Trying to Escape When You Can’t Explain – by Katy
One of our readers, Katy, has very kindly sent us this story.
In the beginning of my marriage I had no clue what abuse was, nor that I was being abused. I did not have the vocabulary for what was happening to me. I am also a very introverted person so I think this added to my difficulty. Although my husband physically threatened me early in the marriage, I believed that I was not being abused because he didn’t follow through on the threat.
The only thing I knew for sure was that he was “cruel”. This was the only word I had to describe my daily interactions with him. After a year of marriage and the birth of our first child, I made my first escape attempt. That afternoon he had been particularly nasty, yelling into my face for a long period of time. He hovered 2-3 inches away from my face but was careful not to touch me. He kept up the yelling and followed me around the house, keeping his mouth 2-3 inches from my head the whole time as I tried to shield myself. I remember him yelling things like “How do you like this? Huh? I’m going to make you pay! I’m going to give you a taste of your own medicine!” (I can’t remember what started this tirade – I wasn’t allowed to have opinions so that usually provoked him. Even now, looking back on this episode, I have struggled to put it into words.)
After a while I was crying. My instincts were to slap/shove him to stop the abuse (although I didn’t dare), and I felt this proved that I was an evil wife because I wanted to strike my own husband! He finally left me in a heap on the bedroom floor, apparently satisfied for the moment. He went back to work in the backyard on a shed he was building. I was cowering in the house, crying, begging God to help me. I kept saying over and over again “He’s so cruel. He’s so cruel”. I had no other words. It was totally confusing.
At that moment I just wanted to flee. I had no other thoughts in my head besides getting away from him. I grabbed my infant daughter, threw some clothes in a bag, and snuck out the front door. My car was parked out front. I quickly got in the car and took off.
My parents lived 3 states away. I had no other friends or family. I got on the highway and headed toward my parents, but stopped at a gas station to make a collect call. (I did not have a cell.) My dad answered the phone. The conversation went like this:
“Dad. Please let me come. I have to leave. He’s cruel dad.”
“Katy what do you mean? Did you have a fight?”
[Here’s where I start floundering. “fight” is not the right word for this]
“It’s not a fight. Not a fight! He’s CRUEL Dad! I can’t explain!”
“Well did he hit you?” – [he says this calmly, like he’s talking to a young child, and I know that I’m failing]
“No he doesn’t hit me. But. .. but”
“Well then I’m sorry. You can’t come here. You can’t run away from your marriage. If you’re having a fight you need to work it out. I will pay for you to see a marriage counselor if you need it.”
So I turned my car around, because I had nowhere else to go. I cried the whole way back.
When I got there, I discovered my dad had called the house and talked to my husband and offered to pay for marriage counseling. My dad said he “wasn’t taking sides”. I knew then that it was over. Unless my husband started beating me, there was no way out. I stayed another 6 years, and had two more children, before things got bad enough and my parents accepted that we had to get away.
Even now, my parents don’t really understand “abuse” the way that I do. My dad had a terrible temper when I was growing up, and treated us badly, so my parents don’t understand the abusive mindset (of entitlement and control). They view a bad temper as a character flaw that needs some counseling, and my dad was raised Catholic so he still has some Catholic attitudes about marriage and self-sacrifice.
I am going to break the generational cycle of ignorance and abuse, by raising my daughter and sons to understand the abusive mindset and red flags. Whatever else life brings, I don’t want them to suffer needlessly under a yoke of evil! I love my parents and I don’t blame them, but this has taught me a great lesson in trusting and validating my children’s experiences without discounting what they say.
When we meet evil face-to-face, we often don’t have the language to express it. I could easily have said that my husband was evil, but if you call another person “Evil” you risk not being taken seriously. “Cruel” was the only other word that I had. Now I have another word: ABUSE.