Why I'm Talking About Domestic Violence as a Woman With a Disability
Why doesn’t she just leave? It can’t be that hard, I’d just go.” I thought while watching women in films and media who were subjected to domestic violence.
Enter Prince Charming.
He was good-looking, hilarious and like me, loved rock music. He seemed kind, showering me with gifts. He was the man of my dreams, the answer to my prayers. Yep, I fell hard and fast for him as I was swept off my feet. He accepted me for who I was, disability (cerebral palsy) “warts” and all. We had plans, dreams and before long, a baby on the way. It was very romantic.
The fairy tale wasn’t to last. I didn’t recognize the red flags blaring at me to get out of what was turning into an abusive relationship. It was subtle at first. We argued over menial things such as buying milk. Then he was verbally abusive, initially in private, until he was careless and degraded me publicly. In the beginning, there were apologies followed by promises of “It will never happen again,” and then there were none. I hung on to hope that my Prince Charming would return, and I continued to justify his appalling behavior because I loved him. I convinced myself he was stressed with the baby coming, our financial situation and so forth.
After the birth of our baby and the euphoria wore off, arguments escalated. Sleep deprivation was cruel, a familiar feeling to new parents. It was an adjustment for both of us. There was no cohesion or teamwork; he refused to let me do anything for the baby. My support workers hired to assist me found working extremely tense until he drove them away, and with them, our friends.
My family’s efforts to stop the abuse proved futile, because any intervention was met with aggravation and threats to my safety as well as our child. Thus, isolation came to stay with me instead. Since it was only the two of us and baby, I was blamed for everything that went awry and was punished as he saw fit. I was punched, dragged out of my wheelchair by the hair and neglected in every way possible. He would lock me out of the house if he was in a bad mood. He removed the phones and money cards from my reach. He even disengaged my wheelchair to prevent me from asking for help and leaving him.
Like many people in my situation, I believed I deserved it. I also believed I was not worthy of anyone else’s love. Who would want to take me on with a child and a disability? I thought. If I left him, he told me, I would never see my baby again. I stayed with him as long as I did to keep my family together. But I came to realize I would lose something more precious if the abuse continued. While he believed I was under his thumb, what he did not count on was my belief in God that helped reignite my tenacious spirit. With prayer, planning and support from my family and good friends, I managed to escape with my baby.
Away from him, I slowly reclaimed my individuality and independence. No longer imprisoned by his rules and ideals, I reveled in my freedom, making up for lost time and creating treasured memories with my daughter, something I couldn’t achieve before. We went everywhere, she thrived and I began to heal. It was such a relief.
Domestic violence is non-discriminatory and a subject many people, including me, are afraid to talk about. It can happen to all of us. I thought I would be exempt from such an experience. It’ll never happen to someone like me. How wrong I was. I know differently now I have walked in these shoes. I’m humbled and saddened when hearing stories like mine. If you know someone is hurting, reach out and simply ask, “Are you OK?” Violence of any sort is unacceptable. But it is OK to ask for help.
The Mighty is asking the following: Describe a moment you were met with extreme negativity or adversity related to your disability and/or disease (or a loved one’s) and why you were proud of your response — or how you wish you could’ve responded. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.