Edith’s* Domestic Violence Story
I met Mark when I was in university. I was finishing my final year and he was starting the first year of the same degree, though we were both 27 at the time. Like so many other men that I’ve read about since I’ve left him, he was very charming, thoughtful, and funny.
We were friends for a few months before we officially began dating. During that time he told me that he had a criminal conviction and had spent a short time in prison in America for failing to stop for a police officer. He was quite dismissive of it and certainly tried to avoid taking the blame for it. I thought at the time he was just being honest with me, but I didn’t recognize the red flag. Or if I did, I dismissed it because I liked him.
After about a month of dating he was evicted from his apartment and asked if he could live with me while he looked for a new place to live. He moved in and from what I could tell, never even bothered to look for another place. This was another red flag that I ignored.
I always considered myself to be a strong person, and I’d never been around violence before. I recognize it now, but back then I didn’t see how he was slowly starting to control me with emotional abuse. He would get angry over nothing and call me increasingly awful names. He would make me feel guilty for going to class, seeing friends, or working. He would wait until I fell asleep and then go out without even leaving a note, only to disappear for sometimes days. He claimed his computer was broken (it wasn’t) and said he could only do his school work on my laptop. It turned out he’d dropped out of school and hadn’t told me. But always, always, he had his excuses that painted him out to be a good guy and me out as the controlling person who was doing something wrong. I started to really doubt myself.
The first time he was physically violent towards me he had been fighting with me for hours. A scary kind of fighting where he wouldn’t let me sleep, or even say we should talk about it in the morning or when we had both calmed down. He just shouted at me for ages over what seemed to be nothing. He ended up throwing me against a table with a bunch of picture frames on top. He left, and I rang the police.
I’ll just interject to say that that was the first of several times I’ve rung the police, and never once have I had a good experience with them. On this particular occasion they showed up with a camera for an episode of a police show on television, which isn’t exactly something I was emotionally prepared for after being abused. In the future he would always bring up the fact that I had rung the police and ‘ruined’ his life, which made me think I was to blame.
We split up (he was court ordered not to contact me for six weeks) and during that time his parents told me he had gone on his own, without being ordered by the court, to an anger management program. When the court order ended we began speaking again, and he seemed so remorseful. We got back together.
Two years later we had moved countries. Things became increasingly physically violent. I was constantly uneasy and socially isolated as I hadn’t had a chance to make any new friends. The violence left me constantly bruised, and visibly bruised to the point where I didn’t want to go outside because of how I looked. I was very aware at this point that I needed to get out, but so emotionally drained that I didn’t know how. He was checking my emails, he wouldn’t let me sleep, he had taken and hidden my mobile, he even took my keys with him whenever he went out.
One night I had enough. He’d been angry for days. When I had the chance I’d been reading about violence and was beginning to accept that he wouldn’t change, and my life was seriously in danger. I was so scared and wound up that all it took was that one look in his eyes that I’d seen so often before when he was angry. I fled the apartment without keys, shoes or anything. I went to a nearby restaurant and asked them to call the police. They came, and under their supervision I went back and packed my things. I didn’t have any visible injuries at that time, so they couldn’t arrest him, but I could almost see the fury in him and asked if the police would stand between him and I while I packed.
The last contact I had with him was nearly a year ago, and a few days after I left the apartment. He had been calling me, emailing me, trying to ‘apologize’. I arranged to meet with him in a public place, saying I would consider getting back together with him but only if he would take over the lease on our apartment as I wasn’t sure we should live together for awhile. That was a lie, on my part. I didn’t want to get back together, I wanted to take advantage of the only time he might do something for me to get out of a financial obligation. We met, he signed the forms, and I said I’d call him later. I never did.
I left, and with the support of my family, went home. This involved moving countries. It was incredibly difficult for me to admit to my family what had been going on. It was embarrassing, and hard to make a sudden and dramatic life change while going through the process of breaking up. It was really difficult to come to terms with what had happened and I sought help from a counselor.
I thought at the time that surviving a violent relationship would be the hardest thing I would ever do. Actually, it was harder for me to leave and very hard for me in the months following leaving. When I was with him I could to some extent predict what was going to happen. When I left I worried about him finding me, or him sending someone else to find me. It was difficult to feel like I’d lost all control and it took a long time for the fear to abate.
In the end though, while what happened changed me as a person, I have a new appreciation of my capacity to handle situations, and my capacity to heal. I gave myself time and permission to just experience all the emotions, both positive and negative, before I started to come out of my shell. Less and less I struggle with anxiety and I’m starting to overcome trust issues, but I’m taking it slowly and rebuilding my life. But now it’s MY life, and that’s the best thing that could ever happen to me.
27 May 2012