Following a Shameless Survivors facebook post which framed domestic violence being not just about physical violence, but also verbal violence, I received an offline response from a brave woman who shared her story with me. She has generously allowed me to share a portion of her journal that is very moving, and perfectly articulates how destructive (and in my case potentially lethal) verbal violence can be. It is violence that batters from the inside out and is as emotionally painful as being thrown against a wall or pushed down and kicked; an insidious violence from which healing takes tremendous effort and time.
“I could tell the night was going down quickly. Wes had been drinking heavily all day bourbon included. He kept ranting and raving about what an asshole his Dad was and how badly he had been treated as a child. My attempts to soften the blows were rebuffed so I thought it better to make a quick escape to the bedroom and call it a night for myself. I had considered having another drink myself but decided against it. Not with the mood Wes was in. So I slipped off and went to bed about 11:00.
Sometime around 1:00am he comes bursting into the room flipping the lights on and demanding to know where the dental floss was. I told him it was on the counter. No it’s not F’ing there Charlotte! Not wanting to anger him anymore I hopped out of bed and went to retrieve it for him. All the while he is behind me telling me how F’ckd up I am and why can’t I ever put things back where he left them. I’m always moving things around and forgetting where I put them. This is true of me, I know. In silence I hand him the floss and return to bed. He sits down in the living room. I figure I am in the clear.
Around 2:00am he bursts in the room again demanding to know where his underwear is. He starts screaming at me how I am such a piece of shit and am a poor excuse for a wife, I don’t clean, I don’t do laundry. (I have all his laundry done and it is all put away in his drawer but I don’t dare speak not wanting to enrage him further) “What you don’t have anything to say for yourself? What the F is wrong with you!” I fling the covers over my head. He tries to pull the covers off me. I hold on with a death grip he can’t get them off. I choke back hot tears. He comes around to the side of the bed and leans down to my ear and starts talking in almost a whisper. He says you know you really are a piece of shit. You can’t do anything. You are stupid. You are weak. So weak in fact you can’t even pull it together enough to go to work half the time. You can’t even take good care of our son. You have to take pills just to function. I don’t know why I ever bothered with you. I continue to say nothing hiding under the covers. Fine, you aren’t going to answer me – you weak piece of shit! Go ahead keep hiding like you always do and go crawl into that little hole you came from. (I hate when he talks in my ear like that, it makes me feel like he is right and that I am the smallest person in the world.) He walks out and slams the door.
I leap up out of bed and unscrew the light bulbs enough so he can’t turn them on suddenly again. And old trick I learned long ago. I lay back down and pull the covers back over my head. I feel the tears begin to burn and a deep despair and sobbing that moves from the tips of my toes up through my entire body. I lay there curled up in a ball wanting to puke. I feel so small and I wish I would just die. I think he is right, I am weak no other person would put up with this shit. I get just what I deserve. I want to just get up and run away from here and never look back sometimes. I do get up and sneak a peak down the hallway. Wes seems passed out in the chair listening to his headphones. I sneak across the hall way to my son’s room. By the grace of god Michael still sleeps. If I had any balls I’d pack him up in the car and run. But instead I sit on the floor next to him holding his little hand and just pray. For him, for me, for strength, for Wes.
I slip back into my room and go to the bathroom and write this event in my journal as a shrink once said I should keep a journal. No more tears fall. After reading this I don’t need any more entries. I have 5 years of journals with the same entries. Tomorrow will be the same. Wes and I will dance the familiar dance. Mine of being silent and angry. He won’t remember what he said to me much less apologize anymore. He may go a day without drinking but then we all start all over again. I am left to carry the weight of his words day after day. A counselor once said to me, Charlotte you have to accept that you are the wife of an alcoholic. That comment angered me for days. But it is my true reality. It is not the reality I show the rest of the world. To the world I’m intelligent ready to finish a college degree, I’m funny, an excellent mama, a good friend, role model, and am a dependable worker. At home I’m worth nothing. Because I can’t stand up to the madness that is destroying me. However, one day these worlds will collide, I’m sure. For now – This is ½ of me nearly every day.”
I feel powerfully connected to this writer. Her view of her world brings back the inescapable emptiness I felt too many nights to count, having experienced so many of the same types of exchanges. I didn’t believe it then, but I know now I did have a choice. Was it a hard choice? Absolutely. It turned out to be a deadly choice in my case. But I had it and I finally made it and I will never look back to regret it.
I also know that while alcohol exacerbates abusive tendencies, it does not create an abuser. I feel the counselor, probably untrained in DV, did Charlotte a disservice by dismissing abusive behavior and leading her to believe her husband’s abuse was the result of alcoholism rather than his choice to abuse. None the less, our beliefs about ourselves within the relationship keep us tethered to it.
*names have been changed to repect anonymity