Helen from Florida
Many domestic abuse stories have some of the same elements, hollering, name calling, hitting, and women that are afraid of their mates. So, I want to talk about the fallout of my abuse and what happened to me because of it. People talk about domestic abuse or domestic violence but they don't talk about the impact and emotional scars to abused women and how the loss of self-esteemcan be shattering. The brutal physical and verbal assaults can change your character, beliefs about relationships and result in self-loathing which you don't even recognize.
My husband always tore me down, telling me I was ugly, stupid, too heavy, no good, not worth anything, lousy in bed and that no one but him would want me. When you hear that over and for years you begin to believe it. I tried harder.different makeup, fad diets, trying to be more lovable, and worked at not getting him angry. Nothing worked. I realized life was not going to change, so with the help of friends, I moved out.
I got a job and to my surprise,a lot of men actually found me attractive. They seemed interested in me as a person and also sexually. I began to date, reading books on relationships, including how to be good in bed.The lessons I learned were working. The men I dated seemed very pleased with me. Or so it seemed. I would get a boyfriend, he would seem happy for a whilebut he didn't stick around. In aweek or a month, he was gone. There were a lot of one night stands. The more this happened, the harder I tried. I bought sexier clothes, wanting to be more appealing. I tried to remake myself.
All I really wanted was to be loved, to be told I was pretty, desirable, funny, worthy, interesting company and a good lover. I was starved for love. My changes to my appearance backfired at work however. My supervisor said my sexy attire wasn't acceptable and that I had been flirting with male customers. I was fired. I had become a differentperson in not only the way I dressed but also in the way I acted. My self-confidence was at rock bottom and the only time I felt good about myself was when a man showed interest. I got a bartending job which exposed me to lots of men. I was in and out of bartending jobs, and short term boyfriends, for the next ten years. I felt empty and fearful that I would never have a man in my life.
Then one day I met a guy in a coffee shop. He seemed to really like me, just for me. A month later he said he loved me and we got married. I was over the moon with joy. Finally, a man that really appreciated me and would cherish me and treat me the way a woman wants to be treated. As you might have figured, after a month, he treated me just like my husband had. He began to call me names.slut, whoreand names that a women'smagazine wouldn't print. I was forced to do a lot degrading things. At first his abuse related to sex, but soon the other physical and psychological domestic violence began. When he blackened my eyes and my face was swollen, he'd say that as long as I looked like that, no other guy would want me.
I left our apartment, calling a girlfriend in another state for help. She sent me money to get to New Jersey. I stayed with her until she finally talked me into going into a shelter for domestic and sexually abused women. It was the best and worst of times. I had a safe place to live, food, and supportive people. The down side was that I had to really look at myself. The counseling they provided was not nearly enough to help with my all my problems. Between the men who abused me physically, emotionally and sexually and what I had done to myself, my head was really messed up. Luckily for me, the shelter had a psychologist on call that did pro-bono work and took me as a patient. When I had to leave the shelter in ten weeks, I moved back in with my girlfriend and saw a lot of the shrink. I'm still seeing her.
I'm getting my self-respect back and understand that it isn't a guy who makes you worthy.it is you, what you think of yourself. I understood that knowledge of how I got to where I was would give me the power to change again. Taking charge of my own lifeand destiny was critical. I got a job as a receptionist. While it doesn't pay much, I can afford my part of the rent, groceries, utilities and my shrink. The image I portray now and my actions tell a different story. They represent a different me, the woman I was about 30 years ago. I only go out in the evening if my room mate comes along. I believe it will take me a long time to get my head straightened out but, I have strength, dignity and hope which count for a lot!
Kenna Marriott is on the Board of Directors of a Domestic and Sexual Abuse Center in Florida. She is also on the Board of Directors of a center for the mentally ill. The names are withheld to protect the women in the stories. She is also an international award winning author of Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda.Lessons, Learnings and Insights From A Mother About Her Daughter's Battle With Cancer, available from the Focus On Women bookstore.
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