It was 7:00 AM and my husband was up and getting ready for work; time to get my daughter up and make breakfast. I pulled on my thick robe in spite of the warm morning, making certain I was properly covered before going my daughter’s bedroom. The blinds were closed against prying eyes but I could tell it was going to be a sunny day by the glimpses of golden light that managed to sneak around the edges of the blinds.
I quickly changed my daughter’s diaper and carried her to her high chair in the dining area of our apartment. Taking a bowl and cereal from the cabinet I poured a double serving of the pre sweetened cereal into the bowl and set it on the table with a container of milk, a spoon, and sugar. Then I prepared my daughter’s oatmeal and fruit.
My husband sat down at the table and finished preparing his breakfast adding two generous spoonfuls of sugar to his cereal and filling the bowl halfway with milk. Sitting down in front of the baby’s high chair I began to feed her breakfast.
So far we had not spoken. But then the morning litany began. “What are you doing today?” he asked as he loudly smacked his lips.
It was Monday and he knew my Monday schedule. I told him anyway. “After Michelle wakes up from her nap I am going to the grocery store. I will bring the groceries back and put them away. Then I’ll give her lunch and wait for your call. I’ll take her to the playground from 1:00 until 3:30 and be back in the house for your call at 3:45. I will put her in for her nap until 5:00. At 5:00I will get her up and give her a bath. At 5:30 I will start preparing dinner.”
He nodded and wiped his mouth with a paper napkin which he then shoved into the pocket of his jeans. “I’ll call you at nine.”
I walked him to the front door where he routinely kissed me and locked the door behind him as he waited for the elevator.
As I finished feeding my baby her breakfast I listened for the sound of the motorcycle engine signifying he had in fact left for work. A few minutes later the sound filtered up four floors through the tightly closed windows and I took a deep breath.
Imagine living under constraints like this. Imagine accounting for every minute of your day, remembering every conversation you had with every person you interacted with, dressed as you were told to dress. That was my life.
As a woman in a domestic violence/intimate partner violence marriage I was abused mentally, physically and emotionally. My relationship did not start out that way. I did not wake up one morning to a spouse who told me I was a whore if I wore a shirt that was not buttoned up to my throat with safety pins between the buttons so no one could see in the sides if they opened slightly. I did not suddenly have a husband who would rant and rave, breaking things, hitting me, choking me, pulling my hair if I happened to speak to a male cashier at the grocery store.
The little things that happened when we dated gradually grew bigger. Things that at one time seemed like concern for my well being turned to control of every aspect of my life.
By the time we were engaged I had been told how to dress, making sure nothing “showed”. Turtlenecks, button up shirts that were buttoned all the way up, no skirts, no shorts, never a bathing suit. I had been pushed, one time over a coffee table. I had been bruised. When it came time to choose a wedding gown I was told what would be acceptable. By then it never occurred to me to argue. I knew what the consequences would be.
I had purchased a 2-piece swimsuit for our honeymoon. The top was appropriately sized for my fuller figure. The one time we went to the indoor pool another couple happened to be there. As I stood in the water at the side of the pool the husband stood above me and we talked about the water. Suddenly my husband wanted to leave. When we got back to the room he tore the top from my body and ripped it up. Shoving me across the room he called me a variety of names. I didn’t wear a bathing suit again for the remainder of our 10-year marriage.
His violence increased as the years passed. One time I was sitting on the couch in our living room with our 5 year old daughter. Her two and a half year old brother played on the floor near- by. My husband came from the bedroom carrying his illegal handgun. Pointing it at me he said, “I could shoot you right now.” We had not been arguing. Nothing seemed to precipitate the action.
Every evening at 6:30 he would come home from work. Dinner had to be prepared and ready to serve when he walked in. We would sit at the dining room table, my husband myself, our 2 daughters and one son. He would ask what we did all day and I had to be sure I didn’t leave anything out that one of the children might repeat. After dinner I would clean up while the children played in their room. He would examine his stereo cabinet with the glass door t assure himself the children had not touched it and there were no fingerprints. As soon as I had cleaned up the kitchen we would all sit down to watch whatever television program he chose for that evening. At nine o’clock I would put the children to bed and he and I would retire to the bedroom to watch television. After the late night news the television would be turned off and I would submit to whatever sexual activity he wanted that night.
Weekends were different. When the children were small and we had a car we would drive to local places like parks, playgrounds, and sometimes historical venues. By the time our third child was born in our tenth year of marriage things had deteriorated to the point where the only weekend activity we had was going to his mother’s apartment to sit in her living room and watch television.
He had begun to be more aggressive with the children. Perhaps that was the catalyst that moved me toward escape. On what was our tenth anniversary as he left for work he told me to be sure his “f**ing meatloaf was ready” for HIS anniversary dinner. In a mad rush after he left I began packing up as much as I could. I was gone long before he got off from work. I never went back. I’d like to say I never saw him again but of course that was impossible.
The most dangerous time for a woman leaving an abusive relationship is when she leaves her abuser. I did not know that when I left. I did not know that one in four women will experience some type of abuse in her lifetime. I did not know many things in those days. If you are being abused by a significant other there is help. Please contact someone. There are agencies that will assist you and guide you through the process of getting your life back.
For more information on domestic violence