October is Domestic Violence Awareness month and fittingly my next guest is a lady whose marriage evolved into an abusive relationship. Donna and her husband got married after their son was born and they’ve been married now since 2005. They separated about eighteen months ago and their divorce is pending.
Like many women, Donna said it took her a while to understand that her husband’s behavior was abusive and it also took her a while to tell her parents and friends what was really going on. Here’s Donna:
He wasn’t abusive at first. Eventually in some of our arguments he started pushing me and throwing me up against the wall. He threw a beer bottle at me. And then one night he, I was laying in bed and he got pissed off at me and hit me in the stomach and literally threw me out of bed. But I didn’t really know it was abuse until later.
The final straw was the day after Christmas. We got in an argument and he came after me. He leaned over me and started slamming my head into the tile floor in front of our son. He only stopped because our son came, walked up and was crying. My ex turned around and looked at him. I didn’t know what he was going to do so I grabbed my son and ran into the office and called the police.
At first I thought we were just going to pack up and go to my mom’s apartment and get out of there. Then I realized that it had snowed that day and we had six inches of snow on the ground. I didn’t want to be driving like that. I was just going to call the police because that’s the right thing to do and I was done. So, they came and arrested him and put him in jail for 48 hours and they put a restraining order against him. But I didn’t know what he was going to do when he got out.
After that he did anger management and parenting classes. I really wanted to believe that maybe he’d learned something, that he’d be a better person after all that, that he’d feel remorse and more humility. That’s why I tried to get back together and reconcile. We went on vacation during spring break in the mountains in North Carolina and I realized after spending some time with him that he hadn’t really learned anything.
The anger management and the parenting classes would have been court-mandated but his lawyer told him to just go ahead and start doing that before his court date. And then he would be able to say that at the court date. Then the judge can do what’s called a deferred dismissal. It’s deferred until he finishes it in like a certain amount of time. Then he comes back before the judge, says he’s completed them and that he hasn’t gotten in anymore trouble and then they just dismiss the charge.
My mom knew that he had thrown the beer bottle because he hit the TV and it chipped the screen on the TV. So she knew about that. But I didn’t tell anyone about other stuff. I was embarrassed about it.
I felt like I needed to protect him. I didn’t want my parents to be talking bad about him. That stuff was between him and I and if I was going to be with him long term I didn’t want to turn my parents against him.
When I did finally tell my mom she didn’t believe me at first. Neither one of my parents did but they came around eventually and were supporting me.
I think my parents laid part of the blame on me that because I’m not a submissive female. I’m not a person that backs down. I stand up for myself.
I know I had a part in that argument. He started calling me a stupid cow and we had both been drinking wine. I took the wine glass, poured the wine in his lap and walked away from him. That’s when he came after me. I did have a part in it although it doesn’t justify violence. Because of that my parents put some of the blame on me.
The Divorce Coach Says
When things get physical it’s pretty clear that there’s abuse. But what about if your spouse stops you from seeing family members or friends, or stops you from working or going to school or tells you it’s your fault? The National Domestic Violence Hotline lists these and several other situations as potential indicators of an abusive relationship. and urges you to call the toll-free number for assistance: 1-800-799-7233.
Whether a victim recognizes the behavior as abuse or is in denial, the support of friends and family is important. As a friend it can be frustrating to repeatedly ask why tolerate the behavior but helping them recognize the abuse and accept that the behavior is not normal is vital. Being supportive and non-judgmental is also important but know that you can’t rescue them. Again The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers resources for friends or abuse victims.
Another of my interviewees, Two Kids And a Fish was in a longer term marriage that got steadily more abusive. She recognized it was time to leave when her sister-in-law asked her why she stayed and why she was tolerating her brother’s behavior.
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