Following is a true story. My ex-husband's name was changed to keep the guilty from bothering me. Blaming the victim is alive and well -- and few people understand the true dynamics of domestic violence. Many believe claims of domestic violence are overblown, exaggerated, and -- the victim's fault -- or she must like it. Since domestic violence is being discussed in the national media, I thought I would share my story. The following article was written about four years ago, about an incident several years before that. Please know, how much blaming the victim hurts.
Small Dogs, Small Men, and Mini-Blinds
I don’t apologize for my grudges. Brutus, Mima’s nasty little rat terrier, a dog I had known for seven years, totally unprovoked, tore across the living room and bit me in the leg. Bobby, a small man and my husband at the time, for no good reason, swung a rolled up set of mini-blinds, swung like a baseball bat, connecting with my back and nearly killed me. Still today I am wary of small dogs, small men, and mini-blinds.
Back then, my family, my friends, and more than one cop, asked me, “Why don’t you just leave?” They all meant, and sometimes said, why don’t you just leave Bobby? -- he hits you and you keep letting him come back, and what is the matter with you that you allow it? Back then, I never had an answer. It wasn’t love that kept me there.
We were in my kitchen the day he almost killed me. Bobby and I weren’t exactly married and we weren’t yet divorced. He had filed divorce papers months before, but then refused to finish the process. Our marriage was in limbo. He was back in my life, insisting that he help work on the house. The house was a government foreclosure, abandoned for over two years, a haven for neighborhood kids skipping school, and in need of general repair. We found it together, but bought it with my name, credit and down payment. During fights and renovations, the house was in constant chaos and disarray -- piles of block, stacks of sheet rock, tools, tear-out, and mess.
That day in my kitchen, Bobby told me to go out to the trailer in front of the house and tell the guy, our supposed laborer, staying there to get out. I told Bobby no. I hadn’t let the guy move in there to begin with, I didn’t think I should have to tell him to get out. Bobby was holding the mini-blinds when I told him no. He was on his way to hang them somewhere in the house. I did not tell him no rudely, or add any other comment. Just no. I don’t remember the blow hurting, at least not right away. I didn’t fall down.
Instantly enraged, I yelled. I yelled at Bobby for hitting me, and what did he do that for, and why doesn’t he go throw the guy out himself if it’s that important. I imagine, but I don’t remember, I was rude then, all the angry words I was yelling. I sat down in an office chair with wheels that was in the kitchen for some unknown reason, and pushed myself backwards across the kitchen floor toward the back door, still facing Bobby and still yelling at him for hitting me like that. I lit a cigarette to try and calm myself, but I couldn’t smoke it. I couldn’t inhale, then I couldn’t yell anymore, and then I couldn’t talk. I could only whisper.
Ten minutes after the mini-blind blow in the back, sharp pain shot through the left side of my chest to my shoulder. My left arm went numb except for the tightening steel band above my bicep. I could barely breathe, and I couldn’t talk. I whispered, “Take me to the hospital or call me a f*** ambulance, now.”
I could still walk so we took Bobby's truck. He sped through back roads, running stop signs; now playing the hero rushing me to the hospital. He talked non-stop: I’m sorry, I don’t want to go to prison, please don’t make me go to prison, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to hit you, I love you, we’ll say you slipped and fell, I only just tapped you, we’ll say you fell down, I don’t want to go to prison, please don’t make me go to prison. I listened and tried to continue breathing. I thought I was having a heart attack.
At the emergency entrance Bobby jammed the truck in park, jumped out and scrambled for a wheel chair. He wheeled me through the double doors. I whispered to the orderly that I couldn’t breathe. The hospital workers moved faster than I had ever seen. I had been at that emergency room only the week before, but the week before I waited two hours for a doctor. The week before I had been laying on the couch and Bobby had hit me with a wooden stool. That day he was angry because I wouldn’t tell him where I had been. In fact, I had taken my eight year old son to the video arcade. I hadn’t answered Bobby's question only because he was demanding to know, not asking. So he had hit me with the stool, bursting the thin skin on my shin, rather than slicing it, while I lay supine on the couch. I still had the stitches from the week before.
But this day, a week later, the hospital workers quickly hooked me to tubes, and put me in a bed behind a curtain. Bobby stuck by my bedside, still talking to me about how much he loved me and how he was going to make sure I got well. He didn’t talk anymore about how he didn’t want to go to prison or that he was sorry he hit me, someone might have heard. He was the attentive husband now. When hospital workers came in, Bobby talked to them about football, and whether I was going to be alright. When the doctor came in and asked me what happened, I whispered, “I fell down.” Over the next hours I dozed and woke up, over and over to stare at the big round school clock on the hospital wall, the hands never seeming to move. Once I whispered to Bobby, “Get somebody in here to convince me I’m not dying.” The nurse Bobby fetched said they were waiting for a bed in the Intensive Care Unit. She promised I wasn’t dying, and promised to take care of me.
Later on a nurse wheeled me in my bed to the Radiology Unit where three nurses and a doctor picked me up by the corners of the blanket underneath me and set me down on the scanning table. Before closing me inside the MRI tube, the doctor instructed me to remain perfectly still. I had no will to ask questions, think, or protest. Enclosed in the tube, like a modern day mummy I was sent through the scanner, the giant magnet encircling my body, radio waves aligning my hydrogen molecules so that the doctor could see my pain.
Next, now in ICU, the doctor told me my spleen had ruptured, and my pain was from internal bleeding. The doctor told me a ruptured spleen is serious, life threatening, and he might have to take it out. But, the doctor continued, the holes in my spleen might heal themselves. The doctor watched over me all night that first night. On the third day in ICU, he told me my spleen had healed itself.
During those three days I slept a lot. I was hooked to an IV and oxygen. A nurse came in every few hours and gave me a morphine injection. The medicine burned going in my hand and sent me off to sleep. When I was alone and awake I made plans. I forced myself to call to memory a friend’s phone number, and repeated it silently until I could never forget it. I could have a nurse call my friend and tell her I was here and then she could call my mom. I bargained with myself that if the doctor wanted to operate, I would call Mom, in case I died on the operating table, someone would know what happened. Mom was out of town, on vacation in North Carolina with my son. I made myself remember the name of her hotel. I didn’t want to call my friend or my mom. I didn’t want to spoil her trip. I didn’t want to hear the words, why don’t you just leave. I didn’t want to hear their anger at Bobby and then at me. Not now, I had to get better first.
I had visitors during those three days. Bobby came, talking about how much he loved me. Bobby's boss came, a twice disbarred attorney now owner of a telemarketing room. The guy, the laborer, who I was supposed to throw out of the trailer came, I don‘t know why. A social worker came. I considered telling the social worker the truth, but didn’t. It would have been fine with me if they had put Bobby in prison then and there and kept him forever, but I couldn’t convince myself it would be that simple.
I had tried to get rid of Bobby over and over. I had told him to leave, go away and never come back, but he always came back anyway. I had left him repeatedly and found I had nowhere to hide. I had sworn out protection orders and no contact orders, only to see him immediately violate the court’s order. He would call me or appear at my house, and nobody cared. When he hit me, I called the police and Bobby would leave before they responded and come back again after they left.
After the cops had come and gone he would return to my house usually in the middle of the night, angry and drunk. He drank vodka and grapefruit juice, from noon to midnight, everyday. He never slurred his words, he never stumbled, growing more agitated as the day wore on. Any words I spoke could be the wrong thing, and set him off. By late at night he was manic, talking incessantly. His words clearly uttered, made no sense.
Within minutes his words could range from oaths of undying love to death threats. He called me every vulgar name and accused me of sleeping around. He would say he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and that he loved me forever. He would put one hand on the back of my neck and one on my chin; and tell me he could snap my neck. Just like that.
I tried to ignore his words and stay away from his fists. It didn’t work. If I went to a bedroom and locked the door, I could hear him breaking things; or he would finally break through the door. Constantly talking, threatening, accusing, then saying he just wanted to talk, make nice.
People, my family, my mom, the cops, and the few friends I had left, thought I let Bobby come back every time. I didn’t. He just came back and then he wouldn’t go away. People thought I liked being his victim. I didn’t. People thought Bobby kept coming back because I loved him. I didn’t. People thought I was the village idiot.
I went home to Bobby when I was released from the hospital. I felt elated to still be alive. Of course, he promised to never hurt me again; he always promised that. I didn’t believe him, I had nowhere else to go. Four days home from the hospital he closed my arm in a door.
Bobby tortured me for over a year.
I have an answer now for the people that asked, “Why don’t you just leave?” I did. It took some time to escape alive -- but I did. My son and I took refuge in a safe house, a hide out, and stayed for weeks. When it was time to leave I invited another woman in hiding, another refugee from abuse, to stay at my house. She helped me through the scary days that followed. Bobby threw rocks through my windows and set fire to my shed.
Ten months after I escaped, Judge Warren cracked her gavel and pronounced him guilty of one count of domestic violence.
Years later, I am still wary of small dogs and small men. Mini-blinds are now just ordinary, although I avoid them.