[ TRIGGER WARNING: Descriptions of verbal + physical abuse ]
It started after school. Rather than bouncing to me, my daughter dragged her feet and begged for food. She gobbled the remainder of a sandwich, from that day’s lunch, and raced toward the park with a bag of crackers. She pleaded for chocolates from my purse a few minutes later. You’d think she hadn’t eaten all day.
Whining and complaining kicked into gear on the walk home. She pestered her brother. I assumed she was tired, but something else was happening.
“I want to scratch your face off. You do not love me.” She hit me that evening after getting out of the bathtub.
Tucking her into bed, I carefully pressed my lips to her forehead. “I can see that something is going on and that you are hurting. You know I love you. I know you know that. I hope you feel you can share what’s going on with me or another adult you can trust.”
“I want to be with you this weekend!” The words burst from her mouth. She was trembling. “I don’t want to go to daddy’s. I’m so scared of daddy.”
I had heard it from her before. It was a main reason that I had moved her and her brother out of our family’s home.
“I wish dad was a pig or a hippo or an elephant.” She giggled. The image seemed to help her. Her eyes looked up at me vulnerably for a response.
“I wish your daddy was Prince Charming,” I said. “I wish he was the best daddy in the world and made you feel safe. I wish you could trust him and depend on him and never be afraid. I really do wish that for you.”
We both let out a sigh. Holding onto each other, in the stillness and the dark, we knew there was a possibility that might never happen. But we had each other, and with help I knew it would get easier.
She knew I loved her; she knew we were safe. In the sweet, gentle embrace we shared, she knew we would be o.k. That night she didn’t want me to leave her bedside. So I stayed.
While we were married, he acted manipulative and verbally abusive. At first, I stood up to him. I left the room, during his angry outbursts, hoping he would calm down. But he followed me shouting. One night, when I tried to leave, he blocked the front door. After a second attempt, he wrapped his arms around my body so I could not move. Eventually I stopped standing up for myself. When he hit my leg, a week before the wedding, it should have been a clear sign not to move forward.
After many years of trying to be everything he demanded, I started to fade. I let my husband do what he wanted, and say what he wanted, in efforts to avoid his anger. He shouted abusively at me in front of our children. He began pushing our two-year-old daughter when she challenged him. Seven years later, after many attempts to save our marriage, I . . . Continue reading in SheLoves . . .
[ Names and identifying details have been changed. ]