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Be afraid. Be very afraid.

That's what terrorists want. That's what they feed on. That's how they exert control and influence, how they wield their power.

Once they've given you a reason to fear them, and it doesn't always have to be something big, they have you. They just have to make you believe they could do it. It. You know what I mean.

I know terrorists, because I used to live with one.

He didn't hit me a lot. Just a few times, really. Didn't even leave marks. But he'd fly into terrible rages that frightened me. He never had to reach for the guns he owned, never had to threaten to use them, for them to not be constantly on my mind. Because it wasn't the bare fact of his owning weapons that made him so terrifying, but his clear lack of control over his temper. His viciousness.

He wasn't always like that, and I think he managed to realize where it was leading him in time. And by in time, I mean in specific cases enough to pull himself back from doing something serious, and generally over the years enough to mellow him out. There was enough that was good in him to lull me into acceptance time and again over our five year marriage, though I really should have just walked out.

That's what you're thinking by now, I know. That I should have just walked out. That it should have been a clue that at least one of our friends, about once every couple months, would tell me that 'if I ever needed a place to stay,' I could come to them.

You'd probably think that I should have known after the first year, when he'd already established a pattern of starting screaming fights with me just before bed time when I needed to get up the next day for work, that I should have left. That I should have recognized at once what it meant that I was glad I didn't know any of the neighbors at any of our apartment complexes. How could I have looked any of them in the eye, had they been my friends, knowing that they must have heard him yelling at me for not wanting to do certain things in bed?

Because when he did yell at me in front of people who were our friends or that we just knew casually, I'd feel humiliated for days. When he'd tell me loudly to shut up in front of them. That I'd ruined plans for group outings with my disorganization. That I was stupid and didn't know what I was talking about. One time, he started yelling at me in the checkout line at a grocery store. The person checking our purchase was one of the store managers, whom I'd approached only a couple days before for a job. I never went in that store again; I'd wanted to die as the man met my eyes oh so levelly, coolly, as he rang up our purchase, pretending not to know me.

Yeah, I should have left.

But then, I was 18 when we married. I'd been raised in a very sheltered, religious family that believed in strict and traditional gender roles. When I left home, there were a lot of things I didn't know about even taking care of myself and I'd been raised to be just a bit too trusting. I wanted to be independent, but I just didn't know how at the time.

I didn't have a driver's license and I was unemployed when we met. This defined the rest of our relationship.

He wouldn't let me learn how to drive; he said that because I didn't know how to ride a bike that I wouldn't be good at handling a car. He was my main transportation. There were times when he'd leave me waiting at work for hours after he'd agreed to pick me up. Even when he was on disability or unemployed, as he was much of the time we were together, he'd think nothing of leaving me to a bus trip to work that was two hours each way. Not even when that meant I had to leave the house at five in the morning after he'd been screaming at me until 1 am.

I could have demanded more, I guess, but he taught me my lesson early.

One Saturday night, we were visiting some friends for a small party and he wanted to talk for a while outside. He was worried about getting a late bill paid. We barely had the money and the offices were, of course, all closed. And I said, well, there isn't really anything we can do about it tonight. I suggested that we go back in and enjoy everyone's company, worry about it later. I don't know what it was about this suggestion that infuriated him. He told me that I was being irresponsible, that I should be upset, too. I said that it wasn't going to get us anywhere or change anything, I just wanted to enjoy the evening. He told me to take it back or he'd go home and leave me there. I wouldn't. He did.

Have you ever had to walk into your friends' house and ask them for a ride home because your husband drove off and left you stranded? Everyone was very nice, but I don't recommend it.

I made a mistake balancing our checkbook one time during our first year, and ever after, he took all my paychecks and deposited them in an account that only he had access to. I had to ask for clothes, which he usually only remembered to buy for himself; unless it occurred to him to take me to the thrift store if there was something left over after he finished his shopping. I once went two years without a new pair of underwear. I rarely had money for lunch and usually had to scrounge out of the change jar to afford snack food out of the vending machines at work. I didn't get an allowance, so every request for money had to be separately negotiated.

I had work of one kind or another almost the entire time we were together, but saw virtually none of what I made. I had no say in how it was spent. I didn't have a personal budget for entertainment of course, but when I'd ask to see a movie, I was sometimes told that he didn't want to go because he'd already seen it with one of his friends while I'd had an evening shift. I was afraid to say that it seemed like a bad idea to go out for $80 dinners in months when we were barely coming up with rent. But he made it hard for me to keep a job, even though we needed the money.

I'm a bit of an insomniac and always have been. I sleep poorly and have a hard time getting to sleep or waking up early. Must have a defective internal clock. When I can't get sleep for days, I start getting more migraines, I fall asleep uncontrollably during the day. Some activities themselves just make me sleepy (god, I hate long meetings), but there's a big difference between an employee who nods off at the occasional meeting and one who falls asleep at their desk for 15 minutes at a time seemingly at random. He never got around to caring about this. He'd keep me up late almost every night and I lost jobs over it.

Later, it progressed beyond that. After we'd been together three years or so, and I'm a little sketchy on the timeline because I try not to think about it much, I ended up with a decent-paying job far enough away that he could usually be persuaded to drive me in. He started insulting me and telling me what a bad person, what a bad wife, I was. He'd long called me his 'wif' when we were alone, saying that I hadn't earned the 'e' due to my immaturity, but this was worse. I often went into work crying, unable to really get settled right away. Then he started calling me up in the middle of the day. The calls would usually start off nice enough, but it didn't take long for them to reprise what had become the ritual morning argument. I'd end up in tears again at my desk.

When my manager walked by sometimes after one of these episodes, he'd look at me as if he wanted to ask, but never did. I think he just didn't want to embarass me and was never unkind. At that job, I still managed to get my work done and made a lot of friends, whom I found out later had been approached by our manager to find out if I was all right. So I didn't lose my job, which I was glad about, because I had a lot of quiet time alone and nice people to chat with at lunch or when I'd join them for smoke breaks. I don't smoke, but danged if the smokers didn't manage to get outside and stretch their legs more often than everyone else.

Then there was the day when I got my hand smashed in a car door. It really was an accident. I'd been on a weekend trip with a friend who had an old 70's car with heavy doors. Her mother, who was elderly and didn't have the best eyesight, didn't see my hand when she slammed the door. It hit across the back of my hand, though it didn't hurt bad right at first. Then it went cold and I could barely move it.

We didn't have insurance, both of us were temp workers. I knew we couldn't afford to go to the hospital, wasn't he always telling me how short of money we were? I put my hand in a brace, glad none of my fingers had been hurt, and struggled at work. Nobody believed me at first when I told them it had been an accident. Nobody. If a coworker hadn't been at the same event that weekend, they probably never would have. Anyway, I didn't ask to go to a doctor.

Two weeks later, while my hand was still aching but more functional, he went to a sporting goods store and bought an $800 set of golf clubs. So he could spend more time getting to know the managers at his job, maybe get hired full time. When I looked annoyed, he loudly told me, so that everyone in the small store could hear and presumably be impressed with what a high roller he was, that I should go next door to the Ross(TM) and pick myself out a dress or something.

A month or so later, he told me that I was such a bad wife that he wanted to send me away to stay with some friends of ours for a while. He'd been telling me for over a year that it might be better to divorce me to save on his taxes, which terrified me, because I didn't feel like I had anywhere to go. I'd always told myself he was joking, but somehow his threat to put me on a plane and just send me somewhere like a package felt qualitatively different.

Sometime around then, he started telling me that he was having a lot of bad dreams. They were making him paranoid. He started locking even the door to our bedroom at night and keeping his rifles on the floor alongside the bed where he slept. He said he was worried someone would try to hurt me.

I asked a friend at work to help me get some things in the middle of the day and leave. I was told I could stay at their house until I got something else sorted out. My husband hadn't let me have a key to that apartment, I don't remember why, so I had to tell the manager some silly story to borrow the extra one from the office.

We were separated for a bit over six months or so before he convinced me to come back. He was very charming about it. That's usually the point in the story where it ends up being like a horror movie for most women. 'Don't go back into the house!' It wasn't a fun experience, but really, I got incredibly lucky in that regard compared to many. Being left actually woke my ex-husband up to some of what he was doing, though I know that in many cases, women may be more likely to be attacked or killed when they try to leave.

He was nicer when I moved back in, but we started having the same arguments. I still wasn't allowed to have my paychecks, he said he just managed our money better and they needed to be part of a household budget I still had no say over. He still wouldn't let me learn how to drive and I had no money to pay for lessons, though he'd leased himself a brand new car during the time we'd been split up. Then he got into yet another argument at work, quit his job before what surely would have been getting fired yet again, and sunk all our money into a multi-level marketing 'business.'

I'd used to barely be able to look our friends in the eye because he'd humiliate me in front of them, then it was that he tried to sell things to all of them.

I finally got a good job with a good company. They liked me in the department and I was able to be very helpful. I worked whatever overtime I could get, glad to get away and knowing we needed the money. I made friends with a woman who let me carpool in with her. Then he got a job, finally. Things were a little better, but I couldn't handle the arguing and the insults anymore. I asked for a divorce.

Then I got pregnant. Then I was diagnosed with ovarian cysts, miscarried, and had to have major surgery. As I've written about previously. It coincided with the first time in our relationship that either of us, and it was him, had health insurance. Or I probably wouldn't have asked to go see a doctor, and I'd be dead now.

He held off on the divorce paperwork until I was better, to make sure everything was covered, though we still ended up with big medical bills. For the first few weeks afterwards, he took care of me around the clock. He even set the alarm clock for every four hours at night, waking up to bring me the pain medication I needed. We discovered on my first night back that if we didn't do that, I'd wake up in agony about five hours after the last dose, and it would take about half an hour before the next set of pills could kick in.

So in the end, he actually saved my life. I'm grateful for that. I'm also glad as hell that we don't have any contact with each other at all anymore.

What prompted this outpouring was a pair of diaries on Daily Kos today about a woman whose former lover and father of two of her children murdered her and her boyfriend after years of abuse. I was a lot luckier than she was. But I bet she and I could have talked for hours about the feelings of humiliation that kept us from just walking out right away. About the bone weariness of having the same argument for hours or days until you'll say or agree to anything, anything at all, just to make it stop.

But my ex-husband was able to stop himself turning from domestic terrorist into a true monster. Alicia Sears wasn't that lucky. Worse, because she wasn't married and lived in Ohio, the Defense of Marriage act in that state prevented the repeated abuse she suffered from being treated like domestic violence, which isn't really taken very seriously by law enforcement anyway. Even though, as this excellent diary chronicling the extensive impact of such violence points out, one in three women will be abused by a partner in her lifetime.

That means you, yes you, know someone who has been or perhaps is right now being abused by her partner. It's simple math. She might not have told you, but I guarantee you that it still affects her. Even if she was lucky enough to escape 'undamaged' like I did.

I know this happens to men, too. That in similar circumstances, they feel the same humiliation, the same self-hatred, the same rage at their total loss of control over their lives and fates. But it sure doesn't happen to one in three of them, and they'll never get the help they need while abused women are marginalized, are not taken seriously by law enforcement, or are told that it's all their fault. Men socialized into a macho society will always have a hard time admitting that something that women are blamed and mocked for, something that women are supposed in some bizarre way to 'deserve,' has happened to them.

Because that makes them part of the underclass, and the best way to preserve an unfair hierarchy is to convince certain members of the underclass that they have an automatic leg up on others, to turn them into enforcers and tell them that they can be Big Cheeses, too. If they get victimized in the same way as mere, lowly women, then the gig is up. If they admit it, that is. The only way to help those men is to stop treating domestic violence like a punchline.

My story is personal, but as they say, also political. The horror of it for me was long years in fear and constant anxiety. Years of having no meaningful control over my life. Years of being ruled by the whim of someone whose mood I depended on absolutely for my well-being, privileges and favors.

This is the dynamic, also, of the feminist demand in politics.

Women want the right to decide whether or not to have children and equal footing in sexual relationships. Women want the right to pick our own medical care. Women want the right to have a say over how money we have a part in earning is spent, whether that money is part of our household budget or part of the national budget. Women want equal protection under the law from violence perpetrated specifically against us by intimates, just as men can expect protection from the violence that may be perpetrated against them by strangers.

Women want not to be threatened for asking for these things, which should be our right and due as human beings. We want dignity and independence, and we will demand it if it isn't given. Even though it may take a while before we speak up for it.

Today, I read the story of Alicia Sears and it brought up a lot of old hurts that still carry with them their attendant feelings of humiliation. I don't like to tell people these stories, I feel embarassed. But maybe if more of us could get over those feelings, Alicia Sears wouldn't have had to die. Maybe someone would have taken her seriously and her children would still have their mother.

And so I ask you, please, take domestic violence seriously.

Know that it could be happening to someone you've befriended, or enjoy reading, or have loved. Know that sometimes, it takes so little to save someone in that situation; that when their sense of self has been thoroughly shredded from years of abuse, sometimes it only takes some respect and support to help them realize that they can walk away.

(Even though, on occasion, it might be prudent to help them leave in the middle of the day and not mention where they're going when the infuriated ex-partner calls you up demanding to have their victim turned over to them for more of the same.)

Originally posted to natasha on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 03:30 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Bless you for this. (16+ / 0-)

      There were huge passages from it I could have written -- in identical words -- from my own experience.  So many people believe there are so few of us -- and yet, even here, there apparently are so many.  I appreciated your courage in sharing your story.  You are a brave, brave woman.

      Thank you.

      ~ noweasels

      1-20-09 The Darkness Ends "Where cruelty exists, law does not." ~ Alberto Mora.

      by noweasels on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 03:39:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry anyone else can relate so well (9+ / 0-)

        Kind of the point, but it's never a thing to be glad about. I'm glad you got out, as well.

        •  Oh, you betcha (10+ / 0-)

          much like life with my psycho ex.  The difference for me, I think, was I came from a different background -- I wasn't religious (mama tried, but mama was a nutcase), came of age with feminism (subscribed to Ms. as a teenager in the mid-1970's).

          So although the psycho-ex wanted to control all the money, I kept my separate checking account.  And filed for divorce after 6 months.

          Now why I didn't just not marry him in the first place... we all have our stupid moments, I guess.

          Leave the cat alone, for what has the cat done, that you should so afflict it with tape? - Ian Frazier, Lamentations of the Father

          by Frankenoid on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 04:01:00 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I, too, came of age with feminism (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            natasha, sberel, Ellicatt, nonnie9999

            and read Ms. as a teenager in the 1970s.  I also was fortunate enough to grow up with fabulous parents and enormous economic resources. But I also grew up in a home where nothing was seen as worse than telling lies.  Lies were antithetical to how I was raised, how my parents conducted their lives, what I knew.  This made me a truth-teller, but it also left me vulnerable to conniving pathological liars, like my ex.  I simply did not realize that people who had grown up as I did, in the era in which I did, were capable of lying without shame or remorse.  And so I believed what he said, early on, about how wonderful I was, and also believed what he said, after we married, about what a shrew and wretched and unworthy person I had become.  Plus, like all abusers, he drove away my friends with his horrid behavior and made me sufficiently ashamed of myself that I no longer believed anything anyone else said.  Had it not been for the faith, support and (for which I am also eternally grateful) secret money from my parents, I do not know what I would have done.  I have regained my courage and faith and hope, but it has taken a long time and I am so grateful that I will never ever have to see him again.

            1-20-09 The Darkness Ends "Where cruelty exists, law does not." ~ Alberto Mora.

            by noweasels on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 06:36:35 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

    •  Incredible diary Natasha! (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      natasha, sberel, noweasels, nonnie9999

      Thank you sincerely for sharing it. Things like that aren't usually easy to do so. Very brave, very strong of spirit.

      How're you doing out in the mid-west there? I haven't been able to track down my friend Quinn's info yet, she's dropped off the radar it seems. I'll keep looking for it though!


      "níl síochán gan cheart"

      No justice, no peace

      by Erevann on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 08:33:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  natasha (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      natasha, snakelass

      so glad to see you're out of this situation, and writing your intensely great stuff!

      "We are getting organized so that politics can be done in a way that reflects how people really live their lives."Kid O.

      by Terri on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 09:56:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  What an incredibly well written and (13+ / 0-)
    thought provoking diary.  I'm so sorry you went through that and so glad you are safe now.

    You're diary should be read by everyone.

    Very much recommended.

    Have you read about the Kurds yet?

    by jhritz on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 03:33:27 PM PDT

  •  Domestic Terrorism (11+ / 0-)

    how apt.

    I have no words.

    They burn our children in their wars and grow rich beyond the dreams of avarice.

    by Limelite on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 03:37:35 PM PDT

  •  Natasha... (10+ / 0-)

    ...if you have the time, I hope you can send this story to a few major newspapers or magazines. It would really help people understand these situations. You have created a beautifully written story. I believe that there is good in all bad situations in life. This story that you have shared with us is that good. For as much as many Americans are quick to place blame on the victims, your words have the power to teach compassion, understanding and love.

    What an amazing woman you are.

    "Our sweat and our blood have fallen on this land to make other men rich." Cesar Estrada Chavez

    by bic momma on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 03:47:25 PM PDT

    •  Know it well, that feeling of helplessness: No (8+ / 0-)

      hope of any kind.  Lived the same plot, same storyline, only the names are different.  
      Every time a woman enters a new relationship or a marriage - someone should give her a copy of the book "The Gift of Fear".  So many of the police radio dispatchers I met at seminars and classes we attended came from the same abusive background.  Our thinking?  We were safe in the midst of all those blue uniforms, the "ex" wouldn't dare start anything.  Works most of the time, unfortunately not always.

      On a planetary scale, habitat and life are interchangeable.

      by libbys mom on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 03:56:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for writing this (10+ / 0-)

    We need to hear these stories.  I'm sure it was hard to write and harder to live.  The humiliation and lack of self respect is what keeps people in these horrible situations.    

    How did you get yourself out?

  •  Thank you for this (12+ / 0-)

    Many women and their children have had to endure this kind of hell. I know, my mother was in your shoes. Thank you for being brave and telling it like it is.

  •  I didn't divorce my first husband (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, blueyedace2, nonnie9999

    when he broke my nose because I had hit him first, and if I hadn't ducked at the wrong time, he would have missed me.  Nobody calls me what he did and gets away with it.

    He never hit me again.  I wish I could say the same.

  •  My dad was a drunk and a bully. (7+ / 0-)

    We used to beg my mom to leave him.

    I can't write anymore.

    Your story hits (ha!) too close to home.
    Thank God you didn't have seven kids when
    all this was going on in your life.

    •  No doubt (6+ / 0-)

      I'm so sorry your family went through that. And yes, I've been very grateful that I never had any kids with my ex. Very.

      •  This (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        natasha, sberel, nonnie9999

        was the only reason for which I am now ever grateful for infertility.

        1-20-09 The Darkness Ends "Where cruelty exists, law does not." ~ Alberto Mora.

        by noweasels on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 06:55:55 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I identify with this, and with natasha's story, (5+ / 0-)

          but in quite a different way.

          I was abused as a child and never wanted children (I was careful with birth control). But the abuse led me to seek escape and marry the wrong man as a teenager. Although he didn't beat me or verbally abuse me, he constantly cheated on me and gifted me with venereal diseases, while I worked full time to support us (after he was fired from his job for skimming $$ from the till).

          Don't ask me why I stayed with the creep, when I was the breadwinner!!! Not only that: one day at work I got a call from him to bail him out of jail. I did. And I paid for a lawyer to get him a 'nolo contendere' plea and a sentence of seeing a shrink. (He had stolen old books from the library and attempted to sell them to a rare book dealer.)

          It took me another three years to realize I was fully capable of supporting myself in the world, and didn't need the illusion of a marriage to feel whole. It was the horrible childhood that made me feel incapable of independence, and accepting of being treated shabbily. It simply took the years of being the one who held everything together to learn to see myself as capable of surviving on my own, without the prop of a 'husband' to bestow legitimacy on my mere existence.

          Thanks for sharing your story. It is clear from reading your prior diaries that you are a very competent woman, and advocate for sustainable agriculture, and an excellent writer (I'm envious of your writing ability).

          Tomorrow is the tenth anniversary since I met my husband (no, not the jerk; that was 38 years ago). We are waiting for a cold snap to blow over before planting our spring seedlings in our organic garden. This is our ninth year of fulfilling our shared dream of self-sufficiency on our farm. I lucked out!

    •  I am so sorry, Bernie68. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      natasha, sberel, Ellicatt, nonnie9999, Bernie68

      Hugs to you.  

      1-20-09 The Darkness Ends "Where cruelty exists, law does not." ~ Alberto Mora.

      by noweasels on Thu Apr 05, 2007 at 06:56:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I missed your story yesterday. (8+ / 0-)

    It's too late for me to tip and recommend, though I would do it many times if I could.  Thanks to Diary Rescue for leading me to your diary.

    In 1991 I went to work as an administrator in a domestic violence program.  I started reading so that I could understand what the clients dealt with, and I heard a loud CLICK when I reached the third chapter of the first book.

    I'd totally forgotten about the abusive boyfriend when I was 16 (16 years earlier) -- the alcoholic three years older than me who screamed at me endlessly, and mocked me in front of my friends when he wasn't isolating me from them.  The one who threatened suicide when I broke up with him the first time.  The one who cheated on me, then accused me of doing the same.

    After four months of this, I'd had it.  We weren't married.  I was a child.  I didn't need to put up with it, I hadn't grown up with abuse, I wasn't used to it. I broke up with him. He threatened to break my jaw and the jaw of the first guy I went out with.  My mother, a probation officer, talked to her friends in the police department in our small town and had him surveilled for a month.

    He left me alone, but left an impression.  That experience kept me safe as an adult, because I knew I couldn't do it again.  Funny, though --I hadn't identified it as abuse, so I didn't recognize it instantly when I started my new job, all starry-eyed.

    Your story, Natasha, is horrible and too common.  People stigmatize the victims of domestic violence, think they ask to be abused, think they want to be abused.  Unless you've been there or worked with victims, you cannot understand.  We need to teach our children to respect each other and solve their conflicts without resorting to violence.

    I applaud you for leaving, and all the women who experience this intimate violence and deal with it in whatever way they need.  

    Your story is very important, and difficult.  Thank you for sharing it.

    •  While so true, it is a difficult task... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      natasha, edsbrooklyn

      We need to teach our children to respect each other and solve their conflicts without resorting to violence.

      ...because there are examples all around us where violence is used to resolve conflicts, beginning with our own government!

      'Be the change you want to see in the world.' Mahatma Gandhi

      by maracatu on Sat Apr 07, 2007 at 09:10:42 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  This is one arena where the political (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        natasha, maracatu

        is personal (although for me all politics feel personal).  There should be a conflict resolution curriculum in schools starting at the earliest possible grade. It should focus on respecting others and working with them to solve any problems. It should also go further and teach, explicitly, that boys and men should never hit girls and women. Kids need to be taught that physical strength is not an indicator of who is supposed to be in charge.  Of course, if what they learn at home is diametrically opposed to what they learn at school, it's very difficult to get through to them.

        Issues of power and control are learned early; that it is unacceptable can be learned early too. I haven't worked in this field in 12 years, but I imagine it's still called "breaking the cycle of violence."  Get 'em young.  It works.

  •  Thank heaven you got away (7+ / 0-)

    from this psychopath. Halleluia. Every single woman who refuses to submit to a situation like the one you describe, is voting with her feet. Eventually the status quo in gender relations has to change, for the relentless pressure every-day women are putting on it.

    In reading your story, I'm recalling one experience with a boyfriend who was, in hindsight, quite abusive. As in your case, his abuse wasn't generally physical, but emotional, and centered around a need for control.

    In regard to that long-ago relationship, there are two things I'm really grateful for:

    1.) I never moved in with this creep, which would have made leaving MUCH harder.

    2.) I didn't develop the idealization people in abusive relationships often have towards their abusers. This seems an odd thing to say, but on some level, at my peak of devotion, I valued "Tim" chiefly for companionship. He never compelled me at all. So when his nastiness became apparent, I could be clear-headed. Yes, our lives were so entwined that it took me a few months, but I was able to do what I had to do, to get myself out of that situation.

    Mine is a strictly personal list. People who DO become infatuated with their abuser aren't weaker, or more deluded, or whatever; they're just unluckier.

  •  This is an excellent and heartfelt diary (7+ / 0-)

    Thanks for writing this and sharing your story.

  •  Your story reads like mine (6+ / 0-)

    Almost identical. Except I still have to have contact with my abuser. He won custody of my child during the divorce and then promptly moved out of state. I will have to deal with the asshole for another ten years.

    Blessings, sister. are strong and wise.

  •  This may an be unpopular comment but (6+ / 0-)

    these lines:

    But then, I was 18 when we married. I'd been raised in a very sheltered, religious family that believed in strict and traditional gender roles. When I left home, there were a lot of things I didn't know about even taking care of myself and I'd been raised to be just a bit too trusting. I wanted to be independent, but I just didn't know how at the time.

    I didn't have a driver's license and I was unemployed when we met. This defined the rest of our relationship.

    shout out at me as the perfect formula for someone to walk right into a victimization scenario as profoundly as an innocent blond teenage runaway from Minnesota stepping off the bus at NYC's Port Autority Bus Terminal.  Those religious "strict and traditional gender roles" are designed to keep women helpless, isolated and dependent.  I hope you are eventually able to overcome this disaster that has happened in your life, but I think it is going to take alot of therapy to get over the psycological damage that your parents inflicted on you.  

    And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

    by MrJersey on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 10:01:51 PM PDT

    •  Why possibly unpopular? (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      paradox, natasha, Topaz7, Akonitum

      It is a cogent observation.  

      It is impossible to reason someone out of something that he did not reason himself into in the first place. - Jonathan Swift

      by snakelass on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 10:05:15 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I have seen commentators held up to criticism (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        natasha, snakelass, Topaz7

        as insensitive louts for offering anything less than uncritical sympathy for the situation that this diarist finds herself in.  I just didn't want to be opened up to the charge that I was in any way "blaming the victim" that some more sensitive souls may have thought I was doing.  

        And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

        by MrJersey on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 10:29:34 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Not at all (0+ / 0-)

      I agree with you pretty much completely. I don't feel blamed by it, indeed I've said much the same thing myself in conversation with friends about it.

      The problem with being naive and sheltered is that you don't know that you are, know how profoundly handicapped that makes you in dealing with people early on. That still isn't an excuse for people to prey on someone, though, which I don't hear you saying at all.

      Though it gets me thinking, because I've read a lot of discussions on the feminist blogs about all the things women are 'supposed to know' not to do in order to avoid rape. Many of them, precautions that a man would never have to take. And in the public dialogue about rape, these are often used to blame the victim.

      In DV, however, it seems to me that people aren't necessarily expected to see it coming beforehand. Probably because abusive behavior of varying levels is very normalized in our society. Where the blame usually comes in is the 'she should have left after the first incident' criticism, which at least recognizes the difficulty of seeing these things coming, but completely fails to address the enormous difficulty many women have in doing so. There is, as I mentioned above, an increased likelihood of triggering even more severe abuse when trying to leave. But in situations of financial dependence, particularly if the woman hasn't been working, or if there are children as a couple of the commentors here have noted, it becomes exponentially harder.

  •  I'm so sorry you went through (6+ / 0-)


    I hesitate to document it here, but let's just say some of it is familiar . . .

  •  Emotional abuse at lower levels (5+ / 0-)

    I come from a home life of emotional abuse from my mother and a history of sexual abuse from my father until I was 8.  He stopped drinking then because of an ulcer and totally changed for the better.  I rationalized the memories as dreams, and didn't let myself put things together until I was 42.  This was shortly after I met my wife, a couple of months after I moved in with her and was starting to feel secure with her.  My father was dead from lung cancer by then, so I never had to face him with the knowledge, and how I'd confirmed the abuse with my older sister, and heard her even more awful story.  She was raped by our cousin and a the son of family friends when she was 7 years old.  I was an infant at the time.  My mother and the family friend mother suspected and asked her about it, but she denied it.  It's hard to believe something like that isn't your fault when you don't even remember ever having a hymen.

    The feelings of shame this leaves a child internalizing makes her/him easy prey for predatory partners.  I went through a series of them almost continuously until I was 30, then I spent over a year "fixing my sexuality" by teaching my body to feel every time I was touched.  Many times, especially in my teens, my genitalia were numb.  Of course I faked orgasm every time.  When I met a younger guy that I clicked with and we talked frankly about sex on the phone before we ever touched each other sexually, I was able to finally have a satisfying sexual relationship.

    Unfortunately, he was just as much a predator as the others, and with definite psychopathic behaviors at times.  Fortunately, he introduced me to my wife while trying to make it easier for him to have sex with anyone he wanted to and not have to hide it from me.  He'd been doing it, but telling everying that we had an open marriage and I was OK with him sleeping around.  He slept with enough guys to give me genital herpes type 6, which I didn't discover until after I left him.  When he started showing obvious signs of abnormal behavior while getting jealous of my previously encouraged relationship with my wife, I had to take a close look at him.  I could no longer deny that he would never be monogamous, although I didn't find out about how much he'd slept around until a week or two after I left him.  He even said he'd never be monogamous, although he later denied it.  I was incredibly lucky that my wife is my soulmate, not a bit of predator in her aproach to relationships, or really any thing else but video games.  

    Sorry this is so long and disjointed, but I'm tired and slightly stoned, getting ready to go to sleep when I read this diary and found myself drawn to respond.  If I had more time now I'd make it a lot more readable.

    It is impossible to reason someone out of something that he did not reason himself into in the first place. - Jonathan Swift

    by snakelass on Fri Apr 06, 2007 at 10:31:13 PM PDT

  •  we are many (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    natasha, maracatu

    Thank you for sharing your story.  Unfortunately we are many.  Your story is all too familiar and I find it interesting that all abuse stories seem to have a commonality and it makes me wonder why we are so blind to the 'red flags' early on in these relationships? It's amazing to me how abusers unconsciously/independently pick the same tactics over and over again.  Deprivation of sleep is a classic example.

    Cheers to all of you who found the strength to get out!  

  •  I have been saying for a long time to anyone who (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    will listen, that Bush's war on terrorism is complete and utter bullshit.
    Those who would do harm to us are angry, to be sure. But their methods are criminal, and should be dealt with as such.
    And terrorism, as you have pointed out, is the tool of cowards. But it occurs everywhere - domestic abuse, child abuse, animal abuse, elder abuse, etc.
    Yes we must fight terrorism.  But we need to fight it in all its forms, where in the world, or right here at home.
    My prayers and wishes for your continued healing.

    "Keep raisin' hell!" - Molly Ivins

    by MA Liberal on Sat Apr 07, 2007 at 06:14:03 AM PDT

  •  Aptly titled and eloquent. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Sorry for your predicament and sorry I didn't read this in time to recommend it.  I hope your life takes a turn for the better.

    'Be the change you want to see in the world.' Mahatma Gandhi

    by maracatu on Sat Apr 07, 2007 at 08:38:35 AM PDT

  •  Thanks for sharing your story (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    natasha, ilyana

    This is a major problem and every story told that draws attention to the issue could save a life.

    I intend to live forever - so far, so good.

    by Zwoof on Sat Apr 07, 2007 at 09:42:01 AM PDT

    •  And thank you (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      snakelass, ilyana

      Thanks for sharing the story of your own daughter's tragedy, I can't imagine what you and your family must be going through right now.

      There aren't enough words anywhere to ease that, nor enough words of gratitude that you've let it also become a teaching moment for the entire community here.

  •  Thank You (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    for writing these words, sharing your experience and making it harder for us to ignore the terrorism which takes place everyday here in America.  

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