WARNING: A very personal story. Forthright, explicit and raw. The name was changed to protect her innocence.
One holiday, almost seven years ago, we received a middle-of-the-night phone call from Bree (name changed to protect privacy). Bree’s voice was frantic as she screamed in my ear, “Pray!” and told me that the police were on their way to their home. It was at that moment that Dw and I knew something was dreadfully wrong. We were stunned – we had had zero clue. After all, Bree and her husband were still just newlyweds.
After the police arrived and took him away, Bree called me back and told me what had happened. Her husband had been angry at her because they didn’t have company over for New Years Eve (she had wanted to, he didn’t) so he got his loaded gun and began shooting it off. She was scared that he was going to hurt her and so she had called the police. He ended up spending the night in jail and when he went before the judge Bree changed her story and said that she did not feel threatened.
This is very common for victims of Domestic Violence – they minimize the abuse and terror to protect their abusing spouse because they feel sorry for him or are scared of what he will do if she does tell the truth.
Before that middle of the night phone call we had had zero clue any abuse was going on although Bree and I literally would text or talk basically every single day.
Having grown up in a home where Domestic Violence was lived out, I actually knew the routine well – the “covering up” to protect the abuser, the “pretending everything is okay”, daily tiptoeing on eggshells. And today, in our social media driven society, there is an added component – the regular posting on social media declaring how much she loves her abusing husband to pretend to the world that everything is okay and often as an avenue to gain mercy from the abuser. As is the case with most abusers and their partners, there are occasional good days or even good weeks in the beginning but before long the victim walks on eggshells every single moment of every single day.
That first phone call from Bree was our personal nightmare and it was beyond horrible to now know that someone we so desperately loved was living as a victim of Domestic Violence.
Seven months later we were all gathered together for a very special event. Throughout that special event we were in shock. Everyone who knew Bree was in disbelief. Where Bree had once been the life of the party, she now sat with hollow eyes not saying a word for days. Several of us heard her husband snarling at her, demeaning her and being hateful with his tongue – it was unbearable. We all could only imagine – if this is what he was doing when we were present – what in the world was he doing when we weren’t?
As they were preparing to head back to their home in another state, Dw pulled him aside to talk to him. While Dw was talking to him, I managed to get her alone (which was a miracle because he would not let her out of his grasp) and I pleaded through my own tears, “Please stay here. Please don’t go back. He will kill you. We will help you.” As tears dripped steadily from her beautiful eyes she whispered, “I have to.”
They had not even pulled out of sight when I was already dialing the 800 Domestic Violence Hotline to talk to a counselor. For those needing it: 1-800-799-7233. If you are afraid your phone may be monitored, there is a national website: DV HOTLINE
The counselor told me that as much as Dw and I wanted to go after Bree and bring her and their newborn back, we could not force Bree to come. She was a victim and statistics show that people forced to leave by a loving friend or family member will usually return to the abuse. She explained that Bree would likely leave several times before she really had the courage to permanently leave.
And so began years of prayer and so very many calls. I kept dated records of the things she would tell me. And of course, the pictures. Horrible, nasty, stomach-turning pictures. I felt like I was reliving the nightmare of growing up in a home with Domestic Violence but this time I was the adult watching Bree live it out. It was horrific.
We prayed every single day for Bree’s protection, every single day that he wouldn’t kill her and every single day that she would one day have the courage to run!
Anytime my phone rang and it was Bree on caller ID my heart would race as I answered frantically my first words were always, “Are you okay?” The stress on our souls was so painful!
Of course he attempted to keep Bree from her family. He sequestered her from friends and if she did have a girlfriend he did everything in his power to destroy that friendship. He wanted her under his control at all times and would say despicable, disgusting, vulgar things to her.
Bree’s abusing husband abused her sexually as well. And yes, there is proof as he made a poster for Bree that she had to “obey” which he hung prominently in their home. The last line of the poster tells the story of the sexual abuse. It literally makes all who love her want to vomit.
I boldly share this wee bit of Bree’s story because I am convinced that some of you reading this are currently living in a situation with Domestic Violence. You are reading this and you are saying about your husband or boyfriend, “He’s not that bad. I can do this. I don’t want to be a single mom. I am afraid of hurting him. I feel sorry for him. I am praying he will change – he says he is going to!”
Yes I know you feel sorry for him. Bree felt sorry for her husband. Bree never wanted to be divorced. Bree wanted to “live happily ever after” but no matter how hard Bree tried, the violence continued to escalate. And in your situation sometimes when he gets violent he tells you he is sorry and it will not happen again but then quickly he flips and reminds you that it is all your fault he is like he is – because Bree’s husband did that too. It’s a nauseating pattern of atrocious abuse.
To compound Bree’s situation her abusing husband’s family all ignored his abuse. They knew about it, oh yes they did. They saw the dozen or so holes he had punched right through the drywall. They saw the doors he has smashed in. The door frames he had thrown her against that literally broke off the wall. They saw it all. Hard to imagine but yes, yes they did.
His father’s response to his son’s abuse, “Give what he wants!” His family’s response to the dozen holes punched right through the drywall in Bree and his home? Silence. His family’s response to the door frames broken where he threw Bree so hard the door frame actually broke off the wall? Silence. His family’s response to his threats? “Oh, poor guy. We feel so sorry for him.” They actually have had an excuse for everything he does and never once stood up for Bree. Being quite honest all we wonder is, “How do they sleep at night while protecting this violent, abusive thug?”
Sadly, in many cases, parents/relatives will only enable the abusive behavior. Bree was told by his parents, “Just give him what he wants” along with so many excuses why he was abusive. And as they made their excuses I would argue (if I had the chance) with Bree (not them) that he never punched anyone at his job, he never physically abused any of the friends he plays sports with or anyone he does side jobs for. Do you know why? Because he’s a charmer to others. He has amazing self-control with anyone who doesn’t live with him. Wanna’ know why? Because he knows he can’t get away with it with his sports buddies – they would punch his ever-livin’ lights out. He gets money from the people he does side jobs for so he is a “happy, helpful fella”. And his co-workers? It’s his job and he likes to get paid. The reality is that if he punched his co-workers that would get him arrested and subsequently fired. So he charms those around him and goes home and abuses the crud out of his wife and children. What a pathetic thug.
Just like the 800 Domestic Violence counselor had counseled me, Bree left once for 3 weeks but went back (it was horrible). Then a couple of years later she left again for two months as she sought medical care for a situation that was medically confirmed to be caused solely from the stress of living with a man who perpetrates abuse against her and their children daily. Yes, the stress was so bad that it was medically confirmed that her health was in dire straights from living with a violent, abusive husband. That’s how violent he was – it was dramatically affecting her health. All the while we pleaded with the Lord to give her the courage to not go back. We fasted. We prayed every.single.day. And yes, I pleaded with Bree – trying to help her understand that her health was being compromised in such a powerful way that it was threatening her entire well-being.
But she went back again.
Listen up precious friend – if any of Bree’s story is familiar to you – trust me, IT WILL ONLY GET WORSE! It is NOT okay. You have not done anything that would give him permission to punch you, slap you, kick you, pull your hair, drag you around the house, scream profanities at you, throw you from a car or truck, destroy property, punch holes in your walls, run over your foot, smash the handle off the pantry door, make a poster for you to obey, sexually abuse you or any variation of any of the things I just listed!
It does not matter how much you pretend you’ll be fine or what you want to call it or how much you try to minimize his behavior or what a charming guy he is to everyone else – you are a victim of Domestic Violence!!
YOU MUST GET OUT NOW!! NOW!!
Do not wait, do not hope tomorrow will be better or that he will be nice. GET OUT NOW!
Grab your kids and GO! Don’t wait for him to get home from work. Don’t wait and talk with him about it. GO NOW!
If you don’t have transportation, call a friend, a family member, your church, a small group leader and even if they don’t know what has been going on, tell them you need a ride. After you have left tell them the truth. Get help! There are people right around you who want to help. I promise.
If you don’t know where to turn email me: APlaceCalledSimplicity@yahoo.com Subject: The Purple Ribbon
For the record precious friend, there may be some who won’t believe you. That’s okay, I, for one, believe you. There may be some who are shocked because of your spouse/boyfriend’s occupation. Truthfully, nothing surprises those of us who have lived this nightmare. Domestic Violence crosses all lines of socioeconomic levels. There may be those who you think would say you should stay. Likely they have never lived with Domestic Violence and have zero clue. Listen friend, you have infinite value because you were made by the God of the universe. His plan is not for you to live in Domestic Violence, even if that means Divorce. He will get you through this season and He will bring healing. Your worth is not dependent on what others think, your worth is found in Christ alone.
In Bree’s case one weekend it escalated to the point that he was so violent that she felt that if she didn’t run he was going to kill her and the kids and so she asked God for strength and she fled in the night with nothing. She called friends from a new church she had visited, and although she hardly knew them she told them she and her kids needed a safe place to sleep and they graciously opened their home (we can never thank them enough). On her own she called 911 and told them she had fled because she was afraid he was going to kill her and the kids and that she was not kidnapping them but would go to get a Temporary Restraining Order in the morning. We held our breath and prayed throughout the night! Would she really have the courage to follow through?
The next day she went to a Women’s Shelter in a neighboring city and they helped her obtain a Temporary Protective Order and gave her direction to all the other help she needed. They were incredible and we are so grateful for them. We were praising God for her courage and pleading with the Lord for her and her kids protection and strength to keep going strong!
So now, let me be a voice echoing what maybe your mom or your sister or your neighbor or your friend has told you – GET OUT NOW! DO NOT WAIT!
And if you have told no one, now is the time. The truth will set you free! This is not about you. It’s about men who get their thrill from controlling, abusing, punching, having power over and demeaning the very person they promised to love and protect. They are bullying thugs.