I am a survivor of domestic abuse. My first husband, Mr Potato Head, was physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, and sexually abusive to me. (I call him Mr Potato Head because I did not want to call him Shit Head in front of our children.) After living with him for a little over 6 1/2 years, I KNEW I had to leave. Had I not made that decision, one would be dead and the other would be in prison. Our children would be orphans.
My family knows some of what I lived through. I speak freely of it with them and my children. I do not shy away from the subject. Domestic abuse/domestic violence has touched many of my family’s and friends’ lives. It is a subject that will get my blood boiling quicker than anything when I learn of someone living in that type of situation. Another way to guarantee my blood pressure goes off the charts is to hear or read comments like, “if it’s so bad, just leave.” Or, “I would never allow myself to get in that type of situation.”
Here is one such conversation that really had my blood boiling. It started with my baby brother. It essentially ended with me. It is from December 2014:
He was talking about his daughter. At that time, his daughter was working massive hours and Baby Daddy sat around and did nothing. Baby Daddy and she lived together, yet he had her find a sitter for their daughter as he could not be bothered with it. Baby Daddy was extremely abusive to my niece in all ways: physically, mentally, emotionally, financially and sexually. My brother would tell her to “just leave.” Her friends, on the extremely rare occasions when she was allowed to be around them would tell her the same thing.
As I explained to my brother, the person needs to be the one to say ‘enough is enough’. No matter how desperately we want our loved ones to leave, it will not happen until he/she is truly ready. It can never be forced. More times than not, the victim will go back to her/his abuser repeatedly. It really all depends on how deeply the claws are sunk in.
This is the abridged story of my niece’s escape . . .
One day, at the beginning of November 2015, my brother called to tell me Mom would be dropping his daughter and granddaughter off. Baby Daddy does not know where I live. Nor does Baby Daddy realize were he to step foot in my house, it would be the last place he would be known to be breathing. He would be dead. I will protect and defend my family to the death. My brother knows the girls are safe at my house. However, it is not the only reason they chose me for her to stay with.
About a week before I received the call from my brother, he had received a call from his daughter. She was in tears. She said she was ready to leave. They made arrangements but somehow, Baby Daddy found out. The police and my sister-in-law arrived to pick up the girls. While they were at the front door, Baby Daddy escorted the girls out the back. (We did not find this out until she was finally away from him.)
My brother put my sister-in-law and I on a three-way call. They explained to me what was going on. I listened. I let them have their say. Then I told them there was every possibility she was not fully ready to leave. She was getting bolder and braver. She just may not be ready to actually leave. I told them when she does finally get away, she would need to be some place where she does not have access to any social media . . . any way he could possibly reach her and sink his claws back in. I said she would need someone who understands her thought processes and the overwhelming feelings she will be experiencing. She would need someone who had walked a mile in her shoes.
I told them I would be there for them and would do whatever was necessary to get her away and keep her safe. With all of my children out on their own now, I have two spare bedrooms (I converted one into my home office). And . . . I have walked a mile in her shoes.
Shortly after arriving at my house, she sat on the couch after putting Baby C down for a nap. Niece A was an emotional wreck. My mother, trying to be helpful, was telling her what she had to do. Poor Niece A was alternating between crying and trying not to panic. I had to tell my mom to just stop. I told her I had the situation well under control and Niece A was in the best possible hands. She conceded. Mom admitted she has never been in that type of position. She looked over at my niece and could tell she was emotionally and mentally overwhelmed. She said her good byes and left.
After my mom left, Niece A and I sat and talked. Well, she talked and I listened. I did not push. She had to mentally process things. She had to emotionally process things. It was absolutely imperative she do it at her own pace. While she processed what had taken place, I shared some of what I lived through and my thoughts and feelings of living through it, as well as the aftermath. I told my story in bits and pieces. When something I said triggered something in her, she would share some of her nightmare.
When Niece A arrived at my house, she was covered in bruises. She had a black eye and bruises all up and down her arms. She had welts on her legs from where he had hit her with a broom handle. She revealed that back in September/October (2015), he had beaten her so bad she missed work for almost a week. She lost her job. She was living at the YWCA for a brief period . . . Before he lured her back.
During the course of her relationship with Baby Daddy, he blew through all of her savings. While she worked massive hours, he did nothing but sit around smoking weed and playing video games. He used her car. He used her gas. She paid all the bills. He wrecked her cars. She was not allowed to be around her family. She was not allowed to be around her friends. She had to be at his beck and call if he wanted to have sex. It did not matter where or when, she was to be ready. If his friends came to the house, she was to remain in their bedroom. She was not allowed to go downstairs to use the restroom. She said there were too many times where she either messed herself or had to use old formula cans to relieve herself. When his friends were over, she was forced to go into the bathroom with him and stay in there until he was finished. She could not have a cell phone. Baby Daddy had her beaten physically and mentally . . . Or so he thought.
Niece A found the strength within her to leave. Had she remained in that relationship, at the rate he was beating her, the only way she would have left was in a body bag. She revealed that toward the end, if he came near her, she would pick up Baby C because she ‘knew’ he would not hurt her as long as she had the baby. I told her that would have only worked for a little while. As she is his intended target, it would get to the point where it did not matter if she was holding Baby C or not. When that day arrived, it would not just be Niece A getting hurt.
My niece really wants Baby Daddy to be a part of Baby C’s life. She tried to be the ‘better person’ when he said he wanted to see the baby. We set up a meet at the Police Station. He arrived early and was waiting for her. (It was not the first time a meet was arranged, but it was the first time he actually showed.) While Niece A stayed in the car with my sister-in-law, I took Baby C into the Police Station. Suffice it to say, Baby Daddy was 10 billion shades of pissed off! He thought Niece A was going to be within his grasp. He was using Baby C as a means to get his hands on my niece.
He had zero clue who I was. He tried playing like he wasn’t going to get out of the car. He turned on the water works. The person who brought him to the Police Station told him he needed to follow through. We go inside. We spend maybe five minutes inside. He became ‘overwhelmed’ with tears and had to leave. I waited a few minutes to give him time to leave. I get outside and discover he is about 20 feet from my sister-in-law and Niece A. Words were being exchanged. I told Niece A to roll up the window and my sister-in-law to help me get Baby A into the car because they needed to leave. All the while, he kept running his mouth. Thankfully, there were two volunteer Police Officers outside talking and another one pulled up. While one was going to head inside to get an officer, the one in the car got out and told Baby Daddy to step away. Baby Daddy gave some sob story. The volunteer Police Officer came over to us and my sister-in-law explained Niece A’s side. There is a Protective Order in place. (The day after arriving at my house, Niece A and I went and got all legal balls rolling.) Baby Daddy was sent on his way.
Abusers tend to have the similar behavioral patterns. This one was no exception. What he was not expecting was just how strong Niece A’s support network is. I learned from Mr Potato Head. I know what to look for. I know how ‘men’ like him operate. I am thankful I was and am in a place to be able to help my niece.
On that day in November, my niece made the best decision and made the bravest and boldest move of her life. She escaped her abuser. I am so proud of her! I know it took a lot for her to be able to do that.
Each day that passes, she becomes all the more stronger. She is able to sleep without the fear of being woke in the middle of the night by a fist. She does not have to look over her shoulder or around corners. She can wear socks again (they were too slippery on her floors which made running away from him almost impossible). She is able to smile and spend time with family and friends.
Niece A is not out of the woods mentally, though. I shared with her that even though I have been away from Mr Potato Head for almost 24 years, there are things which can trigger feelings, thought processes and reactions. (Thankfully, it does not happen too often.) Physical wounds heal quickly. The mental and emotional wounds are much deeper and take so much longer to heal. Things are going to pop up and trigger something within her. When it happens, she will have to work though it and push through it when it does. She can do it. She is strong.
Believe it or not, I am thankful for having lived through and survived domestic abuse. Had I not had that experience, I would not have been in a position to help my niece. I would not be in a position to help others who have never been in a domestic abuse situation understand some of our thought processes or the emotional turmoil we suffer. I hope I am able to help someone – even if it is one person – to know he/she is not alone. It IS possible to come out on the other side and SURVIVE.
Living through and surviving has made me a stronger person.