Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Abuse Post; A Personal Story And Honest Advice

   The relationship that I had with my daughter's father was abusive. That's a hard thing to admit, because I had always said that I wouldn't put up with abuse ever again. If someone hit me, I would damn well hit back, and then I'd call the cops. That's how I was gonna be; I was never going to be hit again.
    The problem was, I had already been abused and in bad relationships, and once you've been in that type of relationship, my personal opinion is that falling into another abusive, bad relationship, is that much easier: the ground work has already been laid.  The other problem was, I was used to thinking of abuse as something physical. I was used to abuse being someone knocking your ass through a TV and then following up by bashing you in the head. Someone putting hands around your throat. Someone trying to run you down with their car. These things had been done to me, and that is what I considered abuse.
   The thing is, there are all kinds of abuse. I am not downplaying physical abuse at all, but that is the type of abuse, to me, that is easiest to recognize and easiest to prove. So what do you do when you say something to the person you've chosen to be with, and they respond to you by saying, "You're a dumbass. And you're accent makes you sound like a hick." And another day, you say something, and they say, "God, you're so stupid. Stop talking." And another day, you say something, and they say, "You don't do a damn thing to help, ever. You're useless."
   Well, the first time, you get mad. If you are smart, you leave. But people make mistakes; they put their trust and faith in the wrong people. And if they have, already, as I did, a foundation of abuse, maybe they already believe these things about themselves, and then that makes leaving a harder conclusion to end up at. And after a while, you stop arguing with the person saying these things to you, because you love that person and you've made commitments to them, and you have a family together. So instead, what you do is you stop talking so much. You don't bother anyone with what you are thinking or how you feel, because you think it doesn't matter. You keep yourself small and you keep yourself private. That was one type of abuse that I suffered with my daughter's father.
    Another type of abuse is economic abuse and isolation. These are linked with me. When I first started seeing my daughter's father, I was eighteen. I lived on my own in Mississippi, and my mother had already relocated to Washington, so she never even met him until after my daughter was born. I worked, and I rented a house that I shared with roommates. I was independent. I met him at work, and one thing led to another, but I never felt abused by him, and eventually, I was pregnant. I was panicked, because I had no medical, and my job didn't really have any policy regarding maternity leave, and then the 9/11 attacks came (also my birthday, 9/11) and I was sitting there, preggers, scared, and unsure about the future, and he said, "We need to move to Florida, and I have a job waiting, and my family will be there to help."
   Florida was a mistake. In Florida, I had no job of my own, I had no family, no friends, nothing. I had to rely completely, on my now ex, and that is when the emotional abuse really started, and that is also when we decided that I would stay home now, and take care of the baby, and he would provide. This was a joint decision, one that he pushed for, which is something that I feel I need to point out, because when the time came for that support, he raged against providing it. There were many things that I had to beg his grandmother to provide, such as diapers, sanitary items that I needed as a female, formula (I tried breastfeeding but there were complications and health issues, so my daughter was only breast fed for about three months), and so-on/so-forth. I couldn't get things that I needed from him at all, and always had to ask for outside help, and I could only get him to provide things my daughter needed about half the time. Anytime I would bring up something that we needed, the response would go something like this, "You don't do a damn thing to help in this house. Maybe you should do something to fucking help provide." But I need to add to this the fact that he really pushed me to give up working and stay home, and with this in mind, we had sold my car to help fund the move. Even then, I did bring up trying to find work, and this was always blocked, by him. However, he only blocked my not working in private, in public, to his parents and friends, he would say that I refused to work, or didn't want to work, but at home, he would tell me that I wasn't taking his car, that he didn't want to work and then spend all his home time taking care of the baby because I wasn't there, he wouldn't get enough rest, and a ton of other reasons. I always backed down. I felt, what else could I do? We lived in a country-ghetto trailer park, a thirty minute drive away from the nearest store, and I felt stuck. There was no one for me to talk to who wasn't related to him. I had no friends, no nearby family, and he didn't even seem to like me spending a lot of time with his family. He wanted me to be home.
   We fought. Whenever we fought, he would do his best to make me feel that I was crazy. He wouldn't let me hold the baby. He'd take her out of the house, drive away, and stay gone for the day, without telling me where she was or where he was or if he was coming back. This was punishment; punishment for talking back, for arguing. He did, during those fights, become physical twice. Once he grabbed me (while I was holding her, no less) and shook me like a dog would shake a chew toy. This was no mild shake, but a violent, forceful shake that had my head snapping back and forth, and terrified me because I was holding an infant. The second time, he hit me upside the back of my head. This was the time when I told him that if he ever hit me again, I would call the cops. His reply was, "If you ever call the cops on me, I'll beat the living fuck out of you before they have time to get here." We lived thirty minutes away from everything; he was right, he would have had time to beat the living fuck out of me before help ever arrived, but he didn't hit me again after that. He did something worse. Every time we fought, "If you leave this house, I will take our daughter away, and you will never see her again." "If we don't stay together, you aren't taking her. You will never see her again." I was young, and I was terrified, and I didn't know any better. I believed him; I was afraid to leave. I believe that I would have left if he had hit me again, but he never did. Instead, he threatened me, belittled me, and acted like a decent guy in public so that no one ever knew, and it worked for a long time. After a while, I even stopped fighting, unless I fighting over something to do with my daughter being taken care of. I just despaired.
   Eventually, I did go to work, after my daughter was about three. His grandmother had stopped working, due to health issues, and when she realized that I was willing to work, she offered to watch the baby and she let me use her car as transportation. He was pissed, but his grandmother was not someone that he could cross, she provided him with a lot of money. My job was belittled by him at every turn. "The little cashier job that didn't provide enough money to pay bills." That little cashier job was the beginning of the end for our relationship; in retrospect, he was right to fear me working. I had completely supported myself when we were dating. Sure, I was poor, but I was able to pay my rent and buy the basics. Once I started working again, I didn't have to ask him for things the baby needed, I didn't have to ask him for things I needed, and I was able to escape that oppressive one room shack that originally was a chick coop, with a tin roof, walls that didn't meet the floor, and a floor that was rotting out. I began to wake up. I began to talk. Once I started talking, I started having coworkers shoving fliers for women's shelters into my hands. I realized I had options, and my independent nature started to fight it's way back to the surface.
    I've been free from that mess for almost nine years now. I don't date because my trust isn't what it should be. I'm strong, but I was broken, once, and recovering from that is an uphill battle. Most of the time, I am very happy, but sometimes, I still get depressed. After being in an emotionally abusive relationship, one that had me getting belittled and devalued on an almost hourly basis,  teaching myself that I did have value, was a hard, hard thing. Sometimes, I still have to remind myself. Emotional abuse sticks with you, long after the abuser is gone. We have a kid together, and none of my personal abuse has ever been reported, which was a dumb move on my part, but then, how do you report something like emotional abuse or economic abuse? How does a court judge that? Still, I have my daughter; he's never even filed for visitation, and I keep contact as minimal as possible. I get judged for that, but I try not to care. In this matter, I do believe that I know best; certainly, I know better than anyone who wasn't with me for those years, in that house.
    And I've moved on. I have plans. Where once I didn't see a future, where once, I didn't even want to live anymore, I now have rekindled myself and taken out goals that I had locked away. I'm working towards things and making my life better. Life is good. So why talk about this at all?
   Because maybe, just maybe, someone is reading this, and they are going through something similar. Maybe, just maybe, this might help them realize that they can break free; they need to break free. I recently read, online, a piece of advice from an asshole, telling someone who had been in an abusive marriage that they had no reason to get a divorce; that this person's abuser was the one who really needed help, and that this person, as the spouse, was the best person to help the abuser find help, and that leaving would be selfish. I was aghast. But the fact remains that there is a lot of crappy advice out there, especially pertaining to abuse. Despite things like 'climbing divorce rates' and 'hook-up culture', leaving a relationship can still bring a lot of harsh judgment, a lot of stigma, especially if there is a marriage and/or children involved.
   At the risk of adding more crappy advice to a sea of crappy advice, I have to urge anyone being abused: leave. GET SAFE. It's gonna be hard. Nine years later, you are still going to be dealing with the emotional scars, you are still going to wake up sad on some mornings, but you will be alive to do so. Leave. Maybe your abuser can be fixed, but that isn't your job, it's theirs. Your job is fixing you, is fixing your kids (if kids are involved) and you need to get that done. And if you think that the abuse isn't affecting your child, guess again. I thought I was protecting my daughter. I thought that I was hiding the trauma, the sadness. We came here, to Washington, when she was three, almost four. She told me that she missed people in Florida, but that she was happy we moved because I didn't cry anymore. She noticed, and my sadness affected her. Children are so observant. Even if they are not being abused, you don't want them to see you being abused. You don't want them to grow up thinking that this type of behavior is okay.
   I don't know if my advice is any better than someone who says to stay. But as someone who has been there, I think so. I've seen women die. Not just heard about it, not just seen a statistic, I've seen women die; I've known them personally. I've seen a woman so driven to the brink, that she put a gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger. I've seen a woman overdose, just to stop the pain. I never, NEVER want to see these things again. So I think my advice is better, because I don't want to belittle anyone, or judge anyone - I just want people to be safe, and if you are in an abusive relationship, that means leaving.  

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