Norb: I recently posted an article on Facebook about Domestic Abuse/Violence and you contacted me to share your story is that correct?
M: Yes I thought that hearing this from the point of view of a victim was important.
Norb: I thank you for talking with me and want you to know that if at any time you don’t feel comfortable discussing this further, we can stop the interview.
M: Thank you.
Norb: let’s start at the beginning. How long ago did this occur?
M: In looking back, it started on our Honeymoon. Alex (not his name) got very angry when I commented on a statement he made. Early in our marriage I once forgot to turn off my headlights. I had to call him to rescue me, and he was so angry he kept shouting and telling me I was stupid.
Norb: Is this the first time you have felt comfortable talking about it?
M: No, after the divorce I went to a Divorce Recovery Program and after the program I was asked to tell my story to the next group. It was hard, to write, initially, but by the time I have practiced it a few times it became very easy to talk about it. Actually putting it down on paper was very cathartic, and it made me deal with my emotions.
Norb: If you did discuss this who with?
M: I had told several friends about his behavior, but they always said their husbands acted like that, too. Later I learned they were appalled at his behavior but never told me.
Norb: Who was your abuser?
M: My Husband
Norb: How long had you known them?
M: We were married 9 months after we met, and were married for 30 years before we separated.
Norb: What was the first instance?
M: My abuse was not physical, but emotional. He gradually separated me from my friends and family, and slowly became more violent towards me. I describe it as cooking snails; if you drop snails in a pot of hot water they will crawl out, but if you put them in cold water and gradually heat it up they don’t notice and slowly cook to death. Two of the most violent instances happened within 3 years of our separation.
I had been about 700 miles away for the weekend, at a music competition. My group won first place in the competition, and. when I got home I told him. His response was there must have been a lot of lousy groups there. Â I then asked Alex if he had eaten and he said yes, so I started making something for me to eat. He started shouted at me that he was hungry and had been expecting me home earlier so make dinner. He raged at me about how he had to fend for himself all weekend and I didn’t care. Later he told me he was just being funny with the comment.
Number 2 was when we were on vacation with the children. We were trying to find a parking lot so we could take a tour. I saw a lot and pointed it out, he started shouting that he couldn’t get there and I should have seen it sooner. He then drove onto a highway, going over 100 miles an hour screaming at me, you have the map, where are we. I kept shouting for him to slow down so I could read the road signs, and the kids were in the back seat screaming, you’re going to kill us. After traveling about 10 miles he exited the highway, and pulled into the first parking spot he saw. He got out and said, we can walk from here. Our son convinced Alex to let him drive back and when we got there Alex walked away from us. The kids and I bought the tickets and took the tour and had a good time. As we were coming back we saw Alex with another tour group. The children and I walked around the area and met Alex when he finished his tour. He took the keys and drove us back to the hotel. When we got to the hotel he dropped us off and said he was going to park the car. We did not see him again until the next afternoon. He had decided to drive to another city 400 miles away to look around. When he arrived he expected to do the planned activity for that day which was a day tour. When we told him it was too late she started sulking and said he was just going to say at the hotel. He would not give us the car keys so we walked to a mall. I felt really bad when my kids said they would take turns sitting next to Dad on the plane so I wouldn’t have to.
He would get mad for no reason and back me into a corner and shout and spit on my face and give me the 3rd degree after work demanding to know what I said about him to my co-workers. He would take my keys and disappear for a day or 2 and I would have to call co-workers to get a ride to work.
Norb: Did you feel you deserved being treated like this and why.
M: I knew I didn’t deserve this behavior, but I thought no one would believe me. My friends knew a lot of this but didn’t support me.
Norb: What do you believe triggered the abuser?
M: I think he was always an abuser, but was able to hide it for years. When he did rage at me, I usually didn’t know what set him off.
Norb: Did you contact law enforcement at this time?
M: No, like I said, I thought no one would believe me. I didn’t have any physical marks.
Norb: abuse usually starts slow like verbal abuse and progresses thru physical abuse including hitting stabbing, being pushed down the stairs or being burnt. Was this the case with you?
No, I left before it became physical. Although, others have told me even though I didn’t get hit the spitting and backing me into a corner were physical. I often feared for my safety when he was raging. I was also concerned that if I would leave he would hurt the kids.
Norb: Did you at any time feel fearful for your or your child’s safety or life?
M: absolutely. The worst part was I found out they would hide in another room when he acted this way so they could call the police if needed.
Norb: Did the abuse cause you to lose work?
M: No, but when we separated he stalked me at work and I almost lost my job.
Norb: Did you require any medical attention due to the abuse?
M: I went to a therapist. Mentally, I was a train wreck.
Norb: Did you resort to anything to hide the abuse like wearing sunglasses or using concealer?
Norb: What was the straw that broke the camel’s back?
M: When I found out the kids would hide so they could call the police. They also told me they thought Dad didn’t love me anymore because they saw him with another woman. That was when I found out he had been cheating on me. About a week later I was diagnosed with an STD.
Norb: Finally, what made you stay so long with an abuser?
M: Again, I didn’t think anyone would believe me. No one in my family ever got a divorce, I couldn’t face that failure. My co-workers would tell me that was normal behavior, so I thought I was just being over sensitive. Also, I was the snail!
My kids convinced me that Dad needed help, and I needed to get away from him before he did severe damage. That’s when I realized that every time Alex came into the house/room, I would have a panic attack. This anxiety was affecting my relationships, and health.
I want to say, if someone starts confiding in you about abnormal behavior of a spouse or lover, don’t brush it off. Support them and tell them it isn’t normal and try to help them get help.
Previously published in the Niagara Gazette.