I have been in a domestic violence shelter on three different occasions. The first time, I was there for five months as an employee. Newly married and a baby still smelling brand new, I thought myself in the perfect location to do what I love to best, encourage women to love themselves enough to live without pain.
During that period, I read everything I could about abuse, knew the ten signs by heart that your relationship is an abusive one but I quickly brushed over the more subtle signs with the one big one that I had never been hit. A threat is not a hit, intimidation is not a punch, taking you away from the people and things that mattered to you is not abuse. It couldn’t be.
I would know abuse. I had seen it first hand on more than one occasion. I had helped girlfriends pack up their belongings and move away, only to see them back in the house before I’d made it home to mine. I heard the aches and groans of other women complaining of broken ribs and bruised limbs. That had not happened and couldn’t happen to me, so no I was not a victim of domestic violence.
Many years later, I can still hear my Dad’s voice as he said “I came to get you.” I was still crying no. I am not leaving. Later on I heard he told a friend that he was only waiting to get a call to pick up my body. I wondered even then what was my Dad talking about. He had never hit me. But my memory was long on forgiveness and short on the abuse. Fortunately and unfortunately, the memory of one of my three daughters was not.
I can still see the pain in her nine-month-old eyes when she saw her Dad attempt to strangle me and push me around for the first time. I saw that pain not too long ago, when her father, now my ex-husband did much more than that.
A lot of years have passed between both incidents but they all collapsed into one for me. For the first time I felt without options and still feeling obligated to fulfill a pledge my mouth made but my heart never sanctioned. It is better to not vow than to vow and not pay the bible says. It is so true.
As someone who knows the value of a word to lift a spirit or anger a spouse, I value how I use my words. Over the years, I have had to repent many times for speaking words that God never desired for me to say or for missing the obvious opportunities He presented to me to leave without harm to me or my children.
The story I want to tell is of the years in between those incidents, the months after walking away and the year of healing that allowed me to fight for my life without raising a fist. Okay, I did get a punch or two in there. But they were not because I thought they would make an impact. They were like the exclamation mark on what I had already said by my choices. This is unacceptable and you will not hurt me or have the power to harm me anymore.
Note: If you are in an abusive relationship or think you could be please seek help. Find out what services, safe houses exist in your community and how you can make use of them.