Today is July 22. It's an anniversary of sorts for me. Three years ago today... July 22, 2006. It was the day I made the most important decision of my life. It was the day I said, "Enough!" It was the day I finally decided to leave my abusive husband.
It's not like it happened out of the blue. No woman lives in that kind of nightmare without dreaming of freedom. The trick is getting to the point where you are ready to turn those dreams into reality.
Did I stay so long because I was weak? I don't think so. It was fear that kept me there. It was a mother's worst fear that forced me to stay. It was the fear of losing my child.
I think I first wanted to leave in early 2002. My illness resulted in the so far sporadic incident of abuse to escalate into near daily violence. No, he didn't beat me up. There were no black eyes or broken bones. He was a "careful" abuser. He wasn't going to leave obvious signs of what was going on.
It was happening every day and I nev knew what to expect. He would pull my hair, push me down, throw things at me, slap me, crush my hands... It was constant little things but it was still abuse.
On that day in 2002, I was feeling very upset by what my husband had done to me the night before. He helped me take a bath, put on my pajamas, and get settled in bed. Then he went downstairs to his computer for many hours. I had asked him to bring me up a snack and he said he would. It was 3:00 am before he returned upstairs. I was asleep.
He was furious when he walked into the room and saw that I had rolled over and was no longer in the position he had left me in. He had brought a banana upstairs for me and he angrily threw it at me. it hit me in the nose. Then he grabbed my ankles and pulled me back over to the edge of the bed. Finally he jumped on top of me. Using his finger like a pen, he roughly printed letters on my face to yell at me for moving. "I put you where I wanted yo!" He made me feel like a dog as he kept telling me to stay. I cried and went back to sleep. It was all I really could do.
I felt much braver the next day. I calmly spoke as he lay in bed. "When I'm better and strong again, if you ever treat me like that, I will take our son and leave."
My husband was not about to be threatened. He said he was taking JD now and I would never see him again. he grabbed the baby out of his crib and left the house. He was gone much of the day. I was terrified that he wouldn't come back. I really believed I wouldn't ever see my child again.
He did return. I apologize over and over again. I told him I'd never leave him. I told him he's a perfect husband and has never hurt me. At that moment, I would have said or done anything to keep my baby with me.
"It's not that I love you and JD" he said. "You are my possessions. I won't let anyone take my possessions away from me."
The threat was clear. If I wanted my child, I had to stay in that house. and that meant enduring the abuse. I would do it for JD. I would do anything for him. Besides, I knew if I did leave and we went to court, no judge would ever give a deaf-blind mother custody of a small child. I had no choice but to stay. And so, the years passed and my hardship continued.
What changed? As far as the abuse, nothing. If anything, it got worse. I figured one of these days, he really would beat me to the point that I would need medical attention. Then maybe the secret would come out. Or maybe I would lie about what happened to protect my husband. just like many other women of abuse.
My savior came in the most unexpected form. As the saying goes, "Out of the mouth of babes." It was JD who finally helped me understand what I needed to do. It was my five year old son who gave me the strength to escape.
His little fingers formed the letters and words that would begin our quest for freedom. "Daddy is bad because he hurts you."
Suddenly it was all clear. I wasn't protecting JD by staying in this hellhole. I was hurting him more. I was keeping him in an environment in which he would watch his father abuse his mother. And most often, he'd be the one to comfort me as I lay crying on the floor. He wasn't being physically hurt, but he was still very much a victim of abuse. I couldn't let that continue.
That happened on July 21, 2006. The next day was a Saturday. My husband was at work. As usual, the dog had pooped on the floor because he never let her out. The house was a mess. I could barely move around with all the clutter. JD was playing on the dirty carpet while watching TV. His words echoed in my head. "Daddy is bad because he hurts you."
I had reached my limit. At that moment, I was done. Without really thinking about what I was going to do, I picked up my Braille Note and sent an email to my mother. I admitted to her what she had already known for years. I told her that my husband abused me. I asked her to help get me and JD out of there. That email set it all in motion. It was a simple plea for help. "Please, get me out of here."
Three years later, I'm free. I live in peace and happiness. There's no more fear. There's no more pain. JD is with me. I went to court and I was wrong. The judge did give a deaf-blind woman custody of a small child. He did it because he knew I was the right parent to raise this child. My disability didn't matter.
I don't live in the past. I try not to look back. What happened is over. It's the future that counts.
Still, it's hard to forget. The pain, the fear and the emotions that led to my decision... They will always be with me. But as I sit here on July 22, 2009, I look back on that day not with sadness, but with relief. It's the day I decided to live again.
(Written on July 22, 2009)