Submitted By: Jovan, Survivor
Domestic violence affects millions of women, men, and children each year. For military families dealing with abuse, there are unique obstacles and stressors generally not faced by civilian families. In addition to service members struggling with the stress of deployment, frequent moves, combat assignments, and work-related issues, many military families also experience domestic violence.
For these families, the abused partner may keep their abuse quiet to avoid damaging their abuser’s career and reputation, be stonewalled by military police or other organizations when attempting to report the abuser, or face a problematic exit due to conflicting policies of military and civilian law enforcement organizations. Survivor Jovan, a former service member, shares her experiences being abused by her military husband and what led up to her leaving.
As a young single mother, Jovan struggled to support her 18-month-old son and decided to enlist in the Army. After enlisting, she met her husband, and, after a few months of dating, they decided to get married. In the beginning, as with most abusive relationships, it seemed like a dream come true. Her husband loved her in a way that no one else had. As she looks back over those early months, Jovan now recognizes there were red flags she missed, like how possessive he was of her.
After Jovan left the military to rejoin her husband, the abuse escalated.
Soon after they married, Jovan became pregnant with their first child together. At the time, they lived apart because they were both stationed in different locations. During this time, her husband began to pressure her to leave the military, because he was afraid Jovan would find someone better than him and leave.
Jovan did her best to reassure her husband that she was committed to him and would not leave him. Eventually, in an attempt to alleviate his insecurity about the distance between them, she decided to leave the military and relocate. Jovan, six months pregnant at the time, traveled across the country with her two-year-old son to be with her husband. Almost as soon as she moved, the physical abuse started.
Although she can still remember the first time he put his hands on her, Jovan is unable to remember the conversation that led up to his attack. She can recall getting scared before he started to strangle her – without regard for the fact that she was six months pregnant at the time. While Jovan could not understand why he attacked her, she decided that it was a one-time thing. He promised her that it would never happen again.
She was wrong. Over the next few years, Jovan endured more verbal and physical attacks, each one worse than the last. He would slap, kick, punch, and strangle Jovan in addition to throwing her around. During many of these attacks, he would be intoxicated. She suffered in silence and kept the abuse a secret from everyone she knew because she truly loved her husband and did not want to ruin his career in the military.
Her husband had control over the family finances and would give Jovan $500 a month for groceries. He set up a different bank account and refused to give her access to his. Every time she needed to buy something for her older son, he would become extremely irritated and instigated fights with her. When Jovan wanted to go back to work, he would become angry and tell her it was not a good idea because the kids were still young, and childcare was expensive.
His control over her covered all areas of her life. When Jovan expressed a desire to go to college, he would not allow her to go. She decided to wait until he was deployed to enroll in college, reasoning that it would give him time to cool off and get used to the idea. Deployment presented an opportunity for her to do things he would deny her when he was home, including when she wanted to buy things for the kids. It became normal.
Her husband’s increasingly violent attacks often occurred in front of the children, and her younger son tried to intervene to protect her.
Over time, the abuse escalated, and Jovan’s husband became increasingly aggressive and threatening to her. He held knives to her neck, punched her in the face several times, and threatened to kill her as he strangled her until she blacked out. Without regard for the danger to everyone in the car, Jovan’s husband choked and punched her as she drove and later punched out the truck window.
Her children, who saw and heard every fight, would cry and get scared. Jovan remembers that her younger son would bite his bottle and try to push his dad off her when she was being attacked. There were many times where she blacked out, thinking that she was dying, but she thankfully always woke up.
During the last few years of their marriage, Jovan remembers just wanting to die. She could only wait for him to explode in rage at her again, and she hoped that he would just take her life so it would be over. However, she did not want to leave her kids behind, and they were a source of strength for her despite having to carry the secret of the abuse silent.
One of the last dark moments of Jovan’s life was when her husband beat her and then threw her head into a plastered wall, causing a bloody nose and swelling and bruises on her face. Afterward, as he held a gun to her head, she thought she was going to die. Her children screamed and cried in fear, and Jovan feared for their safety. For several hours, Jovan held on to the gun and talked her husband down. When she was finally able to calm him down, she took the gun away.
The last time Jovan was attacked, her older son feared so much for her life that he took his younger brother to the neighbor’s house to call the police.
After that attack, he passed out, but Jovan was not able to sleep. Just like the many times before, she pretended it did not happen. The next morning, she started patching up the huge hole in the wall he threw her into the night before. While she wishes that she could say that it was the last time, it was not. It happened one final time.
This time, her older son called the police because he was scared that his dad was going to kill his mom. He was brave, and his actions ended up saving Jovan’s life. He grabbed his little brother, walked to a neighbor’s house, and called the police. After she left, she filed for a two-year protective order and a divorce.
“Since then, we’ve been doing fine starting over. I look back and realized that for the ten years of abuse I endured, I was extremely lucky to make it out alive. It’s not easy, and we still struggle. We have our moments, and we are still healing as a family – but life is good.”
**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page.
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