I wear my purple nail proudly, a symbol of surviving domestic violence. I call myself Shadow Woman because it seems that domestic violence is kept in the shadows. It’s so prevalent and so ugly that people don’t fully want to address it.
Abusers keep their victims silent by threats, intimidation, isolation, humiliation,retaliation, degradation, verbal, emotional, physical, psychological abuse. Victims remain victims due to shame and fear that nobody will believe them or help them. They keep their silence and their pain in the shadows, where they are told they belong because they are useless and worthless to society.
I thought every family lived like my family lived when I was a child. Until the day my parents were fighting inside with the windows open and my friend heard them. She asked me why they were so loud. I told her, “They’re just fighting again.” It got quiet in the house. My parents heard what I said. My father called me inside. They told me I shouldn’t tell people that. What happened at home stayed at home. I was seven at the time.
Traumatic events forced me to run away from home at the age of 16. My boyfriend’s family helped me hide. I wound up pregnant and we got married. Then the domestic violence started. After the birth of my second son, I left him, but wound up going back because I wanted to believe him when he said it would never happen again.
I was washing the supper dishes while my sons and husband remained at the kitchen table. My husband came up behind me and pushed my head into the dishwater and held it there. He had me by my hair and he would pull my head up long enough for me to get a breath and hear my babies screaming, then he would push my head into the water and pull me up again by my hair.
How I got away and didn’t drown is all a blur. What is very clear is how a stayed up all night figuring out the best way to kill him. I came up with my plan. I would put my sons in the car after my husband fell asleep. He slept very soundly, so I was going to go back in the house and turn on the gas heater in our bedroom and the gas stove in the kitchen, then leave with my babies.
To this day, over 30 years later, this man does not realize how close he came to dying. The only thing that saved his life was the knowledge that I would be caught and arrested, then my sons would be without their mother and their father. I left him for good and he knew it was over. He said, “I will take your sons from you because it’s the last thing I can do to hurt you.”
My oldest son started asking where his daddy was, so I finally agreed to let them go for a visit. His mother, the same woman that helped me run away, came to pick up my sons. I remember my youngest had a cold and the last thing I did was hug and kiss them and wipe his nose. The day came for them to come home, but they never came home. He moved out of state with them and because we had no legal separation or custody agreement, the police said, “It’s just like if your car was stolen. You have to prove your legal rights to regain these children.”
I had no one to help me. My abusive father had abandoned us and could care less what happened to his first wife and family. My mother was deeply depressed after a suicide attempt and barely functional. I could not find out where they were. This man filed for divorce by publication in a paper I never saw. He got his divorce and custody of the children. Taking them away like he told me he would do to hurt me.
I traveled a long and lonely road of alcohol and depression for many years. I dreamed of my babies often. Many of the dreams were of the last day I saw them. I’d be wiping my son’s nose, then I would wake up and the emptiness was there because I didn’t have them. I wanted to sleep and fall back into my dream so I could be with them. Instead, I would drink and use drugs to numb the pain. I will stop here for today, but I will write of many things that transpired and how I finally decided not to remain silent any longer, giving each and every abuser from my father, first husband and rapists my power through that silence.