by Kathryn Sees
Descriptions of my experiences the domestic violence are the framework for a future book
| Four years before I was finally able to leave an abusive husband, I had impulsively ran away in an effort to not only save myself but the precious life growing innocently inside of me . At the time, I was very pregnant with my second child. I felt and probably looked extra big, because when you're only five feel tall, there is only so much room for a little one. My husband's abusive behavior had began six months before I had gotten pregnant again. At least that was when I finally started saying to myself, "This isn't right, and I'm in trouble here." When I think about it now, he had probably been abusing me in one form or another from the being of our relationship. I didn't have friends anymore. I had just quit my teaching job in Virginia because his dad had work for him back home in Ohio. He was always putting me down, and making me doubt ability to do just about anything. It was the physical abuse that actually started to wake me up. Because that started while we were in Virginia, I felt especially isolated and unable to control what was going on. Once we returned to Ohio, my perception of myself and the world around me had completely changed. My life was being controlled by him and the real world I knew was gone.
The day that I ran away started like any other day. I had probably been up once or twice with my 18 month old daughter the night before, so I was still quite tired when I got up in the morning. I had to make sure that she was quiet when she woke up, so that she didn't disturb him. My husband got up to get ready for work and left early. He was working with his dad, so he drove to his parents' house and then left with them to go to the job site. This added a bit of extra time to his work day, which was good for me. I then simply had a typical day with a toddler. We played with toys, read stories, ventured to the laundry room, watched Sesame Street, and had snacks. I also took a nap when she did. Being seven months pregnant, I wore out rather quickly. These days should have been relaxing, enjoyable, and full of happiness for all three of us. They were not. When my husband wasn't home things were a little bit more pleasant and normal. Even when he was gone, any happiness was overshadowed by what I knew the evening could bring. I had already experienced too many nights and weekends full of confusion, sadness and anger for my days to feel at ease. Walking on eggshells was something I learned to do years before this. Don't say the wrong thing. Don't do the wrong thing. Don't do anything to upset him. Ever.
Around dinner time, he came home in what appeared to be a good mood. It made me breath just a bit easier after having worried all day about what I might have to deal with later. Unfortunately, the good mood turned into a bad attitude before I could hardly even say "hello". He often came home questioning me about people from my past, my past relationships, my past experiences. He would even tell me that something his mother said, or even something he heard on the radio contradicted something I had told him or was different than an opinion I had. This was the case tonight. Supposedly while the radio was on during the day at the job, an interview with a psychologist was talking about the behavior of people who are liars. Since he thought that I was constantly lying to him, this was not a good thing for him to have listened to. Whether I had the tell tale signs of a chronic liar or not, he was going to find then in whatever I did . As he got more upset my heart began beating faster and my hands began shaking. Rationalizing with him never worked, even though I would try to anyway. He wouldn't listen to what I had to say, and it felt like the sound of my voice was only making him angrier. I knew what was going to be in store for me again that night, and it scared me to death. He might fling cutting insults at me, making me feel even more worthless and small than I already did. He might hide my wedding band, telling me that I didn't deserve to wear it. He might decide how many lashes with a wooden spoon would be enough for tonight's punishment. Like a child being spanked he put me over his knee, holding me down with his back across my back. The spoon left bright red oval shaped marks on my thighs and backside.
"You flinched before that swat, I get to start over," he would say, almost laughing.
"Isn't this fun? I could do this all night." Really, anything could have happened: punching, straggling, kicking, depriving me of dinner, locking me out of the apartment. Panic struck me. He had tried to hit me in the stomach several times early in my pregnancy. This baby was too close to being born to allow him the chance to hurt it now.
He told me that he needed to take a shower and think about what he had heard on the radio. In my mind I knew that this could only turn out one of two ways. Either the shower would help him calm down, or he would come out in an even worse mood. When he was alone with his own thoughts he usually came up with more irrational ideas that I couldn't talk away. I was not going to wait around to find out what those ideas where, because I definitely knew better. I knew that he would not be able to talk any differently after he "relaxed" than he was when he first got home. Thoughts were running through my head faster than I could process them. Should I really run away? Would it make things better or cause bigger problems for me? Was I too pregnant to get away fast enough? As I heard the water start running in the bathroom, I had to make up my mind. I can almost swear that he stuck his head out of the bathroom door and said, "You better not go anywhere," somehow knowing what was spinning in my head. That clinched it, I had to leave. Sheer panic must have made me forget that my daughter was napping peacefully in her room. Only thinking about the safety of my unborn son, maybe I just assumed that my husband wouldn't hurt her and she would be fine while this blew over.
Shielded by the sound of running water, I ran. Seven months pregnant on the fifth floor of an apartment building, I ran with only the clothes on my back. I decided that taking the stairs was a safer bet than waiting for the elevator halfway the hall. Who knows how long I might have had to wait for an elevator to come up to me at the time of day when everyone was getting home from work. He might have seen me waiting there if he came out realizing I was gone. It was like time was moving extremely fast. Even though he had just gotten in the shower and I had just left, I felt like he could be done, dried, and dressed already. I could imagine him appearing out of thin air to catch me leaving. Our apartment door was right next to the stairwell. Down I went, as quickly as my short, tired, pregnant legs would go. I still wasn't sure exactly where I was heading once I exited the building. As I went outside I was already winded, and doubting my decision. I could go back upstairs and he would never know. That thought didn't last long as I looked down at my stomach and remembered exactly why I was leaving. Several blocks away was a large grocery store and several drug stores. Only looking back on it now, I realize that because we lived across the street from a hospital, that should have been the first place I ran to. Things would be very different today if I had. But in fear, as I kept running down the street the best that I could, feeling cramps in the muscles of my bouncing stomach. I held my arms around my stomach to support it as I ran. I turned to look behind myself many times to see if he was there. It was the middle of summer, hot and humid. Sweat was running down my face and down my sides. I was out of so breath. Eventually my only thought was of calling my mother for help. I must have called her from the pay phone in the drug store parking lot. I prayed that she would be home, I had no one else to call. Luckily, she did answer the phone. I also hoped that she would answer my collect call. Not knowing exactly how to explain what was happening, I told her that we had had a terrible fight and I needed her to come pick me up. She, of course, said that she would be there as soon as she could. The problem was that she lived almost on hour away from where I was. Because I felt that the drug store was too small to hide in, I told her I would wait for her in the grocery store across the street, which was much larger. I roamed around the store in a state of paranoia, seeing my husband everywhere I turned. Every once in a while a braved the front of the store to check if my mom had gotten there yet. When I finally saw her car pull in I took a deep breath and left the store, still afraid that he would be there to stop me. When I got in the car, I told her that I didn't really want to talk about what had happened, and stayed silent most of the way home. We drove back to her house where I got cleaned up and borrowed a pair of pajamas to sleep in. For whatever reason I didn't talk much about what was going on, and why I actually needed her help. Was it fear, embarrassment, guilt? I had never talked about anything overly serious with her before, which made speaking up even more difficult. I covered up my husband's abusive behavior because he made me fear him so much that I couldn't even tell my own mother. The next thing I remember was my husband calling the house the next morning. He told me to be waiting outside for him, so that I would be ready to go when he got there. He said that he wasn't upset anymore and that everything was alright. My lack of confidence in myself along with needing to see my daughter made his half apology acceptable enough to leave my parents' house. Both mother and father asked me if I was going to be okay if I left with him. I reassured them that I would be. My mother must have assumed that I was still the strong girl that I used to be only a few short years ago. Sadly, at this point, that girl was in the past.
I went outside when I saw him pull into the driveway. He got out of the car to open my door for me. This display of chivalry only lasted until he walked back around the car, sat down, and slammed his door. I had only those ten seconds to believe he had let go of yesterday's "fight" and to say hello to my daughter. With the thud of his door, not a single thing had changed. He was immediately blaming me for what had happened and the trouble I had caused him. I had involved my family in our relationship and into his business. He had left our daughter alone in the apartment when he realized I wasn't there, and started searching for me. He wrongly assumed that she was with me. It was only when he gave up thirty minutes later that he discovered she that she was still at home. It would have been my fault if something would have happened to her while he was gone. I had wasted his time, making him drive for an hour to pick me up and then another hour home. His time was money. I was told to never do anything like that again, which was paired with an awful threat to hurt me physically if I did. I honestly cannot believe what I was hearing after he had apologized only an hour earlier. My heart was again beating fast and my hands were shaking just like the night before. I sat there staring down at my feet, feeling helpless. I did actually think about getting back out of the car and running inside the house, but I felt much too afraid to move. The only thing that had changed over night was that he knew that I had tried to get away from him, and that he needed to tighten his grip so that it wouldn't happen again.