When The Physical Abuse Starts

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Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I couldn’t believe it.  He shoved me while I tried to comfort our crying baby.  His anger, only witnessed once towards his father, now boiled over at me.  Why?  The baby bumped her head on the floor when I laid her down on her blanket.  As I tried to comfort her, he went ballistic.

The moment it happened, I scooped her up and headed for the rocker in her room, trying to calm her cries.  She wasn’t hurt, just startled. At least at first.  I’m sure her crying lasted much longer because he kept shoving me and yelling at me.  How do you comfort a baby when you’re under attack yourself?  She was my first priority.  I reached the rocker and started rocking her, hoping he would leave us alone.  He didn’t.  He proceeded to kick me in the legs.

Somewhere, in the recesses of my mind, I was in shock.  Why would he act this way?  He was angry that the baby was hurt, yet his actions could cause her greater injury than a simple bump on the head.  Unbelievable.  And he was hitting me.  I couldn’t believe it.  The man who once told me any man who would hit a woman was a coward had just become that coward.

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. I John 3:18

Did he love me?  He said he did, but as this marriage continued, he rarely showed it.  I wish I could tell you I left, but he had managed to alienate me from my family by then. Where was I to go?

There were many more occurrences.  One time he came after me with a butcher knife.  I screamed, “Don’t kill me.”

For some reason, he never hit me that time.  He only threatened me with the knife.  His outburst was long over when the police showed up a couple of hours later.  A neighbor heard my cry and reported it.  If he’d wanted to kill me, I’d have been long gone by then.  Since I hadn’t been hit that time, there were no bruises, no blood.  I was too frightened to tell them what had happened.  If it took them two hours to come to my aid, how were they going to protect me from him?

Years later, I learned that my decision to not say anything was grounded in some hard truths.  Most women, at the time. who reported domestic violence couldn’t escape.  Their abuser often tracked them down, and the situation became even more dire.  Many states have Order of Protection laws now, but back then, the only protection an abuse victim could get was a restraining order.  Do you know what happens if someone violates a restraining order?  A court date is set, usually months later, to “discipline” the violator.  Not much protection, is it?  With the Order of Protection, the abuser can be arrested and detained.  This option didn’t exist, yet.  Another option that didn’t exist at the time was the polices’ ability to arrest the abuser on charges of Criminal Domestic Violence.  This avoids forcing the victim to press charges.  Many abusers manage to get their “loved ones” to drop the charges out of fear, so many never served time for their crimes.  I’m glad this is available today. I wish it had been back then.

My darkest days began with this first occurrence.  If a man gets away with it once, he does it again, and again, and again.  Over time the violence becomes worse, more dangerous.  For me, it was the most frightening experience ever, and I had just fought through a disease that came close to killing me.  I didn’t grow up in this kind of environment.  Unlike many abused women, this family dynamic was foreign to me.

I was well out of my element.

What advice would you have given me back then?

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Under His Wings You Will Find Refuge

Photo courtesy of rhamm/freedigitalphotos.net

Photo courtesy of rhamm/freedigitalphotos.net

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
    and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
    and under his wings you will find refuge;
    his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
    nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

 Psalm 91: 3-6

Eight days after my daughter’s birth, I came home from the hospital, tired and weak.  Life took on a pattern as I adapted to the new little person in our lives.  I slept a lot while recovering from my illness, but I was home.

Less than a week later, I began to ache like I had the flu.  I called the doctor and he suggested I stop breast-feeding.  Yes, through all of my illness, I had attempted to keep this option alive.  Now, it was dead in the water.

Within twenty-four hours, I could barely move.  Turning over in the bed was impossible, the pain so excruciating.  I managed to convince my husband to get up and feed the baby in the middle of the night, but as dawn approached he refused to respond to her cries saying, “I already did it once.”  As if a two-week-old baby only eats a couple of times a day.

Fighting tears of pain and frustration, I forced my body to respond through the agony of movement and prepared to feed her.  I remember sitting on the couch crying from the pain of trying to hold the baby and the bottle.  I can’t begin to tell you how much it hurt, but it was as if my muscles had crystallized and couldn’t move.  Yet, I forced them to.  My daughter needed to eat.

I’ll never forget the relief I felt when my in-laws showed up during this feeding.  His mother took one look at me and stepped in.  While she fussed at her son to get up, I crawled back into the bed.

By the next day, I had called the OB doctor and had an appointment for the late morning.  My mother came to take me.  I tried to wake my husband, so he would know he needed to take care of the baby, but he refused to respond.  I told my mother we should bring the baby with us.  My mom said to not worry.  When the baby cried, he would get up.  We drove away, my heart torn with worry.

The OB couldn’t determine what was wrong, so the next day I went to my family doctor.  He tested everything and discovered my Sed (sedimentation) rate was abnormally high.  He took one look at me and my mother (we had left my husband with the baby again) and ordered me to take the baby and stay with my mom where I could get the help and rest I needed.

What a relief.  As the psalmist says in the verses above, God gave me refuge.  My husband hated it and refused to stay with us, but he didn’t stop me from going.  I truly believe God worked in this circumstance, sheltering me with His wings.   As my husband would prove many times during our marriage, he could have objected strongly, creating a horrific situation.  Thankfully, for all involved, he kept his mouth shut for a while.

I had the peace I needed to recover.

When has God sheltered you with His wings and protected you from pestilence?