Sadie's Domestic Abuse Story
Sadie's domestic abuse story is an amazing account of emotional and psychological abuse and its effects on the victim. After 21 years of being controlled and dominated, Sadie took the plunge to free herself. Her description of the emotional journey involved in leaving and breaking free of abuse is both heart-wrenching and heart-warming:
I was in an abusive relationship that lasted for 21 years. By the time I left I was barely functioning. I thought I was crazy. Now, six long, hard, incredible years later not only have I managed to survive, but I have also found contentment, my soul mate, and, most importantly, myself along the way. There IS life after abuse. This is my story.
I was raised by loving, honest, law abiding, God-fearing parents in a typical Long Island suburb. Even though my parents struggled financially, they managed to provide us with everything we needed. I went to the same public school from Kindergarten to 12th grade, and my parents are still happily married. I was raised to be fair and honest and to treat everyone I encounter courteously. I think Im a good person. When I agreed to marry Pat I expected to live a long and happy life, just like my parents. Pat was handsome, charming, witty, intelligent, good with money, and was a go-getter. He was gregarious and confident. I thought he was perfect for me and I thought I was going to be well taken care of for the rest of my life. My mother knew better and tried to warn me before I married him. She said he didnt treat me right. I was oblivious. I was in love.
I thought he was wonderful. When things went his way he WAS wonderful. When they didnt, well, he snapped at me and blamed me whether it was my fault or not. If I got upset or challenged him, hed get even angrier and then bellow and threaten until I backed down. He took to ordering me around instead of asking, and if I balked or didnt jump when he wanted something Id get a withering verbal tirade, so I learned to jump really fast. Id still get the tirade, but the faster I jumped the faster it would end. He felt that since I was his wife he didnt need to be polite, and I soon discovered that trying to convince him otherwise was a useless proposition, so I eventually gave up. In social situations I was often the butt of his jokes, and some of them hurt. If I got upset he would make it look like I was the crazy one by loudly proclaiming that he was only kidding and that I was being too sensitive, so I taught myself to keep my mouth shut and brush it off whenever he said or did something that hurt. Subconsciously I started to build a wall around me for protection, and it got thicker and thicker as the years went by. Unknowingly I began to retreat behind it more and more, too. Eventually my wall got so thick and I became so firmly entrenched behind it that I lost the ability to think or feel I just did what I had to do or what I was told to do. On the outside I may have looked happy and smiley, but on the inside I was numb.
Imagine feeling like you had to walk on eggshells all the time. Thats what it was like living with him. I never knew what would set him off and no matter what I did it was never right or good enough or fast enough and that just triggered more tirades. He would nit-pick on the tiniest, stupidest things, and make me feel like an idiot. It seemed like he enjoyed pointing out my shortcomings and mistakes and was constantly referring to me as stupid, idiot, or moron. Pretty soon I believed it. I had always been extremely self-critical, but after a while I began to hate myself for being such an incompetent fool who couldnt do anything right. And even when I did manage to do something right it was still never quite good enough for him, so I was still wrong. I became afraid to do anything or make any decisions because I knew theyd be wrong and then Id be lectured and overruled anyway, so why bother? Eventually I just stopped trying.
Our family life revolved around what Pat wanted, how he wanted it and when he wanted it. Our three kids needs and wants came next, and I came last. Dead last. My needs basically never got addressed because I wasnt important, and since I wasnt important, they werent important.Our family life revolved around what Pat wanted, how he wanted it and when he wanted it. Our three kids needs and wants came next, and I came last. Dead last. My needs basically never got addressed because I wasnt important, and since I wasnt important, they werent important. I usually got an automatic no for anything I asked for. I dont think he even heard what I was saying. And the funny thing is all I ever really wanted were things for the family or for the house, never specifically for me. The few home improvements I did get required years of begging and pleading, and even then, when they finally did get done they came with a cost. They were done how and when he wanted, and he made himself so disagreeable to be with that it was almost not worth getting.
On those rare occasions when I did allow myself to think, I felt that someday I would finally get the things that I asked for - a nice house and a workable kitchen. All I ever heard from Pat whenever I brought up the kitchen or any other home improvement project was that we couldnt afford it. We both worked and I was not a lavish spender. In fact, I hardly bought anything for myself in the way of clothing or jewelry, nor did I receive them for that matter, either. Most of my clothing was hand-me-downs from Pats sister, and the amount of gifts and jewelry that Pat voluntarily gave me after our marriage was practically nil. Knowing what I know now about our finances, I should have expected and demanded more. Since he had me convinced that we were so tight for money, I figured that Id rather spend my share on home improvements instead of on clothing or jewelry, so I didnt ask for anything. Only once in 16 years did I demand that he buy me some nice jewelry and he did, but he made such a point of complaining about how it cost nearly as much as the computer that he had just bought for the family (but which he had really just bought for himself) that I never asked again.
During the 10 years that I begged to have our unworkable kitchen remodeled (Pats estimate for the job was $6,000,) Pat had managed to acquire, in addition to our two commuting cars, his $13,000 hi-top van, $8,000 Corvette, and more than $23,000 master bedroom suite for the Jacuzzi that he wanted. Warning bells began to go off in my head when he took out a loan to buy his Corvette six months after telling me, once again, that we couldnt afford to take out a loan to remodel the kitchen, but I foolishly dismissed them. The $23,000 spent on his master bedroom suite was part of a $25,000 home improvement loan that was supposed to go towards both the bedroom suite AND my kitchen, but by the time his bedroom suite was finished, there was no money left for my kitchen. When we had passed the $17,000 mark on the loan and I realized that there wasnt going to be any money left for my kitchen, I finally opened my mouth. He didnt see anything wrong with what was going on because, as far as he was concerned, the kitchen wasnt important to him, so therefore, it didnt need to get done. In spite of the warning bells furiously clanging in my head at that point, I still couldnt imagine a life without Pat and I expected to grow old with him. Secluded behind my wall, I convinced myself that we had a wonderful marriage. Many people thought so too, because we seemed so happy.
It took a long time for anyone to say anything to me, 19 ½ years to be exact, but I guess the way he was treating me in public finally got bad enough for people to comment. I didnt notice anything wrong with his behavior, it seemed perfectly normal to me. But two friends, within three weeks of each other, pulled me aside and said basically the same thing to me, how can you let Pat treat you like that? Only the second comment contained treat you AND the kids like that. The first comment just bounced off my wall, as usual, and I immediately dismissed it, but the second one, coming so soon after the first, hit like a wrecking ball and my wall started to crumble. The final blow came the next morning while we were driving to Florida to see my parents. Pat gave me such a vicious verbal lashing over a road map in front of the kids that that was it. My wall came tumbling down, and I snapped. I didnt scream; I didnt yell. I just calmly looked at Pat and told him not to speak to me like that, especially in front of the kids, and if he continued to treat me like that he was going to lose me. He shot back with an Ill talk to you however I want remark, and I repeated it again. I was dead serious. I had had enough. He didnt listen to me of course, and continued to treat me the same way or worse for the next 18 months until I finally found the courage to leave.
Unfortunately, once my protective wall was toppled it couldnt be repaired, and all of the emotions that I had so carefully kept locked deep inside came screaming out, and I found that I could no longer suppress or ignore them. I tried talking to Pat about the way he was treating me but it was like talking to a brick wall. He didnt want to hear it. He did, however, listen where the kids were concerned, and I saw him make a conscience effort to change the way he spoke to them. Unfortunately when it came to me, not only was there was no change, but there was total denial that he even treated me badly.
I began fighting back. Instead of backing down right away and jumping to do his commands, I began standing my ground and arguing back if I felt that he was being unreasonable, but that just made him even angrier and nastier and more intimidating and threatening to the point where I was afraid that I was going to get hit. This went on for months, and the intensity of our fights continued to escalate. Up until then he had never hit me because I had always backed down first. If the physical intimidations and threats didnt work, the occasional punched hole through the door or thrown object was enough to scare me. Now, however, things were changing. There was one terrifying moment in the kitchen when I was absolutely convinced that he was going to hit me and I was going to die right then and there. It seemed that no matter what I did I couldnt get through to him, and he was getting angrier, nastier, and more volatile by the minute. I could see that I was fighting a losing battle. It was time to get out.
By the time I left I was blinded by 21 years of unresolved hurt, anger, rage, pain resentment and frustration and I gave up everything - my house, financial security, all my possessions, even my kids just to get away from him. I was petrified for 21 years he basically dictated everything I did and since I had been told repeatedly that I was incompetent, stupid, an idiot and a moron I believed him. I didnt think I could survive on my own, but I had no choice. Kick him out? I tried, but after being informed that this is MY house, these are MY kids, and since IM perfectly happy with this marriage and youre the one with the problem, YOU go, I realized that I couldnt stand up to him. Take my kids with me? All I could afford was a tiny studio apartment. I would never dream of taking them away from their home, and besides, I thought I was incompetent and crazy. I didnt think I could take care of myself let alone my kids, and I was so afraid that if I took them with me the extra stress would land me in a psych ward and then Id lose them forever. I saw that Pat was really trying to make an effort to treat them better - so in the end, they stayed and I left. The guilt and stress were overwhelming and I hated myself, but deep down inside I also knew that if I stayed and couldnt get Pat to stop hurting me Id wind up in a mental hospital, or worse yet, fly into a blind rage and kill someone. I was so close to the edge at that point that even the slightest little push would have sent me right over.
In the early months after I moved out I could barely function. Everything overwhelmed me. We had joint custody, so on the days when I had my kids, just dealing with their normal, everyday activities was almost more than I could handle. Any little change in schedule would send me into a rage or a panic. All I wanted was peace and quiet and to be left alone to think, but whenever I was alone I just sat and cried for hours in front of a blank TV screen until I was exhausted and numb. I didnt think my body could produce so many tears. I cried driving to work. I cried driving home from work. I cried in my office. I cried in the shower. I cried while putting on makeup. I cried myself to sleep. Id wake up crying. I missed my kids. I missed my house. I missed my cat. I missed my family, but I didnt miss Pat.
At least once a month I would convince myself that I had to go back for the sake of the kids, but every time I did a thick, oppressive black cloud would descend on me, the walls would close in, and Id become so anxious and depressed and frightened that I couldnt breathe. It felt like weights were tied to my limbs and I could barely move. The air seemed stifling and thick. This would last for days. I knew that if I went back my life would be a living hell and I would lose myself again, but for the sake of my children I had to do it. They needed me. Then Id see the prison bars forming around me and the door slamming shut, and every time I heard that clank in my head Id panic and I found that I couldnt go through with it. I understand now why some recaptured prisoners commit suicide rather than return to prison. The instant I talked myself out of going back the darkness would lift, the air would cool, and I found that I could move and breathe again.
This went on for almost two years. I felt beat up, both physically and emotionally, and wondered if this is what a shell-shocked war victim feels like. I was later told by several social workers that that was exactly what I was. I alternated between rage and numbness - and anger and hate and guilt and anxiety and resentment and fear and pain. And hurt. After years of carefully suppressing my emotions, it was difficult to control them when they surfaced.
I used to pride myself on being tough, emotionless and hard as nails. I was a rock. Now I was a blubbering, out-of-control mess, and dealing with emotions that I hadnt allowed myself to feel in over a decade literally hurt.I knew I was overreacting at times, but I couldnt help it. I remember picking up the kids one day and I saw a brand-new picture that Pat had deliberately hung up in the entrance hall just for spite, and I went ballistic. I stormed through the house, slamming kitchen cabinet doors, screaming, yelling and cursing up a storm. I couldnt control myself. I remember shaking, I was so enraged. This was not me! I never acted like this before! I scared myself. I scared the heck out of the kids, too, and they got angry at me. They couldnt understand why I got so crazy over a stupid picture. I didnt know why, either, until I was later told that this, too, is a very common reaction. I used to pride myself on being tough, emotionless and hard as nails. I was a rock. Now I was a blubbering, out-of-control mess, and dealing with emotions that I hadnt allowed myself to feel in over a decade literally hurt.
It also hurt to think. I hadnt done that for years, either, and just being forced to make simple decisions in the beginning was painful, agonizing, and frightening. I remember going out to dinner with a man many months after I left Pat and he asked me where I wanted to go. I automatically said, I dont care, wherever you want to go, and he refused to go anywhere until I made a decision. After too many years of being ridiculed and overruled whenever I was asked to choose, that had become my standard reply. I was afraid to decide and he knew it, but he made me do it anyway. It took a 10 minute stalemate and hunger to force me to choose. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking and I braced myself for the expected backlash. It never came. It was such a shock. I had forgotten what it was like to be treated normally. These types of moments seemed to happen all the time during those early two years and I felt like an alien on a strange planet. It felt like I was confronting too many changes too soon, and there were many times when I all I wanted to do was run behind my wall and hide again.
Through sheer will and determination I fought my way back. I left almost everything behind when I moved out, including furniture and basic essentials, and I had to learn how to restock, rebuild and survive on $40.00 a week. Pat still insisted that he needed my paycheck to pay the bills, so I dutifully handed it over to him every payday. He paid my rent and gave me $40.00, and this arrangement continued for the first four months. I didnt know it then, but he was trying to starve me into returning. The kids and I survived on tuna fish, chop meat, furniture found on the side of the road, and garage sales.
After 4 months he let me keep my paycheck but railroaded me into signing a separation agreement that overly inflated my child support payments to him. I didnt know. All I knew was that I was finally getting to keep my paycheck, but I found that I was still struggling to make ends meet. Again, he was trying to starve me into going back, but I didnt know it then. He was a lawyer who had gone to law school and received his law degree during our marriage and works for one of the top-rated divorce attorneys in the county, so he knew all the tricks. Since I had no money to hire my own attorney (his plan all along,) I stupidly relied on him to write a fair and equitable separation agreement. After all, thats what he said it was, and after his many heartfelt pleas begging me to come back, proclaiming his love for me, telling me how sorry he was and how he never meant to hurt me, how he would never do anything to hurt me again, how all he wanted was for me to return, blah blah blah, I believed his sincerity and didnt think hed screw me. After all, if he screwed me and I found out Id be too angry to go back, right? So I foolishly trusted him.
About a year after the divorce was final I discovered that our agreement was so fraught with illegalities that it borders on fraud, and I started a court action to have our separation agreement rescinded. He had cheated me out of tens of thousands of dollars that I didnt know I was entitled to. Three years later, thanks to his threats, intimidations and legal wrangling, the fight is still going on, my attorney fees are astronomical and there is no court date yet in sight. He has tried everything he can think of to scare me into dropping this case, but to no avail. I intend to see him in court, and then Ill take him before the Bar. The background to this legal nightmare alone is pretty amazing (I KNOW guardian angels exist now,) but thats another book entirely.
I slowly became stronger. About six months after I left, when he refused to allow me the use of MY gym equipment (which he was using,) that was still located down HIS basement, I made arrangements to have it dismantled and moved. Upon hearing that, he grudgingly offered to purchase it, and I used that money to join a local gym. I forced myself to go, unaware that exercise helps stress and depression. I just knew that I felt better after I exercised. I forced myself to do simple things that I was afraid to do. I pumped my own gas (something I used to be able to do,) drove the four hour trip alone to see my parents, took my girls into New York City to see a play, maintained my old, deteriorating car by myself, and went shopping and to functions on my own and forced myself not to panic or back out. I had to relearn how to keep a checkbook and pay bills. I had to open and close accounts. I was terrified. Pat had controlled all of the money for almost 16 years and he had me convinced that I was a financial moron. I had to go baby step by baby step. These simple accomplishments may seem insignificant to most, but to me they were monumental. I had forgotten how or was too afraid to do almost everything.
The most difficult part was reaching out and asking my family and friends for help and support. I was afraid. Pat had me convinced that I was a nobody who didnt matter, so why would anyone care about me? All he ever did was turn me down. When I finally broke down a year later and asked, I got more help and support than I ever dreamed of. I became reacquainted with my old friends and made some wonderful new ones - mostly women, and they all seemed to be so strong, independent and confident. I leaned on them, learned from them, and as time went on, I was able to help them, too.
After about 2 ½ years, when I thought I had recovered, I volunteered at a safe-house for battered women, hoping to be able to compare my own experiences with the women there to see if there were any similarities. At that point I was pretty certain that I had been a victim of domestic violence, but I wanted proof. I had been doing some research into the subject and learned that domestic abuse is not just limited to physical violence. If what I was reading was true, then I qualified as an abuse victim, but I wanted to meet some other abuse victims to know for sure. My family and friends were wonderful, but they had no idea what I had endured for 21 years, or what it did to me. Only a fellow victim, I felt, would understand.
Before I could work in the shelter I had to take an 8 hour training course, and within minutes after it starting I remember going into shock. We trainees were presented with 40 years worth of research on domestic violence, and right there in black and white, page after page, study after study was Pat and me. The description of our relationship was so accurate it was uncanny. Even the charts and graphs were correct. When they described the typical abuser, it was as though they knew Pat personally. When they described the typical victim, they described me to a tee. They gave us a list of all of the possible psychological and emotional problems that typical abuse victims suffer from, and were careful to explain that no one victim would suffer from every problem because the abuse would be different in each case. I discovered that I had experienced every single psychological problem on their list. Yes indeed, I had been a battered wife and the more the trainers and counselors heard the more incredulous they became. Most physically abusive relationships last about 6-8 years. Non-physically abusive relationships usually last somewhat longer. Ours lasted for 21 years. They didnt know how I lasted so long.
I learned that Pat probably wouldnt change. I learned that what happened wasnt my fault, that I didnt deserve to be treated that way, and that a normal relationship is not supposed to be like that. I was told that since I was a strong person to begin with Pat had to keep the abuse at a consistently higher level than normal just to control me, and since the relationship lasted for so long the abuse I endured was considered to be severe and prolonged. No wonder I was such a mess.
Broken bones heal. Psychological damage sometimes lasts forever. I was also told that in spite of being convinced that I was stupid and incompetent, I was really quite strong and smart. We victims have to be. Thats how we survive.They all told me that I left at the right time because, since his level of abuse was already at its most severe and was no longer working, his next step to control me could have been physical violence. I thought back to that incident in the kitchen. They were right. He was in such a rage and was so much bigger than I was that if he had hit me he could have killed me. Luckily he backed down. The next time I might not be so lucky. I sometimes wish he had hit me early in our relationship because then I know I would have left sooner and I wouldnt have become such a psychological mess. Broken bones heal. Psychological damage sometimes lasts forever. I was also told that in spite of being convinced that I was stupid and incompetent, I was really quite strong and smart. We victims have to be. Thats how we survive.
Before working at the shelter I thought that I had pretty much recovered emotionally, but then I discovered that, no, I was not really better or OK. All of the hurt, pain, anger, rage and frustration I had felt earlier came flooding back and I could feel myself becoming a crazy person again. Before I took the training course I regarded Pat with indifference, now I loathed him. I became bitter and hardened and more determined to get ahead. Some people referred to me as the Ice Queen during that time and for good reason. I had already begun searching for a house to buy but now it became an obsession. I wanted what Pat had taken away from me I wanted my own house, I wanted my possessions back, and I wanted my kids back. But most importantly, I wanted to prove that I was better off without him. I wanted revenge.
After an extensive four-month search I finally found a house and closed on September 5, 2001. It was a 25 year old abused and neglected, ugly in-line high ranch on a little spit of land. It was exactly what I had expected to get for what little I could afford. My plan was to fix it up and sell it at a profit so I could buy the house of my dreams an old Victorian with a wrap-around porch. Thats still my plan, but from day one I surprised myself and became attached to my ugly little house. I identified with it we were both abused and neglected for close to 25 years, and as I worked to repair the damage, I found myself healing, too. Everything, both major and minor, needed to be fixed, and since I couldnt afford to hire anyone, I had to learn how to do it myself. I loved it. I learned how to do things that I never thought I could do before carpentry, plumbing, landscaping, tile work I hung my own lighting fixtures, painted and wallpapered, rearranged kitchen cabinets, installed countertops, moved appliances, laid floors I could be creative and artistic and inventive, in other words, I could be ME all of the things that I wasnt allowed to be with Pat. Fixing up my little house gave me the confidence that I had so sorely lacked and it helped to heal me faster than anything else could.
Ive been in my house almost four years now. Its pretty much done except for a bathroom to remodel and some landscaping to do, which is right on schedule for selling it in a couple of years. I met my soul mate almost two years ago and I know that well be together for the rest of our lives. Neither of us was looking for anyone; we met purely by chance. Those guardian angels couldnt rest until the job was done. Our relationship is wonderful, and nothing like Pats and mine was. We are truly a team, and my kids love him. My eldest child is happily attending college, my younger one is starting high school, and my 12th grader has just permanently moved in with me. She had become the designated victim after I left, and was getting it from both her father and stepmother. Naturally Pat refused to acknowledge that anything was wrong and intimidated her into staying with him until she finally snapped. Everyone thinks shes crazy because no one ever saw them do anything bad to her, not even her older sister, but I know better. The counselors were right, Pat has not changed. But I have.
Im much stronger and wiser now. It took a lot of hard, desperate years, but I can finally say that I found ME again, and Im happy with who I am and what Ive accomplished. I have my kids, I have my house, I have a good job, my financial burdens are finally easing up a bit, and I found a perfect companion, too. We both look forward to renovating that old Victorian in a couple of years! Im truly blessed. After spending 21 years in hell, I can honestly say that there IS life after abuse and its better than I ever expected it could be!
Return from Sadie's Domestic Abuse Story to Domestic Violence Stories
In This Section:
Domestic Violence Stories
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
Lundy Bancroft has written what is probably the most comprehensive and readable book on domestic violence, the beliefs of the abuser and the dynamics of abuse. This truly is a MUST READ for anyone seriously trying to understand domestic abuse and how to cope with an abusive relationship:
To order in the US: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
To order in the UK: Why Does He Do That?: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men
Amy Norman tells how after five years of unspeakable torment, she packed up her children and escaped a life of violence, drugs and daily beatings. She tried to leave numerous times but kept on returning after her boyfriend threatened to kill her, her children and her parents. Her searingly honest account of a deeply emotional and trying time gives a terrifying insight into why so many women find it hard to leave violent relationships. This book will leave you speechless at the depths of one woman's courage and triumph over trauma.
To order in the US: Living with the Devil
To order in the UK: Living with the Devil
Hear the voices of other women who have lived through and escaped from domestic abuse. This collection of personal survival stories help us understand the struggles, the pain and ultimately, the courage of victims who are determined to be survivors.
To order in the US: Surviving Domestic Violence: Voices of Women Who Broke Free
To order in the UK: Surviving Domestic Violence: Voices of Women Who Broke Free
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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