Gemma's Domestic Abuse Story
Gemma's domestic abuse story is one that could be echoed up and down the country. The clues that the relationship would turn out abusive were there from the beginning, but hope drew Gemma in and shame kept her from leaving even after the situation had turned violent. Here Gemma shares her experiences for other women who might believe it is not really serious abuse.
This domestic abuse story is not going to horrify you. Many, many women have stories that will break your heart and take your breath because of the level of abuse and terror they have suffered.
Thankfully, I left before this was my experience, but I stayed way, way too long. My goal in telling this is reaching the women that domestic violence "does not happen to". I was well-educated, in my early twenties, from an intact, loving family. I was not suffering from poverty; I had several "real" jobs throughout the relationship. I didn't have any children that were suffering abuse with me. I was unable to define my relationship as abusive, but it was. And if you are on this site, reading this story, yours likely is too.
I was in my last semester at a community college when I met him, and about to transfer to a state university. I was teaching preschool part-time, and working at a local coffee house to make ends meet, as well as receiving help from my parents. I'd like to say he completely hid his "true self" from me in the beginning, but I knew. He had been in trouble with the law, all drug related charges, but was working when I met him, and staying sober. I had also gone through a rebellious phase just after high school, and had been in my own trouble because of addiction, although by that time I had been clean and sober for nearly five years, and had completely turned my life around. Even though in my heart I knew that his problems had been far more serious than my own, and were more recent than he let on, I felt like I finally met someone that could understand my history, in a way that "normal" boys could not. I also wanted to "save" him on some level. He came from a horribly dysfunctional family; his dad was long gone, and his mom and sister were active, homeless alcoholic drug addicts.
The physical abuse did not start until later in the relationship. In fact, there were probably about 10 incidents of physical abuse throughout the five years we were together- another reason that I did not believe that I was being abused; I didn't have black eyes or bruises on my neck (usually). But he was incredibly verbally and emotionally abusive. His condescending remarks began immediately. I was stupid and selfish. I was being a bitch. Very quickly, I was walking on eggshells, censoring everything I said, making sure that nothing was going to make him angry. His temper was frightening, but confined to yelling and insulting in the beginning. His behavior became controlling. I couldn't go anywhere without him calling over and over, or knowing exactly where I was. He would criticize my friends, calling them sluts and bitches, and was sure that whenever I was out with them, I was cheating on him. Eventually, it became easier to stop seeing my friends, rather than constantly convince him that I was not out looking for other men. He was financially irresponsible. He had a good job, but always had to have the latest toy- a brand new truck, computer, phone, etc. Most of the time, he couldn't pay his portion of the bills- guess where all of my paychecks went. Finally, he wanted to buy a condo. We couldn't afford it. I begged and pleaded with him not to. He did anyway, but I thankfully refused to go on the mortgage with him. Thankfully, because he eventually went into default and lost the home, but of course, if he hadn't, I would have spent years paying half of the mortgage with nothing to show for it.
The condo he could afford was in a shady part of town, and an old drug friend of his lived nearby. Soon, he was using crystal meth again, not going to work and staying out all night. This was the beginning of the end. The physical abuse started with a slap in the face, then progressed to being thrown up against walls, with bruises on my neck and arms. By this time, I had graduated with my BA in sociology and was working full time. I studied people going through domestic violence - I still could not admit it was happening to me. I was miserable and depressed. I would come home from work and go straight to bed. I knew it was going to have to end, but I couldn't figure out how to untangle my life from his. I never considered seeking help - this was not supposed to happen to me. Smart, independent women did not allow this to happen to them. I was ashamed.
This was seven years ago and I still cannot tell my story from start to finish, but I clearly remember moments of insanity that make me shake with anger and fear today. He would threaten to pull the emergency brake up when I was driving; I would make excuses not to be the driver because I was terrified he would actually do this while we were on the freeway. One time, we went out to a bar, after he had started drinking again, with another couple. We were ready to leave and I went outside ahead of the group. A guy that was outside smoking said hello. He overheard this as he came outside and became infuriated. He had been drinking too much to drive, and we were supposed to take a cab home. Instead he threw me into his truck, and drove home, angrily and dangerously. When he slapped me the first time, his mother was downstairs, staying with us (as usual). I overheard him tell her "she said something stupid and I slapped her". His mother laughed. Months later, as we were attempting to "work things out", I told him that I would never forget that she laughed. He said "I can't believe you could say that. I hate you and will hate you forever". He had kept in touch with an old girlfriend that had a child, and he still had a relationship with the little boy. One time, the boy was at our house, and had found some old condoms under the sink in the bathroom, and made a couple of water balloons. Apparently, he had counted the condoms, and before the little boy admitted to his prank, this man came flying at me. Two condoms were missing, so I must be cheating on him. Never mind the fact that I never left the house besides work. After the little boy explained the situation, I asked for an apology (in private of course- no kids around). He refused. I realized there was never going to be an apology. After every horrific instance, he justified what had happened- if I hadn't done this or that, he wouldn't have hit me or yelled at me. But he never apologized. Eventually, I was purposely provoking him whenever he seemed on the verge of getting physical. I thought that if he finally just completely beat me up, I would have the strength to leave.
Sadly, I didn't. Eventually, his drug use and the chaos that came with it gave me the motivation to find a new apartment. Unlike so many women in abusive relationships, I had the resources to do this on my own. Even after signing the lease, I still stuck around his house for a month, out of fear I guess. I did start moving my personal things out to the new place - I knew I was going to leave for good eventually, but I couldn't face it yet. He was sleeping with other women by this point, but I honestly didn't care - that was the least of my problems. I did (not soon enough) lie to him and say that I was off the pill, and made him use condoms. The abuse continued, but I didn't get out for good until I came home unexpectedly at lunch one day, and found him, some girl and a drug dealer doing drugs at the kitchen table. I finally stayed at my own place after that, leaving behind so many things I had worked for - furniture and stuff. I knew that I could have asked for help moving and getting out, but I couldn't say the words out loud yet. I moved everything I could by myself, in my little car. I had lost touch with most of my friends, so I didn't have much explaining to do anyway. It wasn't until 2 months after leaving that I told my parents and two best friends that I'd left.
Even after leaving, the harassment continued. He would call my phone and if I didn't answer, he would call 30-40 times, screaming and threatening me, that he was watching my house, waiting for me to come home, telling me that he was going to start going to all my friends' homes and hurt me and whomever I was with. He broke into my car once, during the night, messing it up to frighten me. The financial abuse continued; my "cash advance" checks for my credit card were still coming to his house and he would write them for food. I had to report this to the credit card company, but didn't have the courage to say I knew who had done it. His cell phone was still on my plan, and it took me months to find the courage to cancel it. Even after I did, he somehow paid the bill on my credit card through the company's' automated system. I had to clean up my credit because I was an "authorized signer" on several of his credit cards that he had defaulted on. I don't remember if I thought about a restraining order, but I wouldn't have gone through with it. I was too ashamed that I allowed this to happen. Even after this direct harassment stopped (when I moved to another part of the state), I still receive random texts and calls from him (I don't answer) and I live in fear that I'm going to run into him at the grocery store (I moved back to his town a few years later).
This pales in comparison to the horror many women face, but I know today that it was abuse, and I should have sought help. If you read this, please don't allow your shame to keep you from seeking help. It is NOT our fault. And, get out NOW.
In This Section:
Domestic Violence Stories
According to therapist Engel "even the most loving person" is capable of emotional abuse-that is, "any non-physical behavior designed to control, intimidate, subjugate, demean, punish, or isolate." In a reasoned, sensible tone, she encourages readers to become responsible for their behavior and for changing it. Identified are ten "patterns of abuse" (verbal assault, character assassination, etc.), different kinds of abusive relationships, action steps for cessation, and suggestions for recovery. Engel clearly shows how this type of abuse, either intentional or unconscious leads to low self-esteem and misery for one or both partners. Engel also looks at the difficult relationships where one partner suffers from Personality Disorder. A difficult and draining yet important read for those who suspect that their relationship has entered abusive territory, this book is highly recommended.
To order in the US: The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing (Paperback or Kindle version avaialble - and well worth buying the kindle to be able to start reading immediately!)
Many people suffer verbal and emotional abuse in secret for years, not really understanding what is happening or why they feel so rotten. Nor do they realize how easily such seemingly mild forms of abuse can be the precursor to physical violence. This book by Patricia Evans helps the victim understand how to recognize abuse, validates the victim's perception of what is happening and offers solid suggestions as to what to do to control abuse and to protect oneself :
To order in the US: The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond
To order in the UK: The Verbally Abusive Relationship, Expanded Third Edition
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Living with the Dominator by Pat Craven is the book to accompany the Freedom Programme in the UK. This book should be compulsory in schools - the information is so clear and so obvious and such an eye-opener! After studying domestic violence issues for years, this is the one book which finally enabled me to click it all into place and answer all my whys. Just read it:
To order in the US: Living With the Dominator (Kindle version only - and well worth buying a Kindle just to get this book!)
To order in the UK: Living with the Dominator: A Book About the Freedom Programme: 1
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