August 12, 2014

“My Story” by Antoinette

This story was written by one of my readers. After finding my Free From Verbal Abuse, she sent me her story.  I do encourage my readers to share their experiences with me so they can go up here for others to read. After all, we are not alone and simply reading what someone else has gone through can often be a huge help, especially during the identification process and following healing. With that, in Antoinette’s own words, here are excerpts from what she sent me. I’ve copied and paster her words exactly as she sent them to me:

I have been contemplating for quite some time now to share my story with the public, and for the entire time I found it completely impossible to somehow pluck out the courage to actually go ahead and do it. I have now finally, with the moral support of some of my online friends, gained enough confidence to take this step into the unknown.

Taking such a step, one ventures into a realm of uncertainty. Silly questions crop up, such as “How many of my friends will still be my friends after this?” and many more. These are all normal questions and natural reactions evolving from the feeling of insecurity and inferiority that has been created by a seven year period of spousal abuse. Normal and natural, considering the fact that they all represent very real fears, especially in a case such as mine where for the entire time of abuse I have literally feared for my life and the lives of my son and my mother. The question that crops up most of all is: “Will the monster read what I have written, and will he start stalking me and my family?”

Even though the fear now seems pretty much ungrounded considering that the abuser is probably the biggest wimp and coward alive, the very fact that during the abuse I believed with everything in me that the monster would definitely carry out his threats made that fear real. I think a little bit of that fear is still alive in me and a little bit of the feeling of insecurity I have developed have also remained and even now, as I am writing this, I have my doubts whether I should go ahead. However, those are thoughts and feelings, and mentally I have now finally decided to engage and fight these demons, one by one, until they have all been dealt with. I am doing this partly to finally get rid of this intense hatred within me, and to get peace in my soul, for only then will my victory finally be complete, and will I be me again in totality.

But mainly I am doing this in order to stand as a living beacon of hope to whoever may be reading this right now, and may be struggling through that which I have already conquered… to be an example of the fact that you do NOT have to remain in the gutter. You CAN win yourself back. This article is to encourage victims of abuse who have lost all sense of hope, to try just one more time to get up and get out.

I have had that “norm of one abusive relationship” three times over. It just so happens that I married two abusers. The second was a million times worse than the first. But first, before that, I had to witness the abuse of my mother by my father, who also neglected and abused me and my siblings.

By the time I was lucky enough to escape the prison of my second marriage, I was literally down on the ground lying in the gutter and being walked over by the rest of humanity. It took superhuman effort to get up, and start the journey towards where I am today, and back into life. I have been away from my second husband for seven years and two months, and even now I have still not completely recovered. I am not yet truly me again. I have only recently managed to overcome my fear of him to the extent that I could go the Magistrate’s Court and file for a divorce. The date for the hearing is 28 July 2014.

After I have left him, I was fortunate enough to have a family that believed in me, of which my son was a part. My son cared enough to against all odds get me into a job as his pastor’s secretary. Most victims are not that lucky.

Some experts in the field of human psychology reckon that a woman who grew up in a home where her mother was abused by her father will almost certainly follow suit and marry an abuser; a man just like her father. There are exceptions to this rule, but I believe that in order to be part of that list of exceptions, a woman needs powerful interventions such as super-extreme willpower, blind determination and lots of money in order to obtain a life away from her parents’ influence so that she can fight the fight effectively.

My first marriage

Because of the fact that I did not have that secure foundation that parents are supposed to provide their children with, my norms with regards to the concept of “marriage” were somewhat warped.

I fell for this charming guy, and all I saw was this “sparkle” in his blue eyes. He had a pleasant personality, a good sense of humor and was easy to get along with.  Good job and good work record. But I didn’t delve any deeper than that. I especially didn’t let the fact disturb me that he has already had two broken engagements… two months later we were married. Nine months later my son was born.

The abuse by my first husband took the form of manipulation… exerting his will to the extent that I felt I had no right to refuse to do his bidding. It included confirming his lies in order to boost his image at church, and going back to a full time job even though my son was only a few months old, and although it was my greatest desire to see him grow up and bring him up without day mothers and nursery schools. I had to go back to working full time in spite of the fact that my husband earned a big enough salary to support a family.

I was not allowed to continue giving guitar lessons, or be myself in any other way. It was always his will that had to be done. What I wanted never counted for anything.

He used my son in order to manipulate me emotionally. Whenever I retaliated even in the slightest to anything, he took it out on my son by running him down in every way possible. The poor boy was shouted at for silly reasons like spilling a glass of milk on the kitchen table. That was when he was only two years old. When he was eight months old he was hit with a belt, leaving blue marks all over his body from his lower back to his lower thighs. Up until today, he could never do anything right in his father’s eyes, no matter how hard he tried.

The falling apart of the marriage took place gradually, over a period of almost seventeen years. He never lifted a hand to me, but as I said earlier: verbal, psychological and emotional abuse can break a woman down to nothing, without the abuser having to physically touch the victim. The person who was supposed to love, nurture and protect me became the one who was ultimately responsible for the destruction of my life. In a sense I blame myself for not leaving him, especially since the abuse included my son as well.

My Second Marriage

After my divorce in 1998, I kind of battled to continue with life. I found myself in the middle of an ocean in a boat without a rudder, so to speak. I had no clue where to, and how. I found a job, but could barely support myself with the salary. Without transport, it was difficult to get to work. People at church were judgemental, and there was a new pastor in whose eyes I couldn’t do anything right. I tried to work things out, but eventually I left the church. I felt forsaken by God and Christianity, so I became spiritually calloused. I blamed God for the position I was in, and wanted nothing to do with anything “Christian” any longer.

Had I known then what I know now I would have done the sensible thing: I would have rededicated my life to Jesus and started trusting Him again. Had I done that, I would have been able to avoid this second marriage, the biggest mistake of my life. But I did not recognise the warning of the Holy Spirit for what it was, and put it down to “fear of marriage”, “fear of men” or “fear of divorce”. I drove away the Voice of the Holy Spirit. When I met the monster in April 2000, he was “Prince Charming” himself. I fell for him hook, line and sinker, partly because of his violet blue eyes and bedazzling smile. As an extra bonus, he had sleek, dark and shiny, shoulder length hair… I always did have a specific weakness for long hair on a man.

He had a charisma that was difficult to resist. He just didn’t seem to be the kind of guy who would turn out to be an abuser… until you thoroughly got to know who he really is deep down inside. My sense of judgement was so numbed that I didn’t realise that all that charisma was mere façade. He seemed the total opposite to my first husband, who also abused me in a sense but only verbally and emotionally. When I eventually realised what huge mistake I made it was too late… I was already firmly in his grip.

Being a Code 14 truck driver, he insisted that I give up my job so I could travel with him in the truck. We could live in the truck, because it had built-in sleeping facilities. I still do not know whether I failed to recognise the warning signs, or whether I just wanted to believe him, but I fell for his trick, and married him… two months later he lost his job because he assaulted a colleague, and six months after that he was still without a job and I was solidly caught in his web, not knowing how to escape. We were in and out of shelters, simply because he was so abusive that not even the shelters would have him for longer than a few days.

I married an abusive nacissistic psychopath… I realised that only after I was rescued from him by my son (who was grown up by then and put in some effort to find me) and, as soon as I got access to the internet, started doing research about abusive relationships. During the seven years we were together he tried to murder me twice. On each of those occasions someone walked in on us, so he couldn’t complete the action.

For seven years I was held captive by this monster, fearing that he would carry out his threats to kill my mom and my son and then come after me and kill me too if I should ever try to leave him. I never saw a day in his presence that I was not physically abused. I was never without bruises in various stages, from black to blue to purple to yellow. One particular day he hit me on my right ear. For weeks I was convinced that my ear drum has ruptured, but eventually it started functioning again, although I still have a ringing in the ear which is evident even now as I am writing these words.

I was degraded and emotionally blackmailed, threatened, mentally manipulated, called every possible name that people use for so-called “bad” women, and accused of cheating on him. He forced himself on me sexually almost every night, whether I liked it or not.

During those seven years he sometimes had a job, which he then kept for a maximum of three months. He was always fired because of his attitude… he either assaulted a colleague, or insulted his boss or something worse or similar.

Sometimes during the times that he did have a job, we lived in a flat on his sister’s plot in Bredell, Kempton Park. That would happen when the employer he had at that particular time had a policy that the drivers were not allowed taking their wives with them on a trip. During these times I could breathe to an extent, especially when he went on far trips to Durban or Cape Town, but always fearing for when he would get home. During these times he also threatened me with violence if I should cross the boundaries of the plot while he was away, even if only to go to the shop and buy milk and bread. These threats made the times of “breathing in his abscence” somewhat shallow, ensuring that I was always subjected to his “presence”, even while physically he was far away.

I could only go outside the plot’s boundaries when it was in his presence. I wasn’t allowed to contact any of my family, especially not my mom, my son or my brother. He always told me that he would know if I did try to contact someone or exit through the gate, because I was “being watched”. I always thought that it was his sister watching me, but later found out that it was his mother, who also used to live on the plot. I think he has inherited his abusive traits and (lack of) character from her. She was responsible for the death of his dad, who suffered a heart attack during one of their numerous arguments.

During the times that he was employed by an employer that did allow their drivers to have their wives with them on trips I had to always be in the truck with him because he forced me. I was in his physical presence 24/7, and was never allowed to look for employment for myself. He forced me to phone his employers on his behalf to complain about things he “didn’t like” at the places where he was supposed to load and/or offload cargo. The things I was forced to complain about were things that naturally went with the job, such as offloading cargo that was being delivered, and tying down cargo that has just been loaded… he felt it was the job of the people on duty, and quite often he openly made racist remarks at them while he tied down a cargo. He shouted at me for not convincing his employers to phone the employers of the people whom he thought should do the work.

I also had to go to the offices at these places to sort out documentation, having to avoid forklifts and cranes on my way there and back, and was shouted at by him when I took longer than he thought I was supposed to. Sometimes I had to sit with him in a freezing cold truck in the middle of winter. Vryburg was especially bad, and Bethlehem and Harrismith were even worse.

But most of all, when he did not have a job because once again he was fired, we had nowhere to sleep except on church verandas and police stations, sometimes even in the open veld or in a park underneath a tree. Out of the seven years I was with him, all the brief periods of his being employed would total to about 18 months. His sister wouldn’t let us stay in the flat on the plot when he wouldn’t be able to pay the rent. He mostly refused to book in at shelters because according to him they “treated him like scum, wanting him to collect donations from the public”. Sometimes he did agree to book in, but that never lasted for more than a few days to a week because of his attitude.

We hitch-hiked from province to province in difficult and dangerous conditions. His horrible racist attitude didn’t help at all… wherever there were black people assembled, he would call them the accursed “k” word, and when they became angry or aggressive he would just add to it by taunting them. He didn’t care that these groups were mostly uneducated, and that he actually put my life at risk so he could have “his bit of fun” as he used to call it.

We criss-crossed ten of the eleven provinces… the only one we missed was Limpopo. Even Orania got its turn, because he thought he would like it in a “whites only” environment… ironically, we only lasted there for two days because he called the work they made us do an unskilled labourer’s work.

During these hitch-hiking times, in each town we entered, he would always find a park to sit, and then he would force me to go begging for food or money. The intensity of the abuse on any particular day depended on the amount of food and/or money I could get from the people that day. Sometimes it would be sufficient to sustain us for two days, other times it would be no more than a loaf of bread. On the odd accassion not even a cent or a crumb to eat.

It was during a time that he had a job and we were living on the plot that my son intervened by borrowing a two ton truck from his employer, and when the monster was on a Durban trip, came to fetch me. The date was 14 April 2007.

I moved into my son’s flat with him, and he arranged that the pastor of his church take me on as his secretary. This was the Wesleyan Church in Bredell, Kempton Park. The church paid me R1000-00 per month. That would work to roughly $100-00 per month. It wasn’t much, but at least it filled a gap. I attended the services with my son.

I was thankful for the job and the experience, but I was dead inside. I still detested Christianity, and now I detested all men as well. I only made friends with women and gay men, because at least I could feel safe in their company.

That was seven years ago. One year later I started working at my current workplace. The job at the church provided the experience that I needed to get back into the job market and get the job that I now have. 1st July this year (2014) I will be at the company six years.

It took me the entire seven years that I have been away from my ex monster to find the guts to go to court and file for a divorce, but I have done that at last. They told me the date will be on 28 July 2014.

About the Author Del Hungerford

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