When I was young, I suffered things no child should suffer. I didn't talk about it. I didn't cry out for help. I stuffed it way down inside my heart. I closed myself off. It changed the way I saw myself. It changed the way I thought others saw me. It changed my outlook on the whole world. It changed the way I let people treat me, and had a snowball effect on my life. By the time I was a teenager I was involved in an abusive relationship, which I didn't think was a big deal when it started out. In the back of my mind I thought, "This isn't right." But I didn't try very hard to stand up for myself. I let a boy bully and intimidate me, for fear that I wasn't good enough, that nobody would like me, I would not get another boyfriend. I accepted the mental tormenting and verbal abuse, and even though I would occasionally gain enough courage to make a small stand for my value as a person, the results of my uprising would always send me reeling back where I started - afraid of rejection and worn down to accepting the attacks as something I had to live with.
Some things I heard as a teenager:
If you wear makeup, you are trying to get attention from other guys. You don't love me.
if you dress that way, you are being a slut. You don't love me.
If you talk to other guys you are flirting. You don't love me.
If you go out with your friends, you are cheating on me. You don't love me.
If you don't do "this" or "that" or if everything isn't my way, then it's over between us. If you loved me, you would... If you want me to stay with you, you will...
If you try to leave me, I will die. I can't live without you. You will be responsible for whatever happens to me. You are killing me.
You may think, controlling loser. Yes, you would be right. However, in my convoluded mind, I thought, "only boy who likes me, only boy who pays attention to me, only boy who will love me". I would buckle to the pressure and never ending arguing and yelling if I didn't give in to the demands.
And I continued to accept this relationship as "the norm". Yes, I broke up with this boy on and off, but I never had the strength or courage to stay away from him.
Then one day I married him. I had two sons with him. He had a substance abuse problem that escalated the verbal beatings.
Some things I heard as a wife:
Nobody else will want you. You had two kids. You're not attractive anymore. You're fat.
You have nothing. Everything you have is mine, because of me. This house is mine. Everything in it is mine.
You are a loser. You would be nothing without me.
Why can't you do more? I have to work all the time. I am not changing diapers. Why can't you keep those kids quiet while I am trying to sleep!
We will have sex when I want, the way I want, and it doesn't matter if you want to.
I don't remember saying/doing that...but if I did, then I'm sorry. You know I don't know/remember what I'm doing when I'm drunk.
If you try to leave me, I will kill you. I will kill you before anyone else has you.
Before I knew it, nine years had passed. Nine long years. I was always trying to do more, be more, always trying to establish my worth, my value by what others - specifically my husband - thought of me. Sadly, he didn't think much. I worked. I ran a daycare for sixty hours a week. I also did all the housework, cooking, and caring for my own children. My husband never had to lift a finger. I even went out and cleared the snow from his car so he could go to work, and laid his clothes out and ran his bath/shower water for him. This did not earn me a reprieve from the psychological whippings.
My husband had a substance abuse problem, which escalated the situation. I finally decided to say, "No more." I demanded he get help. My boys did not need to live that way. He lied about getting help, or the addiction was too much for him to deal with. It could be possible he tried and failed. I don't know. I do know his abuse became physical. A push, a shove, a slap, and then the day the whole world changed.
This person I had spent nearly fifteen years trying to placate took a screwdriver and threatened to kill me in front of my children. He was arrested. That was the day I said, "I am better than this. I deserve better than this. Most of all, my children deserve better than this." I am so thankful for my boys. I truly believe if it had been just me, it would have been so hard for me to extract myself from the situation. I love them more than life itself. It was because of them I ended the cycle of abuse.
So, Three Rules is a fiction book, but believe me when I say that much of the thought processes, feelings and reactions are real. It was written with the intention of raising awareness and helping people to be able to break the cycle of abuse. It was also written with sincere respect and sensitivity for the readers' feelings while trying to convey the honest and realistic feelings of an abuse survivor. Such as in this post, I tried to be as delicate as possible for the gritty details of things I suffered at the hands of my husband are too horrible to relay.
I was condemned by a member of my community for writing this book. She stated that she knows things like this happen in the world, but being a Christian woman she feels they shouldn't be talked about. I could not disagree more. I don't think it can be talked about enough. I don't think enough light can be shed on the subject, drawing children out from the dark corners they hide in, fearful of shame or condemnation. Let's remove the guilt and embarrassment from the victims and place it where it belongs - on the perpetrators. Please, encourage your children, any children, all children to speak up if they are victims. If you are a victim of domestic abuse, or any kind of abuse, please seek help.
To wrap up this story, I want to tell you that it can get better. I am remarried now to a wonderful man who values me, but most importantly - I value myself. We have four sons. My husband and I are very dedicated to each other and we are advocates for children's rights. We became foster parents and fostered more than fifteen children over a five year time frame.
Getting well is a long process, and I don't think it ever ends. But, take a step in that direction, each step gets lighter.