I had just graduated from high school and was looking forward to starting my adult life. I had strong Christian values and though I was young, I knew what I wanted. I had a great relationship with my parents. They never had to worry about me because I had always made good decisions for myself. I was more than ready to start writing the next chapter of my life and head off to college. An education in Christian counseling was set on my heart with the ultimate desire to help hurting people. I also dreamed of becoming a wife and mother and knew that I would raise my kids in a loving home where my husband and I would teach them about God just like my parents did with me.
I had never heard the words “domestic violence” spoken before. It was not a prevalent message or a topic that had much awareness when I was young. I also never knew a man who was abusive or seen a woman who had been beaten. So I didn’t know what to watch out for or what the warning signs were. No one I knew had ever heard about it or seen it. I didn’t know it was something we had to run away or hide from. I would have told someone, but I didn’t know how to even explain it. I would have stopped it, but before I could, things would improve for a moment, and I would think he could change. I would have asked someone for help, but I was too humiliated. I should have pulled my sleeves up and shown the bruises after the first time he grabbed my arm in anger, but I had convinced myself that it was my fault because I didn’t have dinner ready on time. I should have pulled up my pant leg up to show the deep cuts and bruises from when he threw me off the front porch, but I was too ashamed. I was desperate for someone to save me the night he slammed me against the wall and put his hand around my throat so tightly that I gasped for a breath, but I couldn’t speak.
Jake’s web of deception, manipulation, and intimidation pulled me in so quickly that I didn’t even know what was happening to me. All of a sudden my life became dramatically transformed and consumed by his chaos. I would sometimes stand bewildered at how I went from being a strong, independent young Christian woman with big dreams to someone I didn’t even recognize. What happened to me? How did that one date so many years ago turn into twenty years of abuse and violence in a marriage that I was alone in?
He said he wanted to be a Christian and needed a sweet girl like me to help him be a better person. I knew my mom had led my dad to Christ soon after they were married, and I thought it plausible that I could do the same for him. Even though he scared me every now and then with his explosive anger, he always apologized and brought me flowers the next day and assured me that he would never hurt me again me. He promised me the world, so I jumped in with the young eyes of a woman wanting to be loved and dreaming of her future-to-be. As soon as we were married, his anger and hostility became more frequent – a complete 180 degree turn that left my head spinning and my heart crushed. He denied ever wanting God in his life. In fact, he claimed that the traits he had once admired in me now disgusted him. He became violent and his moods were extreme. Our conversations were confusing and he always said that I was the one misunderstanding. His name calling being so frequent, my everyday labels like “stupid” and “worthless” simply became normal and a part of my identity deeply buried in the wounds he created in my heart.
We moved often and became more and more geographically isolated from family. He preferred that I stayed home to raise our son, and he whipped me into submission declaring me too stupid to do anything else. He controlled the money and limited the time I spent talking to my parents or anyone else. He objected to me having friends over and wanted me available for him at all times. I was never to complain about being ill and whether I was or not, I had every day duties that, if not completed, would result in disaster. Many times I wanted nothing more than to leave him, but knew that if I ever did I might never see my son again. Jake always threatened to find me and steal our son and move to another country where I couldn’t find them. When I mustered up enough courage to ask a pastor what I should do, he told me that I needed to stay with my husband and just pray harder. Jake wasn’t interested in getting help because according to him, it was always my fault.
The violence escalated. I was five months pregnant when Jake came home early from work and saw the mess from putting up the Christmas decorations hadn’t been cleaned. He was so furious at me that when he threw me on the floor, he kicked me in the belly like I was discarded trash. Hours later, I miscarried. When he brought me home, he smiled at me and said that he had me all to himself again. I suffered quietly for years over that day. On December 4th, I always remember.
On another occasion, I asked him to quit driving so fast. His response was to reach across me, open the car door and begin to push me out of our moving car. He justified his actions by stating that it was the only way to get my attention since I was being so bossy.
Reality: A Wakeup Call
As years passed, I reflected on how life had become so exhausting and complicated. I had grown weary of always living in fear and hiding my wounds, physically, and emotionally. I was growing more disgusted with what our lives had been reduced to. I was depressed, fatigued, and always sick. Jake had always told me that I was a leech and could never stand on my own two feet, but I was certain that God was still there and could hear my prayers. I was so grateful that He had kept me alive this long, and I knew that nothing I went through was in vain.
I finally got to the point where I knew I had to make a change. Because I had mastered the art of coping with my dysfunctional environment, the uncertainty of starting over was scary, but I was desperate to do whatever I had to do. Being a single mother and never having worked outside the home made me fearful, but I was ready to follow God’s lead. Regardless of the unknown, I knew that my current situation would eventually kill me. I didn’t want to ruin any more of my life trying to rescue Jake from his demons. I was also concerned about my eleven year old son. I had guarded him from the abuse, but he was now at the age where he hated his father for being so mean to me. And because he was beginning to adopt his father’s attitude of disrespect towards women, I knew it was time to remove him from the wrong atmosphere.
I had homeschooled our son through seventh grade and during those years, I poured my heart and soul into his life, reminding him of how much God loved him and how he could always count on me to be there for him. I tried everything to counteract the abuse that he was exposed to, but sadly I also knew that a father has a powerful influence on a son.
The Escape Plan
After months of praying, planning and surrendering to God, He heard my cry. He moved our family to another community closer to family and friends. I began taking my son to church on a regular basis, in spite of the relentless abuse. He and I developed some very special friends there and were able to share our plight with them. Together, along with the pastor, we created a carefully thought out escape plan. We had just moved into our newly built home and when I thought the time was right, my son and I fled.
Before the end of that night, Jake had called around town looking for us, frantically demanding that we return. It was the first time I didn’t rescue him from his suicidal threats. Instead, the police were notified. It was reported that Jake was at a standoff with two loaded pistols while making phone calls to me. He left six messages on my voice recorder threatening to kill me. The last was him accusing me of his suicide (that never happened). He said he wanted me to rot in hell with his blood on my hands.
Meanwhile, a SWAT team engulfed the property, and hours later he was in custody. Jake was evaluated and released. To my dismay, I was told he had been released to his girlfriend of 20 years. The betrayal was more than I could bear. Twenty years of my life was ruined while he loved another woman.
Some years have passed since that day, and I have had to ask for help along my journey. I’ve learned that with God, my pain was not in vain. The years I thought I lost are being restored. The moments in each day are much more special than ever before, and I take nothing for granted. I’ve learned to reach out to family and friends when I’m lonely. I’ve found some healing while helping others who are victims of abuse. I’m discovering how to love myself and accept the things I cannot change. I’ve had to realize that in order to be truly free, I need to forgive Jake. I now know that no one has the right to define my worth but our Maker, and that He has a plan and purpose for all who seek Him.
Financially, I’ve started at the bottom, yet I have seen God provide in ways far above what I can amass in earthly wealth. Through my healing, I’ve learned not to let anyone or anything get between God and me. I am reminded daily of His unconditional love and acceptance of me and know that He wants to bless me. So, I’m learning to not hold onto the pain of the past but instead release my grip so that I can accept His blessings each day. I have chosen to never again live in secrecy and darkness again. I have found peace in where I am today.
If you or someone you know is in a domestic violence situation, you can find resources, advice, and help by going online to http://www.helpguide.org/mental/domestic_violence_abuse_help_treatment_prevention.htm or by calling 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE). You can get help. It is not too late.