You Can Stop the Misery – One Woman’s Experience
By Mary Cowser
I should first say my only qualification for writing on this topic is my personal experience with domestic violence. I’m not an expert nor do I have any formal training. After the abuse, I went on to live a happy and productive life. I made mistakes when making my escape, so, consequently, you may learn from my “what not to do moments” as well.
Those of us over 50 are beginning a new phase of our lives. It should be a wonderful and exciting time with peace of mind and fewer worries… not suffering. Sadly, I’ve seen people endure abuse for decades from the same or different abusers. If this is you, there is now help and I beseech you to seek that help.
Who are the Abused? The next time you are in a crowded place, look around and pick out four women. Statistically, approximately one of those women is now experiencing or will experience abuse sometime in her life. The exact numbers are hard to pin down, but without a doubt, it’s an epidemic in our country. This crime is not limited to women. Domestic violence against men exists as well. Unfortunately, most incidents go unreported.
Here’s the scary one. Domestic violence takes the lives of approximately three to four women daily in this country. This crime doesn’t discriminate. It affects people from anywhere, any age, either sex, any income, education level, any race, or religion.
What is Domestic Violence? For most people, the first thing that comes to mind is a man physically beating his wife. However, when anyone abuses his or her intimate partner in any way, whether physical or verbal, it’s domestic violence.
Unbelievably, some people are unaware it’s happening to them. I should say they have convinced themselves it’s not happening. “Sure, my partner gets angry and tells me I’m stupid at times, but he or she doesn’t hit me so it couldn’t be abuse,” they frequently remark. That’s so wrong. That’s just one example of how the abuser is able to convince the victim that abuse is not happening. Nevertheless, it is happening and sadly, the abuse usually increases in frequency and severity.
Mental or verbal abuse comes in many guises. If your partner says things to make you afraid, humiliated, insecure, worthless, sad, hopeless, or controls you in any way, you’re experiencing abuse.
Here’s the one that amazes me. The abuser turns it around and convinces the victim it’s his or her own fault and they bring it on themselves.
Of course, physical abuse is straightforward. The abuser inflicts bodily harm on the victim. In addition, they keep the victim from leaving with threats of more beatings. Sadly, in many cases, abusers threaten or actually carry out the threat to kill the victim.
My Experience: I received most of the abuse that I’ve mentioned above and more. He tried, but was unable to convince me I was stupid so he tried making me a prisoner in my home. I could only go to work and the store. Abusers have a way of convincing the victim they will harm them if they do not obey. Therefore, I did as he told me.
I tried leaving several times. He stalked and terrorized me into coming back. After I tried to leave, he took me to a secluded area. He had a gun and said he was going to kill me, then himself. I believed him. This terrifying experience happened several more times and became more convincing each time.
I became afraid to leave, but I refused to be his prisoner any longer. That’s when the physical abuse began. It happened only twice. The first was a punch in the face. The second was a beating with the buckle end of a belt. That was it for me.
Back then, there was no help. The police and a lawyer both told me that it was my word against his. In addition, they said a restraining order would most likely only make him madder. There were no shelters or hot lines for abused people back then. I was on my own, but I was determined to put an end to this nightmare.
A few days later, with the car packed, I waited for him to come home. I told him he could beat me or kill me, but it would be better than staying there with him. Fortunately, that worked for me, but I know now I was extremely lucky.
Don’t Do This: Please do not follow my example and leave while the abuser is present. The most dangerous time is when you leave. It’s especially dangerous when it has elevated to the level of physical abuse and death threats as in my case. However, even if the abuse is mental, you should not leave when the abuser is present. It’s still a very dangerous time.
In addition, do not let the abuser talk or threaten you into coming back. Just after returning is another time when you are in the most danger. The abuser could be planning to hurt or even kill you when you return.
Because of my experience,I have mixed feelings about restraining orders. I suggest you research the laws in your area and consider your specific situation to decide what’s best for you.
If possible, make a plan. Enlist people you trust. Try to go somewhere that the abuser knows nothing about. If necessary, there are now shelters where you and your children can be safe until you can make other arrangements. The numbers and websites below have great information for making advance preparation and other information.
If you are in immediate danger, call 911. Abuse and stalking are now illegal.
Recovery: If you are reading this and you know you’re in an abusive situation, the time to begin the healing is right now. When my abuser tried to destroy my self-esteem, I refused to let it happen. I knew I wasn’t stupid or any of the other things he said. I was not about to let him convince me otherwise. I knew it wasn’t my fault. Why would I possibly bring any of that misery on myself? I wouldn’t and neither would you.
No one in their right mind would treat a person they’re supposed to love in that manner. I repeatedly reminded myself that he was the one with the problem…not me. Abusers are insecure and deeply disturbed. If they can control you, it makes them feel powerful.
When you’re free, counseling and the support of people who care for you helps to get past the pain. However, your knowledge that you overcame a horrible situation that was not your fault is the best defense and cure. Begin to create a new life for yourself and children if you have them. Learn to take care of yourself. You’ll quickly realize you’re not a bad person, but someone who is deserving of happiness. Be proud of your accomplishments.
If you’re in an abusive situation at this time, please do not stay. Help is available. Be strong and remember that you do not deserve the treatment you’re receiving. #DomesticViolence
THE NATIONAL DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE at 1-800-799-7233