There are still many days when I question why I am writing this blog, and why I should proceed with my book. I really struggle because as I’ve shared many times, I would like to see it all go away, and as my sister commented on a previous blog, focus on the happy times ahead instead of the pain and suffering of my past.
While wrestling with it again over the weekend, I had a chance meeting with someone who changed forever how I view what happened and what I will do with what I know.
I received hundreds of get well cards while recovering in MCV. The sheer volume of concerned well-wishers sustained me. One very special card, however, contained a letter. That letter was both astonishing and life changing. The writer was someone I had known through a woman’s group for a few years. As I read her letter, I was at once shocked and comforted. Comforted to know I was not alone as I realized the chaos of what I had just experienced which seemed lost on all, was not lost on her. Shocked that someone else had been threatened with a gun by a verbally abusive husband. Surely this could not have happened to someone else?
In that very brief letter she revealed that when first threatened, she removed the bullets from the gun. She explained she did not know how to get the bullet out of the chamber and took it to a hunting sporting goods store to ask them for help. She then replaced the gun to where he kept it, all while he was at work. That night, while she prepared to leave, he put that gun to her head and pulled the trigger. Again and again, finally throwing the gun down.
Reading her story, I wondered if she had shared that, if I had known it, would I have done anything different? Seventeen months later I write this blog because the resounding answer every time I ask the question is yes. Yes. It would have been a wake up call to me. Through her story I would have seen that emotional abuse could be as or more dangerous than physical abuse. I would have realized that his threats were not idle. That he was capable of it. That ANYONE who demonstrates the behavior patterns both our husbands did is capable of it. That leaving would be the most likely time it would happen.
After that letter, I received another letter. Also from a woman I’d known for a few years. Then another. These women knew something I did not. That what happened to me was not an isolated ‘snapping’ as onlookers thought. It was the culmination of a series of degrading, humiliating, manipulative and controlling behaviors that crept into my life almost imperceptibly, and managed at the end to permeate every interaction.
These women and I are the face of domestic violence. They hid in the relief of having if finally over and behind them. I understand this response to seek safety after living in chronic emotional high alert and anxiety. As I try to leave the story for someone else to tell, I am called back to it over and over as the voice that was chosen to tell it. Some say because I have the courage to tell it. It is not courage though, it is conscience.
Andrew Jackson: One man of courage makes a majority
Lisette Johnson: One woman of conscience makes a majority.
“Tell whoso hath sorrow
Grief never shall last.
E’en as joy hath no morrow
So woe shall go past.”