Escaped

I finally did it. I left him.

For good.

On February 20th, I ran out the door with my heart pounding, my body shaking and tears streaming down my face. It’s taken me over a month to sit down and share how it took place. I don’t know why, but I needed the time.

Here’s the story:

The week leading up he had been pretty hostile and cold towards me. A snide comment here, the cold shoulder there. I was pretty sad. I felt deprived of love and affection, and for good reason–I was.

He was already short with me over the phone on his way home that night, and continued to be once he got home. I was scared. I had something to tell him, something that would likely bother him. Throughout the day I had thought about how I was going to “break the news” to him. I thought about how best to broach the subject in order to have minimal upset.

You know what that something was?

That something was that I was going to go horseback riding with my mom the next day.

If you have been or are in an abusive relationship, you know just where I’m coming from. Telling your abuser that you’ve made plans is equivalent to telling someone that you have some horrendous news. You worry and you obsess and sometimes even consider backing out just so you don’t have to face their inevitable wrath. And I’m dead serious that this is how bad it can be. No exaggeration.

Anyway, back to the story.

Mike came home and continued to be distant. I tried to act happy and cute in hopes that his mood would lift (a learned survival habit, I’m sure). He just continued to barely look at me and when he did, it was like he was staring through me with despise. I didn’t see love in his eyes.

Mike: “I need you to remind me to bring my fucking weights home from the shop because I don’t remember until I get here and see my barbell against the wall in the fucking corner, so if you could do that that would be great thanks.”

That was said in a tone meant to tell me that it’s MY job to remind him of things he needs to do; that the sole responsibility rests on my shoulders and if HE doesn’t remember it’s no one’s fault but my own.

I could tell that there wasn’t going to be a “good” time to break my news to him so I just went to the closet, grabbed one of his winter hats with floppy ear coverings that he thought I looked cute in, bounced over to him like a little girl (the innocent act seemed to soften him sometimes) and casually asked him if I could borrow the hat to go riding with my mom the next day (all the while my heart was pounding).

Instantly he snaps, “You’re going riding with your mom tomorrow?”

Me: “Yes.”

Mike: “When did you find that out? Last week?” Remember, these are rhetorical questions. He doesn’t really care when I made the plans. He only cares about the fact that I made them at all. His questions are fired at me without me getting the chance to answer because he answers them for me with his own beliefs. Anything I say from here on out is futile.

Me: “No. Today.”

A part of me hoped that was it. But another part of me knew that he was mulling over what I just told him and that something (be it a sense of anger, contempt, betrayal, the need to control…whatever it is that fuels him to abuse) was seething beneath the surface.

Five minutes of silence went by.

Then:

Mike: “What a fucked up way to plan things.”

Me (thinking to myself, And there it is. Here we go.): “What do you mean?”

Mike: “Well it’s just something that should have been discussed on like, Monday.”

Me: “What exactly is there to discuss? My mom asked me to go riding and I said yes.”

Mike: “Ya but you’re in a fucking relationship. You should have told me sooner, when you found out this morning.”

Me: “What difference does it make if I tell you now or this morning?”

Mike: “Because it’s too last minute! How would you like if I came home and said I was fucking off for the day tomorrow?!”

Me: “I wouldn’t care.”

Mike: “You wouldn’t care? That’s the problem. You know you need to be fucking single.”

At this point he gets up from the couch and starts getting ready to bring the dog outside. While yelling at me he throws his arms around and paces.

Me: “Why? Because I made plans? What, do I have to clear it with you first? Ask permission? I spend every fucking weekend with you so I don’t see the big deal.”

Mike: “You wouldn’t. You should have told me this morning because now it fucks my plans.”

Me: “What plans? You work Saturdays.”

Mike: “I don’t work every Saturday.”

Me: “Mike, you’ve had TWO Saturdays off in the last 8 months.”

Mike: “Whatever. You should have told me because then I’d go to work  instead of dog-fucking it here all day tomorrow by myself.” (He made humping gestures.)

Me: “I still don’t see what difference it makes.”

As was mentioned, he works Saturdays and has literally had only a couple off in months. So like every other weekend I assumed he was working. For all I know he still was but just lied about not having to once he found out I made plans as an excuse to abuse me. Which makes this entire argument completely pointless. Well, not pointless to him. To him it’s his way of controlling me.

He gestured as if he was going to smash his phone, called me a bitch and carried on yelling. At one point he went to punch the wall but stopped himself. See? He is capable of self-control! He just chooses not to exercise it when hurting me.

Mike: “You shouldn’t be in a fucking relationship!”

Me: “Fine. If that’s what you think then I’m out of here!”

I started grabbing my coat, computer and bag while he continued on.

Mike: “What are you doing?”

Me: “Leaving.”

When I opened the door to leave he jumped infront of me and slammed it shut. The difference in his demeanor changed drastically as soon as I opened that door. He suddenly calmed down. A complete 180. All of the sudden he acted as if he wanted to have a reasonable conversation. A little too late for that though.

Mike: “Just listen to me.”

Me: “No. This isn’t about me not telling you my plans ‘soon enough.’ That’s not the problem. The problem is that I made plans at all.”

Mike: “No it’s not I don’t give a fuck.”

Me: “Yes you do. It’s the same fucking thing every time I plan something. Please let me leave.”

I was shaking, my heart was pounding and I was struggling to get my flats on.

Mike: “Just listen to me.”

Me: “Mike, let me out of the house.”

Mike: “No. Listen to me.”

Me: “Mike let me out of the fucking house right now!

He looked stunned that I screamed at him like that. But I knew that if I let him talk I wouldn’t leave. That’s precisely why he calmed down. Because that’s worked on me before. But I couldn’t let it happen again. This was my chance to escape. I knew that if I was going to leave, I had to do it now. I needed to hold on to my anger to propel me out of the house and away from him.

I pulled out my phone. I wasn’t really planning on phoning anyone just then but I knew from past experience that pulling out my phone like I’m going to call someone scares the shit out of him and makes him back off. It’s a threat to him. The fear on his face was instant and unmistakable.

Mike: “What are you doing?”

Me: “I’m calling my mom since you won’t let me out of the fucking house!”

I can’t remember if he said anything in response. I didn’t stick around any longer. I suddenly turned and ran out the back door, which was ajar since he had been about to take the dog out. As I ran out I lost a shoe. I heard him call me a “fucking bitch” and “cunt.” I ran around the side of the house and stopped to find my car keys. I struggled to find them because my hands were shaking so bad. I was crying so hard I could barely see. Finally my hands touched them just as Mike came around from the front. For a split second I thought he was going to stop me from getting in my car. I was scared because I was uncertain of what he was going to do. But he had come around the house with my boots. He tossed them towards me.

Mike: “Here’s your boots if you’re gonna leave.”

I glanced at him quickly before he turned around and went back towards the house. I threw my stuff in my car and drove off. Right away I called Michelle and told her what happened. I drove around the block and pulled off to the side. He called me and texted me 9 times. I didn’t look at them. Afraid that he might have gotten into his car and come looking for me, I started for the highway. I called my mom and told her I was on my way. I called my best friend Evelyn, and she stayed on the phone with me until I got to my mom’s.

I deleted all texts he sent me while I was driving without reading them. I blocked his number and didn’t speak to him for 10 days.

I will share what happened following this horrible night in my next post.

 

 

 

Sexism, misogyny, and raising awareness of domestic violence

“Control is so often exacted upon a victim through passive aggressive “good guy”/”good person” techniques under the guise of concern and a so called well meaning desire to urge caution.” This statement was said by fellow blogger betternotbroken. I could not have said it better myself.

Mike is always trying to tell me that his controlling tactics are really just out of his “concern” for me and my well-being: don’t go running, don’t go to the gym, don’t go out with your friends, don’t go to that bar, don’t wear that without me around, don’t go anywhere without me on your arm etc etc…all because it’s “not safe.” Meaning, I am viewed as his property, and as inferior because I am a woman, and as such I should not be exercising a will of my own, especially in a public space. A male-dominated space. Because as an inferior woman I must be controlled or “protected” from other men since I am incapable of standing on my own two feet. Because without a man on my arm I will not be respected. And of course, when I am not respected it is more of an insult to Mike than it is to me, the victim of any disrespectful behaviour I may be subject to as a woman on my own. And of course, as a woman I am not capable of standing up for myself and earning the respect I deserve; I am not capable of warding off any perpetrators. I am only capable of attracting unwanted male attention, and when I do it is most certainly my fault because of what I am wearing, or because of how I have my hair or makeup or because I was ‘too friendly.’ I am Mike’s property; I am his possession, and as such I shouldn’t be making myself attractive to other men–this is a direct insult to him as a man. I shouldn’t be asserting my own identity and exercising my own free will by going out on my own and doing things for myself because this puts me in a position to be approached.

This display of sexism and misogyny is infuriating. It is detrimental to my well-being, not good for it, as he would have me believe. It’s all part of a collective disrespect for women that is so prevalent in our society and only perpetuates abuse further. I am so glad that more awareness is being brought to the surface and more public attention is being given regarding domestic violence and the ever-present lack of respect for women. I can’t begin to explain how much relief and hope this gives me that maybe one day, we will finally experience true equality and respect and abuse rates will drop dramatically.

Mike and I watched the Grammys a couple weekends ago. I was both surprised and elated that the issue of domestic violence was given a brief spotlight. Despite criticisms that if they were truly fully supportive then they wouldn’t feature artists like Chris Brown, who famously beat then-girlfriend Rhianna 6 years ago, nor would they feature artists who’s mysogynistic lyrics favour violence against women, I nonetheless thought that it was a huge step forward. And I will explain why.

As Mike and I watched Obama’s PSA followed by domestic violence survivor Brooke Axtell’s speech, an incredibly uncomfortable and very awkward silence fell between us. My body went completely still, anxiety rose up inside me with each word Brooke spoke, my throat went dry and I held my breath. Most importantly, I could feel this awkwardness reverberating off Mike. He cleared his throat. Brooke spoke:

“My name is Brooke Axtell and I am a survivor of domestic violence.
After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me.
I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain and needed help.
I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship.
My empathy was used against me.
I was terrified of him. Ashamed I was in this position.
What bound me to him was my desire to heal him.
My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me.
When he threatened to kill me, I knew I had to escape. I revealed the truth to my mom and she encouraged me to seek help at a local domestic violence shelter.
This conversation saved my life.
Authentic love does not devalue another human being.
Authentic love does not silence, shame or abuse.
If you are in a relationship with someone who does not honour and respect you, I want you to know that you are worthy of love.
Please reach out for help.
Your voice will save you.
Let it extend into the night, let it part the darkness, let it set you free to know who you truly are.
Valuable.
Beautiful.
Loved.”

I loved her speech. I had to hold back tears.

It was like a giant “Fuck you!” to Mike because the behaviour, tactics and abuse of men like him was being publicized to 25.3 million viewers (variety.com, 2015). While I was ridden with anxiety, I was smiling inside, too, because Mike was being made aware that not only was abusiveness being brought to light in the public sphere, but it was being brought to my attention as well. And public knowledge of their abuse is arguably an abuser’s greatest fear. They want it to remain hidden behind closed doors and secretly embedded within the societal structure. They don’t want it made evident that it exists because then they will not be able to continue to get away with it. That is why I viewed Obama’s PSA and Brooke’s speech as a small victory. It was almost like I was telling Mike, without even saying a word, that I KNOW. I know exactly what he’s doing and even though I may not have found the strength to leave just yet, I will.

When you’ve had enough

I decided to start this blog as a step towards escaping my abusive relationship. I also wanted to document incidents so that one, people going through the same thing can relate and two, so I could prove to myself that I wasn’t going crazy, that what I thought happened did happen, and that it is as bad as it seems. I write in a journal as well, but this one is public, and therefore makes me feel less isolated. I am reaching out. I was inspired by a woman, Kellie Jo Holly, who is a survivor of domestic violence herself. You can find her blog here. I am finding it to be tremendously helpful.

I decided that I’ve had enough. And since I’ve decided that, I know it’s time to enliven my life, to bring it back from the darkness that abuse has a dragged it into. You might argue that no, I haven’t quite had enough seeing as I am still in the relationship, but as any abuse victim will tell you, it’s very difficult to leave. You may have had enough, but the ties are so strong. That is why I created this blog. It is an example, proof that I’ve had enough. It is a baby step towards my freedom. Acknowledging the abuse is the first step, reaching out is another, and beginning to let go of the fantasy relationship is yet another. I already consider myself a survivor.