Her voice still pierces through my mind.
“Did you call the cops?”
It is a well-meaning question, but to a victim of domestic violence, it serves as an indictment. If you are asking the question the answer doesn’t really matter.
It seems like a logical question–a question meant more to gain information rather than judge. Still, it feels like judgement.
For the second time after leaving, I sat in an office in a county courthouse reliving my nightmare that was a 12 year abusive marriage. After SIX years, apparently, I still needed protection from the person I vowed before God & our families to love forever. The deputy clerk asked the “question” and I starred at her unable to speak. There was no energy to speak. I felt salty tears running down my cheek. I couldn’t speak; there was this lump in my throat. I could hear my heart beat, and found myself comforted by the consistent sound. It was the sound of brokenness.
I stared over her shoulder and out the window and then turned my head to look at Crissy; I wondered if this time was going to take me down for good. The tears turned into a racing heart and I could feel the heat in my face. Suddenly, tears gave way to anger. The courthouse staffer had her eyes locked on me waiting for an answer to her question. “No, I did not call”
While not uncommon for victims to report abuse, every victim has reasons. The entirety of my marriage, I kept thinking it would be the last hit, the last punch, or the last verbal beat down. I prayed every night that my God would fix it. I had nowhere to go. My job was tied up in this marriage. He was everything to me. But, he turned into a monster and I was frequently fearful for my life. Calling the cops, I felt, would make it worse. I wanted to slap that lady for asking the question when the answer, at that moment, didn’t matter, nor was it any of her business as she was just the paper pusher, not the judge.
My marriage was filled with days I couldn’t name many reasons to live. I didn’t feel valuable, I tried to out wait it; I knew if I could just not make him mad, the abuse would stop. I wanted so badly for the man I married to come back, and the monster that slept next to me to stop. Just stop.
I knew reporting my cases of domestic violence would mean, literally, becoming homeless and jobless. It doesn’t matter if that decision was logical, I was not in any position to take more beatings after the cops came and saw no bruises, scrapes or scratches. He knew how to hit me without leaving a single mark.
I hated that lady that day for judging me for not reporting my incidences of domestic violence. Operating under the information I had and the lies I believed, I am not sure I would do anything differently today. But, that was then, and this was now, and sometimes, “when you know better you do better”.
The turn then came for me came when church friends, lifelong friends and finally family told me to leave. This was not a short progress as it took several months. I knew, that for me, there would be no turning back. I had to make sure I understood the ramifications of a decision to leave. Finally, a very special friend and my cousin made that decision for me.
Six years later I still had to deal with this person who wished harm on me.
However, six years is a long time to rebuild that which was stolen from me. I was no longer that person, on this day. Filing for this restraining order was the second time in six years. The first time, I was a mere shell of a person, and had no fight. I didn’t even want to live.
This time, my decision to go file the paperwork was based on one basic truth: I deserved better. So, I decided to fight.
I wish I could say that even six years later going to court wasn’t painful. It hurt on so many levels. I think the day I left I felt more betrayed by God than anybody. I did not then, nor do I now understand why God didn’t just create the heart change I begged for night after night. I thought if I forgave, and (literally) turned the other cheek that we could be an amazing story of restoration. So, when none of that happened, I was, and still sometimes am, confused by God. As the years go by, and I process all of it–not just him, but a lifetime of abuse and neglect, I find myself chalking these things up to things I will never understand.
Ken Gire writes, author of “North Face of God”, about a father begging for healing for his son. Finally, locked in a church and in a standoff with God, this is the message he received: “if I don’t heal your son, if I don’t do this thing you want me to do, can I still be your God?”
It didn’t take me long to answer that question in my situation. “Yes, You can still be my God, please still be my God!”
This book started as a battle cry and high hopes of helping those who are or who have stood in my shoes. The purpose of this book is for those of you who love victims of domestic violence. The purpose of this book is to speak to those of you who don’t understand why it’s not “just a phone call”. I want those same people to understand the importance of inserting yourself into your friends life and wait for the moment. Stay with it. Pray much. She won’t make sense to you. The decision to leave will seem easy to you. But, you can’t trust a beat-down wife to call on her own, if there is nothing left of her then she has no ability to think logically. Let her keep a suitcase at your house. Be part of an emergency exit plan. Pray with her. Play with her. Love her. But please, please do not judge her. It’s not as simple as folks would like to make it.
Domestic violence has always existed in society. It is also true that God takes His hands off of those who constantly ignore Him. It is in those people that true evil exists.
Please don’t misunderstand me, no woman should stay in an abusive relationship, no one should. But matters of the heart and the wallet sometimes are screaming louder than logic. And, with each punch, slap or kick, she dies a little. Then there comes a time she hopes he will kill her because living with him is too painful.
And then there is God.
I know now that I had to be ready to leave. I know now that it was God and my friends who gave me the strength to leave. So, with a a little money, a lot of friends and a little family, I left when he was on a trip. I passed him on the road as he was coming home. I have never looked back.
Recently, society has paid more attention to intimate partner abuse. Those of us who got out have something to offer. While I will take you through my journey of not only spousal abuse but childhood neglect, abuse and finally abandonment, my mission is clear. I want my pain to matter. I want to help you, because you matter. You will find that I have a devout love of music and especially during this season of my life, many times my communication with God was through music. I will often refer to lyrics of some of my favorite songs, the same ones that filled my heart and head when I was throwing my Bible across the room.
If I were standing in front of a group of women and they were asking my advice, I would say, do not pull away from your friends and your family. This is what he wants. Find somebody to trust and tell them, because then it makes you accountable. This was the thing that saved me. I told friends and family and they took over for me, and helped me get out. Make that phone call to people you can trust, you can do that. Don’t be silent. Don’t let him own you. I heard someone say once “the devil loves dark corners”. Step out into the light and trust me the phone at the police station will eventually ring, because you will get strong enough, or one of your friends will love you enough to do it for you. Don’t try to gage how dangerous he is, you really can’t trust your logic. I am lucky to have gotten out when I did.
To those of you who love victims of domestic violence, you have the hardest job of all. Don’t be afraid to make the call on your friends behalf, because she may not be able to, she just can’t see it. Be careful. She has to be ready. Don’t give up on her. Don’t be angry with her. Don’t push her. She is getting enough of that already.
People ask me why I waited so long to leave. I had my reasons and you have yours. They don’t have to make sense. Always try to make decisions based on your safety and well-being and not financial security. Don’t stay in an abusive relationship because you can’t figure out how to do it. You will be amazed at humanity and how most of us hate cowards who hurt women. Don’t stay in silence. Tell a friend.
As far as everybody else, don’t ask if she called the cops, she will shut down and feel judged. If what needs to happen is her removal from the situation, then gently prod and help her in that direction. Remember, it feels like an indictment when you expect her to pull herself out all alone.
Domestic violence leaves life-long scars. Healing comes in lots of fashions, but it does come. As Tony Dungy said “life will never be the same, but it won’t always feel like this”. Love yourself, value yourself and remember you are not alone. I hope you find my journey, while often difficult to read and write about, gives you hope in dark times; I hope it gives you courage when you need it; I hope you get set free.