Taking Risks – Yet another story of Domestic Violence in America

***names have been changed to protect the privacy of each person involved, even if one of them doesn’t deserve it.

After having my daughter, I had to focus a lot of my time and energy in early childhood intervention. Almost immediately, I went through the process of hand-picking a series of in-home therapists to come in on a constant basis to increase her development. It was pretty much a full time job for me, and I was unable to find a job that would allow me to keep and maintain a balance.

I was living with my mother and two of my three brothers at the time that I had her, but right before Sarah turned two, my mother moved back to Utah. I was on my own and decided to rent a room in a fairly decent – and cheap – neighborhood. After moving in, I found out that the other rooms were rented out to mentally challenged clients. These clients are unable to manage money and most (if not all) of them have some kind of a mental disability, usually pretty severe. Having nobody to talk to, I foolishly contacted my ex-boyfriend, Brent, who I had seen on and off since I was sixteen.

As usual, he was very generous and nice, which was pretty easy to accept, especially since I was on my own and didn’t really have anyone around to remind me of his shady behavior. He noticed a lot of the craziness going on with my roommates and decided to offer to help me with getting an apartment. I have no credit, so it was impossible for me to say no. My roommates ate mine and my daughter’s food; they had no respect for our personal space. I had to get out of there.

Brent offered to rent an apartment for me in his name. I would take care of the majority of the rent, and he would take care of the rest. That left me a measly two-hundred or so to use for any household expenses. He insisted that the apartment be for the two of us, and didn’t want to move in. He helped with the move costs, and the apartment was all kinds of awesome. Who would have thought I’d be living in the Highlands? The Highlands is littered with shops of all kinds, various different kinds of restaurants, pubs and bars galore, and the like. It was the kind of place that I’d always dreamed about. I would probably even describe it as a miniature New York.

Upon moving in, I had barely any furniture at all. What furniture it did consist of was my bed, Sarah’s crib, and a small desk for my computer. It was depressingly empty inside my new apartment. But it was mine. I was so proud to have such an ample amount of space for Sarah. Finally, I could use that space for the therapy that Sarah was receiving. I thought I was happy. I had everything that I needed, didn’t I?

Wow, he’s so nice! He told me he was going to teach me how to drive! I got to drive around in circles in his work parking lot, and it went quite well. Too bad there were one or two different times that while at the local grocery store, he told me that I would have to drive Sarah and I home if I wanted to get back. Driving around in circles does not make a good driver. I hadn’t even learned how to switch gears, use my turn signal, and utilize traffic lights or even stop signs. There were a multitude of things I had not done, which also included getting a permit and a license. I didn’t feel at ease with even the idea of driving back home. Yet here I was, inching my way towards a panic attack and listening closely to Sarah in the back car seat, all while driving very slowly through my neighborhood. I think I passed a stop sign. I didn’t use my turn signal. Thank God I know how to stop.

Two of my brothers attempted to visit one time. I stress the one time because of how critically jaw dropping of a moment it was. Brent – who recently brought “some of” his stuff to “my” apartment –  answered the door and glared at both Jeff and Richard the entire ten minutes that they toughed it out in their attempt to be good brothers and visit. How do I explain to them that Brent is just complicated and not much of a people person? But wait. Why haven’t I ever met any of his so-called friends? Or his coworkers? Nah. I was just being paranoid, right? Tell me I was being paranoid.

I was lying on the living room couch that we both purchased together. It was dark out. My bed was tiny, and Brent snored annoyingly, so he got a large air mattress to sleep in the living room with. He was laying on it and we were watching television. I think I thought he was trying to go to sleep at some point, because I attempted to turn off the television later on and it sparked a big argument. It ended with him grabbing the top of the television and bringing it down to the ground. This was very loud, and I yelled at him for being so rash as to argue and make loud noises while Sarah was asleep. But I was wrong for trying to turn the tv off while he was clearly not done watching. I just thought he was trying to be nice by letting me watch tv, but ended up being a self-serving douche in the long-run.

I downloaded- and uploaded – too much when he was “home”. I didn’t clean enough. I needed a job. I needed to wash his clothes all the time. I needed to stop relying on him for pharmacy runs for Sarah, or grocery shopping. There was a day that we went to a fast food joint, and we got burgers, drinks, and fries. I started eating the fries on the way home, and he got belligerent with me. How dare I attempt to eat the one thing that will be disgusting and cold by the time we get back, and he “can’t” eat anything at all until we return! When we finally got inside, he opened up my burger and threw it in the sink and turned on the water, then turned it off. I grabbed his burger and ran out of the kitchen, while he was right behind me. I dropped it to the floor and stepped on it. I don’t remember how that ended. Likely, he punished me in some really messed up way, maybe taking a computer part or threatening me or something. That was typical of him. But he’d never put his hands on me, other than trying to drag me out of the apartment after an argument about something frivolous.

For a couple of months towards the end of my stay in “my” apartment, I couldn’t even go out on my own patio. Brent would put a coin in the sliding glass door to make sure that I didn’t go out there. If I did, he would know. He knew everything. Even when I went online, he would know my browsing history just from looking at his network computer. One day he was freaking out about his GI bill (former military) and went on a cleaning spree in the kitchen. He was scrubbing the microwave when I went to get some dishes from Sarah’s room to clean. He took them out of the sink and put them on the counter, yelling at me. I went to my room and grabbed a dish or two and went back to the kitchen. I grabbed Sarah’s stuff and put them all in the sink, about to wash them all, when suddenly….

I could feel his arm wrap around my neck and suddenly everything was slowing down and speeding up at the same time. I grabbed at his arm and tried to loosen his grip. It didn’t work. I might have scratched him, but I don’t even remember. I just remember the shock and desperation to get him off and away from me. At some point he finally let go. I grabbed a frying pan and tried to swing it at him. He jumped back. I ran into the bathroom and stared into the mirror, tears streaming down my face. I remember examining my hair, and feeling the mucus that he left behind due to the “intensity” of the situation. He was so maniacal in that moment, that he had snot running out of his disgusting face. He came in after I washed up, and told me I had to leave. He went and turned off the circuit breaker and left. I turned it back on and called the hotline to beg them for a bed at the Center for Women and Families. They said I’d be added to the waiting list. I immediately started packing, and called some church friends to make arrangements. Brent was back from wherever he went. He made some sandwiches and told me to come into the living room. I reluctantly went in and asked him what he wanted. He was sitting on the couch and told me to sit and eat. I decided not to argue. He then told me that I should stay, and he would leave. Something about me staying is what I remember very well. I refused, and told him that I’d already packed a bunch of stuff. He seemed pretty ticked off that holding the fact that his name was on the lease – and not mine – over my head was no longer working. He crossed the ultimate line that surpassed mere man-holding.

After I’d left, he tried offering to give me the keys if I paid him a few hundred dollars. He made a few “offers” and each time, I refused. I’d reached my true bottom and could no longer excuse his behavior. His hanging things over my head for sexual favors, taunting me with a gun he supposedly hid in the apartment, his all-around revolting behavior was no longer something I could bear. I had to keep Sarah safe. I had to keep myself safe. I spent at least a month couch surfing while waiting for a bed to open at the Center for Women and Families. A few months after I started staying there, things got really bad, but I cannot and will not regret my decision to leave that place of horror some would refer to as an apartment. Many reports of domestic violence state that the victim of domestic violence was killed by her abuser after leaving. I can happily say that I was lucky enough not to become that kind of a statistic, but I sure did take that risk.

Even today, there have been moments since where he has reminded me in some disturbingly sneaky way, that he knows what I have been up to.

This was written for an academic assignment given in school. This was the first time that I had gone into detail about *some* of the abuse I had to endure in my lifetime, and the instructor was the only one who had seen it. Here it is, finally, posted publically and hopefully it will make a difference and even convince someone to leave a dangerous relationship.

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