This is not my normal kid friendly post. So if your looking for a funny story about what the Littles have done today that will have to wait for a later time. Please feel free to stop reading now if you wish. If you do choose to continue I only ask that you keep all negative comments to yourself. It is not intended to bash or lay blame. That time has long gone. This post is for personal healing in the hopes of continuing to move on from the past and moving forward in the direction God has laid out for me.
*Domestic Violence happens to 1 out of 3 women.
*Every 9 minutes a call is made to 911 to report a domestic violence act
*1/3 of all homicides in WV are domestic violence related
*only 15% of all domestic violence acts are reported and out of those 15% not all are followed up with charges
*Domestic Violence is the leading cause of injury in women.
*Domestic Violence can happen to anyone of any race at any age but largely affects women ages 18 to 28.
* Most female victim’s are assaulted by their husband’s or their partners (boyfriends)/someone they know
Today marks what would have been my 20th wedding anniversary to my first husband. Which is why I choose today to share my story. I have thought about this day alot lately for many different reasons. And if I am being completely honest with myself, and you, I know I would not be celebrating my 20th wedding anniversary today if I had stayed in that marriage. I know I would be dead by now. There’s no question in my mind. This post is for celebrating life and continued healing even after all these years. This post is for me personally. If no one reads it I’m ok with that. And if you do read it and are still friends with my ex that’s OK too, I am sure you have heard his version of what happened. This is not meant to down him or judge him. I am past all of that, have been for a while now. This is about me and how I survived some of the darkest years of my life. This is my side of our story. And if my story can help one person see she is worth it to get out of an abusive relationship then it was worth writing it down.
My story starts out as so many do. I fell in love with a boy in high school and at 15 I knew we would be together forever. Puppy love they call it. He was charming and so handsome with his long black hair. I felt like the luckiest girl in town. He knew all the right words to say to make me feel like I was his one and only girl for him. He quickly became my everything. We shared a locker, we rode to school together, we had most of our classes together, he would wait for me outside my class to walk with me to the next class if he wasn’t in that class. We did everything together. Everything. My friends that had been with me since kindergarten stopped calling. They grew tired of the “I can’t tonight “he” wants me to come over”. I could not make him mad by going out with my friends, I mean what kind of girlfriend would I be if I did that? One part of domestic violence is the control the other person has over you. You don’t realize what’s going on until it’s to late and by the time you figure out what’s going on the physical abuse has started. I wish I had understood the red flags earlier. I wish I had seen the signs. But I was young. We were young. I graduated high school and found out I was pregnant. College was placed on the back burner while I prepared for motherhood. Not the path I thought I would be taking straight out of high school but the path I was on.
I will say our first year as parents went fine. He graduated high school started going to college and got a job. He spent as much time as possible with our daughter and I. Everything seemed perfect. We were married in 1996. We had the full church wedding experience with our daughter as the flower girl, our parents,grandparents, extended family, church members and friends all in attendance to witness our special day. I have looked back at those pictures and asked myself time and time again “What did I do wrong?” “Where did it fall apart?” The answer to those questions still allude me.
After our wedding we moved into our own place. And things start going down hill. We argued all the time over little things and not so little things and the occasional slap across the face would happen. It was quickly followed by “Baby I’m so sorry I will never do it again” I would say something like “I’m sorry I didn’t mean to upset you” We would make up and things would be fine. But there was always a next time.
In 1998 we welcomed our son into the world. That year was overwhelming. Our son was born with hirschsprung disease. He spent 9 out of his first 12 months in and out of the hospital. He had several surgeries and many long hospital stays but he made it. Thank God he made it. Our daughter spent most of her time with my parents while we took shifts staying at the hospital. Stress and worry can cause things to go from bad to worse quickly. Add on not knowing if your son is going to live or die and your asking for a disaster to happen.
Skip forward a for years and we are still together but we are not happy. The fighting has escalated. By this time I had learned to hide things well. We were involved in a car accident in 2001 and if I told people I could not go out because my back was hurting no one questioned me. Yes my back did hurt alot, still does, but it was easier than admitting we had had another fight ending with me shoved into the wall or on the ground. I was growing tired of the fighting and the emotional abuse was just as bad. “You are worthless” “You would be nothing without me” “You think you can do better,try it I dare you” “You leave and you will never see the kids again” “No one would want you” I was convinced all of these things were true. If you hear something long enough your mind starts to believe it, so does your heart. But I stayed. I stayed because I didn’t want my kids to grow up without a dad like he did. I remember how he hated that and how he didn’t want that for them. I stayed because we took our vows before our family and before God for better or worse till death do us part. I stayed because I loved his family they were my family now I didn’t want to lose them. I stayed because I knew that deep down in him somewhere the boy I fell in love with had to still be there. I stayed because I didn’t know I had any other choice.
I remember the moment I knew things would never get better. The night everything changed. In the last few years of our marriage he was not home much do to his “job”. In fact there were time spans of weeks he would be gone. He would then show up out of nowhere for me to wash his clothes, eat, sleep,argue about bills or money and back out the door he would go. He was in control of it all even though he was not home. This particular night he came in and surprised me while I was in the kitchen. He immediately started in about dinner not being ready. I had no idea he was coming home and the kids and I had already eaten. We argued back and forth for a few minutes and then he took off down the stairs. I assumed he went back out the road so I continued cleaning up the kitchen. I did not hear him come up behind me, but I did hear the sound of the gun trigger being pulled back. When I turned around my face met the barrel and his smile. That evil chilling smile. I pleaded with him begging him not to shoot me. I remember telling him our kids where just down the hall in their rooms. I remember trying to get my point across while trying to keep my voice down so the kids would not walk out of their rooms and see what was taking place. He just smiled. Tears ran down my face as I tried to reason with him, but it did not seem to matter. It was as if he was not there. Then out of nowhere he turned the gun towards himself and I again start pleading don’t do this. He argues “what does it matter?” “What do you care?” My mind was racing and all I could think about was my two kids. Then I hear the click. And I scream. I scream and he laughs. The gun was empty. He smiles and calmly walks off. He gets in the truck and drives off. I know right then the next time I might not be so lucky. I had to get out.
It did take me a few more months to move out. I had to find a place I could afford for the kids and I to stay and come up with the money for the deposit. Plus His grandmother was really sick. She had been my grandmother and one of my best friend for years at this point, I literally talked to her two to three times a day. If I left and something happened to her I could not live with myself and I knew I would be blamed so I stayed. I was blamed anyway. He played mind games with me he knew I was unhappy and thinking about leaving. I don’t think he ever really thought I would do it though. He handed me divorce papers on several occasions telling me to go file but I refused, I couldn’t afford to. He told me if I wanted a divorce then I was going to be the one to file so the kids knew I was the bad guy breaking up the family, not him. Everytime I handed the divorce papers back to him he would just laugh. He knew he was still in control. But after his grandmother passed away in early February I moved out by the months end and filed for divorce. I could not put myself or my kids in danger any longer.
The kids and I were settling in well in our new place by the time my birthday rolled around. And for my birthday he “gave me permission” to go out and have fun. He was taking our kids to an amusement park for the weekend. Looking back I don’t know why I thought I needed his permission to go out but I did. Even though I was on my own he still had control over my every move. I went out had a great time with my friend her husband and a new guy friend. Even though I had “permission” to go out and have a good time and we were already in the process of a divorce it did not go over well. The next 24 hours changed both our lives forever. An evening that I thought he was bringing our kids over to wish me happy birthday turned violent very violent. Opening the door was the worst mistake I have ever made. I thought he was sincerely apologizing for his behavior earlier on the phone that day. He used the kids to get to me again. He knew me weakness. As soon as he came through the door the fight of my life was on. At one point I was hanging over the banister and I remember him saying “I could drop you now and people would think you just fell going down the stairs””I could tell them I found you and I would be the hero” I am here today only by the grace of God. I heard God’s voice that night telling me He was with me and that I would make it. God stayed with me and kept me alive.
The next morning my friend called and discovered what happened and drove me to the police department. I filed charges against him for the first time. Time it was said and done the total time he could have faced was 75 years. He of course did not do that,not even close. He took a plea deal. Because I had never filed charges against him until that point and he had no prior complaints he plead the charges down and only faced up to 5 years (he served only 2 and a half). But he served time for what he did. Maybe not as much as I would have liked but he was held accountable for his actions.
The thing with domestic violence is you lose so much more than you realize. I lost myself worth, my family (on his moms side) my church family (his family still goes to that church today), friends, my identity,my sense of safety,the way I feel about myself, ect. Yes counseling helps, sharing your story with others in the same situation helps, but there will always a part of me that will never be the same. You can’t be the same after something like this. When something like this happens in a small town your going to hear both sides and the friendship lines are quickly drawn and sides are taken. It happens. God knows what really happened that night and all throughout our marriage. People you thought would be supportive of you don’t even talk to you anymore while those you never thought cared are helping out daily. The emotional side of domestic violence is enough to bring the strongest to our knees. It’s hard on you, your kids, and your family. It’s the worst thing I have ever gone through. Days, weeks,months and even years later I find myself walking in fear if I am out by myself. What if he comes up behind me? What would he do? What would he say?What if he comes up to the kids? What will they do or say? Certain songs or sounds make me nervous. I avoid certain foods because they were his favorites. The nightmares still wake me out of a sound sleep. The amount of control that it still has over me is scary sometimes. But I am making it day by day.
Which brings me to this: Many people think I hate him. And truth be told I have tried,really tried, to hate him. And I did for awhile. But that’s not who I am. I forgave him a long time ago, not for him but for me. The amount of emotion it takes to hate someone and to fear someone can consume your life. I didn’t want to live life like that. If I hate him then I hate part of who my older kids are. Without him I would not have them. And if for nothing more than my kids I am grateful for the few times are marriage was not a complete mess. Maybe we married to young. Maybe we married because that’s what everyone expected us to do. I was not perfect ,he was not perfect which made our marriage not perfect. Maybe his job was to stressful, maybe we were forced to grow up to fast. Who knows. There are many unknowns as to why things turned out the way they did. But they did and we must learn from them and move on. And that’s exactly what I have done. I have moved on and have a wonderful new husband and 7 amazing kids now.I have been given a second chance at happiness. I have my laugh back, my smile back, I have love back and I have my life back. He too has moved on and I wish him well with his new life. Everyone deserves to be happy. I do not wish what happened to me upon anyone but I choose not to be a victim. I AM A SURVIVOR. I am a stronger person because of what I went though. I am proof that you are worth it. You can be happy. You can smile again. You can laugh again. You can love again. You just have to take that first step.
Thank you to those that helped me get out you know who you are. I owe my happy ever after to you.
And if you are a victim of domestic violence get help. Call your local hot line or a family friend. There are several agencies out there that can help you make it out. Do it for you. You are worth it!