Submitted by: *Jenny, Survivor
Leaving an abuser is not a simple case of just walking away, and it is not always immediate. It is not uncommon for a victim to wait years before leaving or go through a process of several attempts before they can permanently break free from the abuser. Regardless of how long or how many times it takes to leave, there are always risks present.
There are many reasons victims of domestic violence struggle to leave their abusers. Just a few reasons include children, pets, finances, and isolation. One of the many barriers that survivor Jenny knows all too well is fear. Read on as she shares with us the threats of violence she endured and how it directly contributed to her staying.
A few years ago, on the day before Thanksgiving, Jenny and her husband were arguing in their living room. He had lied to her about something, and when she questioned him about it, he flew into a rage. During the argument, Jenny revealed to him that she no longer wanted to be with him. As soon as she finished saying that, he grabbed her, wrapping his arm across Jenny’s chest, and dragged her into the kitchen while screaming obscenities at her.
Jenny’s abuser threatened her with mutilation and death if she tried to leave and ever be with another man.
He pulled a knife from the block on the counter and held it to Jenny’s neck, screaming, “I will kill you before I ever let you leave.” While holding a knife to her, he threatened to sexually mutilate her so she could never be intimate with another man. He also threatened Jenny saying, “If you think you are going to divorce me and be with another man, think again. If I ever see you around town with another man, I will kill you both!”
Jenny does not know how long he held that knife to her neck while he continued to scream other obscenities and threats at her; she just froze up. She remembers that it felt like an eternity but was sure that it only lasted a few moments. Her head was spinning, and all she could think was that he was going to kill her. Jenny thought of her kids and how they would come home to find her dead on the kitchen floor. Then, she closed her eyes and prayed for it to be over.
When he finally snapped out of it, he went upstairs to cool off for a few minutes. By the time he came back down, Jenny was on the living room couch crying, still in shock from what had just happened. His demeanor had changed, and he went over to Jenny to hug her and apologize. He told her that he did not know what came over him and wanted to work things out.
After that, he told her that he realized he had not been treating her right and wanted a chance to make things better. “They were just words,” he said, and he did not mean it; he only wanted to scare her, but he would never hurt her. He said he only sees black and acts impulsively when he is provoked, and he was sorry for that.
Her abuser had been stripped of his firearms following a previous order of protection, and he told her that he was going to get them back.
That night Jenny wanted to sleep on the couch, but he insisted that she sleep in bed with him. As she laid in bed next to him, he said to her, “I’m going to get my guns back.” Jenny’s heart dropped. He had his pistol permit revoked for a previous order of protection against him that had since expired. She told him that she did not think that was a good idea, especially after what had happened that afternoon. Jenny did not feel comfortable having guns in the house with the kids and his anger issues. He laughed at her and said she was being ridiculous; he was going to get them back.
“It has been almost three years since that happened. That day replays in my head because I didn’t react. I didn’t fight back or call 911. I didn’t tell anyone, and, worse, I didn’t leave. I was so traumatized by it I stayed. I stayed with him even though I was terrified of him.
“I had constant anxiety, I couldn’t sleep well, and I didn’t eat much because my stomach always hurt because of my nerves. I couldn’t focus on work or anything else for that matter, and I felt like I was living in a fog. Because of the abuse, I had become so depressed that there were nights I just wanted to die; that’s not me. That is not who I am.
“I still struggle with the question of “Why didn’t you leave?” It haunts me daily. There were so many reasons to leave, but fear kept me stuck.”
*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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