Shiloh Wall is a SheByShe member and guest blogger. She is also the author of 'Boxes and Doors of the Scorned Ones' and lives in Tennessee with her family. Below she shares her story of bravery and survival in the face of domestic abuse. Thank-you Shiloh for sharing this.
The whole Ray Rice hoopla is still trending as of late. I don't follow football much and honestly couldn't tell you who he played for or even who he was until yesterday as I'd only heard the case mentioned briefly prior to that.
That said, there seems to be a divide between what he did, whether he was punished enough for it and blaming the victim. Once the actual video was released of his assault on his then fiance (now wife), the floodgates opened. People started talking, and paying attention, allowing for something that is typically kept secret, hidden and private, whether from fear, shame, whathaveyou to be spoken of publicly.
Some of you know my own story. Some of you may have even judged me for it whether through my actions or seeming UNaction. But here it is:
I've been there too. Not once, but twice.
The first was my first husband. Most of our stories start the same way. He was charming, kind, etc. and then something changes. Did his behavior towards me change before we married? Yes. SHOULD I have seen the signs? Probably. Did it escalate? Definitely. While his abuse towards me was more mental 'you're crazy', 'no one else would want you', 'I'm the man and you do what I say' 'you're stupid' 'I will kill you'...so on and so forth, there was also physical. All I have to do is look at my right arm to see that even now, 11 years later, from an incident where he was pissed off at the tax preparation place, and for some reason, it was MY fault, and he raised his arm to hit me, I raised my arm up to block him (I was in my car in the driver's seat) he grabbed my arm and BIT me. Through my sweater (it was winter) drawing blood and leaving me with a nasty scar. Prior to that, earlier in the year, he'd grabbed me by my hair and slammed my head into the window of the car because the bank wouldn't cash a check as I didn't have two forms of ID.
Did I mention he was wheelchair bound? It would be easy to say that his behavior was a result of his disability and his inability to deal with it. There's probably some grain of truth to it, but that is, undoubtedly, not the entire story.
Things came to a head, I believe, in March of that year. I was escorted to my mom's by family members who'd come to check on me as I'd been 'out of communication' for a while. By this time I'd already made plans to leave, but I felt it had to be on MY terms, no one else's. I am also very stubborn. I went back the next day. The fact that I did not stay gone became a point of major conflict, which did not resolve for some years. (It should be noted that not quite a month after this, he was gone from my home by my choice even though I wasn't entirely sure I was doing the right thing. In hindsight I really should have made him leave that night, but hindsight as they say is 20/20.)
The day after he left, I went back to my apartment and removed the butcher knife I'd kept between the mattresses of my bed.
The divorce was finalized a year later.
You would think I would have learned my lesson, yes?
Fast forward to 2007. (for some obvious and not so obvious reasons we shall not speak of the years 2004-2006. Not now anyway.)
I remarried. The same scenario starts to present itself.
For not quite a year, I manage to delude myself that history is NOT repeating itself. It's not. It's not. It's not.
And it makes my first husband look like a fucking saint compared to this one.
I put up with his cheating, his lying, his subtle insults.
It's not happening again.
I show up to work sometimes with random bruises, on my face, arms, whatever. I lie. I'm known for being a bit of a klutz. No one buys it. I say I can handle it. Inside, I know I'm wrong, but how much more am I willing to take? He needs me. He needs a stable influence in his life, right? Yeah. Wake up kid, you're drowning and you don't even see it.
We move to Oak Grove. It escalates. We move from our upstairs apartment to a downstairs. I'm pissed because he's not helping me. He kicks me in the back as hard as he can. His brother is there. I tell his brother. Who says nothing, does nothing and basically ignores me.
He's not working, he's spending my money faster than I can make it. I don't make very much. I have 25 dollars left after paying our rent and putting gas in my car to get to work. He takes 16 of it and buys a PlayStation from a pawnshop. I haven't bought groceries. I pawn my wedding rings (not the first time, won't be the last) He gets pissed that I'm pissed that he spent our food money on a game console. Somehow it's my fault that he can't have what he wants.
He decides to go to school. He got loans, bought a car, repaired my car and replaced my wedding rings. Two weeks in, he quits school.
September 15, 2008
He's drunk. I'm not surprised. Seems to be a recurring thing as of late. I quit keeping track of how much he's had today. I'm drinking a shot of peppermint schnapps. I'm not drunk, not even buzzed. But I'm pissed. I let him know this.
The vodka bottle flies at my head and spills all over me. I'm glad it's plastic. He grabs his baton and starts swinging destroying things in our bedroom. He swings at me. I grab the baton and disarm him.
He backhands me and I see stars.
He suddenly, seemingly realizes what he's done.
I wait until he's asleep and leave the house. I call the only friend whose number I happen to have on me. I need a plan, I'd already been formulating one, but without enough money to get ahead...I bide my time.
I tell him I'm leaving. To say he doesn't take it well would be an understatement.
December 7 2008
With the help of the friend I'd called in September, I leave.
December 19 2008
Shit. I'm knocked up. Fuck fuck fuckity fuck.
I tell him.
I lie and tell him I'll try to work it out. No. There is absolutely no way in hell I'll go back.
January 29th 2009
He comes to where I'm working and demands my car. I'd dropped him off a few hours before at a pool hall at which point he'd grabbed me by the neck and slammed me up against my car attempting to strangle me. I refuse to give him my car but he's causing a scene, I relent and give him my keys to get him to leave. He leaves. I have a store full of people. He comes back in and throws my keys at me striking me in the back.
February 6th 2009
I miscarry at 11 weeks. The same day he attempts to empty my bank account as I'd stupidly put him on it. Thankfully, my roommate went to the ATM with my card and PIN number prior and withdrew all my cash.
He gets off with a slap on the wrist.
The divorce is final. THANK YOU!
November 18 2011
That friend/roommate? The one who saved me so to speak when I was adamant that I did NOT need saving. Yeah. I married him :)
To put it in the simplest terms:
I stayed both times because I thought I could save them from themselves.
I left because I was the one who needed to be saved.
A Note from Shiloh:
Although I had a rather large support system in making my own escape, I realize that may not be a reality for a lot of individuals and families. After a bit of research, I've discovered what I can only describe as the largest resource map in regards to Domestic Violence and where to find help, and it does not limit itself to merely the United States. You can find this map with all of it's available resources at: http://www.hotpeachpages.net/index.html . You are not alone and help can and will be provided whether it's through links found on the map, your local law enforcement or just a friend. Be safe!