambulance, one of the police took him off to the side and the other asked me if he did this to me.
From where I lay I could see his face. The fear in his eyes as he was questioned, the look of remorse he was giving me. He was still within hearing my voice. I was afraid of him and yet afraid of not having him. I did NOT want my baby to grow up fatherless. I told the police officer the story Duane had told me.
I could see from the police officers eyes that he did not believe me. They were very rude to Duane but could not do anything because I had denied being hurt in anger. Off I went to the hospital. They found a heartbeat and I was rejoiced in happiness to know that my baby would live and that we were having a boy. We still did not know the fate of my legs.
Duane and I sat silent as the doctor came in every 30 minutes to poke me for any sensation. Soon the minutes turned to hours with still no feeling anywhere below my waist. Duane kept looking at me with such sorrow and pity; still silent with remorse.
After 4 hours I finally got a little feeling in my left toe. There was a sigh of relief as I slowly gained feeling in my body. Soon I could move and was able to get myself to a wheel chair. I was released with pain pills, muscle relaxers, and a bedrest order.
Again, I was left with my attacker as my nurse to help me recover. He was super attentive and so sorry, yet never mentioned the attack again. My mind still believed him and ached so badly for my perfect family. Over this time I focused on the idea of having a son. A perfect little boy who would have a perfect life with his mom and dad.
Usually the abuse came as a result of me saying something when Duane would get upset with himself. I always felt it was my fault for saying something and turning his anger toward me. You have to understand that. When on the occasions that he got upset and I kept quiet he would eventually calm down or punch a wall. So I felt like I started it and I deserved it for antagonizing the situation.
This idea consumed me and became my crutch for over 5 years. My guilt grew worse with the birth of two more children, one I lost at 6 months. My voice became silent, afraid to speak up because anytime I did I was knocked back down. These two instances were the worst of the physical abuse I endured although I was still physically abused the remainder of our marriage. It was never as bad.
The rest is for another time. Although this happened almost 15 years ago, writing this has been emotionally draining. I did survive and if you live a life similar to this you CAN too! There is no reason or excuse good enough for ANYONE to be hurt. Please contact http://www.thehotline.org for a shelter near you! You can also email me at email@example.com