I used to live with a time bomb. At semi regular intervals he used to go off. And it was ugly.
You won’t understand why I stayed. But it’s not difficult to understand. I had nowhere else to go. Nowhere safe. It’s that simple. And trying to leave a relationship is the most dangerous time for the abused partner in a domestic violence situation. That’s when most women are killed – shortly after they leave.
You don’t leave a violent relationship. You escape it.
And it changes you.
You learn to tolerate a great deal of pain. Physical pain. And to not show any reaction to physical pain. No response. Keep your face emotionless at all times. Because you never know which response he is trying to provoke. And if you give him what he wants, he will go in harder. And if you don’t give him what he wants, he will go in harder. So stay neutral. No matter what. Don’t. Let. It. Show.
Or there will be more pain.
So you learn to keep all your emotions hidden. Deeply hidden. You could be feeling worse than you’ve ever felt in your life, but you learn to smile and pretend it’s not happening. You find a place deep within yourself where you hide. You learn to lie and cover up. Because no one would believe you anyway.
Abusers are often charming and charismatic. Great guys.
But abusers aren’t perfect. They drop their guard. They make mistakes. They show their hand. Most people surrounding the couple where there is abuse are aware of it to some extent. They’re not ‘sure’ though. And they don’t want to get involved. It’s ‘not their business’.
I was too young for anyone around me to help. My friends and I, we were all only 18. Except for him. He was 25. And he held all the power.
Until he didn’t.
Months…years in the planning, I escaped. I made new friends that he knew nothing about. I created a whole life that he knew nothing about. I met people at work. I nurtured friendships. I found people I could trust. Friends whom he didn’t know, and who didn’t know him. NO connections. They even called me a different nickname. I doubt any of them knew my real name. And that last time he exploded, I grabbed my cat and a cask of wine and I drove away and I never went back.
While he was going to grab his gun.
The gun that he had threatened me with so many times before. I don’t know if it was even loaded. I never knew. It really doesn’t matter when you have a gun pointed at you. You don’t think to yourself ‘gee, is that loaded”’. It’s terrifying either way. And he was an Air Force boy, so he knew how to use guns. And he knew how to fight. And he knew how to inflict pain and not leave a mark.
I don’t know if he ever would have killed me. But I thought he would. It doesn’t make a difference from my point of view. I thought my life was at stake.
I was 22 by then.
So I ran. I had to leave everyone in my life. I couldn’t tell anyone where I was going. In case they told HIM. I couldn’t risk it. Planning my escape had taken too much work.
He had told my parents I was a drug addict and involved with the ‘wrong crowd’. They believed him, not me, so I didn’t even tell them where I was. I called them every three days to tell them I was alive, that I was fine, that I was not on drugs. That was pretty much the whole phone call, and then my mother crying and begging me to come home.
Nope. He’d moved in with them. Yep, they took him in, because he was so devastated.
Clever. Charming. Charismatic.
Finally, I told them my mother my phone number, so that she could call me. Land line. Long before mobile phones were a thing.
My father had a friend who worked at the phone company. She gave the number to him, and he looked up my address from that phone number.
Within 24 hours he, my abusive, violent boyfriend was at my front door. With a rifle.
He had found me. And they had told him where I was.
So I ran again. Within two hours of calling the police to scare him away from my front door I was in my car with everything I owned.
Driving away. Never to return.
I still have my cat.