My Surviving Domestic Violence Story
My surviving domestic violence story is only one part of my life. A twelve year journey that taught me who I am at my core, strengthened my faith, and helped form the strong person I am today.
I met my first husband in American Samoa. I had been living there for nearly a year while working with an international missionary organization. He was confident, charismatic and part of a leadership team that had just arrived to run a 6 month class.
When we married, we had known each other for approximately nine (9) months, I had been home for a while, so we only spent approximately (6) six months together in American Samoa before leaving to marry in his country. I had gotten Dengue Fever within a few weeks of arriving at his family's home and was to sick to help with most of the wedding arrangements. My parents and grandmother flew in for the wedding and celebration. It was amazing! He, his family, and friends had done a fabulous job. It was a lavish church wedding, with a dinner reception and entertainment for over 100 friends and family.
Everything was perfect… until 3 days into our honeymoon! That afternoon we arrived in Hawaii, (2) two of his friends showed up at our hotel room door. I had just laid down for a nap when they barged in. He laughed and didn't try to slow them down. As my husband knew, I wasn't dressed for company and I awkwardly stayed under the sheet. He spoke with one friend near the foot of my bed at the little dining table, while I shared all of our wedding stories with the other friend that laid down on the second bed in the room. Half an hour later they left. My new husband was immediately angry, “I can't believe you were flirting with my good friend right in front of me. We are on our honeymoon. I can't believe you! Do you know how that makes me look? You don't respect me at all!”
I was completely shocked. Up to that moment, I had dated and married the man of my dreams. Our wedding had been so much more than I could have ever imagined. I was such a proud bride, and so blessed to be a part of a genuinely wonderful new family. That was all I could talk about. So what was he talking about? He had been feet away from me. How could he have misunderstood anything I was talking about... the fine details of our wedding, sit down dinner, and entertainment. I'd talked about how easy it was to get to know his family, how they had saved my life when I was so very sick, and many others in his country died. Flirting!? Suddenly, I was confused and nauseated. Lunch was in a large dining area setting. I put on a smile and choked down a few bites, but it took all I had to hide my shock and emotion.
We flew to the mainland and traveled to the Oregon coast where we settled into a friends cabin. The next day was more than a windy day on our honeymoon. As we parked the car at Cannon Beach, I noticed a large group of seagulls huddled together against the wind. I thought it would be a perfect picture to remind us of the day, and for any tough times we might face together. He didn’t want me to take the picture, but I promised it would only take a moment… and it did. As I got in the car, there was a violent verbal flood of words like I had never heard before. I looked at him in horror thinking he’d snap back to reality, but it didn't happen. I had never heard anyone talk to another person in such a derogatory way before, certainly not me. I was completely traumatized by the time we got back to the cabin. I ran in and locked myself in the bedroom thinking it was finally over. Unfortunately, for the next several hours he continued. At one point, he threatened to break a lamp. I finally had to talk to him, and explained that the cabin belonged to a family friend. If he broke the lamp we would have to explain what had happened. He replied, “Not if I burn this place down.” Suddenly, I was looking at the windows in the bedroom to make sure I could get out. Although we had days of sightseeing ahead of us, the honeymoon was officially over. I didn’t want him in my country, around any of my family, and I didn’t want to be any where near him.
Regrettably, we were married… and our families had invested a lot of money into our union. I felt I owed them my best. Morning came and with it a new focus… to get him away from my family as fast as possible. We still had a reception at home to attend with smiles, but I couldn’t wait for us to be on a plane to our next destination… and marriage counseling.
As the first year of our life threateningly volatile marriage went by, we had a new baby and finally got counseling. Things seemed to improve. Six months later, we took our baby and moved back to my husbands country. With the counselors recommendation, it seemed the improvements that had started in our marriage would continue. We were still part of the missionary organization and joined the leadership team on the island shortly after we arrived.
Things went smoothly for nearly 7 months when I became pregnant again. One day we were talking about a major purchase while visiting his parents. I shared my opinion, which didn't support his plans and he got upset. As I walked into the living room carrying our toddler, he grabbed me by my throat and threw me onto the couch. His parents came in yelling at him in their native language. My mother-in-law took our toddler and sat down right beside me. He told me to get ready to go as he called a taxi. He was irate! His parents were upset. I was scared beyond words, but felt I had to go for the safety of everyone, especially his parents. We got in the taxi and he continued to yell at me. I was wishing the taxi driver didn't speak English, but I knew very well that he did.
His words burned into my memory, “Some day you will push me to far and see what happens. If you ever even think about leaving me, I will take our son and give him to a relative on a remote island and you will never find him again. Who do you think you are...” he fumed from the front seat of the taxi. The taxi driver never looked in the rear view mirror. I knew culturally, he'd never do anything. We had a long bus ride ahead of us followed by a five mile walk on a single lane dirt road through the bush to our home. A friend had given me a pillow for our toddler to sleep on during the bus ride. I buried my face in the pillow and sobbed, hoping I hadn't already pushed him to far. To my surprise, when the bus arrived at our stop the village pastor also disembarked the bus. Instead of walking the rest of the way in the dark, we all rode the last five miles together in the village van.
I was so relieved when we finally got back to our place. I went straight to bed with our toddler. My mind was spinning. We lived over 4 hours away from the international airport, without a car. I was going to have to plan carefully. Morning came and he was still mad. We were supposed to be going to a leadership meeting when he irrupted again. At one point he threw me on the tile floor. I was able to role my hips slightly to protect my baby, while he had me pinned. I heard him say that he could throw my body in the jungle and no one would ever find it, not that anyone would be looking. I knew he was right, as I'd been told there were wild pigs in the jungle. I realized my inner voice the day before had been correct. That my biggest fear had actually been one of his thoughts. He told me there was no point in me going to the meeting as I had nothing of any value to offer. He got ready and left. I was relieved to be alone with my unborn baby and son. We walked on the white sandy beach to the nearby hotel as I cleared my head. I called my mom from the phone at the reception desk and quietly let her know we had to leave the country.
It took two months of quiet planning. I only shared what was going on with the Regional Director of our organization and my mom. Although I only met once with the Director in person, he was fully supportive, and helped me come up with a plan.
We were finally within a few hours of flying out when my husband caught up with us at the bank. I felt my knees buckle, but then the Director was right behind him. For a moment, I couldn't breath. Were they there to stop me... together? It couldn't be. The Director had made arrangements and paid for my taxi.
When my husband found out I left, he contacted the Director, who insisted on picking him up. They traveled together to find us. During their conversations my husband realized that it would be best to let us go and fix things later. He helped with hiring a truck and the luggage. Family and friends joined us at the airport as we left. My husband was already talking about us being together. I couldn't say anything. I was in his country with no parental rights, or any rights. I just had to get on that airplane with my son and leave.
The travel agent in the United States had given my plane ticket to a pilot flying to Hawaii. The pilot in Hawaii gave my ticket to this Quantas pilot. He delivered my ticket to the ticket lady behind the counter. He had been watching us the whole time. As my son and I boarded the plane, he reassured me that everything was going to be all right and wished me an enjoyable flight. The flight staff were very attentive and accommodating, although I felt like I'd been sucked into a deep fog, desperately needing sleep.
By the time I returned home, I was having complications with my pregnancy. Mom took me to the emergency room just to make sure baby was healthy. I was 5 months pregnant and my weight had steadily dropped to 115 lbs. Baby was fine, but the doctor recommended bed rest until all symptoms were gone. I got a restraining order and then had a few restful days.
Within the week he was on his way back to the mainland. He was so sorry and would make it up to us. All he wanted was to get the family back together and he would do whatever it took. He was very convincing to those around him. Family, and people at church were starting to wonder what I was making such a big fuss about. I was starting to look like the bad guy. Obviously, he loved us, had pursued us half way around the world, and just wanted to put his family together. Who wouldn't want that? It left the ball in my corner, and all eyes on me. I didn't want to see him. I didn't want him any where near me, my unborn baby, my son, or my family. I demanded counseling, individual counseling, and marriage counseling.
He did everything right and I felt obligated to do my part to make our marriage work. We got back together. Just like all the other times, almost immediately, he was back to his real self. Unfortunately, my due date was just around the corner. My body and baby couldn't take any more stress. I hoped things would improve, but had to keep my babies close. Luckily, over the next several years there were more good times than bad ones.
It didn't take long before I realized that he could get passports - from his country - for our American children - without my knowledge. That changed everything! Nothing was coming between me and my kids. I just had to wait for the kids to get older and do my very best to keep him happy.
One afternoon he had been upset, but I thought he had calmed down. I went into the kitchen to start cooking. I had cut up all the vegetables, left the knife on the counter, and moved over to the sink to rinse out the washcloth. He had continued to fume in the other room, and came in the kitchen to continue his rant. At one point, he picked up the knife up-side-down so that the blade was on the pinky finger side of his hand. He kept ranting as I tried to stay calm and act as if I hadn't noticed.
Suddenly in a fast motion, he lifted the knife up over his head as he stepped toward me and swung it down. I barely had time to inhale... the blade slammed down into the bottom of the stainless steal sink. It snapped from the force and flew across the sink ricocheting off the back, while the jagged metal edge attached to the handle made a second gouge in the stainless steel. The knife passed within inches of me and could have just as easily slit me straight down. I fell on the floor hyperventilating. He stepped over me and with a slight sarcastic laugh, called me a drama queen. The kids were in the same area with just a separation wall between us. They quietly stayed where they were as he stormed off. I quickly pulled myself together and spent the rest of the afternoon with my kids. The days events had left me in shock and nearly unable to function. Unfortunately, I didn't think that the police would do anything as he hadn't actually touched, or verbally threatened me.
Days later, he said, “if it wasn't for the kids, I wouldn't even be with you!” It was my perfect out. Although I didn't believe what I said, I thought about the right response and replied, “You deserve so much better. I will give you a divorce so you can start enjoying your life.”
I got another restraining order, great attorney, and a divorce. I won't say it was a short and easy split. It took determination, vigilance, and years.
Almost two (2) years after the divorce, a lady at work set me up with a wonderful man she had known for years. He worked for the same company, but in a different department. I am happy to say that with the kids blessing, we are happily married. He has a calm, gentle spirit, and a great sense of humor. All of the qualities I had mentioned to God in my prayers are qualities I see in him. I have finally found the man of my dreams.
Like my surviving domestic violence story, your story doesn't have to be a life sentence. I hope that you find everything you need on this website as you move through your season of domestic violence. Please remember, this website does not offer legal advise, or professional counseling.
I share my surviving domestic violence story with you to assist and inspire you. If we don't tell our stories, no one will know what domestic violence looks like as it hides behind closed doors.
Thank you for taking time to read my story.
Go to surviving-domestic-violence.com from my surviving domestic violence story