This month’s story comes from one of my students. This client came to me at a point in her life where she wanted advice and a chance to make her life better. In talking with her, I found a woman who had just awakened to find she was in a situation that had developed over a long period of time. She was frustrated but knew she needed to change her life for the better. I’ll let her tell it: (name changed to protect her identity) My name is Kara and I survived an abusive husband. I was married to him for 5 and a half years. Almost all of that time was a gradual increase in control and abuse. It wasn’t physical. It was everything else. Financially, emotionally, socially, and more. It wasn’t until I had a chance to learn about all the different types of abuse that I realized.
Here’s my story: I have to tell you that I didn’t even consider myself as someone who would allow my guy to control me, but I was. It didn’t even start out bad. It was perfect. Looking back, I’m able to see the signs but I did not at the time. I was infatuated with him. He was good looking, had a great job, made me laugh, and made me feel safe. Unfortunately, that was all his game to get me sucked in. bear in mind that this is my story, looking back with what I know now, not then. When we first met, he was great. He wanted to make me happy but now, I can see that he wanted me to let him do everything for me so he could control me. I wish I had seen it a long time ago. It took me just about 5 years to realize it. The questions about work turned into questions about my friends. At first, he did not mind going along to meet them but after a couple times, he would tell me they were mean and didn’t like me. He would say that they were just pretending and afraid to tell me. He got me to think that HE was the only person that liked me.
I was told to avoid people that were only pretending, such as my life-long friends. Another way he would control me was through our bank accounts. He told me he was great at bills and finances and ‘why should someone as pretty as me worry about trivial things such as bills’ and that he would make sure everything was paid and that I had money. I did not even realize that he gave me an allowance!
Looking back, I cannot believe I did not realize what was going on. He was taking me away from my friends and family, making me dependent on him for everything, and controlling my money. After a while, I noticed more odd ways about him. He would get upset when I was asked to work late. He would keep calling my phone and my office line every few minutes to see if I was there and when I’d be leaving. He would leave work and park outside to watch me leave and go to my car. At first, I thought he was watching out for me.
Now I know that he was just watching me. I could never have a private conversation on the phone, with people out at dinner, or anyone we ran into in public or at get togethers. Of course whenever we did go out, it was always HIS friends that we would meet, never mine. If I got a call from my parents or sisters, he would come over and listen. Then, he would ask me what they were saying. I started feeling like he did not trust me. I was never one to argue or fight, so I just let it go. He always found a way to be the center of attention. If I was late from work, he would act as if I hurt him. He would just mope around and avoid me, only to get me to dote on him even more- all because he made me feel as if it was my fault and I had to make it up to him.
One of the big, defining moments when I realized that this was all him and not me was when my parents wanted to take my sisters and I on a family vacation to celebrate their 40th anniversary. Even though both of my sisters were married, they made it just for us kids and themselves. That’s when it all started to become clear. As soon as I told him he went from “You are not going” to “Fine. Go. It just means you don’t love me if you go without me”. He sounded like a 6 year old. We had arguments over the trip, times where he would not talk to me, and then a total reversal where he acted as if nothing was wrong. I saw later that whenever he was nice to me, it was because he needed something. Attention, sex, or just praise from me. It was when I needed something, or wanted to do something by or for myself, that he got upset. My parents actually had to sit with him and tell him that it was just the family.
He still thought I was leaving him out on purpose. “You told them to say that” he said. There were a few times that I almost did not go. I was tired of the arguing. But I went. The trip was great. I felt free. My parents and sisters all decided to talk to me about him. They pointed out all the things they saw about him and his controlling and abuse. At first I did not want to believe it but they were right. They showed me something called an abuse ‘power and control wheel’ chart. It was then I realized that I was being abused. He’d never hit me, or even grabbed me in anger but he abused me in lots of other ways. I never thought I’d be someone who was abused. I always thought abused women were ones that got hit. I did not consider other ways. We all talked. I was scared, upset, angry, and scared again. I could not believe it – but it was true.
My family also gave me more information about taking back control of my life and stopping the abuse. We sat and talked for hours until we had a plan: When I got home, I was going to take back one thing at a time. The first step was my money. Then I would regain my friends. After that, I would start becoming more assertive and being who I know I am – my own person. While I was on vacation, he called me nearly every hour and wanted to talk all the time about nothing. After all of the info I had just gotten, and having my eyes opened, I saw what he was doing – monopolizing my time and making it so I could not enjoy myself unless he was part of it. Now, with fresh eyes, I began to look at every part of my life. It was time to be me again! Finally, when I got home, I had a plan and the courage to do whatever I needed to fix it. I have to tell you that taking control was the tough part. When I returned, he didn’t act as if he missed me in the least. He just acted as if he didn’t care. He was expecting me to beg for his attention and I didn’t do it. Which frustrated him even more. There were times that I bet he wished I would just give up, but I knew I had to get free.
It took me a lot of work. Eventually, I got back in touch with my friends and family and told them what was going on. The interesting part was that the more I told, the more help I got. Just knowing that they were willing to help made it easier. There was one scary moment where I knew I needed some serious advice. One night, he came home and I had been moving some of my things around – and out – of the house. He was already aware but never really said anything. He was drunk and got very angry. I guess it all finally got to him and he realized he couldn’t control me or keep me any longer We fought. Both of us were yelling and screaming, throwing things at each other.
It all came out that night. That was when I saw him change and that was when I knew I could not do this slowly. It was time. He threatened me and pushed me around, almost knocking me down the stairs. I was scared of him. He was much bigger and stronger. Then, he tried to punch me. he missed but it was then I decided it was time. I left. I went to a friend’s house and stayed there. He didn’t follow me that night, but he did try to find me a day later. He was still angry. He come to my work and tried to make me leave with him. Thankfully, the security guard there helped. He called the cops and made him leave. It was getting bad.
The security guard suggested I seek out some self defense training. I went back upstairs and started looking online. I saw so many ads, so many links to pages, but one stood out: a place called Rochester Personal Defense. I saw a class called the EQUALIZER for women and was intrigued. I didn’t want to do kickboxing or something fake, I wanted to learn how to do self defense. I called and spoke to Dave, the owner, and asked some questions.
The funny thing is that he seemed to know something had happened, even though I did not come out and tell him. He offered to meet at his training center on Buell Rd and talk. I met with him for about 45 minutes one day after work and was immediately comfortable. I signed up for the next course, which happened to be in three days, right then and there. When I got back to my friend’s house, I told them and three of my friends signed up along with me! I was encouraged! I have to tell you that the class was a life changing event for me. I learned about everything my soon to be ex was doing, and how to prevent more of it. I learned how to be more aware and also how to fight if I needed to. The last part of the class was the toughest – but it was worth it! We all got to participate in a mock attack to test ourselves and what we learned that day.
I was nervous but I told myself “You’ve come this far, you are going to do this!” and I did. it was scary, tough, but I did great! After the course, I found that I had a lot more confidence in myself and I was ready to be me – even more. I knew that I was never going to be that dependent woman ever again. I’m not a ‘survivor’, I am a ‘winner’ and I earned it! Eventually, I got the divorce settled. It took a few months and I only ran into a problem with him once. I went to the house to get a few things and he surprised me. He started off being nice and then tried to start his crap again. I remembered what I was taught in the course and I started assessing my options, got very assertive and something came alive in me – I felt great about being this way. He tried to grab me and I got him away.
I left with my things and never looked back. I was done. Done with him, his garbage, and being that weak woman I was before. I am free.
I am me. I am better.
Look Dave Jenkins up on his company’s website at www.safeinrochester.com, or call him at 585-406-6758. He always more than