A few days ago, pisceshanna wrote about abuse, and got a lot of us riled up at her neighbors, who basically got angry at a woman who is an abusive relationship when she asked the police to release him (for throwing her out of a window). One of the neighbors said, “F** her then. See if I call 911the next time it happens.”
Okay, I get that the neighbor feels like her help was slighted, but honey, it isn't about you!! At least the other neighbor had a bit more understanding of what is most likely happening: "Maybe her self-esteem is so low, she thinks she just has to deal with it."
As you'll see from the comments, a lot of women who can be considered smart, independent women have found themselves in abusive relationships. And I consider myself one of them.
I wasn't beaten physically. I was just emotionally beaten down so that I basically thought that staying with my husband was my best option. I'm quite certain that every woman who has been physically beaten was emotionally beaten first.
I may not have been college-educated at the time I first met with my ex, but I don't think I was stupid, either. I was, however, pretty lost at the time.
I'd recently left my first husband (oh, yeah, did I ever mention that? Not actually a big deal - a cruise ship romance that I was young and naive enough to think could work on land), and we started off more as a summer fling kind of thing - a rebound. But he really knew how to make me feel like the most important woman in the world; the most beautiful, the smartest, the sexiest...well, you get what I mean. What woman wouldn't want to start taking a guy like that seriously?
So I did. We agreed to be exclusive and the honeymoon period was insanely wonderful. I was working a graveyard shift at the time, and he would wake me every day, on the dot at noon. Hearing his voice first thing upon waking came to be something I depended upon. Our times together - as I suppose most couples' beginnings - were like a slice of paradise in an otherwise hectic world.
He listened very intently to everything I had to say. While I was flattered at the time, what I've come to understand since was that he was storing everything up. Everything that made me smile, every weak point I had, every relationship I had and all their trouble spots. And, slowly but surely, he began to use it all against me.
He came to show me how everyone in my life that was close to me was not a true friend, put their needs first. So I pulled away from them. He exploited all the inevitable differences between me and my family. So I pulled away from them. He came to be the only person that truly understood me. Or so he led me to believe.
And he knew how they would fight that. He knew what they would say. He knew that they would accuse me of being a victim. And how I so was not. How could I, a strong, independent woman such as myself be a victim in a relationship like that? They were so wrong. (No, they weren't, but try to understand for a minute how I believed that.)
There was a blow-up. The blow-up that caused me to leave the condo all those years ago. The blow-up that I won't discuss in detail, but it was big enough for me to chuck everything and move to Denver with him.
Well, now, I was right where he wanted me. Completely cut off from everything I ever knew and ever loved. We didn't even have a phone! It was just us. And I got pregnant.
And we were going to be this very happy family, just the three of us, close to his family.
The first time I left him was when Sylvia was not quite a year and a half, and by now, we had moved to San Jose, and I was working full-time, trying to keep up with the bills in the BOOM that was Silicon Valley at the time (but not yet college-educated, and therefore, not really able to keep up). Well, actually, I didn't leave him. We got evicted and he got arrested.
Now, by this point, I knew he had a drug problem, but I still believed him when he vowed to quit. I still believed a lot of the lies he told me about what happened to the rent money or what have you.
And I was also a first-time mom. And, again, while I wasn't aware of it at the time, a single mom already. I was already the only person who thought about this child's well-being. I was already the only one who worried about making sure she had health insurance, her day care setting. It was all me. And it was completely overwhelming. And I'd never felt so inferior at anything before. And I believed that there was someone in this with me.
So, when he got out, and I'd been staying with his sister, then my colleague, I was desperate for someone else to take the helm. I needed help. (Somewhere in here, Sylvia also came down with chicken pox, just to make it all that much more fun.) I needed someone to take care of things. And he did.
This is what most people don't get. Abusers, they know when you're just about at the end of your rope. And then they swoop you up, apologize profusely, and I was so scared, so tired, that I was grateful. This is also the part where I partly blame fairy tales. These abusers know how to disguise themselves as the white knight of your dreams. But I digress.
Events like this happened more than once, I confess. But, again, I was without family, friends, and trying desperately for this mirage of a perfect family to be a reality. Yes, keeping up appearances was important, too. Because remember all those friends and family who had warned me about him? I had to prove them wrong. I was still stubborn enough to not go back with my tail between my legs to hear everyone say, "I told you so." There was no choice now. I had to make this work.
And then I got pregnant. Again. And that was pretty much it. I knew he was lying to me sometimes, I knew he was doing drugs, I knew he was using money I'd earned for things that had nothing to do with me or the girls. But this was it. This was the best I could do. No one would want a single mom with two children (and 2 failed marriages). I'd had a few tastes of single parenthood, and no thanks. I did not want to be there again. I could not do this alone. Completely and utterly alone. (And I still don't think anyone can, btw.)
And he continued to know when to prop me up, when to swoop me off my feet. When to listen, and when to flatter. And when to say, "you're a great mom."
You know how, as a parent, just when you're ready to lose all control in front of your child, they give you that hug or say that sweet thing and you swell with love? Yeah, he knew how to do that.
And so we moved to Pittsburgh. For another fresh start. And this time, he was going to be the breadwinner. And I was going to be a stay-at-home and get a much-needed break from the working world. Except now...I was more cut off than ever before. My family and friends were now on the other side of the country. And the only people we knew were his friends. And the people he worked with. We didn't even have a car. When I say I was a stay at home, I mean, days would go by without my even leaving the house!
I tried to go to school, but the day care situation fell apart. And I fell into a deeper depression than I've ever known. To the point where suicide was on the table. It was never the only option, but it was considered.
And then the internet saved me. I sound like Al Gore or something, right? But no, it really did. I started connecting with people again. People that were my own, that had nothing to do with him. And I started regaining some self-confidence. Not a lot. But enough to make a difference.
We moved to Rochester because I found us both jobs there. And while they may not have been the best jobs, it was what I needed at the time. It got me out of the house. It got me connecting with others IRL. And eventually, it was enough for the last bit of love to be knocked out of my heart.
And I was proud enough to put my tail between my legs and come home.
So what could you do for a victim of any sort of abuse? Start to make her feel like her again. Don't chastise her, don't berate her, and don't - whatever you do - call her a victim. Treat her like a person that deserves respect. Sooner or later, she'll start to believe it, too.