Have you ever put someone’s feelings above your own? Have you maybe ever had a parent, growing up, whose feelings you worried about? Or maybe you were just born that way, always worrying about other people’s feelings, even as a child. Have you ever gotten into a romantic relationship where you worried about the other person’s feelings, and they used that very fact against you? I have.
I’ve been choked, picked up and carried away, had my child put in danger and my car tampered with so I couldn’t escape. I had my front door to our basement apartment barricaded with guns in the middle of the night because my (now ex-) husband, a former Marine, was drunk and wouldn’t let me leave because he said the neighbor had a bomb in his car…. That was the night before I left. I stayed awake, afraid, seven months pregnant with our second child, while he lay a foot away from me in the bed, drunk and eventually snoring. The part that bothered me the most that night is that he insisted on sleeping with a rifle next to him, leaned against the thin particle board that separated our room from the baby’s, the front of the rifle pointed right at the crib.
I thought he had PTSD, and it was the Marine’s fault that he was this way, but I learned in my women’s support group in 2010 at the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter, run by the Loudoun Citizens of Social Justice, that “these men” do it on purpose–and I recognized many of the excuses they told me about, that he used to use.
It’s not because they’re drunk.
I still am concerned about PTSD care for Veterans, but I personally believe that PTSD is not the reason my husband abused me. I used to assume people would judge me and other women in abusive relationships for not leaving: “She’s weak. She’s a loser. She can’t stand without him. She’s co-dependent.” Luckily, I learned at LAWS that there is a specific cycle of behavior that abusers use to manipulate, control you, and get you to stay.
By the time he pushed me for the first time, I was already broke, out of contact with my friends and family, and three months pregnant for the first time in my life. When I left him, two years later, pregnant with my second child, I stayed in the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter, located at a secret place in Loudoun. From there, I moved in with family, then on my own, with their help, and now my girls, now 4 1/2 and 3, and I are living with my dad until I finish my teaching degree. It’s been a long journey just to get back to normal.
Also, anyone who knows me knows who my ex-husband is. At first I didn’t want to be seen as bad-mouthing anybody, then some people didn’t believe me, and now I still don’t go out in the town where we used to live anymore. I did once, and his parents yelled at me and girls on the street, from their car.
I don’t wish harm to anybody. I’m grateful for the life I have and the experiences I’ve had. But: abuse is real.