Surviving Domestic Violence
My story actually begins on Blain Nelson's Abuse Pages. It goes so far back that it began with my remarriage. And ends with my being in an entirely new Time Zone and reality. But to look back, would I do it all over again? Yes, yes I would. I AM ALIVE. Had I remained, I would not be. It's just that simple.
Domestic Violence happens to everyone in one form or another. It accounts for over two thirds of all murders of females. And a person with disablities is ten times more likely to be abused. These are just the statistics of today's world.
But I refused to become a statistic. Or let me correct this. My FRIENDS refused to allow me to become one. And I say friends, because quite often when disability strikes (and your probabilities are staggering considering all the vehicular accidents occuring daily....) often family leaves. Or worse yet they become abusive, and so YOU leave. It is just that simple. But it's best.
When I remarried, the man of both his dreams and mine died. And the courtly knave who wooed me with flowers and his love disappeared. In his place was the man we all know, Dr Jekyl/Mr Hyde. Gone was the man I knew, in his place was a monster. Love ? What is that ? Bondage replaced that. Power and Control ran our lives, and if I refused even to argue with him over nothing, he made certain that he would "make" me, even if "I have to make you kill yourself". Or then it was "I'm going to push your wheelchair out the door, take away your battery, and watch you freeze to death. It's 25 below zero, should take x hours."
And that was in the 'honeymoon phase' of our new marriage!
Now bear in mind that I was still the woman of his dreams. He however was not able to BE the man of his. But the road less taken, which got me here, has been very difficult indeed. Leaving Domestic Violence is never made easy for survivors. But before even this, we must get out of denial, into seeing what he is doing, is abusive. Because no one can MAKE him angry, no one can CAUSE his problems. He is the problem. And if he can't face it, then we must leave. But the real reason women don't leave, is that they can't. And with the continued abuse, her self esteem is so low, that it may take many times, and WILL require a great deal of courage.
My exodus began with a male friend challenging me to get online and look up domestic violence. He saw changes in my husband that I did not. A male calling a male on his behavior is a clear signal that something is wrong. That woke me up.
But it was also the kind guidance of someone I was supposed to be tutoring which gave me the words and the courage to act. Instead, I became his student in the college of life. "We need you....He can't do that to you. Tell him that you are too important to us, if he wants you dead, he should look at his own life. We need you HERE. We cannot make it in this country, without your help [as refugees assimilating]."
A doubly handicapping birth, and a disablity incurred by a bad vaccine had already weakened my body, the birth of a child with special needs of her own just enhanced that. Her father couldn't handle an imperfect baby and a wife now occupied with an ill child. 98% of doubly handicapping marriages end in divorce with the father usually leaving. Not being able to put her in daycare forced me to quit working, and stay home in my senior year of social work.
For many years we had been on our own. Yes, I'd to quit college and work, but it was worth it. We homeschooled as it was best for her, and I loved the challenge of teaching her...and all the other neighborhood kids. We had a great life because it was FULL of life ! We spoke a second language now, helped many families transitioning into our unfriendly western culture. It was a riot, in fact.
At church on Christmas Eve he heard my daughter say to me "Kuv hlub niam", "I Love You Mom!" to which I said "Kuv hlub koj tiab kuv ntxais" "I love you too my daughter". He said from that second on he knew he began to love me. And he love me he did....as much as he was able. But he was not, is not, able to love himself. How could he love another? He loved me because I do what I believe in. Sadly, he can not do the same.
He is not handsome in face. But his heart was wondrously open to love and to learning...right up til the day we married. He had his issues, who doesn't? And his were with his parents. He was in therapy and dealing with them. Who isn't? Honestly, it's sort of today's version of the "American Dream" isn't it? His parents "had" to marry. They had created him. Or so it goes. But folks, that's NO EXCUSE for Abuse.
Pressures from work, from extended family issues, and his unwillingness to seek counseling regarding Disability Culture all contributed to his demise, and our near destruction. But none of that is an excuse for abuse. It never will be. They are just ingredients in his recipe for madness, his very own special kind of madness, which by the way, many many men in America continue to support. It is only when MALES unite AGAINST ABUSE that anything will change, ever. Because THEN the murders will stop.
And only then.
Interestingly, it was our good friend David A. who told me to take a good long look at Domestic Abuse, because if I was the Social Worker he knew me to be, I had to soul searching to do regarding the changes he was seeing in my new husband. And today I am here thanks to his sage advice. It was my SE Asian male student whom I was tutoring that gave me the words to say to my husband when he came home for the weekends. Sensing something was dreadfully wrong, he got me to share what had been said to me by my husband turned batterer....that he would get me to kill myself by beating me down emotionally because I refused to fight with him (over nothing) whenever he came home from work angry and pressured. That if I would not fight with him then he would get me to kill myself by berating me, and belittling me, using the disabilities, and anything else he could find, because he was mad. And when he was mad he "Needed" to fight with someone. I shudder recalling this. To me conflict resolution is two persons working toward a solution, not two dagger drawn jousters.
My gentle Southeast Asian student turned friend would not disclose his age, but assured me that if we were from the same culture, we could marry. And as my 'cousin', acting within that capacity, he saw too what my husband was doing. So he told me that the next time he threatened to "make me kill myself", that I was to tell him that my 'cousin' had told me that if my husband wanted to kill me, that I was far to valuable to all of the now college students whom I had helped through high school, whose parents do not speak English, and who STILL needed my valuable help. That if my husband felt this strongly about it, perhaps he'd better ask if he doesn't wish to kill HIMSELF, not me. That I am too important to too many people, for him to take MY life. If he felt that strongly, that he should just kill himself instead. Imagine my shock! But he is male, and he was right. The next weekend came and he pulled it again, no matter how "Sorry" he felt the weekend before...... and I recalled my Asian friend's strong words. They came to me as out of the darkness of abuse. And I said them to him, verbatim, even telling him that they weren't my words, they were his.
My husband's response was to go out of the house walking, in winter's frozenness. When after hours he did not return, I became concerned, and ended up going to the hospital, asking if he was there, to make a long story short. Each recounting of domestic abuse begins as a romance, and ends as a thriller.
I shall never forget the ER Intern's response! When I came in I knew, as a social worker that he could not actually tell me anything. But when he saw me in the wheelchair he became outraged. I told him what had happened....the conversation....and he looked at me in the wheelchair...saying "YOU...IN THE WHEELCHAIR ????" And he was livid with rage....at what my then husband had done, had said, had contrived! I KNEW that he had tried to say that I had somehow 'provoked' him, even abused him somehow. It was as if the intern had at least expected me to be walking, to be large and somehow threatening. Even standing I manage a mere 5'2" though. He was livid at what my husband had contrived, or rather connived. His lying white lab coat-tails shall always live as an encouragement to women everywhere, that SOME MEN DO CARE. And without them I would NOT be here today.
The intern spoke with psych, who diagnosed him clinically, and INSISTED he remain for a minimum of three weeks, to become stabalized on meds. He the next day phoned, all sorry, apologetic and remorse filled. Yeah, right. But it seemed as if some sort of break through had occurred. He saw that he needs help, right? Didn't he? Well.......
His boss told him that if he did NOT take the job, out of town, and KEEP it, that he would be fired. We are talking six digit figures here, so it was something he felt he had to do. We presumed (wrongly) that he could get help in the next state, where we would be living for 2 months...or so we thought at the time. Never while leaving on that trip, did my mind think I would never see my friends or home again. But my intuitive side knew, my conscious told me to take summer clothes. My mind made me look longingly at the house I would never again see. And my heart made me phone my students and friends as if I were going for a lifetime. And the SE Asians knew it too so good are they at using all of themselves, at not discounting intuition, which we know to be so much truer than logic itself can be.
So we left. And we remained at a nice inn for a time. The holidays were soon upon us, and he never did well with those. While there he took to disappearing for hours, even an entire weekend, leaving us alone. He had just been diagnosed with attention-deficit disorder with hyperactivity, and suddenly told me that I HAD to "care" for him, as if he were an invalid. When it all came out in the wash, his father has a mental illness, and his mother 'takes care of him', was his whine. Knowing this was nuts, I told him that I take care of my condition, he takes care of his, and until my daughter is older, I help her learn to live with hers. I CANNOT care for another fully functioning adult, as if he were not.
He sought counseling and was put on even more drugs. He actually began doing bettter for a time. And then he had to go back to headquarters in the city where we owned our house. The only person available to pick him up was his mother, with whom he had many legitimate issues. My daughter and I were all cuddled up on a cold winter day, watching the movie Little Women, for the umpteenth time, and enjoying it ! We had made love the night before, and the closeness seemed to finally be returning as he responded to medication, and sought help with his issues.
That was the last I ever saw of the man I had married. He who returned, is someone, whom to this day, I do not know or recognize. Gone is everything we believed in. Instead, came back a raging madman. Later a woman, of Southeast Asian backround had seen him in a car with his mother, and she had remarked to her friend how bizarre he looked, how angry he was to the point of no emotion, and wondered if it were because of his mother, with whom she worked. She knew that of which she spoke. She knew my husband better than I knew him myself, after 3 months of marriage. The man I had married was gone forever. And I was left behind.
When he returned, craziness began. He did not hug me, did not even seem to recall who I was. Rage came back in his place. I began seeking counseling. As most of you probably alread know, medical programs won't cover Domestic Violence. Already in Minnesota, I had called the shelters. They are not accessible. I had then been told of a new law which protects women by having the police escort them elsewhere. It took a great deal of training to even GET the police to do this. But MN is a great place to be a non-profit and grassroots worker. Good workers made my freedom possible there, although shelters are still NOT accessible. What about my 'family' ? Families and disABILITY do not often go together. It betters with time. But for most adults, the stigma disability brought on families has meant abusive parents and institutions. We still have a lot to learn, and long way to go. But the Humphrey's daughter in the White House arena, paved the way for many of us to human rights, the same dignity others are supposed to have, and to the 'independent living movement'. Everyone has a tale, and all this is a part of mine (which is the focus of this page, right %^)
But in Michigan, we could not find anyone who would take our medical insurance. When we did it was a six week wait. Gone was their concern that it was six weeks of a living hell ! So he saw a man who told him that he was a psychologist because he had an MD degree and psychological degree, when in fact he had been told to leave medicine because of mistakes he had made, and gone into psychology where he continued them. He himself has what appears to most as ADHD, and his blindness encouraged others to follow his falacious path. I know all of this because of research I did, and I spoke with the husband of a woman his mistakes killed. It is amazing how paths cross in a small community, and with God's Hand.
One evening when I called the therapist on call for my husband, the therapist wisely asked me "ARE YOU SURE YOU ARE ALRIGHT?" A basic therapist term. But it spoke to me. I went to the shelter that very evening. When my husband came back from his weekend whatever, he was in shock. The therapist was right to ask me that question. With my husband building my world aroun his, by orienting crises which all energy could then flow his way, I had forgotten to ask myself that very basic question.
While in that shelter many things occurred. Most of them bad. But one very good thing was that the psychologist on call for that doctor actually has a full time job in Rehab Medicine, which is the world of disABILITY. It was incredible that I got to speak with him. He had met with my husband, and was of course not able to "tell me anything" but we spoke anyway. He too gave me words which have changed my life! He said, "LEAVE that shelter now. Because they discriminate against disablities, and are discriminating against you. I can tell because of what you have said about the staff there, their refusal to provide reasonable accomodation." And when I asked to be educated further, he did so. I have never since received any training, and it was the greatest gift life has given me. Thank You, now Retired Doctor! But he also told me that my husband was mentally ill and would never be entirely rational again, according to his conversations with him. But that he didn't think the husband would try violence again with me. I informed him that I would not leave to LIVE with him again, but he was welcome to seek counseling if he wished to resume cohabitation. The doctor agreed, and regretted that he could not tell me more about his exact condition. And all I could think was "What A MESS my life had become".
The moment I told my husband of a few months that I was leaving the shelter, he breathed a sigh of relief. He had gotten us an apartment, and would stay at a motel, elsewhere. What he neglected to tell me is that is was directly ON the only road to the apartment complex in which we were to be staying, and that it is impossible to get there without him seeing us! The first eye-contact after leaving the shelter (we had to meet away from there) showed me not joy of seeing me, but his HIGH FROM BEING IN CONTROL ONCE AGAIN, AND THE POWER IT GAVE HIM. I knew that I was sunk. And my heart left me taking hope with it. I knew that I was no more safe there than I was in his very arms. And that leaving, as right as it was regarding disability, might have meant once again, certain death.
He attempted to make connections, rekindle the old flames. Perhaps the psychologist was wrong, I had hoped. Maybe my husband will be back? Valentines day came and with it renewed hope. But again, work took that away, and gifts came in its place. Gifts, when all one seeks is peace and love, do NOT a marriage make, or hope bring.
Then one evening it happened. Without real warning or provocation, he shoved me, very very hard. I had stood to lock the door, and he was outraged over something ridiculous, Laundry! He felt that although I had told him not to come, he had the right to do his laundry in our apartment building. And so hard did he shove me that my pelvis will never heal properly. But when I sought to find medical care, I was in for some news.....they won't see women...IF IT IS DOMESTIC ABUSE RELATED!
I never felt safe on ground floor with him so near. I phoned a shelter which had just received new funding to take in non-college students, in the town nearby. I sought a meeting to attend. I found safety and encouragement. Again came the question: "ARE YOU SURE YOU ARE SAFE THERE ?" I mean, he wasn't here was he? Or was he? At that young woman's encouragement I sought physical safety that evening, in another shelter. I knew there were steps, and that using them could cost me the loss of my legs. But in the grand scheme of things called life, what other choice did I have? Legs and no breathing because he was NOT going to quit until he felt "successful"....and ended my days. Or...well...a wheelchair was part-time and might or might not be inevitable. Better that than no life at all. I knew that I had to make that difficult choice, to take me, and my legs with me, to the shelter, and lose them, so that I might gain life. I chose life.
The shelter was shocked when the DA told them that they would NOT prosecute a white collar guy. they did so by putting ME on trial. You see, if I could not recall HIS EXACT WORDS AS HE SH0VED ME, then he 'couldn't' take it to trial. "Because" he said, "I have my re-election to reconsider!" And so it is for women who leave batterers. Doctors will not see you because they don't want to "have to bother with all the paperwork. We're sorry and we hope that you can understand ...." Sure, I understand: WOMEN CAN GO RIGHT ON BEING KILLED WHILE YOU LOOK THE OTHER WAY. I understand this perfectly. Now what century did we SAY we were living in, or rather, YOU are living in. I apparently have no right to life, in the world you inhabit.
Well, this story is not short. But women should have the right to dignity, if not life. And I was given neither life, nor liberty, and my pursuit of happiness was apparentlly, to be his, not mine. In a word, I sold the diamond he had given me, and drove thousands of miles on that injured tailbone, to a state I knew would at least protect me to some degree and honor the police report from another state, where it took 5 actual appearances to GET THE PAPERWORK AS PROOF, so difficult do we make it for women to actually leave white collar workers.
And the rest of this story is on the page covering disabilities. Because had I not had them, I could have found shelter, my van would not have burned due to faulty wiring (wheelchair lift vans, touchy), and shelters would have provided services to me as a battered woman. I would have been treated with dignity, and fairness. I could have relocated without discrimination. But it's not gonna happen here, for anyone in my situation. This is America, the land of Liberty and Justice for Some. We have work to do, much work here.
Did you know that shelters here won't accept women from other parts of the nation? Did you know that if a woman isn't in "any danger" they won't let her stay? Did you know that most shelters are full most of the time? It's the new 'get the undesirables off the street' policy in the US to put them in shelters.
Did you know that shelters do not believe that Reasonable Accomodation as spelled out by ADA Law and Regulation 504 of 1973 for non-profits (Federal monies) apply to them? Did you know that we need an underground Railroad Movement to help women relocate? To help make shelters legal, accessible and help remove the operant grunge of extreme prejudice which is at work there. Just removing racism would be a tremendous help. Being white I cannot express my shock, at seeing it so freely used, in shelters I visited.
Did you know that a woman with asthma can't go to a shelter? Did you know that a woman with a son has no shelter? Did you know that what folks SAY is going on in shelters is actually a stark contrast to what OCCURS ? It is time for us to do some cleaning up of our shelters, to make it SAFE for a woman to leave her abuser! And for this we need your help.
Copyright November 4, 1999