The topic I have chosen to write about is my own experience as an abused wife. First, I will give a brief overview regarding my personality and family background, at the time and then show how these influenced my life.
My father drank a lot to avoid the problems that he was experiencing at work and home. My mother was depressed and did not know what to do. I was sheltered as a child because I was asthmatic.
My parents were strict and would not allow me to go out on dates or parties so most of my socializing was church oriented, through Sunday school, C.G.I. T. (Canadian Girls in Training) and the occasional afternoon movie.
My decisions were made for me, so that I never learned to think for myself. I was a very timid, shy, quiet person and spent most of my time reading romance novels dreaming that a knight in shining armor would sweep me off of my feet, and take me away. I lived in a dream world which was a form of escape from my parent’s problems.
When I was sixteen and a half, I met a man who showed an interest in me. He took me to the movies, restaurants and he even bought me flowers. I was instantly swept off my feet and thought that at last my knight had come for me. At last I felt important, I was “an adult” and it felt great. I was almost eighteen when I moved into his apartment, at his insistence, and two months later we were married. I felt lucky to have been chosen by him. My friends all told me how wonderful he was and that I was lucky to be married to him. Little did anyone know what would happen during the next seven and a half years until I had to flee with my girlfriend to the United States for ten days.
My first memory of abuse was that he had a habit of lighting a cigarette and then to put the match out, he would touch it to my hand. He would laugh about it and think it was a big joke. I was angry at him and told him so, but he persisted in doing it. During my pregnancy, I experienced fluid retention, dizziness, headaches, fainting spells and so on. Because of this, I required a lot of sleep. One day my husband came home from work and wanted to know why I had not done the dishes. I said, “Because I was laying down having a rest”. This angered him for some unknown reason and he spent the next hour yelling at me saying that I was lazy, I was a terrible wife and how dare I lay down to rest. He yelled obscenities at me and I felt completely demoralized after he was done. After my daughter was born things at home seemed to settle down. We had our disagreements but nothing too serious or so I thought. About the time my daughter was a year old, the physical abuse started again. We were having a disagreement about our finances and it turned into an attack situation, with him putting me down. He told me that I was lazy, that I had problems, I was not motivated and I did not know how to handle money. Then he proceeded to make obscene remarks. I immediately tried to defend myself and lashed back verbally thinking that if he could do it to me, I could do it back. This made him angry and he became violent. He came over to me, grabbed me by the sweater, lifted me and threw me into the wall. I was so shocked. I didn’t know what to do. The next day, I experienced guilt feelings and I felt that it was my fault that he did what he did and I felt that I had deserved it. I started to develop a perfectionist complex working full time, doing housework and being a mother. I tried to meet all of his demands which caused a great deal of stress. I was still feeling tired and ill as a result of my pregnancy. I would pass out and have dizzy spells, headaches, blurred vision and extreme chronic pain in my limbs and joints. My husband decided that I was a hypochondriac and my doctor said that he could not find anything physically wrong with me. Fortunately, my mother took me to another doctor who performed the same tests and I was diagnosed with mononucleosis and a hormonal imbalance of estrogens which accounted for the symptoms I was displaying. The verbal abuse continued. My husband refused to believe that I was ill and told me that I had problems, that I was crazy and anything else that he could invent to put me down. The abuse continued on a daily basis, as I endured emotional, physical, sexual and verbal abuse.
A serious incident of physical abuse happened when my daughter was four years. My husband was angry at me because I had attended a birthday party with my daughter instead of staying at home to have sexual relations with him. By this time our marriage was in a terrible state and I was unresponsive to him. He demanded sex every day and twice a day if he could get his way. Also many times after were had sex, he would compare me to past girlfriends and tell me that I wasn’t as good as they had been. He equated the physical act with love, and as long as he was having sex, then he was proving that he loved me. He further argued about my visiting our neighbors, saying that I was running the streets and he believed that I was a tramp. These accusations were similar to the ones made by his father to his mother. The argument got worse so I decided to go for a walk and remove my daughter from witnessing it. As I started to go outside with my daughter, he grabbed her, turned and kicked me in the leg. The impact was so forceful, the blood vessels in my leg were broken and the leg was badly bruised. I still have the marks today.
The next day I called a neighbor and told her what happened. We talked about me leaving him and receiving welfare. I was too frightened to leave, but had enough foresight to go to the doctor and explained what happened. She told me that I had several choices: 1) seek counseling at the Markham Family Life Centre. 2) She would council both of us 3) I should leave him.
I told her that my husband said I deserved to be kicked and that I had a problem, also that I was stupid and incapable of taking care of my daughter. I believed him. This belief was the result of his abuse. She told me that he was the one with the problem if this was the way that he handled his temper. Armed with this knowledge, I made an appointment with the Markham Family Life Centre. My husband and I went for counseling for four months and it seemed to help. We were able to communicate better and generally get along. Six months later my husband started his abusive behavior again. First it was verbal abuse. I could not cook; I was a terrible housewife etc. This abuse escalated and he began to break dishes and punch holes in the walls.
One night when he came home from work drunk and wanted sex. I refused to have anything to do with him while he was drunk. We got involved in yet another argument. He said that I did not love him, that I was not good as a mother and wife and so on. He grabbed me, threw me on the bed and raped me. I tried to fight him but he was stronger than I was, I was terrified of him and did not know what to do. After that I felt violated and was raging inside. The next day guilt set in and again I felt that I was to blame, because I had refused to have sex. I became very depressed and hated myself. I felt worthless and no good.
On a cold and frosty morning while shopping with a friend, I caught a glimpse of myself in a store window. What I saw both startled and shocked me. I took a long look at myself and surveyed my appearance. My hair was straight and straggly and windblown, I wore no makeup. The coat that I was wearing was second-hand out, out of fashion from the twenties or thirties, dark blue, squared shoulders and the inside had no lining. My pullover top helped to keep me warn but it had holes under the arms. I never bothered to mend them; I figured that my arms would cover them. My slacks were dark blue nylon fabric with the elastic stretched out of shape. My medium sized frame carried fifty pounds of excess weight. This was a crutch I had developed to hide from any attention from men. I thought “Oh my God what have I come to! I had been poor when I was growing but never had my appearance looked this bad. “What am I to do with myself”?
I felt so worthless. I felt that I had slipped into a black empty hole. I could no longer feel anything. Fortunately I stopped and prayed and again was given the strength to go on; if only for my daughter’s sake and eventually mine.
Another two months passed as I wandered in my confusion, trying to decide what I should do. Finally I gathered enough courage to go back to the Markham Family Life Centre. At the Centre, the long process of healing began. Week by week my life began to sort itself out as I described to my counselor about the abuse that I endured, my reactions and feelings about my situation.
While in counseling I learned how to be assertive and stand up to his abuse. He maintained that I was a tramp and that he had dragged me up from the gutter and made a woman out of me. He would tell my daughter that I wanted to go to wild partied, drink booze, smoke pot and sleep with every Tom, Dick and Harry that came along. He also told her that I was a lesbian. He controlled my movements to the point that I was only allowed to go out for one hour a week to go grocery shopping with a girlfriend and to do to work. He had some of his friends posted on the street to watch my movements.
The final incident that gave me the courage to leave occurred one night when I came home from work. My daughter was still awake so I helped her to get ready for bed. While helping her I discovered a red mark on her buttocks. I confronted my husband and he said “she would not do as I told her to so I kicked her”. I was furious and told him that if he ever kicked her again I would take action against him.
Two months later, with the help of family and friends, I left him and went to the United States for a while. The past three years have been a struggle for me, both financially and emotionally. But I have learned who I am and what I can do. I have learned from my past and today I have a great deal of support from my church and friends. My faith in God, in life itself has helped me through, and I look forward to tomorrow knowing I will face whatever it brings me a little stronger and a lot wiser.