The Cost of Your Silence

I’ve been thinking about this post for days. I feel dread just sitting down to write it. The guilt I feel is overwhelming and soul crushing. There is a wrong in my life I will never be able to make right.

In my previous post I mentioned going through some things right now. Mainly a custody battle with my ex. A friend of mine recently revealed that my ex has been heard about town, saying that he is “going through a divorce from his wife whom he loved so much, and is in the midst of a terrible custody battle”. He is using it as a pickup line for any female who will listen. When I was told this, I felt physically ill. He and I have been divorced for six years. The fact that he still talks about me, uses the word “love” in the same sentence as “wife”; it makes me want to vomit.

Every time I hear about him telling this story I want to scream at the top of my lungs “HE ABUSED ME. THERE WAS NEVER LOVE. HE IS A DISGUSTING HUMAN BEING!” I am reminded that I can’t say anything. I am reminded that I will hear this story over and over until the day one of us dies. Why? Because this is the cost of my silence.

Some men and women are drawn, on purpose, to broken people. Freud would say that our need for validation from these people stems from a broken relationship from one of our parents. This is especially true if a person has been mistreated, abused or abandoned by one of their parents. When there is no “closure” to a relationship with someone who is supposed to be so integral in our lives, we go looking for that same person, but in different form. We cannot fix our mother/father, but we will make up for where we feel we failed by “fixing” someone else. Not getting help for our troubled relationships leads us repeatedly into a cycle of abuse.

Abusive people know about our troubled past. People who have had a rough upbringing are often open about it and it’s one of the first things an intimate partner will learn about us. That one thing is what will hold us captive in a relationship forever. An abuser will use anything and everything about our past against us. For example, my abuser used to say that my parents were screwed up people, and how could I ever be a good parent since I came from two loveless, psychologically abusive people? He would use the fact that I had been in few relationships throughout my young life as a way of saying that people didn’t want me, they didn’t like me. The bottom line was always this: you should be grateful I am with you because you are undeserving of me.

This is total bullshit. Abusers are never prizes to be won. They have a charming personality 5% of the time while being ugly, annoying, irrational and crazy the other 95%. They are financially unstable and often dependent on a central figure in their life (usually a parent) because they can’t function properly as an adult. They bring no joy to life; only pain and suffering. They are with us because no one else wants them. For some reason that only increases our level of commitment to them. We will not abandon them like everyone else in their lives. We will not do to them what our parent did to us. We will stay until they are fixed. And then maybe we might leave.

After telling you all of this about my abuser I’m sure you will be surprised to also know that when I left in 2013, I felt bad for what I did. I know the relationship needed to end for my own safety, but my hatred for him did not overpower my ability to have compassion for him. That’s one thing we have that our abusers don’t: compassion. We think that compassion is what makes us better people than they are. Sometimes, though, compassion makes us just as bad, if not worse. Why? Because we remain silent.

When I left my abuser, all I wanted were my kids and a divorce. I didn’t care about money, I didn’t care about property, I didn’t care about anything. I just wanted him out of my life. I suppressed a lot of things for a very long time for the sake of trying to “make peace”. I did not go to the police. I did not file assault or rape charges. I just wanted divorce. But my silence came at a cost.

For me, the cost of silence is financial. The legal battles with an abuser who can obtain unlimited legal counsel is endless. I will be in the courtroom with him until the day my children become adults. No one knew about the abuse except for my attorney and the people I worked with. This man, who had a history of abusing women by his own admission, had no record at all. He went on to date 2 other women who had no idea what they were getting themselves into. 2 women and counting.

The two women after me had children. Both women were single parents trying to make it in a world that financially requires 2 working people. Both women just wanted to live a simple life with someone they loved. The first woman did not stay long. Her teenage daughter babysat my girls and when I looked at the daughter’s Facebook page it was full of marijuana symbols and pictures of her smoking. When that got brought up in court, I’m sure he ended it. In the end, I bet she would thank me for giving him a reason to leave because she couldn’t make him leave otherwise.

The second woman was going to go through a lot worse. I spent a lot of time praying that my ex would change his ways. I prayed he would find love and take his focus off me. I had been told numerous times that people knew men who were abusive in one relationship and then went on to have healthy, happy, non-abusive relationships. I believed this lie. This dangerous, veiled form of victim blaming that was a way of saying “maybe it was just you”. I now know better. Once an abuser, always an abuser.

When my ex found this second woman I was hopeful. She was kind. She was funny. My girls loved being with her. For the first several months things seemed to be going well. My girls didn’t report any yelling matches or his usual physical or emotional abuse. Then one weekend they came home and informed me they were learning karate from their dad. When I asked why the sudden interest, they informed me that he was teaching them and the other woman’s child because, and I quote, “(the child) is growing up weak because they are being raised by a woman”. My heart sank. I knew. He had not changed.

I did not want her to endure 8 years of what I endured. I did not want her to believe the lies she was told about how some men get better. I wanted her to see all of who he was as fast as possible, so she could get out. I provoked him as much as possible. I wanted his anger to be directed at me and I wanted him to escalate fast. I thought maybe if I did that it would save her the brunt of being the one, he focused on. It didn’t work. He still beat her. He still stalked her. He still drained her finances and put her through years of psychological abuse. One and a half years after leaving, she keeps her home address private. She still thinks about him showing up in the middle of the night and following through on his promises to kill her.

She was not the only victim. Perhaps worst of all, her child witnessed so much of what was going on (though she didn’t realize exactly how much until the relationship had ended and her child told her). They didn’t understand why their mommy was sad. Why she had become so angry and withdrawn. Why she didn’t laugh anymore. That child had been used as a weapon against her, with my ex threatening to take the child (that was not biologically or legally his) away from her. That child had felt the absolute fear of being alone in a home with one parent threatening to hurt the other. I can’t imagine what that was like for that child. And it is my fault.

My two children continue to live in that environment each time they are court ordered to visit him. That is also my fault. Unless someone else speaks up, his visits with them will not end.
All these things happened because I kept quiet. I didn’t want to make a big deal. I didn’t want people thinking I was crazy. I didn’t want everyone knowing my business. I didn’t want to embarrass him or hurt his feelings. I stayed with him for the longest time to protect his feelings not mine. What message did that send my children? That no matter what someone does to you, it’s still okay to keep them around? Because staying silent makes you a better person? Seriously. Think about what you are doing. If you do not want an abuser to hurt you why are you willing to silently support them in hurting someone else?

The next time someone does something to you or someone you love, I want you to think twice about how “taking the high road will make you the better person”. I want you to know that by hiding the acts of an abuser you are intentionally creating a new victim. I want you to picture that victim as someone you love. I want you to think of how you would feel watching your loved one going through what you went through. Your child, your parent, your best friend. Statistically, the odds are not in your favor. 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience a form of sexual violence. Your household income, your race, your education level…none of it will protect you. Domestic violence does not discriminate.

I don’t know where in our society we decided that good people are quiet people. I would assume it comes from abusive people because they continue to have power. In the household, in the workforce, in the court rooms. Despite our most modern and forward-thinking times, these men and women run our world. People still victim blame, people still minimize damage or fail to believe victims all-together. Incidents of domestic violence continue to rise and shelters remain full. And there is one simple reason: people keep silent.
Don’t be one of them.


Popular posts from this blog

My Scars: A Story of Abuse

Women Abuse Too: A Man’s Experience with Family Abuse

Evolution of a Monster: According to Ted Bundy