Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Domestic Violence Awareness Month Day 3
If you or know someone in need of domestic violence resources help is available by calling 1-800-799-7233 or 800-787-3244 or visiting the website www.safe4all.org
Why Don't You Just Leave?
When I began to have the courage to speak up about the abusive marriage I was in, I was often asked by others "why don't you just leave?" The truth is I did on three separate occasions before I finally left for good. There are a myriad of reasons why the abused stay in abusive relationships. On the list here http://www.domesticviolenceroundtable.org/abuse-victims-stay.html outlines the motives for staying rather than leaving. For me, it was the attachment I had to this man who was also my children's father. I had come from a divorced home and did not want my son to grow up without his father. I also believed he would change. After all his mother told me, "just turn the other cheek" when he would do something I felt were abusive. But as time went by, I thought if I did leave, where would I go? I had talked to my mother several times about my situation. She was unsupportive and unwilling to take my son and I in. Over and over again, she said, "you made your bed, now lie in it." If I did not have my mother to turn to, where else were we going to go? It was not like I had a well-paying job that would have afforded me to find an apartment on my own. At the time, there were also few to no shelters available to people in my situation. I was a mother with a child with disabilities who also happened to be a boy. Right away that immediately prevented entry. Last but not least, I risked losing my surviving child to the state as if there was any hint of domestic violence, child protective services were mandated to remove children. Eventually, I just accepted that it was better to stay then fight what was bigger than me but it did not stop from trying.
We had just gotten a computer with the internet. The research skills I acquired as a reporter during high school came in handy. I began to search for help outside of my state. I hit upon a shelter run by the Sisters of Mercy for women and children. After speaking with the director of the program, I made plans to leave my job and within days we did.
My son and I stayed there for about a month with the hopes I would find a job and an apartment. Unfortunately finding a job in this area was difficult as one needed a car (I don't drive) to get to most places out of the area and I did not have child care. Through the shelter staff, I was able to get a subsidized apartment that required some type of income. I had no choice but to apply for public assistance. When abuser found out I did this, I received a phone call from him pleading with me. "If you take me to court for child support, I will kill myself. Come back home now!" I believed him as he had an uncle who actually committed suicide some years before we were together. I waited a few days before I repacked our bags and boarded the bus back home.
Though he promised, things at home did not change as he had promised they would. Instead of finding a job, he suggested that we live on public assistance to support ourselves until one us found employment. Somehow he convinced me that I was better suited to find work as he said, "you're the smarter one. The one with more experience." Once again I had believed him as it was true I was the one already supporting us for years before I left. As for being the "smarter one," I let you decide that one. :0)
I put up with this so-called life that was only getting worse as time went by. He was the decision-maker on everything in the house. From the time I woke up in the morning, to what was for dinner, what clothes I could wear, the bank account where my pay checks were deposited to, whether or not my son would receive his suggested therapies for his disabilities. The list goes on and on. I was becoming more and more miserable. My son wasn't faring any better.
Once again I began to look for outside help. I found an agency that served victims of domestic violence. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 (VAWA) http://www.thehotline.org/get-educated/violence-against-women-act-vawa/ had been passed which made it a little easier to find services. Though I did not let on, he decided to leave too, but did not go very far. His mother then resided in the building right across from us. This was his way of isolating me because he had convinced her and his sister to move in the area a few years back. He never gave me his keys to our apartment, which under the law was still his residence. He came and went when I was at work moving his belongings out. The fact he lived so close also allowed him and his family to literally spy on my movements.
I felt actually worse. One night he came by to talk about us getting a divorce. I did not entertain the conversation any further after he asked me to pay for it. After all, he did not have a job to retain an attorney. I figured if he really wanted one, he would seek one and pay for it himself. Before he left, he made a threat. "If you don't (give me a divorce), I will do something to hurt your heart."
This statement alone was enough for me to secure an order of protection against him. Before it may have not been so easy to prove, but given my pleas and probable desparation in my eyes and words the judge sided in my favor. However in New York, restraining orders from either criminal or family court are not usually permanent. This meant going back and forth to court every two months to renew it. I will blog about this experience in another post.
After a few months, he managed to convince me yet again he was a changed man. He began coming over for dinner regularly, spending a little time with his son, and then expecting for us to be initmate with one another.I did not reject these advances as I missed him. I missed us. He was taking advantage of me, but I did not really see it as that right away until I began asking him for my needs to be filled. Come back home, get a job, be there for our son, move away, let's have another child.
As time went by, I started having suspcions he was not being faithful, which made me stop engaging in sexual acts with him. It did not stop him from trying. The final straw was the morning he came by under the guise of taking his son out for the day. He appeared to beligerent or maybe drunk. While my son was taking a bath and as I was getting some of his clothes ready, this man decided to rape me. He wanted me to "prove I wasn't sleeping with that ----. You're mine," he yelled. As he had his hands around my neck, looking straight into my eyes he said, "I should have squeezed harder."
As soon as he left, I called the police. They came by and took a report. With this report, I went to court the next day and was able to get a criminal and family court of protection keeping him away. It worked as he followed the orders. I also begged my mother to come home. Within three days, my son and I were out of harm's way and safe.