(Guest blog by my dear cousin, Patsy Aldridge Pennington)
When first asked, I had no immediate recollection of what ultimately made me leave. Trying to erase memories for 40 years results in some blurriness. It wasn’t the first black eye. My boss had downplayed the fact that my eye had been in the way of an angry fist. “There are worse things in a marriage than being hit,” she stated. Her indifference didn’t encourage me to return to work for co-workers to gawk and speculate. Instead I took refuge with my small son at my aunt’s farm. The time away was healing.
Healing enough to tolerate more. There were no statistics then to indicate it takes leaving seven times before it sticks. I wasn’t aware of the considerable number of women being smashed about weekly, or sometimes daily. Actually labeling the horror had not yet occurred, at least to my knowledge.
Stares occurred, but never drew questions when unsightly bruises on my legs appeared. That didn’t make me leave because I really did fall over the toy in my den. The force behind my fall was unnecessary to divulge.
Nor was the force that suddenly awakened me early one morning. I screamed. Above my head, whiskey breath from an all-nighter at who knows where, he glared down at me. This episode quickly escalated into yet another punching bout. I couldn’t leave then; he’d again convinced me it was my fault. Later, at lunch, smiles and honey greeted me. The all-too-familiar scenario played out: pleading to stay, convincing me of my mistakes, soothing kisses of undying love, persuading me that this was the last time.
Walking on eggshells remained. Which minutia would next incite him? Then threaten, seize, punch, shove, repeat, repeat, repeat. Once when he faltered for an instant, I dashed out to a neighbor’s apartment. She immediately called the police. Upon their arrival, I went in and gathered things for mother’s once again… with all intentions to stay. Yet he found me.
Insincere promises are never perceived as such when one is completely worn down. A second black eye wasn’t convincing enough to make me leave forever. I lied that I was “hit in the eye with a baseball” while practicing with my son. This time a visit to the ophthalmologist was necessary. Only to return to “YOU provoked me!” “If YOU had not done so-and-so…” “YOU made me so upset!” Accusations so strong and unrelenting it was difficult not to be submissive.
Intimidate. A major control method used by abusers. Threaten. Another scheme of which I was unaware controlled my believing he would never, ever hurt me again. He loved me.
Unfortunately his twisted love didn’t deter him from slamming me against the kitchen wall. As he smashed my face and thrust the cold barrel of a newly acquired pistol to my temple, chills went down my spine with each bitter threat whispered. Maybe I had provoked him, but his violence had definitely escalated.
A few days later, I don’t know if it was an unconscious number seven or an actual number ten, but when I was snatched in the hallway for his all-too-frequent ritual, this time I grabbed the nearest object… my grandmother’s ceramic black cat… and daringly made solid contact on top of his head. As he dropped to the floor I frantically ran with my son NEVER to return.
Pink dominates October for Breast Cancer Awareness. But Purple is of equal importance in October as it denotes a sinister cancer too… Domestic Violence.
From The National Network to End Domestic Violence: The question is NOT “Why didn’t the victim leave.” The better question is “Why did the abuser choose to abuse?”
Living as a victim of Domestic Violence is a truly wicked existence. But there IS help now.
Domestic Violence Hotline: http://www.thehotline.org/