When I was a little girl, too many years ago now to contemplate, I adored the story of Cinderella. She was my favorite storybook character, my heroine. Too far away, and too different from me, to be real, but I loved her story of winning over the evil stepmother and stepsisters, landing the one and only Handsome Prince Charming, and living, “happily ever after” in the castle, happy, loved, and beautiful.
What girl didn’t love that story? What girl didn’t want to BE Cinderella? Not the Cinderella of “sitting in ashes and cinders” fame, but the “glass slipper” Cinderella. Just before midnight Cinderella. The Cinderella of the ball, and of the happy ending of the fairy tale.
Growing up, making too many mistakes to ponder, living a life I was ashamed of, trying to be a wife to an abusive man, and mother to my precious children, protecting them from violence and abuse as much as I was able, I never realized I was the “ashes and cinders” Cinderella, for real. It’s a painful reality to see yourself without blinders, looking full in the mirror without makeup covering bruises or evidence of the days and nights of sobbing, depression and agony from that kind of life.
I left and then returned too many times to count. Two months after my fifteen year-old Jordan died suddenly, Robbie and I spent a month in a women’s shelter, only to return. I would feel guilty, talk to him or to one of his family members who would tell me how sorry he was, and I would return. But he was never sorry for what he did to me and the children, and never acknowledged his wrongdoing. He wanted to make ME sorry for leaving him, for “abusing” him, and would punish and hurt me any way he could. The physical violence that left marks, bruises or broken bones, became verbal abuse that was so hurtful I had difficulty ever recovering enough to function. If he left evidence of the abuse once, he would change his tactic and do something that wouldn’t leave a mark. He knew my weaknesses, knew what I loved in life ~ my children, my family, my friends, my God, my faith. He knew my compassionate heart, and used it to punish me further. He knew I never wanted to hurt anyone. He knew I prayed every day, and he mocked me for it. And he knew that if he threatened to take the kids, then after Jordan died, just Robbie away, it would crush me. He blamed me for Jordan’s death, (a brain hemorrhage) telling me I made bad decisions at the hospital, effectively “killing” her and hurting my family, on purpose. Over and over and over…
He hit me, with an open fist, or the back of his hand, across my face or anywhere else. He threw things at me, once yanking a towel ring off the bathroom wall, throwing it at my head while I was taking a bath. I put my hand up to protect my face and it broke my finger. Ironically, it was my left ring finger. He grabbed me, running me around the house with my feet barely touching the ground, even when I was very pregnant with my son. He locked me out of the house more than once, with my children inside screaming for their mother. He shoved me down in chairs several times, once when I was nine months pregnant. He drove erratically with me in the car, speeding, screaming at me, when I was nine months pregnant with my daughter. He shoved me into walls, counters, and doors. He spanked me with a remote control leaving bruises on my bottom and my lower back and thighs. He threw things at me. He threw hot coffee and other beverages in my face on many occasions. He spit a mouth full of mouthwash in my face burning my eyes. He spit a mouth full of spit in my face on several occasions. He pushed me down in a chair and sat on me once, knocking me out of the chair, bruising or cracking ribs, almost knocking my head into a desk before we fell on the floor with him sitting on top of my chest. He jumped on the hood of my car with me locked inside with the engine running & in reverse, pounding on the windshield until it broke, screaming at me to come back inside the house. He pulled my hair out until my scalp bled. He scratched my arm and hand with his fingernails trying to take my purse, phone or keys away from me. He punched holes in doors and walls. He broke glasses, mugs, and personal items including my cell phone in his rages. He would get next to my ear and scream trying to damage my hearing, many times. He would scream and spit in my face, inches from my face. Once when he did this, just days before I finally left, his face suddenly contorted into something I can only describe as demonic. It scared me to the core.
He berated me constantly, keeping me upset and off-balance. He told me I was worthless, ugly, repulsive, disgusting, that no one would ever want me. No one could stand me. I was a liar, a thief, a criminal. I was pathetic. It was my fault I didn’t have money, a descent car, a descent home. My fault our children didn’t have what they needed. Why his family was having financial problems. Why his business faltered and had problems. Everything was my fault. He told me I was a terrible mother. He was ashamed of me, and ashamed to be seen with me. And told me the kids were ashamed to be seen with me too. He said my family hated me. I was crazy, unstable, psychotic, irrational, ridiculous and a “psycho-bitch”. He couldn’t stand to be near me. It was a burden that he had to live with me.
He would video and audio record me trying to collect “evidence of my instability”. He would stage an altercation with me, and purposefully cause me to become hysterical or irrational, knowing he was recording it. He then, threatened to use the recordings as “evidence of my instability” and threaten to take the children away from me forever, have me medically evaluated and observed, and have me committed or institutionalized. He threatened to take me to court, sue me for a half million dollars, take the children from me, prevent me from contacting the children, charge me with child abuse, criminal fraud of all sorts, and send me to prison for the rest of my life. I lived in constant fear of losing everything I held dear. I lied to everyone I knew about the situation to cover up for my life, and to protect myself from losing my children or my life to prison or worse.
He told me, more than once, that he would never let me leave with the kids, particularly Robbie. He made me fear for my life, that if I ever left and took Robbie, I would “live to regret it for the rest of my life”. I truly believed he would kill me, or have me imprisoned/committed, if I tried to leave and take the children.
Less than a month before my 15 year old daughter died, from a brain hemorrhage Thanksgiving 2006, she begged me to leave. She laid her head down in my lap crying. The Tormentor had screamed at her ,and she was in a ton of trouble because she kept forgetting to take a vitamin. Jordan had retinitis pigmentosa, and her doctor prescribed vitamin A to try to stop the deterioration of her retinas. She kept forgetting to take it. She thought if she put it with her toothbrush and contact solution in the bathroom, she might remember it. He tore into her for moving her vitamins to the bathroom, and shamed us both. He declared that vitamins and medicine was to be kept in the kitchen only. She came to me so upset over this incident, and my heart broke for her. What did it truly matter? Is it relevant for vitamins to be kept in a particular place in the house? Isn’t it more important that she keep it where she remembered it? I let that beautiful angel down, and I will carry the burden for the rest of my life, that I made her endure torture, repeatedly, because I was too afraid to leave. I’ll never forget the moment she laid her head in my lap, and I stroked her hair, both of us crying, and I kept telling her how sorry I was. What I wouldn’t give just to turn back time and let her have even a few weeks of peace…
When women say they can’t leave an abusive relationship, I understand. Even when faced with my daughter begging me to leave, I couldn’t do it. I was making one huge mistake. I hadn’t turned the situation truly, over to God. I didn’t follow God’s lead and leave, even when I knew in my heart I needed to go. But when I finally did listen and obey, miracles in my life began to happen.