Domestic Violence is a huge issue in today’s world. I want to reach as many people as possible in order to help those that need it. And, I know that sometimes it helps more when you hear about someone else who has been there. Someone who has walked in your shoes and survived.
So today’s guest, Michelle Wright, has bravely offered up her story. She is a survivor and she tries to reach out and help those who need it.
This is my story. I stayed too long…don’t let it happen to you. Michelle.
There are no other names in my story and some situations have been changed for reasons of protection.
Every day at least 3 women are killed by their partners or ex-partners in the US alone. In India a law passed to protect women from their abusive partners – this was as late as 2005. By 2007 only a handful of Indian states had complied. As of this date nothing has changed.
It’s called hearts and flowers.
Abusive men don’t beat you on the first date. They’re smart enough to know that it’s important to snare you in the web first, until you’re trapped and unable to move, and that takes as long as it needs to take – until they’ve succeeded. This was to be the case for me.
I met him unexpectedly and I wasn’t the stereotypical victim that some experts define as vulnerable, alone and weak. I was a strong independent single mother with my own home and a good job.
When he came into my life it was like a whirlwind. He swept me off my feet instantly and told me it was love at first sight and we were soul mates. I couldn’t resist his gentle charms and within weeks I had moved him out of his cramped one room apartment into my home and my life.
The fact that he had little money or belongings didn’t ring any alarm bells and I ignored the red flags as I slowly became blind to the truth. He had already manipulated me into feeling sorry for him. He was down on his luck, that’s all. It could happen to anyone.
We were married within a year and our wedding night was a disaster. Alcohol had always been a problem in our relationship. He drank and I didn’t. On the most important night in my life, he was too drunk to remember. I was so upset and thought I’d made a mistake even considering an annulment the next day, but changed my mind when he cried and apologised profusely.
Unbeknown to me he was planning his next move, to systematically remove me from all my friends and family and even my home and work. Against my better judgement we left the country for a new life somewhere else. It was there, away from everyone I knew and loved that the abuse began in earnest.
It started verbally, put downs and criticisms about the way I was disciplining my son who was around seven years old at the time. He became more angry and fuelled by alcohol. The abuse became a daily occurrence. Arguments were always about his drinking and the constant spending of money, depleting our bank account.
He didn’t work. I did though and the more I worked the more jealous he became, blaming me because he couldn’t find his way. Three months after settling he threw his first punch and blackened my eye. I was shocked and scared beyond belief. The next day he cried and apologised promising never to do it again.
What I didn’t realise was that by forgiving him I had given permission for the abuse to continue, and it did. He broke things that were special to me as a way to really hurt me — my cell phone, precious ornaments, and a photo frame with a picture of my deceased mother. He pushed, shoved and threw me across the room.
One night he came into the bedroom after he’d been out drinking and hit me about the head with a photo frame. I was covered in glass. Even though I was cut and bleeding he screamed at me to clean it up. I was too scared to argue and did as he said.
Did I call the police? Yes, a few times but all they would do was give him a stern warning that if they had to come back they would arrest him. Once they asked me to come with them to make a statement. I did, hoping it would shock him into stopping. It worked — for about three months.
The cycle. Yes the facts are true; there is a cycle to abuse depending on the abuser. Mine would wind up like a clock until he was wound up so tight, he would explode. He would cause an argument giving him the leeway to storm out to the nearest bar to fill himself with the alcohol needed to come back and do what he had to do — abuse me.
No matter what time in the evening he would do this, my son and I were so scared we would run to bed and stay there. He had managed to install the fear needed to keep me hostage. I was powerless.
His threats were relentless:
If you leave me, I’ll kill you and kill myself.
I’ll make sure you leave here only in a box.
I will cut you up into little pieces.
If you leave, I will hunt you down until I find you.
The worst thing was his constant finger tapping threat. He would sit at a table and tap his fingers repeating over and over again:
How much time do you have left, how much time?
I was desperately unhappy and lost, I didn’t know which way to turn and I was ashamed to tell people the truth. What few friends I had were constantly worried about me but none of them knew the real extent of the abuse because I didn’t tell them.
I struggled on with my life wishing and hoping that it would get better — too scared to leave and too scared to stay. I didn’t know what to do and the only way I survived was to struggle on day by day. I thought about killing myself but couldn’t bear to leave my son, who wasn’t his child. In my darkest moments, I nearly called his biological father to beg him to take him away.
Then everything seemed to change. He calmed down and reduced his drinking. He persuaded me to move again, this time to the US, to Alaska where my family lived. I thought it would be a new beginning, as my son was now a teenager who had dropped out of school and was getting into trouble. I knew these were symptoms of his troubled home-life and hoped that Alaska would make it all okay.
I was still in catatonic denial. Nothing would change.
The move to Alaska only succeeded in making him even angrier as once again he couldn’t find his way. Within months of being there, he had managed to upset my family — obviously in an attempt to isolate me.
His jealously became more and more extreme and one night he punched me in the face and dragged me across the room in a violent rage after coming home from yet another bar. I was too scared to use the phone and call the police in case he heard me from the bedroom. I thought he had passed out on the couch but I wasn’t taking any risks.
I waited until the next morning when I snuck out and went to my cousin.
She took me straight to the court house where I obtained a restraining order. I then went to the police and made a statement. Alaska took Domestic Violence seriously and I’d had enough.
I went back as if nothing had happened with my heart pounding to grab my son, dog and some clothes. I told him I needed to clear my head for a few days and was staying with family. He said nothing just glared at me with hatred in his eyes. I left without confrontation, but I was full of fear because I knew he would be issued with a copy of the restraining order.
Within days he was ordered to appear in court where the Judge, who had a copy of the police report, told him to leave the apartment within three hours. I had an armed female police officer standing right by me the whole time I was in court but still — I was afraid of him.
He complied, surprisingly as he had little regard for the law. And with my family’s help, I was back in my apartment. But I didn’t know where he was. I kept thinking he was hovering somewhere in the neighbourhood waiting for me. I had no choice but to walk the dog and each time my son came with me; he knew how afraid I was.
As I expected he violated the restraining order when he sent me a threatening email. I printed it off and took it to the police. They issued an immediate warrant for his arrest. My fear escalated so much that I went out and bought a gun and slept with it under my pillow night after night-wondering where he was.
But he’d gone. He fled Anchorage and the US, returning to Europe. I was free.
The court had given me the phone number of the Shelter in the city where I could go for counselling. I couldn’t wait to go and after a wonderful sympathetic session with a kindly woman, I agreed to join their group therapy sessions. Before I could get an appointment for my first session, I would call their hot-line and cry my eyes out. They listened and tried to help me understand that I’d made the right decision.
My first therapy session became an eye opener. There was a lovely woman and her daughter who had been brought up from Texas because it was too dangerous for them to stay there. She was being stalked by her ex and the authorities couldn’t find him. She told us that he’d set fire to her car. Another woman fled her home and all her belongings because her husband had put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger. She didn’t know it wasn’t loaded.
She told us about her lovely home and the great job she’d had, her family and friends — but it was all gone. It was too dangerous at that point to tell her loved ones where she was. Such was her fear, even though her ex was in the other side of the country, she was still afraid to step outside the shelter where she’d been for six weeks and couldn’t take a walk alone.
It seemed that Alaska was far away enough for most of the women, many of them taking new identities and wanting to settle there.
I was shocked to hear that many of the women had gone back to their abuser five times or more before finally making the break.
This scared me; it was the first time I had made the break, to go back and leave that many times felt like the worse punishment imaginable. I told myself this was it, fearful as I still was — I wasn’t going back.
I went to the shelter once every week, through the double locked doors into a place of healing and safety. I talked about my experiences and hugged women who cried about theirs.
There was so much pain in that room but there was also plenty of love and healing going on. I depended on the meetings and told myself I was getting stronger.
But it started again with more emails from him — they were softer and more apologetic. At first I didn’t buy it and snapped back, and then the phone calls began. The ‘I’m so sorry calls’ became more frequent and I began to let him back in.
Slowly he convinced me that it had been the shock he needed and he promised me that life would be different if I just left Alaska and came home. After months of calls he wore me down and I broke the news to my son — we were going back. He wasn’t happy about my decision at all, but he told me he was going to go with me because I needed his protection. Deep down I knew it was wrong and against my better judgement. I felt guilty for what I was putting my son through again; yet, still I went back to him.
It was hearts and flowers once more.
For a year it was okay, he was drinking less and there was no more abuse, but then I discovered he’d been seeing another woman and all hell broke loose on that fateful last day of our marriage.
I was so angry that I slapped him round the face, the first time I had ever dared to do such a thing. It was to be the most dangerous thing I could have done. He snapped and lunged towards me, punching me in the mouth, busting my lip.
My son, now 17 and bigger, stepped in to protect me. But he couldn’t as he was thrown to the floor with my ex’s hands around his neck slowly strangling him. I tried desperately to get him to stop but I couldn’t because I wasn’t strong enough.
Hysterical, I raced to my neighbour for help praying he was at home. He was. By the time we got back, my son was going blue and his eyes were popping — a sight I will never forget, as my neighbour used every ounce of his strength to pull him off at the same time screaming at me to call the police. I did. Hands shaking, I dialled and told them that my husband was trying to kill my son.
They were there with the speed of light. Eight of them. They took my husband away in handcuffs and my son was taken to the hospital. There was extensive bruising around his neck that took weeks to go away — a constant reminder for me that I would never let this man back into our lives. Ever. I was done. It was the end.
The fact that he’d done what he did to my son took me to another edge, the edge of reason like a hammer blow to the head, putting my brain in order after nine years,
He was charged with attempted manslaughter and thrown in jail for a few months. I obtained another restraining order but that made no difference to me. I knew he took little or no notice of pieces of paper and even though I’d started divorce proceedings I was so scared of what he would do to me when he was released, his words still rang in my ears.
If you leave me, I’ll kill you.
I knew he’d be raging that I ‘put’ him in jail and that he was left with nothing again at the mercy of his always forgiving parents. He had always blamed me for everything that was wrong in his life, but being put away for months on end would leave him with plenty of time to become angrier.
I didn’t see him again until the trial, ten months later. He was released early from jail awaiting trial. That had no meaning for me and I continued to live in fear. On the day I had to go to the court, I shook for hours before I was even in the court house. The utter humiliation of the press being there and the future coverage left me embarrassed and shameful.
But I was free and feeling like I’d been released from my captor. I slowly recovered, going from a victim to a survivor and I found myself again. In the beginning I had terrible nightmares and occasional panic attacks but with time and support from friends they diminished.
Today I live in relative peace. We moved and I was very careful who I gave my new address to. He doesn’t know where I am, I’m sure of that and I hardly give fear a thought these days. I feel that my son and I had a narrow escape. Who knows what would have happened if I’d had no-one to help us that day? The Judge in summing up at the trial called him a psychopath. She wasn’t wrong there. I know it now.
I refused to let him ruin the rest of my life and I’m doing well now, happy that my son took up his education again and now has a good job as well as continuing to study part-time. There is a life after abuse and it’s great. But first you have to get away, sooner rather than later, before it costs you your life or the lives of your children.
If you or someone you know is being abused, please check out these important links:
Domestic Violence Hotline number
This site explains the warning signs of abuse.
Internet safety for victims.
Thank you, Michelle, for sharing your story. And for the links above. I’m so glad you and your son made it out of such a horrible situation. And I appreciate your willingness and eagerness to tell your story — to reach out to others who may need help.
If you are a victim of domestic violence, please get help. No matter what your abuser says, it is not your fault and this is not your shame. That belongs to the abusers.
And just to show you that there is success after abuse — Michelle Wright is living her dream and is a published author.
Originally published on rhondahopkins.com. This post may have been briefly edited to fit the needs for this site.Follow Rhonda Hopkins/Navigating Family Court: