Sanctuary for the Abused
Wednesday, April 12, 2006
Why I joined a domestic violence group even though he hadn’t hit me
My home was not a safe place
Our home is supposed to be a safe place, a harbor and haven. Our spouses are supposed to be our nurturer protector and partner. For years my home and partner were anything but. My home was a source of fear, tension, and confusion and my husband made me the enemy. I am strong woman, independent and self-employed so it isn’t easy to make me afraid to go home—in fact its difficult for people to believe I was an abused spouse. But it happens slowly, insidiously.
At first my husband didn’t like the dishes I left in the sink once and while, then he came home and inspected the windows to see if I’d opened or closed them—whatever I did, it wasn’t right. Then the thermostat became a problem—No temperature I turned it to was correct. Soon I was told not to run the dryer in the heat of the day, only at night. I didn’t buy the right detergent or turn the lights on and off correctly. If Bob let me drive, he criticized what lane I was in, what route I took, and complained I was going too fast or too slow. As the controlling behavior escalated, so did his anger.
I told myself "Pick your battles"
Little things set him off and I never knew what it would be—maybe the dogs barked and woke him up and it was my fault, he missed an appointment, it was my fault, I closed the door to the bedroom and the latched clicked and I was accused of doing it on purpose to wake him up. I wanted to be a good wife and so I tried harder—“pick your battles I told myself.” No one thing was any big deal so it wasn’t worth fighting about, but the pattern escalated and his anger increased. The cycle was, intense criticism, I couldn’t please him, he would go on a rampage breaking things, slamming doors and calling me names. He broke dishes, phones, TV remotes. He once tore the dashboard off my truck as I was driving, he would swipe everything off the counters and pull things out of the cupboards—my house would be littered with broken glass, broken mementos and an enraged man who looked like he wanted to rip my face off. Then he was sorry, promised never to do it again but I should not have provoked him.
When my mom first used the word “abuse” with me, my automatic response was, “I’m not abused, he’s never hit me.” I did not recognize what was going on. I kept thinking if I just acted right—that somehow he would stop being so angry.
Abuse is always about Control
Abuse is always about CONTROL. Whether it is verbal abuse, emotional abuse, or physical abuse. The verbal abuser uses body language to control his partner, just as he uses words. The words and gestures often go together, eventually destroying their partner's physical and emotional integrity so that she will be afraid to be herself, will question and compare everything she does with whether it might please or displease her partner.
My husband controlled me by:
constant criticism of almost everything I did or didn’t do
threats of divorcing me and leaving me...
calling me, my mother, my daughter, names
harassing me about having imagined affairs,
accusing me of having a thing for black men and making it very uncomfortable to conduct business
breaking things, throwing things, swiping counters
refusing to talk to me for days on end
refusing to take me any place
hitting or kicking things in the house
accusations, accusations, accusations
he intimidated me with his size, volume of his voice and his strength
Not making him angry became the focus of my life.
I walked on eggshells all the time trying to keep from making him angry. Not making him angry became the focus of my life.
The best thing that ever happened to me was when he went into a rage last year and tore up the kitchen and living room forcing me to flee to the police. They couldn’t do anything because he didn’t hit me!!! But they sent me to a domestic violence group and that group of women became my new family. I began to understand the pattern of control, disrespect and humiliation this man used with me. I began to understand that I would never never never please him, whether the windows were up or down didn’t matter, this was not about me, it was about him his anger. I learned that I was not a victim I was a TARGET and I didn’t have to be his target any longer. I began following the advice from the experts and I managed to get him to leave me alone—but the hostility seethed within him and my home was still not a safe place. It was an angry tension-filled house.
The line between verbal and physical abuse is one of degree.
The line between verbal and physical abuse is one of degree. The same interpersonal dynamics apply to both relationships. Many verbally abusive relationships will never cross the physical abuse "line." However, the absence of physical abuse does not make a verbally abusive relationship OK!
My abuser was clever. He always stopped just short of doing something he could be charged with. He raised his hand to me a couple times, I cowered. He would cross his arms (I think to keep from hitting me) and block the entrance or exits to rooms—he would bump against me screaming names at me—I didn’t want to be hurt so I pulled back, did not confront or stand up for myself.
Once my Husband—after days of raging--handed me his 9 mm handgun and told me to hide it—I went to the police who could do nothing because all he did was tell me to hide it! He was so clever—always stopping short of what was not legal. It does not help that the legal system is often powerless regarding aspects of abuse phenomena. This man often had me terrorized but he didn’t hit me so the law could not be there for me.
Finally, it did escalate to physical. He was screaming in my face, just 3 inches from my nose with his arms folded moving closer and this time I didn’t back down. I was sick to death of his intimidation and constant barrage on me so when he screamed “Fucking bitch, what are you to do about it?” I screamed back.” I’ll tell you what I’m going to do about it”—in the same volume as he just yelled at me and his arms flew apart and he threw me into the kitchen table, knocking over a chair bruising my leg and knocking everything off the table. I was in shock and he immediately started yelling, “You pushed me! You shoved me! Why did you shove me?” He didn’t want to go to jail and he immediately made it my fault.
The message I have is simple—To be abused, you don’t have to be hit. You don’t have to be a victim if you don’t want and you stop being their target by arming yourself with information. Go online, call Quinn Rivers, take care of yourself if your partner has made you the enemy.
Message for law enforcement
And for Law enforcement, I have another message—you did me a huge favor by sending me to Quinn Rivers Domestic Violence Group. It may have saved my life, it surely saved my sanity. But I also have an admonition—when a man is clever like my husband, he won’t do anything that you can charge him with—he is too smart. When he pulled that thing with the 9 mm gun I was terrified and the police thought so little of it they didn’t even file an incident report. They brushed me off saying—well he didn’t threaten you—all he did was tell you to hide his gun! My husband knew what he was doing—scaring the piss out of me—and the police acted like I was an hysterical woman. When a woman tells you she is scared and you can’t see why she is scared, remember that abuse is words and gestures combined—the tone of voice, the look in the eye and our history. Please don’t make me feel it's useless to go to you for help. File the report, tell me you understand, and send me to a domestic violence group for support.
You Are A Target