As you’ve probably figured I’ve been incredibly sick and then recovering from a small head injury, too, so I didn’t focus on a whole lot of anything. Now that I’m finally starting to do better I am trying to get back into the groove of things. I know that typically I write on here about the mishaps and amusements of what I’m working on or am dreaming of. However, today I’m going to go serious and it’s totally not about bath or body products, so if you stop reading here, I understand. *smile* Recently something occurred in my neighborhood that really bothered me, though, and even if it helps raise awareness with one person, then it’s well worth it to me.
I live in a very small, and usually quiet, town in rural Kansas. It’s not quite Mayberry, but the town’s violent crime rate in 2010 “…was lower than the national violent crime rate average by 100%…” and it “…was lower than the national property crime rate average by 100%” (via CityRating.com). After spending half of my life in a very rough city in California this is a safe little haven usually, although I sure miss pizza delivery, especially now that I can’t drive. Lol. Anyway, things do happen behind closed doors, despite the statistics, and I’m here almost 24/7, so I usually know when things are hitting the fan on my sleepy little street.
For the past year the peace was disturbed by a couple that moved into the rental next door. Screaming, yelling, loud thumps, crying, and even things being thrown around outside. When I heard crying and a sudden silence I called the police, because I was scared that she had been seriously injured or killed. Sadly in rural areas the police aren’t usually in the area, so it often takes twenty or so minutes to report to a scene. Thankfully she wasn’t seriously hurt, but didn’t press charges. For several months they continued a horrible cycle of their form of peace and then have violent fights, sometimes leaving her with a black eye and once even an injured arm. I called the sheriff every time and finally a few days back there was a huge fight as they were being evicted. Police officers and sheriffs descended on the neighbors as things started to quiet down, and they were both arrested. There’s a lot more to the story, but that last fight really scared me. The guy had always creeped me out anyway and I don’t handle being around angry guys very well, and the police had made the mistake the first few times of making it obvious that I had been the one to call in. I heard the shouts and looked out the curtain to see them shoving each other next to a fire in their backyard. Then he looked up and saw me as she dashed inside. I figured that yet again nothing would come of it, but that I had to call the sheriff and try to get her help. I couldn’t do much for her, but I could do what no one did for me.
It’s not something that I discuss often, but that last fight that the neighbors had, and the anger on that guy’s face when he looked at me, triggered a flood of memories and fears. Just a few months after I turned 18 I moved away to a city with some “friends” (what we think of as friends when we’re young and naïve) and shortly after that I got raped while I was passed out from drinking some stuff that this hot guy kept pressuring me to drink. Ah, the naïve belief in humanity was strong back then. To make a long story short I was ashamed and didn’t know what to do when I realized that I was pregnant from that almost completely blanked out night. I was raised that bad things didn’t happen to good girls. And it was one of the few times I had colored outside of the lines, so to speak, so obviously I was bad and had to figure it out on my own. When I told the father he insisted that the child would know him and spun lots of stories about how well things would work out. I give him credit for being a really amazing speaker that is incredibly believable and could probably talk you into buying a bag of dog poop from him. Add being terrified out of my mind to that skill and I believed it would all work out.
As I was getting ready for work one morning, about four-and-a-half months along, my preparations woke him and he was furious. He didn’t even bother to fully get out of bed when he hit me square in the stomach. Of course he wouldn’t let me go to the hospital or leave the house, because no one could know what had happened, and it was somehow my fault anyway, so I miscarried there at the apartment. He threatened to kill my parents and their pets if I ever told or left, and since he had killed his own baby, I believed it and stayed. Thankfully I can’t remember all of the abuse over the following six or so months and what I do doesn’t need to weigh on anyone else’s heart or mind. I tried so many times to get away, but no one ever opened the door when I managed to run outside and was crying for help. None of my roommates ever called either. Every time I would be punished and reminded that my parents were going to die if I left or told. He made sure I was isolated and worked hard at making me feel absolutely worthless, not to mention terrified for my family. I didn’t have much to live for anymore, but they didn’t deserve to be hurt by what I had gotten into.
Finally in April of 1999 he attempted to strangle me to death. I can’t tell anyone about most of the details, but when I blacked out I had this moment. You can call it a hallucination from lack of oxygen or a clarifying moment of faith, but a sense of calm washed over me and the words that if I didn’t get away tomorrow I would die that night went through my mind, and I knew it was true. I wouldn’t die this time, but I wouldn’t survive another. When I came to he was crying and shaking me, with lots of apologies and reasons that it was my fault tumbling from his mouth. I stared at the ceiling and didn’t move for hours, except when he ordered me to do things, and then I would obey.
He made a mistake that next day and left the car with me with promises of how he would make things up to me once he got off work. I drove to the town where my mom and stepdad lived and called them from a payphone. Some rules that he had ingrained into me were still hard to shake, even after what he had done, and I wasn’t allowed to go to their house. Thankfully just by my saying where I was my parents dropped everything and came to me. I didn’t even tell them about the abuse. They simply asked if I wanted to leave and if I did they would move me out that day before he got off work. And that’s what we did. I started my life over on a Good Friday.
It’s been a hard journey, but I found a “good ol’ boy” that wasn’t afraid of my emotional baggage and helped me learn to trust again. I still look over my shoulder when we go to that city, although we usually avoid it, and I still have problems when men are angry or upset. Time and ten years of marriage has helped with a lot of that, but seeing my neighbor with that look, the same as what I looked into as I was being strangled, shook me.
So I ask that if you suspect that something is going on behind closed doors, please call for help. The worst case is that the police check and find nothing wrong. If someone is danger and doesn’t feel as if they can get away, they might not make it out alive if you don’t spare those few seconds and free phone call. It’s a small thing that can truly save lives. We all know the police, but if you happen to know someone, or are yourself, that has survived, the following information can help them on the road to recovery. www.thehotline.org or 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) can help those that are dealing with the effects of abuse, and most have such a jumbled up view of their self worth anymore that they consider suicide, so 1-800-273-TALK (8255) can be a very valuable resource when they are feeling lost. The necklace of bruises faded long before I learned where to turn for help. Bad things happen to everyone and we really need to raise awareness. Domestic abuse and suicidal ideation shouldn’t be ignored and we DO need to get involved. Help is a phone call away. Even if you write these numbers down and leave them stuck to the refrigerator or bulletin board, or this confession spurs a discussion with someone, you might just save a life.