The Subtlety of Abuse

Eula M. Guest

My abuse was a slow progression. It started off as put downs, jokes at my expense, constant comments about my cooking abilities.  It started verbal with comments about my hair, weight, and skin. It was a constant endless sad joke that never ended.  I was married to my abuser.  He was my husband, the person I trusted the most.  I was 24 when I got married.  I had a couple of boyfriends but no long lasting relationship before I got pregnant and married my first husband.  Almost from the beginning the put downs came in the form of jokes.  What I didn’t realize was it was slowly breaking down my self-esteem.  I questioned myself constantly.  My husband would do my hair literally press and curl my hair the way he liked it.  It took a while before I was able to go to a hair dresser and get my hair done the way I wanted it done.  At the time I was going through all of this, I was raising our two daughters and his sister.  Running two boy scout troops, four girl scout troops, and the parent’s association at our daughter’s school.  

I had all of these skills but I was never confident enough to recognize my worth.  After being offered a position at a firm from a speaker who came to speak to our parents at the school, I listen to my husband and refused the job offer.  The abuse had finally taken hold of me.  That was the beginning of years of torment.  

One day I found out that my husband was cheating and I finally decided that I had had enough of his lies and him tearing down my self-esteem, I knew it was my time to get out.  This was when the physical abuse started. He began pushing and hitting me in places where people couldn’t see the bruises.  Hitting me on my back, behind, shoulders.  I finally got him to move out when he started threatening my life.  He’d pull out guns and chase me down the street.  He kidnapped me in his car while holding a gun to my head. It was always something. I was in school at the time learning about computers and he systematically tried to destroy any self-esteem I had left, but I was determined to make it.  

I started putting safe guards in place.  Not coming home, the same time or the same way coming up the block instead of coming down the block.  Leaving earlier or later so he couldn’t attack me in the streets.  I had orders of protection but it might have well been a stick of gum for all the good that it did for me.  Each time I called the police and filed a complaint, the police did nothing.  I remember him calling while I was complaining to one of the officers… The answering machine picked up and the police heard him threatening to kill me. The response was, “Why don’t you change your telephone number?”  This is right after the police had to call the fire department to open my door because my husband tried to break in and through the grace of God the door jammed into the wall and did not open.  

When I decided to finally take my life back it was a slow progression.  I moved out of the neighborhood that I called home since my childhood.  I moved to another borough.  The last straw was he found out where I lived and showed up.  He slapped me so hard my ears were ringing.  I picked up the lamp on my night stand and tried to break his nose.  That was the last time he threatened me or ever touched me again.  I told him if he ever put his hands on me again they would be carrying him out of here.  I was tired, I had enough.  

This abused lasted for 13 years… 13 years that I will never get back.  Every time I hear about a woman being murdered by her husband, boyfriend, or partner, I think back to those times there but for the grace of God goes I.  I survived the abuse but that wasn’t the end.  I suffer from lasting effects of those years of abuse.  I got help and now live on the other side. However, in the back of my mind, I am constantly aware that it could easily happen again if I let it.   

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