Editor’s note: This is the fourth installment in a five-part series on domestic violence.
DARKE COUNTY —There are three myths about survivors of domestic violence, according to one website. They are:
• Myth: You deserve the abuse—you did something to provoke your partner.
For Real: No one deserves to be abused. This is victim-blaming mentality, which focuses on the survivor’s behavior instead of the perpetrator’s. Whether it’s coming home late, wearing something “unapproved” or forgetting to put gas in the car, abuse is never warranted. Making you feel like you deserved the abuse is a way for an abusive partner to avoid accountability by shifting the blame to you. Other ways of not taking responsibility: blaming the relationship, childhood, health problems, substance abuse, children, etc.
• Myth: You enjoy or are addicted to the abuse—otherwise you’d leave.
For Real: Leaving is easy, right? You can just pack your things, walk out the door and never come back. Wrong. Leaving is the most unsafe time in the relationship for a survivor. As the abusive partner feels the loss of power and control, he or she may act out in dangerous ways to regain control. Furthermore, the survivor’s self-esteem has been beaten down and in turn, he or she may feel worthless, unlovable and dependent. Divorce, children, a safe place to stay and finances can also factor in when trying to leave. No one enjoys being intimidated, threatened, humiliated or beaten by anyone, let alone the person who is supposed to love them.
• Myth: You knew what you were getting into.
For Real: Abusive partners often wear a facade in public; they aren’t who they pretend to be behind closed doors. They may be friendly and respected in the community and only at home do they display abhorrent behavior. This is confusing for survivors because they may feel that if they talk about the abuse, they won’t be believed. Also, in the beginning stage of a relationship (honeymoon phase) an abusive partner can be anything but abusive—there may be flowers, compliments and jewelry. It’s not until he or she feels comfortable, powerful and in control that the abuse can come out. And when the tactics do surface, they often start out small and are usually hard to recognize. Little things like “suggesting” which outfit to wear and isolating by sabotaging efforts to be with friends and family.
Freckles (not her real name), a Darke County area resident, will concur with all three statements. She experienced all that and learned after a five-year marriage that it was not what she wanted and she successfully fled from that situation.
She said it was in the mid-1970s as a 23-year-old that she met the man she was going to marry who was seven years older.
“He [the perpetrator] and his ex- had three children together, and from the get-go he was controlling, but I was young and stupid and didn’t see it then, but now I do in hindsight,” she said.
Freckles said she and her husband worked in different factories close in proximity in the same town, working lots of hours and making lots of money.
“He would get off at noon on Fridays and head for the bar, and I got off of work at 4,” she recalled. “”By the time I got off work, he was really drunk. He was a whiskey drinker. He very seldom had money for child support and she [the ex-] made his life hell and I don’t blame her. But, he took it out on me. He expected me to pay the child support, but by the time I got groceries and took care of business, there wasn’t enough. Besides, I didn’t feel I was responsible for his child support.”
She went on, “He drank all of the time, constantly buying things, such as a car, tractor, house, cows, chickens as a way, now that I look at it, to keep me isolated.”
Freckles said the abuse started out verbal at first.
“I didn’t take the beatings very long,” Freckles said. “He didn’t want me to have friends and I couldn’t wear makeup. I was close with my family and was driven further away from them, unless he needed their help.”
She said shortly after their marriage, the physical abuse started.
“My kids were 3 and 7 and living with us,” she said. “They had to watch it four or five times. I think I’m a strong person and got a lot stronger because I have no tolerance for abuse. I weighed 100 pounds and he was 6-foot-3 and 240 pounds. I went to Christmases and Thanksgivings with him with bruises on my face many times.”
The turning point, she said, was three-old.
“First, my brother was killed in a car wreck 36 years ago this week and it brought my family close together. I was going there to be with them and he did not want it and said, ‘Oh yeah sure, you can go up there and cry over poor dead Timmy,’” she recalled. “I started hating him after what he said about my brother. I loved my brother. I raised by brothers and sisters. This was four weeks after Timmy died and it was still raw.”
She continued, “Then, one time I was off work and waited and waited for him. I was a nervous wreck. I knew he’d be in a fit of rage because that’s what sociopaths do. ‘It’s all your fault; get in the car,’” he said. I started walking six blocks from work and here he came. I got in and he said, ‘Are you mad?’ Of course, I said no. He hit me in the jaw as hard as he could and said, ‘Are you mad now?’”
She said her husband took off and she was going to try and jump out of the vehicle.
“I tried to jump out and he kicked me in my ribs, cracking three of them,” she recalled. “By the time we got uptown, he had to stop for other cars that were stopped and I saw my dad go through the stop sign. I jumped out and he grabbed my long hair and pulled a handful out of my head, but I got away. I went up the street and he thought I went into a bar, but I went into a busy bank. I was standing in front of the window of the bank and saw him looking in the bar, then I saw my daddy go by and I jumped in with him.”
She said she stayed at her parents house after she got her two children.
“I started making a plan, knowing if I didn’t get my stuff, I’d never get it,” she said.
Thirdly, she did go back but stayed long enough to get the things she needed.
“We had his kids that weekend and they all slept upstairs,” Freckles said. “My 7-year-old came down and had wet to bed and he grabbed her by the arm, picked her up by the arm and beat her butt. That was the end, once he touched my children. It just so happens that when I went to change the bed clothes I found that his 10-year-old also wet the bed but I hid his stuff because I didn’t want his son to get hurt.”
Freckles is pretty sure she is not the only woman this man abused.
“He has put other women in the hospital and he’s injured them all,” she claimed. “I run into him occasionally and, last year when he saw me, he asked me how my jaw was.”
According to her, none of the women have pressed charges against him.
“My beatings from him were too numerous…usually a beating a week on Friday, but, on the weekends, he would be nice afterwards.”
Freckles said she was accused by his ex-wife of breaking up their marriage.
“But I didn’t,” she said. “He was seeing someone else at the time, Now, I hear that he and his ex- are now back together.”
After she left the relationship, Freckles said her husband never tried to come back and get her.
“I think he was afraid of me after that as well as my brother and my dad,” she said. “But, nobody touches my kids or my grandkids.”
Freckles said she is so strong today that if she ever hears of a man abusing a woman no matter who it is, she would confront the guy.
“That was the only time I was abused,” Freckles said. “I’d never ever go through that again. I won’t even take verbal abuse from a man. It hurts your heart and self-esteem. I believe in karma but am not a person who wants to see it. I don’t believe in revenge. I believe karma sometimes takes a while. One person can change your whole life. Be careful who you let into your life, especially if children are involved. Monsters come in all shapes and forms.”
She concluded, “My life is dedicated to making life better for other people. I put on a hard persona. I’m careful who I let into my life. Love is the only thing you take with you and you have to be kind to people and animals.”