October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and I thought this would be the perfect time to share my story as a victim of domestic violence for six years.
Domestic violence can be defined as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain power and control over an intimate partner.
Abuse is physical, sexual, emotional, economic or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that frighten, intimidate, terrorize, manipulate, hurt, humiliate, blame, injure or wound someone.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone of any race, age, sexual orientation, religion or gender. It can happen to couples who are married, living together or who are dating. Domestic violence affects people of all socioeconomic backgrounds and education levels. - National Domestic Violence Hotline
This is my story. . .
When I look back on my life, I can tell you that the emotional abuse started at a young age for me. I came from a broken, fatherless home. My mother worked hard to raise us the best she could in somewhat of a Catholic home.
My stepfather came into our lives when I was about seven years old. I still remember the feeling of disappointment as he and my mother stood in our living room telling us he would be moving in. Since my father had left us, it always had been just my mom, me and my sister Noelia. This was a HUGE pill to swallow.
As weeks, then months, and years went by, I grew to love my stepfather and eventually he filled the void that my real father had left. We did a lot of things together and I remember always sitting on his lap watching T.V. and playing. It was what every little girl wanted, naturally.
I'm not quite sure at what point he and my mother discussed having a child together, but they did and had my baby sister when I was 10 years old. From that day on, my life as I knew it, would change.
Raising Carmen. . .
Although only 15, it wasn't long before I noticed that arguments always happened when my mother wasn't around. He would eavesdrop on my phone calls, or disconnect the phone from the wall entirely. And let me not forget the many times the phones (even my little sisters toys) were thrown at me. I knew he had a drinking problem, and I just tried my hardest to keep my distance. The day I realized he really didn't think much of me was during an argument he had with my mom, where I overheard him tell her, "she is not my daughter, and all she does is ruin your life, she needs to leave or I will!" I remember my mom apologizing to him for my behavior and at that moment I felt alone, and hurt. So at the young age of 15, I left home and raised myself.
I had my first child at 17, and my son was born when I was 21. In my mind, I thought I had found my one true love—the greatest man on earth! What I didn't know was that, I would be marrying a man who would be my worst nightmare.
If you asked me today, were their warning signs or red flags before I married him. YES! But, I just thought he loved me so much and didn't want to lose me. You, see I had never experienced a father's love or a man's love, so how was I to know that this was NOT love?
Like most, women in abusive relationships, it began with aggressive arguments, then moved on to pushing and shoving. Eventually the first blow landed on my jaw. I remember one night, while living in Mississippi, he was very drunk and angry that I had refused to have sex with him. He pulled me by my hair and dragged me off the bed and all the way to the kitchen. He began to accuse me of cheating and wanting someone else. I heard my 5 year old daughter crying in bed and I yelled for her to lock her door. I ran out the front door to try and get help, but felt his clammy hands grip my arms as as he flung me across the car. All I remember was looking up at the neighbors, just staring as if we were giving an award winning drama performance. They stood, silent as I yelled for help. No one moved. His family would tell me to avoid making him angry so that I "wouldn't ask for it."
The following days were greeted with flowers and apologies, not knowing that this was even worse than the physical abuse itself. It left me numb, and at times asking myself, "what did I do to make him so mad?"
For the next three years I endured the abuse and became a professional at hiding the physical bruises (although he made sure to leave marks where no one else could see) and emotional ones. But inside I cried out for help. After a few years we decided to move back home to Illinois. I was so excited to be around my family. I had felt so alone for years and now I could be around other people and maybe, just maybe he wouldn't hit me if my family was around. Boy, was I wrong! The abuse continued, and even became worse. There were nights I was too tired to fight that I would lay still as he drunkenly forced himself on me. This would go on for months. . .
I never really shared the abuse with my mom or anyone else in my family. My family always had the, "that kind of stuff doesn't happen in our family" attitude. I remember one evening going to the movies to watch Enough starring Jennifer Lopez. She played a battered wife who takes justice into her own hands. I can recall leaving the theater feeling brave and courageous. I had a new strength and for the first time in my life, I started plotting how I would leave. This time I knew I would have to leave for good or I may die.
One day my aunt asked if I wanted to go out with her and a few friends. I was too terrified to even ask permission, yet he overheard our conversation and shockingly, pushed me to go. It scared me, but since he was best friends with my aunts boyfriend, they made plans to hang out together.
I don't think I ever felt so good, so happy on the dance floor. I felt like a prisoner that had been set free into civilization for a few hours. As the night died down and we headed back to her place, my stomach began to flutter with worry and dreadful fear; a feeling I was all too familiar with. . . .
To be continued in Part II.
Carmen Miller spent her life searching for empty substitutes for God. She tried to find her worth, value, and identity in things and men, only to be left empty and broken. Today, she shares her story of brokenness and the love Jesus relentlessly showed her. A wife, a mom, writer and a lover of her Creator, she is passionate about the body of Christ and being set free from the bondage's that hinder our walk with Christ.