(Editors note: This survivor has asked to have her photos be done anonymously to protect her kids from being embarrassed. As this wasn’t the first time I’d heard that idea, I was glad to do so. This lady is the first to ask for anonymity and be assured that was doable, and be willing to push through and do the project. Others have asked but decided not to push forward. She doesn’t want anyone else to feel as alone as she did. It has taken her many months and several discussions to come into the light. )
Please Share What Happened to You:
I have been abused in a couple ways, physically and sexually, by people I trusted and knew and by neighbors I thought I could trust too. I guess after a while and hiding all those little secrets you cannot even comprehend what is real or right especially when nobody even taught you about sex or your body and how it functions. Not back then anyway. There is always that gut instinct and my gut told me it wasn’t right, but how did I really know?
I was about ten years old when a neighbor and coworker of my fathers, I’ll call him Mr. 1 had me sit next to him on the couch. He was probably in his early fifties. He asked me to sit closer to him, but I didn’t and my parents, who were in the room, prompted me to sit closer. So, I scooted over closer to him. As my mom and dad sat there talking with him, he slowly put his hand down the back of my pants. I sat straight up, eyes wide open as if to say, “um, hello!! Are you seeing this?” Nobody said a word. I got up and excused myself. Whenever he would come around, I would leave or go outside although he always begged me to come sit next to him. He always drove slow around the neighborhood looking at all the girls. We all called him a pervert. My mom would do ironing for his wife to earn some extra cash and one day she sent me down there to take her some shirts my mom ironed. I prayed the whole walk there that she would be home. My younger sister went with me. I knocked on the door and he answered. I asked if his wife was home and that I came to deliver the shirts my mom had ironed. He insisted we come in. I told him no that we had to get right back home. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and insisted we come in. My sister was not afraid because nothing had happened to her so she was fine with going in and went in. The house was poorly lit and he went in and sat in his chair and asked me to come closer. I wouldn’t. He kept trying to tell me not to be afraid and to come sit on his lap. I still said no. Then he asked my sister who is four years younger than I to come over and sit on his lap. She started to go towards him and I grabbed her arm and told him we had to go and I ran out of the door with her. I wouldn’t allow that perv to touch my sister!!! I avoided him at all costs from then on out. I finally told my mom and dad five years later about what he did, right in front of them and how all the girls got the creeps from him and my father was ready to go to his house and kill him. My mom stopped him, thank goodness.
His next door neighbor was no better. I will call him Mr. 2. I babysat for Mr. & Mrs. 2 a few times and on this one night (I was 14) Mrs. 2 was still upstairs getting ready. So, I waited downstairs with Mr. 2. I was at the back door watching their daughter play outside when Mr. 2 asked me if I would like a beer. (Wait….what?) I told him I was only 14 and not old enough to drink alcohol. He put the beer back and started walking up behind me. I stood with my back turned to him. The next thing I know, he wraps his arms around me and starts to raise his hands up to grab my breasts. I pushed on that door handle so hard and fast and flew out the door!! I didn’t go back in until Mrs. 2 yelled to me that they were leaving. I never babysat for them again.
I was just about seventeen years old when a good friend introduced me to my first husband. He was the oldest of five children to a well-known doctor where we lived. Shortly after meeting him, he was involved in an accident. My friend asked me to go along with him to visit him in the hospital and told me he really liked me and wanted to take me out on a date. He really wasn’t my type and I really didn’t want to go out with him. Going against my gut instincts, I agreed. We dated for about a year when he slapped me across the face because I didn’t want to leave a party we were at and he did. I was shocked. I was stunned. He apologized. Same scenario as most situations like that. I forgave him. He didn’t want me to wear make up. He would make me go back in the house and remove it immediately if I had it on. I would do what he said out of fear. We broke up for a while.
After the breakup, I shared an apartment with my best friend. Eighteen years old, out on my own, doing what I want, nobody telling me what to do, taking care of myself. We didn’t have a lot of furniture. What we did have were hand me downs from our parents. We had lived in our apartment for a couple months and were just starting to get to know our neighbors. There were two guys who also shared an apartment in our building. One day, one of the guys was working on his car. I talked to him for a while through my apartment window as he worked on his car and then I invited him to come up for a beer when he finished. We sat on the floor, drinking our beer, talking about jobs, friends, roomies, etc. when he leaned over to kiss me. I allowed that, but said “hey….I didn’t invite you here for any more than a beer”. He said “come on….we both know why you invited me here and pushed me back the whole time I was telling him no. He held me down and forced my pants off and then he forced himself inside me. My roommate was in the next room and didn’t hear anything!!! How could she not hear my cries?? How could she not me my struggle? When he was finished raping me, I laid there in a ball crying and he said, ” oh come on…you know you wanted it too!!” I felt so dirty. So inhuman. So disgusting. Emotionally paralyzed. I moved out of the building a few months later.
I ended up making up with my boyfriend and moved in with him. Everything was fine. No more abuse. He was nice to me. Treated and spoke to me fine. A year later, we married. I was nineteen. He was 22. A month after we married, I got pregnant. I was so excited!!! I always wanted my own baby. My own little person to love. Who would love me….. That is when the regular abuse started. Especially when he drank. Nobody ever called the police or came to my aid. I was alone. Physically, emotionally alone.I would play dead so he would stop. He would slap, punch, kick and choke me to almost unconsiousness. I couldn’t go out into public because of my bruises and black eyes. How could I explain them? Everyone knew who he was. Who his dad was. He always apologized and swore it would never happen again.
I avoided arguing with him because I knew…..I could tell by the look in his eyes when he was in the mood to beat me. He told me once that the reason he hit me was because I reminded him of his mother. (I thought, well go beat her then, but I never said it out loud.) I was nothing like his mother. Nothing at all! I had two children with him. I did use birth control to avoid having another child with him, but it failed and I ended up pregnant a second time. I love both of my children with all my heart!! I don’t regret having either one of them, but I do regret not making the right decision when I had the chance the very first time he hit me when we were dating.
I tolerated his abuse for six and a half years until he told me he would kill me and I knew then I had to get away. I couldn’t bear to allow my children to see any more violence. I couldn’t allow him to kill their mother and leave them parent-less. He would be in jail and I would be dead. I hated the idea of a divorce because I was a child of divorce and I didn’t want to put my children through that, but exposing them to the beatings, the name calling, the degrading, hateful comments would have been worse. (He told me I was the laziest white woman he ever saw. I had the body of an eighty year old woman. I was fat. Ugly….you name it, he called me it.) He left without incident, but my neighbor would see him parked up the street in the early am hours (like 3am). Just sitting there…staring at the house. My neighbor finally told him to go home. That he was only tormenting himself and it wasn’t doing anyone any good. I was petrified for my life!!!
After we split, my friends and neighbors would tell me things he would do to my children when I wasn’t there. He would pick my daughter up by the hair on the top of her head and carry her across the street when she wouldn’t come home when called; he stepped on her belly when she was three years old because she would not stop crying. I was so upset nobody told me when it happened and their response was they didn’t want to get involved. THEY WERE DEFENSELESS CHILDREN!!! I did see a couple times how he would grab their noses by his two fingers at the knuckle, pinch hard and pull them to where he wanted them. It would bruise their little noses. I told him to stop that and to stop hurting them, but he did it anyway. I deal with a lot of guilt because of that and the fact that they were exposed to his violence. His degradation of us. His bullying.
So, I stayed and tolerated the abuse. The physical and the emotional abuse for six and a half years. Exposing my poor babies to this monster, to the screams, the crying, the bruises, the pounding….. What a horrible mother I was to do that to them. I can never forgive myself for that. And I won’t put them through anymore and that is why I am remaining anonymous to save them the hurt and heartache. They love their dad. They have a relationship with their dad. I just don’t need to put them through the embarrassment of poor decisions I made.
How are you doing now?
A few months after our separation, I met a wonderful, hard working, caring, trustful and trusting dependable man that was great with my kids. They loved him and visa versa. He loves me and I him. Has it been easy? NO! We both brought baggage to this relationship, but we were determined not to let that baggage interfere with what we had. He has taken great care of us for thirty years and has been a wonderful supporter, provider, partner and friend. We have taught each other that you can trust. You can love unconditionally. You can depend on the other one without doubt. And above all, you can love without fear of hurt or pain. (A little background also…..I was abused by my mother as a child. I was the one she took it out on. She never believed me even though I told the truth. She slapped me, punched me, back handed me, pushed me against the wall, screamed at me, punished me for things she thought I did, but I didn’t. So, maybe that is why I allowed the behavior from my ex. I used to think that was my reason for being born. My ex told me that he had a talk with her and asked her why she treated me like that and he said her response was she got pregnant with me to save her marriage. Her marriage failed, so she blamed me for it and so, the abuse. She denies having that conversation with him, but it kinda makes sense. I have forgiven both of them, but I have not forgotten.) I feel sad for me sometimes because I so desperately wanted to have a close relationship with my mom but, she didn’t. Years after my second marriage, my parents disowned me and cut off communications for ten years after I shared my feelings and confronted them with a certain situation that happened between us. We are just now working towards reconnecting. Everyone only has one life on this earth. There are no do-overs. This is not a dress rehearsal. She cannot give what she took away from me and neither can my ex. But, I was lucky to have survived. I was lucky to be given another chance. I was lucky to find someone who truly loves me and gives me the life I deserve. One without violence. One with love, support, care and friendship. And for that I am truly grateful!!
What would you like to tell the world about Domestic Violence
This project helps let women know they are not alone. I felt so alone. Like I was going through it in silence but I was screaming inside. They need to know they are not alone!! Even in anonymity, I am hopeful that I can help just one person find the strength to tell themselves that they can do it!!! That they can leave, that they can survive and that they can be truly happy. This is not a dress rehearsal. Go….be happy