Editor’s note: This is the fifth and final installment in a five-part series on domestic violence.
DARKE COUNTY — It was alcohol and drugs that Ruth, another Darke County woman using a fictitious name, attributes to the demise of a relationship that ended up in marriage and a whole new world of domestic violence.
“My first husband and I dated through high school in Dayton after having met when I was a freshman,” said Ruth. “We got married out of high school in 1968. He was in the Army.”
She was not at all suspicious that he would be abusive.
“We were married 12 years before he attacked me,” she said. “He started using marijuana, then alcohol and marijuana, then cocaine and speed. He began drinking a lot, smoking and growing marijuana and he was even a dealer. I knew it, but being a devoted wife and not believing in divorce, I didn’t say anything.”
After she became pregnant with their son, they moved to southeastern Ohio to be near his family.
“It was very easy to conceal I was in a bad marriage, because I had no family around,” she said. “I only had two friends, but I didn’t say anything to them.”
She recalls one night when a young man in his early 20s knocked on the door.
“He said that his truck broke down so my husband left with him to get his vehicle,” she said. “When they got there, there was another man there. He had marijuana and pulled a gun on my husband and he said they had him take them to where they wanted to go. I was afraid to tell anybody.”
She said her husband was out of the service a year and a half after there marriage when he went to college and got a degree in psychology.
“We worked at a children’s home until I got pregnant,” she said.
According to Ruth, her husband only got physically violent once.
“He beat me one time, but up to that time, it was emotional, psychological and verbal abuse,” she said. “He would go on so-called bus trips at the time. He ridiculed everything I did. He got angry at the drop of a hat.”
She went on, “I worked till I became pregnant. I took care of the house, cooked and cleaned, babysat and had a huge garden. He didn’t do anything around the house. I don’t know what he was doing.”
She did have a vehicle, but it wasn’t very dependable.
“If I left, I was afraid we’ d get arrested and I’d lose my son and he’d be taken away,” Ruth said. “Everyday was such a secret. My whole life’s existence was a secret.”
Her husband, she said, told her, “You can’t survive without me.”
Then, came the time when she did leave, following the only attack that she said occurred.
It was in June 1982, when their son was 5.
“His two brothers and their wives came to our house and so did another nephew and his wife,” Ruth recalled. “That evening, I took a bath and they were all in the living room…all drinking whiskey. I got out of the tub and my husband came in to use the toilet. I asked him to ask his brothers and he wouldn’t do it. I grabbed him by the shoulder and told him I wanted to sleep. He swung at me and missed and pushed me into the linen closet and threw me on the floor. He got on top of me, started slapping me and banging my head on the floor.”
She went on, “I only weighed 89 pounds, because I couldn’t eat or sleep. It was like living in a prison. He probably weighed 135 to 140 pounds. He got off me, jerked me off the floor and pushed me into the bedroom, threw me on the bed and continued to punch me. Then he threw me on the floor. This started at 11 p.m. and ended at 4 a.m.”
And even though the house was full of company, no one did anything to help her.
“Our son and another boy there were in the bunk beds in my son’s room,” she said. “At 4 a.m., my husband turned around and looked at me and I said I was going to leave. He said I could ‘over his dead body.’ He shut the door, came back in and put an ice chest in the hallway and took a shotgun and laid it across his lap. I thought about climbing through the bedroom window but I didn’t. At 7:30 a.m., I woke up and everybody was still there. I put coffee on, and I had his brother go out and ask him if I could leave. He said, ‘You can leave but cannot take our son.’”
She left, driving an old Chevy pickup truck to Dayton. Yes, she left her son behind.
“I stayed with family and friends in Dayton,” she said. “I got in touch with the Meigs County Sheriff. I contacted Jim, a good friend of my husband’s, and told him what happened. He didn’t believe me. I told him I needed to get my son. His parents lived in Dayton at the time and I told them what happened. My father-in-law, who was also a wife-beater, said he would drive the pickup truck and would take me back down to see talk with my husband. Toward dusk, all three came back in, and he said he was sorry and it would never happen again. His dad said, ‘If you stay here, he won’t touch you.’ So I stayed.”
Ruth said she was there two weeks and was able to save enough money to buy pots, pans and linens, she said
Subsequently, she packed up all of their belongings and drove to Cincinnati to the home of some friends.
“I stayed there two weeks until I found an apartment,” she said. “He still wanted me to come back.”
But, it never happened.
Her husband reportedly has the same job and, from what she has learned, he has changed. But, she would never go back with him.
“He’s a big shot in AA,” she said. “I don’t think he does drugs anymore. One of the 12 steps is apologizing for the wrongs and to this day he has never apologized. He denied it ever happened. I never thought he would do anything like that. When that happens, you don’t forget it . You carry it with you the rest of your life.”
Ruth does her best to tell other women, who are are experiencing the same things as she did, but she doesn’t think it’s sinks in.
Her son is now living with his father.
“He’s 35, never been married and is controlling with women,” Ruth said. “He is addicted to meth and has some of the same tendencies as his father.”
Ruth said she waited a year before getting a divorce from her first husband.
“He had another woman three months after I left,” she said.
She said he sends her poems and cards.
“About 10 years ago he had open-heart surgery and had to give up his drugs and alcohol,” she said.
They were married for 14 years, and she remarried, the next time for 20 years, before she got a second divorce.
“I had breast cancer in 2006, and he [second husband] lost his mother at 18 to colon or uterine cancer,” she said. “He withdrew from our relationship after I was diagnosed. He became computer-savvy with his job. We moved to North Carolina. Then, one day in 2010, he came home and told me they laid of two-thirds of the workforce. One of his superintendents came to our house and I found out he [her second husband] was involved in internet porn and was put him on three years probation. I came back in 2010 to Ohio and got a divorce. I am back in the same position…I was isolated. He pretty much stepped away from the relationship. I lost one husband to drugs and alcohol and my second husband to pornography addiction. So, it’s pretty hard for me to trust anyone.”
Her advice to women in abusive relationships?
“Get help and seek out other victims, talk to them and listen,” she said. “As horrible as it sounds, they’re true.”