Every dream about my upcoming wedding ended with me looking frantically for my shoes and not finding them. Those dreams and small signs would one day add up to the kind of nightmare no bride would ever wish to imagine for her future, but at the time I did not yet know how intuition or higher intelligence shows up to warn us in dreams and in moments where we need to be protected from harm.
Standing on the church altar it took great effort for my vows to leave my lips.Then? It was over.We were married and off to our Jamaican honeymoon.The abuse did not start with any major event but I remember some little things that really left me confused.Three things to be exact. The first was a kind of rule introduced when my husband called from work one evening.When I told him so watching our wedding video, he sounded angry.He said, “When I am working, you should be working, too.Why don’t you go and clean the cupboards now?” The second was my hair.He suddenly told me I needed to cut my long hair.I was startled and refused and for two weeks he kept at me about cutting my hair.I did not relinquish that until later in our relationship.The third rule was about money. He told me I would get to have a say in the money as soon as I had a job making the same amount of money as he did. My mind was confused.Was this the same man who had taken me out for romantic dinners, introduced me to his family and proposed to me? What could I do to make our marriage happy?
I cooked, cleaned, gardened and dressed well.Or so I thought the time came while we were shopping and he began picking out clothing for me.He asked me to change into the clothes he had bought me and as we were leaving the store, he said: “Now, this is the way my wife should look.”
Weeks and months passed when he was so moody when we were alone yet was ever pleasant to store clerks and friends outside our home.And then, every once in a long while, he would return back to the man I had met: smiling, content and relaxed. The problem was, that man would disappear again – and just like those shoes in my dreams. I never knew when he would what be back again.
Over time, I saw less and less of my family and more of his.He did not want me to talk to our neighbors or children in our area. He would shower or sleep while I talked with his parents.And there were more “blow ups”, never directed at me, but scary. He got mad at the neighbor and hit a tree with a metal bar until it curved and the tree was damaged yelled by all the while. A cab driver cut him off and he raged on the road.
One summer night we went to a party.I asked when we were leaving to see the movie, as planned and he shouted to me: “Get a cab!”. Minutes later we left. He began driving angrily, banging his head against the window, shouting that I had asked to have a cat and driving the car in circles into oncoming traffic.The night would end with my husband throwing things out of the garage, banging his head against walls, threatening to kill himself and lying to the police about what he had did after the neighbor next door whisked me away and called 911. When he was hospitalized, I was sure the doctors would diagnose him with something but they didn’t. They told me, instead, that he was choosing these behaviours and had told them he wanted to kill me. I was 25 years old and could hardly believe what I was hearing.He told me he would go for counselling and I stayed.But nothing got better.I just became more and more afraid.I lost weight.I found myself crying and shaking when I thought of that night.
Luckily for me, I was working at a library and stumbled upon a book by Patricia Evans called How to Recognize and Respond to Verbal Abuse. As I read the types of abuse I recognized the verbal, emotional, physical and financial abuses I had experienced. For some odd reason, I never thought a teacher living in a good neighborhood could become victimized by her husband. I also read about how a sign of danger was when an abuser bumps or pushes against their victim almost like a boxer sparring with another boxer – it meant imminent danger. I would have to leave. But how? I was frightened and ashamed of what my life had become. I felt waves of distress wash over me. Sometimes I would write down what had occurred on days when he was angry so I could remember and think about it.
I called the local shelter crisis line when my abuser was gone. I told the counsellor what I was afraid of. The counsellor let me share and encouraged me to make the best decision for me.She did not judge me or tell me to leave.The counsellor said it might be a good idea to have an extra bag with clothes and ID in it should I need to leave. I did so not fully believing I would need it. I did.
I came home to see an angry and threatening note left on the kitchen counter in capital letters. It said that the cat had got off its leash and that I, too should be on a leash.
I made a plan. I stayed with family for a few weeks, saw a counsellor, looked for a job and an apartment and asked my friends to help me move soon when he was working. He asked me again to come back.Exhausted and tired, I did. As soon as my suitcase was in the door, he stopped speaking with me.
My heart was heavy with grief yet I knew I was in danger. I became all the more certain when I dropped a fork on the ceramic tile in the kitchen and he shouted: “If you do that again, I will kill you.”
One day, I came home to find my husband had cooked a dinner for me.He told me he had a “blow up “ at his parents house earlier.I listened. I wanted so desperately to tell him that I couldn’t stay anymore, that I was leaving and wished him well. Something inside of me said “Don’t tell him!”
I left with my cat and my clothing the next day while he was at work and went to a safe home. I believe I saved my own life by not telling my abuser I was leaving and having a safety plan. I never went back again.
Today I am grateful for the gifts of intuition, my neighbor who intervened to help me, author Patricia Evans and the helpful support and advice of my local woman’s crisis line counsellor.I have since learned that shoes throughout time have represented the power and authority of a person.
Do you have a story to tell about ending abuse? SOWINS can help you share it anonymously.