She stares at the wall and wondered how did I get to this place? She thinks to herself, “I am a good wife. I did all that I should and more. I must have done something so wrong to deserve the rising welt on my arm.” The tips of his fingers were tattooed in purple.
The phone rings and she rushes to pick it up. The voice on the other end in slurred tones explains how he will not be home until much later. She has spent the day in preparation of his homecoming. She hoped that her sacrifice of scrubbing and cleaning all day would help to clear the air from the previous night’s battle. She still was reeling from the accusations of inadequacy on her behalf. She thought to herself she had no right to provoke his anger. It was her fault he was coming home drunk and in the middle of the night. It was her fault he had kicked a hole in the wall. She had already cleverly patched and fixed it so no one would see. She would be a better housekeeper.
She sat and looked at the pile of bills. She just was wondering why there never seemed to be enough money, even though he was making more now than ever. She only knew that because he had to declare his income when they did their taxes. Fortunately, she too had a better income, but there never seemed enough. In a lack of trust, she had done something she felt terrible about and gone through his pockets. It then became a game she would perform every weekend. On Friday, after he cashed his check, he would have a bundle of cash in his pocket. On Sunday, the wad had dwindled. He spent his weekend days and nights in the company of others, leaving her alone and isolated. She felt little remorse as he was passed out in bed while she searched his pockets. Often there were other clues as to where the money had gone and who he had spent it with. Her own thoughts of other people being recipients of his income angered her as she had worked so hard to make the home a place he could be proud of. She thought to herself how awful she must truly be if he could be generous to others, but not to her. When she had questioned him about it, his fury was so great that she had cowered in her chair and just cried. She received no answers and only shrank in fear while he spewed accusations of her treachery as he towered over her in anger.
She sat at the bottom of the stairs crying. However, there was great relief. It had only been the wall. She turned to look at the gaping hole where he had forced his fist. She had been so close to having that fist connect with her face as she had been standing right there when he delivered it. She felt the brush of his arm. She had warned him early in their relationship she would not tolerate being hit. This was twenty-two years later. She had spent years of being on the receiving end of her father’s anger and felt stoic in saying she would not accept that in her marriage. He had never hit her…but this was pretty close. She had just finished wallpapering and the hole was right in a place she could not cover. The paper was so pretty and very expensive, but she had bought just enough to do this one small wall. She would have to find something to cover it very quickly so no one would see the hole.
They were so young and barely scraping by. But the world was bright as they had just gotten married. She sat inside while he helplessly looked at the engine of their precious van. They had bought it for a song, but it had already taken them to wondrous places. He was no mechanic and had no clue as to what was wrong. He played with a few things, used a hammer to tap on some parts and then told her to get into his seat and start the engine. She dutifully did as he commanded. She somehow managed to break his expensive mirrored sunglasses. She does not remember anything other than the hammer hitting the glass windshield right in front of her face. She deserved it for breaking his glasses.
Silent tears fell as she bent to pick up the rubble from his fury. He was off to the emergency room as he had done something to his hand. She picked up pieces of broken china and glassware, thinking to herself how horrible she was to have made him stop watching his program and come to the table to eat the dinner she spent hours fixing. They spent so little time together since he had gotten on the force. His hours were late at night and he arrived home as she would be leaving for her job. She felt horrible for not understanding the pressures he was under and for making him so angry that he had destroyed so many things that she treasured. She wondered what story he would have to concoct to cover his injury. She knew it was bad as the thing he hit was not forgiving.
She sat in silence as her dear friend cried as she explained the bruises on her face. They had been friends for years and when their husbands both became law officers, their bond grew. She had remembered the tale of earlier in their marriage when he had picked her up and tossed her across the room and into a wall. She had asked then if there was any medical doctor she could recommend to help him with his chemical imbalance. She was sure that was what was wrong. This time, she had corrected him in front of their children. Her eyes, full of pain, looked for no sympathy as she was sure she deserved the lesson he had given her. They both knew they would reap more if the husbands even knew they were sharing their pain.
I could go on with these scenarios. This is what domestic violence looks and sounds like in the suburbs. It is common. It is prevalent more than people know. It is silent as the shame seems greater when it is happening in a culture where such behavior is crass and unacceptable. It takes place in the big houses. It takes place by well-educated and successful people. It is a dirty secret. The humiliation of one who is on the receiving end is so profound, seeking help would destroy any last vestiges of self-esteem. The fear of people knowing immobilizes the victim to total acceptance of their fate until the injuries become too great. Often, the perpetrator is clever enough not to leave visible marks, but the damage is there. The home is a prison. The environment is toxic and the individual suffers a life of shame.
These scenarios are some of my story. It is my past and is now something I am able to use as a teaching tool to help others recover or become brave enough to walk away from their own situation. I did not have such strength and suffered in an abusive relationship for 27 years. It began before I was married. My friend also remained in her marriage for 26 years. In an act of irony, both of our spouses left us. We both are in a much better place for it.
When I was going through my divorced, I joined an organization that helped people deal with their dissolving marriage. I did not speak of the abuse at that time, but I remember hearing other tales from the other participants. It makes one wonder how many do not get away. I now am involved in a group that specializes in dealing with survivors of domestic violence but live in the suburbs. Domestic violence has a different acceptance out there. The women who I have met are all highly successful professionals whose reputation could be destroyed with scandal. It is not that this groups hides, but the focus is different. The focus is on education. For the victim, it is recovery of a broken soul. But the driving force of this organization is to educate, and primarily men, on how to deal with their anger. It is education on respect, for themselves, their families and their spouse.
If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship, encourage them to find someone or some group to support them in surviving. If you know someone who feels justify in inflicting their anger on others help them too. The way to break the circle of abuse is to educated and provide resources for change.