What I Want My Daughters to Know About Domestic Abuse
If you’ve experienced domestic violence, the following post could be potentially triggering. You can contact The National Domestic Violence Hotline online by selecting “chat now” or calling 1-800-799-7233.
You ask me why our life isn’t the same as your friends, why we don’t have as much money and why you’ve missed out on things. With memories of the abuse from your dad and our homelessness, you can’t understand why I married him, why that was our life or how it still impacts us now.
He was charismatic, a charmer, and I had low self-esteem. He preyed on my insecurities, made me feel he loved me like no one else could, or would. A whirlwind romance, we were married within months. Over time he continued to wear me down. It started with small comments like jealousy and financial control.
Being raised religiously, I was taught to submit to my husband and combine our finances. And despite feeling in my heart this was wrong, divorce wasn’t an option, or so I thought. I also felt no one would believe me. His jealousy grew, as did his demands on me about what I wore (or what I wasn’t allowed to wear), who I was allowed to speak to and what I could do. It happened so gradually, I didn’t even notice how much of a shell of my former self I became. He didn’t hit me at the start, but he had total control of me.
I desperately wanted a child. My parents, our church and your dad were all pressuring me, and I wanted to please them all. I always wanted to be a mother, so tried immediately. Being unable to get pregnant made me feel defective and unlovable.
Finally, almost two years later, I became pregnant with you. It took special diets, and because I was so stressed, I didn’t actually know I was pregnant until I was almost 13 weeks! As soon as I got a positive result, I checked my cycle and worked out my due date. Crying tears of joy for finally getting pregnant, but also tears of fear because your due date fell on Father’s Day, which I was later abused for. That is a day that should be his, and he shouldn’t have to share it. This was the way he thought.
Your birth was traumatic, and it took me a while to recover due to complications. However, I was expected to have another baby immediately, and amazingly, got pregnant soon after you were born. With two little kids to care for, who were my whole world, I knew I needed to get out.
You gave me the courage to leave. I wanted you to have a better life than what we had. When I went to leave, he tried to kill me, which I know you remember. Thankfully, the police were able to intervene and took him away. For a year we were in and out of court as we also moved around because he wasn’t in jail. No, he was let off as it was the first documented offense, so he stalked us.
Finally, a year later, we moved, and I began to create a better life for us. But the ghosts of our past and the trauma haunted us. From the nightmares the three of us experienced, the behavioral issues you and your sister had were extreme. Between living expenses, court, therapy and treatments for you both, there was no money left. The life I wanted to give you didn’t seem to be happening.
It’s been years since we left, and while you have some distant memories, it’s not something I ever want you to be able to understand. What I want you to know is that while we may not have the lifestyle I wanted for you, we are safe now.
I want you to learn from my experience and example. Be strong, be confident, love who you are and never let anyone tear you down. Domestic violence is never the victim’s fault, and no matter what happened in our past, we have the choice about our future. We decide where our life will go, what we will be, where we will live, and what we will do.
While our beginning was rocky, I refuse to let it define us. Together we are strong, and we will have the life you dream.
This piece was originally published on Scary Mommy.
Getty image via altanaka