Living with Domestic Abuse

Jackie in Ohio

If I knew twenty years ago what I know now, my life would have been very different. I always thought an abusive relationship meant the man hit the woman and that it was a turbulent, physical violence based situation. I know now that a man can be abusive to his partner in emotional, psychological, verbal and sexual ways. Who would have thought?

Living with Domestic Abuse: Jackie in Ohio

When my boy friend coerced me into not finishing my last year in college so that I could get a job and help support us while we were living together, I didn't realize how divisive and controlling that action was. I had already let him start to control my choices and actions. I didn't understand at that time that because he hadn't gone to college, he didn't want me to finish and have good career. Many times over the next 20 years he would say "You think you are better than me because you went to college.you're not! You're a quitter that couldn't have made it anyway." Even while we were just living together he was continually putting me down, being disrespectful with his words and the glaring looks. He wouldn't even pick up his dirty work clothes, simply dropping them on the floor or throwing them at me if I didn't pick them up fast enough. My Mom recognized these signs and warned me that his temper and personality frightened her and that I should break it off, but I told myself he was just being a man. When we married two years later, he had gotten worse. His temper was often out of control, with a lot of yelling and shaking his fist at me. But, I didn't believe he would ever hit me and sometimes he could be really nice. He began to degrade me in front of our friends. I was angry but never spoke up. I began to get scared and nervous, but still didn't leave. When our first child was born, nothing I did pleased him, it was never enough...I didn't iron his shirts right or clean the house to his satisfaction. He was always shouting and started pushing me against walls and forcing me to sit in a chair, look at him and listen while he ranted, telling me how inadequate I was. Once he put his fist through a wall, right beside my head. His need to control me kept getting worse. I wasn't allowed to see my friends.

Because we needed the money, he allowed me to get a job in a bank and leave our son in Daycare. I couldn't wait to get to work every day. It was like being allowed to breath. But that ended when our second child, a girl, was born and he made me quit work and stay home with the kids. Daycare for two, the price of lunches and travel expenses cost more than I was making at the bank.He called my boss one day and said I was quitting and would not be in the next day. I was humiliated and felt like I was the lowest person on earth. He forbade my mother and brother from coming to the house, saying they were not welcome. He even checked the phone bill to see if I was calling her. I think I only kept my sanity because my Mom, (who called me on a burner phone which I kept hidden), took me to a counselor every three weeks. She paid for it. Now I had someone to talk to. Mom would getme home before my husband came home from work. I trembled every time, thinking we would get caught. The counselor gave me a prescription to help calm me and I hid it in my sock drawer. By now I actually shook and got sick to my stomach when I heard the garage door.

I probably would have leftat the seven year mark in our marriage, but. I got cervical cancer! I was dependent on him, for medical insurance for hospital visits, and treatments. I thought he might soften when I got cancer but he only got worse, calling me a sickling and lazy when something didn't get done around the house on my chemo or radiation days. I was just so sick and weak. The only good thing was that during the cancer and after my hysterectomy, he allowed my Mom to come and take care of me.

At this point, I think about how peaceful it would be if I were to die, but my kids keep me going. I am a shell of the person Iwas before I got cancer but was already a shadow of who I was before I met my husband. An abuser sucks the life out of you and you end up not knowing who you are and who you used to be.I don't.

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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