Yesterday was the 21st anniversary of the awful night of the guns. I was trapped and terrified. Why doesn’t she leave? It’s better to be beaten than to end up dead.
I didn’t leave because I knew I’d never be free. He’d made that clear. Crystal clear. I could leave, but he’d track me like he did all the others. I would never again know who I could trust. I would never know who was whispering my secrets to him in a naive attempt to curry his favor or hope that he’d return to her bed. Throughout our relationship, he had spent every free moment tracking every woman who had ever been in his life. It was almost a full-time job.
He was addicted to it. He was as hooked on stalking as he was on alcohol and prescription drugs. He was obsessed. He has a Scorpio’s need to destroy. A male version of a black widow. Mate and kill.
When we danced until dawn on the night we met, I never dreamed that a few months of sexual bliss could so destroy my life and change its trajectory. But, it did. Oh, how it did. It’s like a bad hangover that never goes away.
One of my favorite books is Anna Quindlen’s Black and Blue. Oprah gave me the book on Maundy Thursday, 1998. I didn’t want to read that damned book, but Oprah made me promise that I’d read it and write a review. It changed my life. On Easter Sunday, I wrote to Oprah:
Anna Quindlen captured the heart and soul of every woman who has ever tasted the bitter fruit of abuse: “It’s like he stole my soul.” She deftly navigated the undercurrents of domestic violence. She powerfully demonstrated how our society and legal system enable both the abuser and his/her victim to continue destructive behavior patterns. She turned a bright spotlight on the Patty Bancrofts [DV advocates] of the world who seek to control rather than empower women. She threw down the gauntlet to families everywhere who rear women to be helpless doormats and condone the vicious conduct of men through their silence. She painted a sensitive portrait of the shattered innocence of a child caught in the crossfire. In short, Anna Quindlen turned over every rock and examined the mass of maggots hiding underneath.
Iyanla Vanzant was on Oprah that Maundy Thursday. A lot of lives were changed that weekend. Oprah was inspired by my letter to create Change Your Life TV. Dr. Phil would probably still be an obscure Texas shrink if I’d kept my thoughts to myself.
We hide inside our cocoons when fear overwhelms us. As I wrote to Oprah:
Anna Quindlen captured the fear that paralyzes every battered woman. Fear is a funny thing. It clouds our ability to think clearly. We conspire to hide the truth that will set us free. We are afraid to go. We are afraid to stay. We don’t know where to turn or what to do. We become prisoners of our own silence.
And I do, every day.
When the judge threatened with conviction that he could kill me and get away with it, he was telling me that he would make my life so not worth living that I would kill myself. He bragged that he had been trained by the military to break a person’s spirit. He was an expert. Although PTSD episodes have frequently propelled me into suicide hell, I cannot hand him this victory. Ms. Quindlen captured this dance brilliantly:
He was gloating really, although for once you couldn’t read his mood in his voice. He was telling me that I was trapped, that I was chained in some basement he’d created. . .He was telling me that I’d never get away, that he could do what he wanted and I couldn’t do a thing about it. . .
It is as though, as never before, he’d touched my insides, who I was, who I am. And it was his threat, too, that made me understand that I had to run to hide, to get away. What was I going to do, call a cop?
Who do you call if he’s a cop? A judge? A powerful executive or government official? A professional athlete?
Nobody. You call on your faith because nobody’s going to protect you from these evil, asshole predators. You’re on your own.
How did Tina Turner free herself from Ike? There was a part of me that still expected the system to deliver. Yet, it has been the success of this site that helped me finally, finally, finally appreciate that my experiences are fairly universal. It is rare that abusive predators are held accountable. Their prey pays the price. Oh, how we pay and pay and pay. I have struggled for years to accept Ms. Quindlen’s observations:
Patty Bancroft was our public face, our voice, our leader. You could tell that she enjoyed that, that it made her feed good, to have gone from being powerless in her own home to being powerful in the world. I realized that that was what had always bothered me about her, that she enjoyed her work so much. . .
“Let me ask you this,” Patty Bancroft said. “Do you want to stay alive?” It was her trump card, I could tell by the way she said it. The fact that Patty Bancroft and Bobby Benedetto so often said the same things, so often made me feel the same about myself, made me hate Patty Bancroft at that moment, no matter how much good she’d done me and Robert. But she was playing out of her league when she conjured up the worst that could happen. I’d heard it all before, I’d heard it from the master.
The past few weeks have been rugged. I am livid that it isn’t likely that Compass Health will be held accountable for Medicaid or HUD fraud. I am livid that those in positions of power aren’t embarrassed that the dearth of quality mental health providers in my county is our number one health issue. I am livid that these same people endorse the intentional infliction of emotional distress by a mental health provider on vulnerable clients. It takes a special brand of callous indifference and evil to conspire in a holocaust on disabled people.
A protective mother left a comment about the impacts of traumatic abuse on our psyches. As I read her heartfelt words, I realized that “trauma” is a nice word for evil acts. I have never been able to wrap my head around why some people relish being evil. I don’t understand why these people delight in bringing me to tears and instilling fear. I know it makes them feel powerful, but we can feel an even greater sense of authentic power by inspiring others to be their very best.
Last night I had a dream about Marilyn Stanton. I woke up knowing that I am safe. I woke up knowing I am free. I don’t know what I’ll be doing today to celebrate, but I do know that I’m not going to Starbucks. I don’t want to be around the assholes with their guns.
Love is more powerful than hate or fear. I have known this all my life. But, I frequently have to remind myself ~ especially after I’ve encountered an especially evil person.
The most important epiphany of the morning, however, was the knowledge that I’m lucky that I won’t be going to therapy this afternoon. My therapist ~ like the advocates who didn’t protect me ~ doesn’t really want me to heal or be safe or thrive and find joy. There’s too much money to be made from imprisoning me in a state of fear.
Free @ last.
The sun is shining. It’s a beautiful day here in Seattle. My flowers are blooming magnificently. I’ve bought myself some new clothes. I didn’t realize when I bought them that subconsciously I needed to be ready to GO.
I’ve been a recluse for far too long. I’ve allowed evil people to wipe the smile off my face. I’ve hidden the strength of my muscles underneath layers and layers of fat to fend off too many unwanted sexual advances. And, I’ve said “yum!” too often when I should have said “fuck you!”
My depression and oppression lifted when I started making a bucket list earlier this week. I don’t know where I’m going or how I’ll get there. But, I am going.
Freedom really is a state of mind.
Carolyn, your writing and your story leave me stunned. Forgive me for not knowing what it’s like to be you, but I want you to know that I support you in your struggle and wish you were my neighbor! I’m happy to hear about your new clothes and your bucket list!
Bless you. You and your extended family light up my life and bring me joy.
Sending hugs and best wishes,