January 18, 1996: I remember that day as clearly as if it were yesterday. It was the day I left Jason. The day I was to start a new life. I was standing outside the back of the office building where I worked in Buckhead (Atlanta). I was waiting for him to pick me up from work. He had my car; it was our only car left after the other one had been repossessed. I had lost everything, including but not limited to my self-esteem. That had gone long ago. Yes, it was the day I would end a seven year relationship filled with lies, betrayal, deceit, and verbal and physical violence. It was also the day I ended the long cycle of domestic abuse in my family.
As I stood just outside the back of the building, the short ledge from many stories above protected me from the pouring rain. The sun was shining giving me hope for a bright future, and I remember wanting to cry but I had to maintain an even keel and a pleasant disposition to be able to facilitate the plan to get away. Otherwise, my life and my daughter’s life was at risk. The rain somehow comforted me. It was like God had empathy for me; He knew what I needed to do and gave me the strength to finally say, “enough is enough.” The last two nights were hell. After asking for a divorce and blindly assuming it could be agreeable and amicable, Jason kept me from sleep, threatening that if I closed my eyes, he would kill me and my daughter.
As the oldest child of two alcoholic parents who regularly argued and fought and eventually divorced when I was 11, I was accustomed to a turbulent environment and had no idea that relationships existed without some sort of verbal abuse or physical violence. Jason did not have any addiction problems that I was aware of, so I thought he was safe. When we first met on spring break in Ft. Lauderdale, the cute, body-building bouncer at the club was incredibly attentive and I felt comforted by his large stature and his aggressively protective nature. I had no idea that anything and everything he told me was exaggerated or a blatant lie, not limited to his age, his schooling, the details of his upbringing and much, much more. I was extremely trusting and life had not prepared me to identify someone as a fraud. So, when he insisted on moving in with me at college in Georgia shortly after spring break, I considered his infatuation with me ‘true love’ and allowed it. I chose to ignore and excuse the clear warning signs shortly thereafter, like when he locked me in a closet for hours thinking it was funny, and when he put me outside in the cold, and I had to sit naked on the stairs of our apartment while other college students walked by and when a neighbor reported that Jason stole their stereo…
I always believed his side of things. I believed that ‘true love’ could conquer all, and that I could change him, make him a better person. When I got tired of name calling like ‘dumbass bitch’, I started fighting back by slapping him. This gave him an opportunity to haul off and beat the crap out of me until I was finally down on the floor, holding my arms behind my back, rendering me harmless. I remember blaming myself, thinking, ‘well if I hadn’t acted like a bitch or if I hadn’t slapped him for saying that, this would have never happened.’ The truth is that his moods would change suddenly and unexpectedly with no notice and without cause. He would go from a gentle giant to an extremely angry asshole and there was little or nothing I could do to keep him from acting out. Even when I would try to walk away and seek solace, he would follow me and try to pick a fight. The days just before a full moon were the worst. I thought to myself, “no wonder they call a crazy person a lunatic”. I kept the violence between Jason and me a secret from my friends and family. We married after two years of living together, and I took the oath in front of friends and family to love him until the day I die. During our marriage, he could never hold a job because of his anger issues. For Jason, it was always someone else’s fault. Moreover, his chronic lying and the verbal and physical abuse finally escalated until I couldn’t take any more.
Our beautiful little girl with blonde curls, Katy, had just turned two years old that week in January of ‘96. She was my saving grace. The day after her second birthday, the violence between Jason and I had escalated to the point that he was tearing up the house. When I threatened to call the police, he tore the phone from the wall and said he could press charges against me too and Katy would have to go into foster care. Believing this, I never called. He punched holes in walls when he was angry, tore sliding doors off the track and punched through locked doors when I tried to get away. This night, during his fit of rage, I was covering my head to protect myself (he often hit my head because you couldn’t see the bruising), and I looked over and saw Katy, crouched down in her diaper in the corner, also covering her head and crying. I instantly flashed back on my childhood and all that I had endured. I did not want that for my child. No man was worth dying for, and no man was worth having my child’s spirit broken. I finally stood up to him and said, “You touch me one more time and I will kill you.” He knew I meant business so he backed off and I was able to sleep with Katy that evening behind her locked bedroom door. The very next day, I met with an attorney in my office building to inquire about a divorce. He told me that the last client, who was living with an abuser, didn’t survive the relationship. I didn’t have any money, so I had to confess the violent relationship that evening to both my parents and ask for help with the $5,000 retainer fee.
The plan seemed easy enough. All I had to do was live with Jason two more days, acting like everything was ok until they could serve him with the Protection Order and remove him from our home. However, my honest nature had me confessing that evening that I wanted a divorce and I hoped that we could ‘work everything out’ amicably. That’s when Jason, after crying and pleading with me to stay, decided to threaten me and my daughter’s life. He said, ‘If you close your eyes, I will kill you and Katy. If I can’t have the two of you, no one will. If you leave me, I will find you and kill you both.”
He pulled up the alley in my black 1989 Ford Probe GT that I purchased while attending college. Shielding my head with my brief case from the rain, I hurried to get in the car. My first priority was to pick up Katy from day care. After retrieving Katy and returning home, I calmly prepared and served dinner, then began doing the laundry. While Jason sat watching TV, I washed Katy’s and my clothing and put them in plastic hampers, covering up the guns and all of the various weapons that I had gathered from our home. I needed to make sure to disarm him. I put the hampers in the car, picked up Katy and her diaper bag and told Jason I needed to go to my dad’s house to dry the clothes, as our dryer was broken. He asked me to leave the baby, but I told him that dad and my step-mom wanted to see her. By 10 pm that evening, Jason began calling my dad’s house requesting that I return home. By midnight and after receiving various threats from him, I told him the truth. I informed him that I was leaving and there was a Protection Order in place. I told him to pack his things and that the Sheriff would be there in the morning to serve him and ask him to leave. My dad would pick him up and take him to the airport and he would be able to fly home to see his parents and take some time to think about things. Of course, he didn’t like this idea and he and his parents continued to call into the early morning hours. The next day, our plan went into action. My dad met Jason and accompanied him to the airport after he was served by the Sheriff and Katy and I went into hiding for the three-day weekend at two separate locations. By Monday, I returned home to an empty condo, ready to begin a new life on my own.
It took approximately one year for the divorce to be final, during which time all hell broke loose. Jason returned to Atlanta from his parents’ house in Pennsylvania and continued to stalk me, breaking into my apartment, stripping my car, and hurting me however and whenever he could. To make matters worse, the court awarded visitation to him. We continued to try to make the best of the situation for the next nine years, following the rules and trying to help Katy relate to her biological father, who thought of her as his property rather than his cherished progeny. However, finally, he lost parental rights when Katy turned eleven and the court finally witnessed his verbal and physical abuse firsthand. My second husband, Kris, Katy’s daddy since she was three and half, adopted her.
Since that time, I can look back and say that I was able to stop the cycle of violence in my family. I have never experienced any verbal or physical abuse in my second marriage, and my daughter is a healthy and happy college student on the Dean’s List. I continue to counsel battered women, write articles and speak out against domestic violence. Anyone that knows me now would never imagine that I would tolerate any disrespect, much less verbal abuse, cruelty and violence. I grew up in an upper middle class family, well-respected and well-educated. However, domestic violence knows no boundaries. Everyone is susceptible, regardless of nationality, race, sex, age, and religion, level of education or income bracket. Many of us would do anything for love, but I learned that no relationship is worth sacrificing your dignity and self-esteem. No relationship is worth dying for.
Read more articles by Lora Lucinda Andersen, Life Strategies Coach, at www.yourtango.com/expert/sexywifecoach. For more information about her Life Strategies Coaching, visit her website: http://www.sexywifecoach.com