DODGING THE BULLET
What exactly is domestic violence? Domestic violence is fear, which runs rampant in the hearts of those who are either directly or indirectly affected. The causes associated with marital disturbance in the home usually stem from low self-esteem, need for security, self-blame, and belief the situation will change for the better. But, what always amazes me is that when the violence leads to the death of a spouse, and the specificities of the crime come to the forefront, there is always a proverbial gasp coming from persons living or working in close proximity—family members, co-workers. The recent acts of violent familial crimes have served to bring back memories of my turbulent marriage.
I remembered that after my husband was discharged and returned from a tour in Korea while serving in the Armed Services, he was a different man. He had learned tactics about survival and defense: Whenever he wanted his way, he would employ those procedures against me. His maltreatment was also anchored in threats of taking my life if I left him, or tried to take the children away from him. He constantly reminded me that no one wanted me. If I were a few minutes late coming home from work, or picking up the children from school, he would meet us at the door in a fit of rage.
During those times when we seemed to get along or he was not at home, I would say a silent prayer, and thank God for the peace regardless of how long of a reprieve. The children could not watch television when he was home: He wanted to see the programs he favored: They had to stay in their bedrooms, and not make any noise. When we were not spouting obscenities at each other, we were physically fighting—destroying the things we had purchased with our hard-earned money. But, when the friction in my family began creating discourse between my parents, mother tried to put the madness at bay.
“You cannot continue to keep running with your children. You need to take a stand. You need to make up your mind that you are going to either stay with your husband or leave him.” Mother said.
Her words pierced my heart. I knew I could not go back to my parents if things became confrontational again. I had to find the answer, make a decision and not waver.
My mind became somewhat clearer when my younger brother said to me as he looked directly into my eyes, “So what has happened to you? You were always the strong one. But, now I see you, and I don’t know what to think….” I heard him; but, went back to my situation anyway, because I felt I had no other place to go.
I cannot tell you why I could not leave—doing all I could not to upset my husband, believing he loved me, and that the turbulence between us would not last. I cannot tell you why I allowed myself and our children to live in a house at times when there was no water, no lights, and no telephone service. I cannot tell you why I always forgave him whenever he would say, “I’m sorry”—even after he had broken my arm, or pulled out my hair. I cannot tell you why I willingly dropped the charges of assault against him.
Words from an older female co-worker helped to sustain me through times when my husband would hurl a barrage of insults at me.
“Now, I cannot tell you what to do.” She said. “You have to make up your own mind. When you are ready… when you get tired… you will know!” And, so I kept waiting to get tired, to get ready, to leave.
After years of dodging the bullet of domestic violence, I got tired, I got ready: I left with the help of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. For a month, I slept in my car outside of the home of my parents. My children slept inside of the home. Each morning I arose early, went inside, and prepared my body for work, my children for school—never missing a day of work or school. My three children and I needed, or rather, I wanted a 3-bedroom house in which to live: God blessed us instead with a 2-bedroom home.
“It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop, than…brawling…in a wide house.”
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