33: Escaping Domestic Violence

33: Escaping Domestic Violence

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Tough Times, Tough People

Escaping Domestic Violence

Fear and courage are brothers.

~Proverb

No one was there to respond to my pleas for help. How could this be happening to me? I held my hands over my face to block his blows, but angry fists found their target, leaving bruises on my arms and shoulders, as well as under one of my eyes. My husband straddled my waist, pinning me to the couch as he unleashed his temper in a violent rage.

“I’ll teach you to tell me I’m lazy,” Danny screamed.

Suddenly, our two-and-a-half-year-old son, Adam, cried out as he stood in the adjacent hallway, watching the beating while tears streamed down his cheeks. My husband finally stormed out into the night, and I consoled Adam and put him to bed.

Danny and I were strongly mismatched from the beginning, and my marriage to him at age twenty resulted from my own rebellion against a loving, but controlling father. My rebellion hurt me most of all. My husband benefited from our union because he had a free ride during our brief marriage. Meanwhile, I made sure our son was well cared for in spite of the problems at home.

Long before we married, my husband had abandoned his given name and tagged himself “Babe” in an apparent attempt to bolster his lackluster athletic accomplishments. In the years I knew Danny, his immaturity didn’t allow him to be an athlete of Babe Ruth’s stature. The man I knew consistently quarreled with umpires and referees in team sports. In fact, by the time we’d been married a couple of years, he had quit or been ousted from more games than he’d completed. I once looked forward to Sunday afternoon baseball games where I could take Adam and enjoy being outdoors. But, Danny’s on-field tantrums eventually caused me to plan other activities for Adam.

As a young adult, my husband lost one job after another. I was the family breadwinner at age twenty-one, while Danny spent most of his days picking up basketball or baseball games at the local gym. When he absolutely had to do so in order to appease me, he would look for jobs and manage within a few days or weeks to lose the ones he could obtain. Sometimes his bosses stated his performance was unacceptable. With other jobs, he faulted management’s stupidity and quit. Meanwhile, I paid a babysitter to care for Adam when I went to my secretarial job each day.

In time, I dreamt of someone coming to rescue my son and me from our dismal circumstances. Fortunately, a kind landlord looked on us with compassion when Danny repeatedly told her we would be late with the rent. My salary didn’t always stretch far enough to pay our rent on time while also buying food and funding my husband’s leisurely lifestyle. As my courage to press him about working grew stronger, he became increasingly angry and threatening to me.

During one such argument, the floor pillows in our living room were easy targets for Danny’s wrath. A full-fledged blizzard of white feathers filled the room as he ripped the pillows apart one evening. He screamed obscenities, and my tears flowed like the fountain in the swimming pool below our balcony. After trashing our living room, my husband left in a rage, only to return the next day expecting me to apologize for upsetting him. Thankfully, Adam had not been home during his father’s pillow tantrum.

A few weeks later, while we were again arguing about Danny’s free-ride attitude, he shoved me against the living room wall. My head flew back and hit the wall hard enough to wake our son, who slept in the next room. The noise and my tears upset Adam on this night, and in Danny’s usual style, he flew out of the apartment after yelling at me for questioning his half-hearted employment efforts.

No matter what fate had in store for me, I knew my life wasn’t on the right track. Any further evidence I needed came a couple of weekends later when Danny and I again argued about his perpetual laziness. The earlier-described beating followed. I was hurt physically and emotionally, but most of all, I was ashamed to be living in such conditions.

No one at work knew about what was happening in my personal life. When my boss questioned the bruise on my face the next day, I laughingly explained that my son accidentally hit me with a toy truck. My boss probably knew better because he’d been around Danny and observed his cocky attitude, but I couldn’t acknowledge the physical abuse to professional people in the office. I invented excuses to avoid my parents for a couple of weeks because my father might have gone after my deadbeat husband with his hunting rifle if he’d known what had happened.

A couple of days after the beating, I had to tell my son “no” about something he wanted to do. Toddlers don’t like hearing “no,” but this time, Adam rounded his small hand into a fist and began hitting my arm, mimicking what he saw his father do to me two days earlier.

I knew the time had come for me to rescue my son. I wasn’t sure where Adam and I were going to live, but we both were in danger if we stayed with Danny. I didn’t feel courageous in choosing to be a divorced mom at age twenty-three. I knew I could support two people on my salary easier than I was currently supporting three, and I simply had no other choice if I was to regain my dignity and provide a safe environment for Adam in the years ahead.

That night, Danny overheard my confessions to a girlfriend about our situation and my plans to divorce him. After he confronted us, she agreed to stay with Adam and me for a few days, and she refused to leave me alone at all that evening. Thankfully, our mutual stand was enough to send him packing his clothes.

Danny called me over the next two weeks, even shedding uncharacteristic tears at one point, pleading to return to our apartment and the easy life he’d known. But, he wasn’t willing to talk to a professional counselor who might have been able to change the conditions that existed in our home. I stood firm and refused to stay in the marriage.

Adam and I were lucky. Not all angry men go so quietly. But even if a more confrontational ending had ensued, I was finally ready to rise up and protect my son and myself from further violent behavior. Regardless of what the future held, the unknown path before us had to be a better choice. I now watch my son interact with his own two boys. I shudder to think how their lives would be if I had stayed in that physically abusive environment, and I’m thankful God gave me the strength to move on.

~Elizabeth Bogart

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