I saw a tweet with this article a couple of days ago.
It reminded me there was a story I wanted to share.
This is adapted from a speech I gave at an event for Napa Emergency Women’s Services back in 2007.
I remember “the moment”, he and I were attending the same Christian college. He had just returned from a weekend out of town. Upon picking up his car that I had been using he asked me if I had missed him. Quite innocently and honestly I answered, “Well no, not really.”
His response shocked me. “How could you say such a thing!” He shot back at me. “How could you just crush me like that? How could you be so mean?”
No one had ever called me mean before, I was immediately on the defense. I couldn’t bear that someone thought I wasn’t a nice person. From that moment on it was my goal to make sure he knew I was his friend.
The fact that I cared so much was the main reason I was so vulnerable to an abusive person.
We were soon more than friends. He found subtle ways to control and isolate me. Always appealing to they ways I could “prove” my affection for him. I even broke up with him once, but a well meaning professor informed me he was saddened by our break up and thought we “made each other better.” I decided the relationship must be part of God’s plan. I went back to him, declared my determination to love and stay with him, and we were married within 6 months.
As time went on, I simply couldn’t understand what was happening. The constant manipulation and mind games left me immobilized. I knew something wasn’t right but for the life of me I couldn’t put my finger on the problem.
Life became a day to day struggle to survive. I was walking on eggshells, trying so hard not to do something wrong, yet inevitably dealing with the next “blow up.” Power, control, and intimidation are powerful tools. When what you are being told defies your own logic, you begin to think you must be going crazy.
Very little of the abuse I suffered was actually physical, but rather it was the complete bit by bit dismantling of all life outside of that relationship. It is this methodical way of taking control that is so hard to identify. I suppose I had heard of domestic violence, but I was raised in a very sheltered conservative Christian environment. Being a submissive wife was part of the standard protocol for a “good marriage.”
Unfortunately it took a traumatic even in order for the realities of the situation to come to light.
My son was born June 14, 2003. We had been married almost 2 years at that time. My son was born perfectly healthy and was a good baby. On August 31st, the three of us had just returned from a little road trip. There was a good deal of tension from the fairly long car ride and I was dutifully vacuuming as I had been instructed to. Minutes later he brought the baby out of a back bedroom – he was limp and not breathing, he told me the baby had choked.
I called 911…
After initial evaluation at the local ER, they flew the baby to a children’s hospital where he spent 11 days in the pediatric ICU. He had been able to be revived but had begun to have seizures.
At that time the doctors went through a series of test to determine what had happened.
The last test was dilating the baby’s eyes. What was discovered was retinal hemorrhages. Blood was completely filling the back of his eyes. The diagnosis was Shaken Baby Syndrome.
CPS and law enforcement were called. We were questioned separately. I recounted the events of the weekend. I had no idea what could have happened, was it the bumpy road we had been on?
After his interview he came out and told his parents and I that he had indeed shaken the baby. As more details surfaced I found out this was not the first time he had done it.
This is fairly typical of an SBS case. Prior shakings produce very little, very subtle effects. The child quiets, producing the desired effect and the perpetrator is actually positively reinforced in their behavior. Crying however was not his excuse. During a later conversation, while trying to maintain control and manipulate me into believing I as part of the cause, he actually came out and said he was jealous of the baby, as if I somehow caused it.
On Sept 5 he was arrested on charges of injury to a child.
On Sept 11 the baby was released from the hospital in to CPS custody. CPS retained physical custody for 2 weeks and legal custody for another 2 months while our case was investigated.
In the meantime, I was referred to a battered women’s support group where I saw for the first time a sheet entitled “Signs of an Abuser.”
He fit 15 of the 17 characteristics! I wasn’t going crazy! This roller coaster I had been enduring was not unique, but rather a well-defined abusive pattern.
He spent two weeks in jail and was sentenced to 8 years of probation through a deferred sentence plea deal. In our case the DA failed. He asked no medical professionals about my son’s medical condition. The only thing the judge heard was, “the baby is ok.”
My baby, Stephen, is now 11. He deals daily with visual impairment, cognitive delays, mild cerebral palsy, and behavioral difficulties. However he also has also fought hard and never gives up. He runs, walks, talks, and this year even learned to ride a bike independently! He does well in school with the help of special education specialists and countless amazing teachers, therapists and aids.
I am particularly thankful that in the aftermath of such a horrible incident, I was directed to the right resources. I want to stress that for women who find themselves in fear and isolation within a relationship, walking on eggshells and always afraid of doing or saying the wrong thing, you are not going crazy! You are not alone!
Shelters and abuse support organizations are available to help.
For more information on the signs of domestic abuse you can visit www.thehotline.org, or you can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
You can also search “domestic violence” with a city name, and will almost always come up with a local resource organization.
I also wish I had seen this article before I got married: http://www.drjoecarver.com/clients/49355/File/IdentifyingLosers.html