Written By: *Jackie, Survivor
Domestic violence has far-reaching effects on all family members living in a home where abuse occurs. Growing up in a home with abuse increases a child’s risk of harm in several ways. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, between 30 – 60% of abusers will also abuse the children who live with them. Additionally, living in and experiencing violence at home makes a child 15 times more likely to be physically or sexually assaulted than those who do not.
Survivor Jackie shares with us how the abuse she experienced escalated across two decades, the abuse her children suffered, and what made her decide it was time to leave. Find out how she left and where she and her children are now.
Jackie was with her abuser for almost twenty years the day she decided to leave with her children. Despite being together for so long, they had never married, a fact for which she is now thankful. She entered into that relationship as a practicing Christian and left as an agnostic witch. And, while she went into that relationship compliant, Jackie says she left on fire against injustice.
The abuse started early in the relationship, but like so many other victims, she did not really see it as abuse. Jackie was not aware that rape could happen between two people in a relationship, and the only “grooming” she had heard about was of pedophiles priming their child victims to be abused. At the time, she was twenty.
Jackie was invited to her soon-to-be abuser’s home under the guise of a bible study, but she soon discovered that he had other intentions.
When Jackie went over to his place to spend time with him, she discovered that he had ulterior motives. He invited her to a bible study and even told her to bring her bible. When he turned on a pornographic film, Jackie told him that she did not want him playing it in the background because it made her really uncomfortable. She was not there for sex and tried to push back against his advances.
One thing led to another; her boundaries started to fall, but she still did not want to be intimate with him. He continued to press her, and she played along because, she says, it was not violent. This would ultimately become the underlying pattern of most of their sexual encounters. Any time that Jackie attempted to initiate any intimacy with him, he would tell her that it was a turn-off.
Then there was the emotional manipulation. He showered Jackie with love and kindness when she had money or when he needed something from her. However, when she needed him, she often felt like an inconvenience. Throughout their relationship, he remained unfaithful to her. When she first met him, he had one son. They had two kids together, and while they were together, he also fathered five other children with several other women. Jackie would not have been surprised if she found out there were more children out there somewhere.
He was also incredibly verbally abusive and a master gaslighter. Jackie was lied to so frequently that it is now unnerving for her to think about how she just dealt with it. She genuinely believed that it was as good as she was ever going to get. He would tell her that she could do her hair how she wanted and wear what she wanted but always criticized her or contradicted himself by telling her that she was not allowed to make her own choices and even threatened her that if she did not do what he wanted, he would stop talking her. She was always confused by this.
Her children were not immune to the threat of verbal and physical violence, and she later learned about disturbing behavior toward her children.
He was mean to Jackie’s children and played favorites concerning how he treated them. He often verbally and physically abused them, although she was able to stay his hand for the most part. Jackie also later learned from her children that he was sexually inappropriate with them. He invited her younger, ten-year-old child into the room with him and one of his male friends to watch porn. Her older child also revealed to her that he did something very similar to him. Jackie was horrified and shocked and found herself unable to understand the motives behind it.
Jackie struggles with maintaining her weight and describes herself as being awkward. She also believes that she may be autistic like her children because they are so much alike. While her children have been officially diagnosed, Jackie is still trying to get someone to listen to her concerns so she can be evaluated.
When she met her ex, she says that was incredibly vulnerable, naïve, and compliant. Over time, Jackie started to stand up for her children and herself regarding the way he was mistreating all of them, and this caused an increase in tension and argument between them. Behind closed doors, he was cruel and manipulative. He would tell Jackie, “Don’t go telling our business. What happens here stays here.” Usually, it would be followed up by scaring the kids with horror stories about what happens to children in foster care. He also threatened that he would kill her and the children and anyone she became involved with after him.
His cruelty had caused Jackie’s children to become suicidal and self-loathing, and they hated themselves for not liking him. Jackie’s approach to parenting includes not pressuring her children to conform to gender roles or feel as though they had no choice but to be straight. Her abuser, on the other hand, regularly threatened to disown them if they were gay. After a while, his threats against the children turned into those of physical harm and death. Jackie took this as her cue to begin formulating a plan to escape the abuse with her children.
After a final assault, Jackie decided it was time to put her escape plan in action.
As time passed, the arguments between Jackie and her abuser continued to escalate in frequency and severity because she started to speak in defense of herself and against the behavior he displayed. She wanted herself and her children to be spoken to with respect, and she stopped taking the blame for his choices. At that point, he started calling her crazy and told her that he hated white people. He was not sure how to handle it when Jackie simply replied with indifference.
A few weeks before Jackie was able to put her escape plan into action, they got into another argument. She was getting ready to leave the room when he said that he should have beaten Jackie like he beat his other girlfriend with whom he shared three children. Jackie felt that he was being ridiculous and mocked him.
He grabbed Jackie by the hair and pinned her down on the bed, bruising and scratching her left arm and leg. Once he had her down, he covered her mouth and nose, cutting off her air supply. She could not breathe for about thirty seconds. Eventually she was able to kick him off of her. Jackie had been ready to leave for a while, but after this, she knew it was time to go. Before she left, she did everything she could to make sure that the three children he had taken in would be okay. For two weeks, despite the stress and exhaustion she endured, she did her best to pretend that everything was okay.
“My kids and I were homeless, living in a couple of motels and a domestic violence shelter out of state before finally getting an apartment. We lived out of state for a little less than a year.
“It was incredibly isolating, but it did give me time to clear my head and sent him a very clear message that there would be absolutely no manipulating me to take him back this time. I had enough. My kids had enough, and we all are so much better off without him.
“On one hand, I kind of hope he tries to get visitation or custody. Everything he has ever done, and everything he has ever said, will come up in court. He lost custody of the other three after he threatened to send his family to after me. He is never going to change. I feel sorry for whomever he gets with after me.”
*Survivor’s name has been changed to protect her identity.
**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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