Domestic Violence Almost Took My Life, Don’t Let It Take Yours
Trigger warning: details of domestic violence.
Waking up, I didn’t have a clue what had happened to me. I didn’t even know where I was.
People were coming in and out of my room all the time. It was a busy place. I realized in time (weeks) that I couldn’t even get out of bed.
One arm was in plaster, I had a bandage on my head, and my eyes were nearly swollen shut. I had a metal bar on my teeth. Everything hurt.
There were cords, tubes and monitors everywhere around me, going into my body.
The room, which I later came to realize was my hospital room, was filled with all my children’s paintings and photos. Like a new home.
And like a new home, it was frequented by friends and family, who stopped in to visit as hours turned into days; and eventually weeks.
Still, my memory of how I’d come to be there was foggy.
My bed of cords and beeping machines all rhythmically chanting to keep me alive, started to feel like my home for life. I began to forget what the real world was. Time became skewed. Then, after months of treatment and countless operations, I was moved to a brain rehabilitation facility.
One night, it started to come to me; the fear I’d felt before waking up surrounded by machines keeping me alive… Two male nurses just starting their shift for the evening came into my room, and I found myself suddenly asking, “Am I safe here?”
Still piecing together what was happening to me, I overheard a doctor updating another staff member on my details outside my room in the rehab unit some time later. She said my name, my age, and then something horrifying…the words that brought the memory of the day that had led me to that hospital bed flooding back.
“She was assaulted with a baseball bat”.
I froze. I didn’t know what to think. I was terrified.
I started to cry to myself.
“No,” I thought.
“How could this be true?!”
It was the first time the reality of what had happened to me, and of the very long recovery path stretched ahead of me, became clear.
I lost so much; my own son couldn’t face my mangled face when he first came to hospital, stopping to vomit in the corridor.
I had to learn to think again, to use my jaw, to eat, to move. The tiniest of tasks were now gargantuan.
But above it all, the fear, that feeling of unsafety, was the most unbearable pain of all.
Five years on, I’m still recovering. But I have a supportive family, and the care of amazing friends.
In hindsight, there were red flags…
I met Ben* on an online dating site after a long stint of being single. He was in real estate, a career that seemed safe, respectable. We texted for around a month until he asked one day if he could ring me, and from there, things took off quickly.
At the beginning of the relationship, I was nervous about everything, as I hadn’t had anyone in my life for a long time. But Ben was very, very nice – the type of man that opened your car door. He would also go to the grocery store and get me food for dinner. I thought it was sweet.
But then, odd things about him started to surface.
When I took my children to his place, he wouldn’t let them sit on the couch. I brushed it off as an eccentricity. Money began going missing from my wallet, he told grandiose stories that didn’t add up, he started faking illness to skip out on work, contacts were deleted from my phone. It became harder to brush things off.
The red flags were subtle, but they were nonetheless indicators that Ben wasn’t stable.
I started to get a gut feeling. A feeling that something wasn’t right, that Ben wasn’t who he said he was, and so I called him one day, not wanting to face him in person, to let him know our relationship was over.
I felt so relieved to have ended things. It was like a massive weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I drove home from work that day feeling peaceful for the first time in a long time; that I’d done the right thing, and happy to spend the night alone with my kids.
But I hadn’t seen the last of Ben.
He burst into my home that night, demanding we speak in private in the bedroom.
He shut the door behind us, my kids outside.
The only thing I can remember after that, is being on the ground, Ben hovering above me with the baseball bat. My kids coming into the room. Me screaming at them to get help…
After he was eventually convicted of attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison, the magistrate made a statement saying no amount of time behind bars could ever make up for what he’d done to me.
My life is still changed. My trust in men, in general, is something I have had to rebuild. My body is still healing.
For anyone experiencing domestic violence, please, speak up.
Don’t ignore red flags or gut feelings that tell you something’s up, that feeling of discomfort – subtle abuse often looks a lot like love when it’s anything but; so trust your instincts.
People will help you when you ask, even if you feel completely alone, please know you’ll get help, and your children will be supported as well. Housing, food and safety will be there for your new life.
You don’t have to ignore it. You don’t have to live in fear. You have a choice. Make the call.
Image via pexels.com. *Name has been changed.
If you or someone you know has been affected by relationship abuse, or are currently in an abusive relationship, you can call The National Domestic Violence Hotline on 1-800-799-7233 for support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
November 25 marks International Day For The Elimination Of Violence Against Women. To learn more, head here.