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After leaving court that day, I had a few rough nights. All of it came rushing back with such clarity, such detail, and unbelievable sadness. I have often likened it to a filmstrip, a filmstrip on repeat. I was back at work and somehow had to figure out how to function in a world of vast innocence; those kids brought hope and light into a very dark time for me. On top of all of that, I had to find an attorney. I think I had $85 in my bank account. True to form, I had a friend with a check- book. Crissy walked into the attorney’s office with me and we hired an attorney who made me tell him stories. I could easily tell him the stories, because they filled my nights. He wanted to know how it all started. I am sure some of you are wondering the same thing. I have been called many things for writing this blog and all of it catches me off guard when I run into people I don’t even know are reading; brave, courageous, strong—and maybe that is true now, but it wasn’t true then. And for that reason, this blog has been the hardest for me to write. But I land back at the purpose of this and I am willing to visit the pain, again, if somebody can be helped. So, this is how it started.
With your back against the wall you would be amazed at the amount of things that can run through your mind, all at once. That is where I found myself the very first time I got hit. And my life would never be the same. That moment—the one where everything changes- can ‘t be explained. I don’t know how it is for other victims of domestic abuse, but for me I was absolutely stunned. He was saying a bunch of words and as soon as he hit me I heard a pop and felt warm blood trickle down my face. That eardrum-to this day-has never been the same.
I really can’t explain how confused I was. And it didn’t stop. It only ended when I was locked out of the house with the clothes I had on-and nothing else. I made my way to the curb of the driveway-because he told me to get off his property. My friend from across the street came over with some ice and took me over to her house. The bleeding in my ear finally stopped and by that time he was knocking on my neighbors door asking for me. And for reasons that I cannot explain, I followed him back to our house.
I think some people are born to handle conflict better than others. I was not built for conflict, not then and not now. Always willing to just deal with hurt on my own, I think somehow I thought that maybe this was an isolated incident. It never occurred to me to call the police. I just shut down. So, I don’t remember much more about that day. The next day I woke up with a huge bump and bruise on my head. Must have hit my head when he threw me across the room. No doubt I had a concussion, which also may be why I don’t remember much else.
After that day I started to fade away inside. So many people had invested in my life and had done a good job of instilling confidence in me after so many had robbed me of my childhood. On that day, the first day I got hit, everything I thought was true didn’t seem to be true. I searched for whatever I did or said that turned him into a monster. I was so embarrassed, so ashamed. Born an over-achiever, I decided that trying harder to be a good wife would work-that somehow I could control the anger, the fury of another person. I was determined to change him. I was convinced it would never happen again. I did not tell anybody. My neighbor never spoke of it again to either of us. I believed him when he said he was sorry. Somehow at the end of conversations about it, I felt sorry for him. His tears seemed genuine to me; I hate to see people cry. I avoided thinking about it in whatever way I could. Out of church with no support system, I threw myself into work. I worked hard, and all the time. I wanted him to love me; I wanted him to be proud of me; I wanted to be valuable to him. So, I forgave, I never mentioned it to him again; until years later when I found my voice and my value and then I reminded him of this day. But, for the most part, I let him off the hook. I did not hold him accountable.
And, in a courtroom in Clearwater, Florida 12 years later, I did the exact same thing.
“Because of you I never stray too far from the sidewalk, because of you I learned to play on the safe side so I don’t get hurt. Because of you I find it hard to trust not only me, but everyone around me because of you, I am afraid.”