It began with a charming man who was outgoing, funny, intelligent, thoughtful. People loved him and wanted to be around him.
It began with lies. A white lie here, another there. He would say, “when I was at university…” even though I had known him since high school and knew that he never went to college. I could have blown his lies, but I didn’t say anything.
It began with lies to me. “I’m off to work…” and when I’d call, they’d say that he was fired a month ago for theft. He’d tell me that he was framed and he found another job. He just forgot to tell me.
It began when his sixteen year old sister took a loaded shotgun to her head. His father cleaning bits of her off the walls. Blood stained flowery wallpaper. He was never sober again.
It began with suicide attempts. Sitting in the bathtub, full of water, fully dressed and fully drunk with an electrical appliance in his hands. I’d stay up all night, exhausted, trying to get him to come down. Eventually, he’d fall asleep, but I never did.
It began with assault in the wee hours; drunk and raging, pulling me out of bed by my hair. Punching me in the stomach, where it would leave no obvious marks, and kicking me when I was on the floor in a fetal position.
It began when he didn’t care about leaving marks anymore. Slamming me against a wall and strangling me. “Die, bitch!” I can still feel his fingers around my neck. I knew that it would be much harder to crush my larynx if I turned my head.
It began when I stopped turning my head. I’d look him straight in the eye while he was killing me. I wanted him to see what he was killing. He owed me that much. I wanted him to kill me, to have it end. I wanted it all to be over. I wanted out and I could see no other way.
It began with a fist in the face so powerful that it knocked out my front tooth and slammed my head against the car window, leaving me with a concussion and a bloody mouth. I was driving at the time. I told everyone that I tripped over the cat.
It began when I ran out of excuses for the bruises and cuts and blood. My injuries were so visible and so severe that I made up an imaginary car accident.
It began one night when he was angrier and drunker than I’d ever seen him. He wanted me dead. I locked myself in the car. He dented the car hood with his fists, smashed the window and pulled me out by my hair. He raised me off the ground with his grubby paws around my neck. I was nearly unconscious. “I am about to die.” An acquaintance walked by and said something. He dropped me on the ground, gave me one last kick and ran.
It ended with police reports, a restraining order, and a call to the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1−800−799−7233 or TTY 1−800−787−3224.
It ended with freedom. He was never arrested for his crimes, and all the arrest warrants expired long ago. He is free forever for what he did to me. He is still out there, but he is not the only one who is free.
This year, I am celebrating fifteen years free of domestic violence. Fifteen years of living in hiding. Fifteen years without an attempt on my life. Fifteen years with a baseball bat next to my bed, waking up in a panic, short of breath with hands around my neck, but the hands are not real anymore.
I am free and so are you. There is another way out besides your death. You are not alone. You are strong. You can do this. If you or someone you know is in danger, please, get help. If you’re alive, it is not too late.