When people see or hear domestic violence they immediately see blood and bruises, that’s just not the case. This is the 2nd part of a 3 part series of real life events of abuse.

Though not what most people seem to see as abuse….they see it as normal. This is a normal we have to change and that is the reason why these are here….to teach, to make aware, to plead for change!

Domestic Violence Part 2: You Don’t Have To Be Hit

Ever since I was a kid I have always felt like I was meant to do something in life that was big. As a kid, I thought it was to dance on Broadway. I always wanted to dance on Broadway. I could see myself there on stage in New York. I use to practice in my room taking my standing ovation and accepting my Tony award with my hair brush. That was then and as most children dream big, those dreams become diminished over time as life pulls us back to earth. That feeling of doing something big though, has never gone away even as an adult. Now, I don’t think Broadway is in my future, but I know something is. There was a time though, when I had no dreams. I didn’t dream of a great career, a family, or even real love. My first marriage destroyed any dreams I had. My first marriage, which was a marriage of youth, taught me that not every man is who they seem and it taught me that any woman can end up somewhere, far away from where they started in life.

In these blog posts I hope to expose the truth that isn’t often shared in the world of discussions of relationships. When we talk to young women we don’t often talk about power and control. We don’t have those discussions, because most people don’t understand them. We jump to extremes. We jump to the Disney version of a relationship or the violent end. Most relationships aren’t either one.

When I finally escaped from my marriage, it was like being a bird that could defy gravity. I felt free. I had great friends and a new roommate and was starting to live my life as an adult as a true individual for the first time at the age of 27. I went to parties, dated, started really building a career, and set out to find who I was. I didn’t realize how damaged I was, though. I had no clue. I had endured roughly 3 years of emotional violence. The post divorce year was the worst, but I was out.

The game of domestic violence is a game of manipulation. Manipulate the other person as much as possible to believe that they are worthless. Once the other person believes that, then the abuse can go on long after the relationship is over.

In the years after my divorce I found myself in a string of what can only be described as “unfortunate events.” A close friend was addicted to cocaine (which I knew nothing of) and because of that stole my car and robbed my house. Friendship over. More trust eroded. About a year later, I found myself being bullied at work. Yes at work. It was subtle and it was torturous. The woman who did this told lies about me and single handed almost destroyed my career. More trust eroded. I say all of this, because once trust erodes, anyone can take advantage of you. The reason is because all it takes is someone nice to build that trust back up. They talk in soft tones and they come veiled as a friend willing to listen.

On the day of 9/11 when the entire country was facing a very uncertain future, I called this friend for comfort. As most people, I was confused and scared. We talked that day for hours. He listened to me as I talked about the future and we talked about how much we needed each other. A relationship was started. The next couple of years were great. We even talked about marriage. In the time we were together we worked on a project that was theatrical in nature. I was in charge of the production and the staff. He was essentially under me. What drew him to me initially was my creativity and what he called, “a powerful flame that couldn’t be put out.” He use to say that I was a strong spiritual force.

Now, if you are paying attention up to this point, you can see how he is drawing me in.

During the time all these great things are being said, I was missing one key element. He was an alcoholic and he was an angry alcoholic. I saw none of it, because our relationship involved a lot of drinking and a lot of partying. When I think back to it, I can remember times when he acted in such jealousy that it was embarrassing. He would argue with me over talking to other men who were colleagues. He had a way of staring at me that would shut me up in mid sentence.

When we started working together, I started to see what I thought were minor levels of jealousy. He would interrupt me in meetings and challenge things as minor as a rehearsal schedule. He started saying things to me outside of rehearsal like, “Are you sure you’re making the right decision?” Slowly over time I started giving up power and giving it to him in rehearsals. One day, one really bad day something happened that I will never forget.

Before I tell the story, I would like to say that I never should have let it get to this. I look back and realize that I had found myself in another abusive relationship and that throughout the relationship he had been showing signs of jealousy and doing things that were downright mean. There were nights when he would get drunk and demand sex and when I would say no, I would get called things like, “stupid bitch.” He would say things like, “So why did you flirt with me all night if you weren’t going to give it up?” This had been going on for about a year before the big incident occurred. I never did anything, because I guess I thought the good was better than the bad. He bought me flowers all the time and took me on cruises and once to New York. Birthday’s and Valentines Days were always special.

Why give that up for self-respect I wasn’t sure I had anymore?

So on this one night we were in Chicago. It was about 10 degrees with heavy snow. Our little theater group was there for a competition. Before we started rehearsal we decided to let the performers and staff have a little free time in downtown Chicago. We were there for about 5 hours. We were there long enough for the staff to start drinking. I did not stay with the staff that night, but hung out with a friend and had dinner and did a little shopping. When we got back on the bus to go to our rehearsal site I realized that my boyfriend along with the majority of the staff were not fit to teach that night. I asked them very nicely, but very authoritatively to not come to rehearsal. When we arrived at the rehearsal site, my boyfriend asked to talk to me…outside and away from the listening ears of others. I thought this would be a short talk and I thought he was going to apologize for drinking when he shouldn’t. I was wrong. He asked to speak to me outside, because he knew all I had was a light leather jacket and no gloves. He was from Minneapolis and was dressed warmly for cold weather and could sustain cold weather for a long time. He walked me to the side of the building to “talk.” It was dark, it was cold and I had been positioned in a completely defenseless position up against a brick wall. He had me in a place where I couldn’t move and I was freezing. He said things like, “Don’t you ever tell me what to do.” “Everyone hates you anyway, so why don’t you quit.” “You are worthless, so why are you here?” The entire time, his hands were right at my head against the wall. He used cuss words, insults, and the threats he used were to destroy what I loved the most…the arts. I just knew he was going to hit me that night. I started shouting to leave me alone and let me go. I was telling him that I was cold and I wanted to go in. I started screaming for help, but no one heard me. I was never touched and he eventually just stopped. He went inside leaving me outside completely and emotionally torn. When he left I fell to the ground into the snow.

The interesting thing about this story is that this was not the first time he had done this, nor was it the first time I had heard that I was basically worthless. What is even more interesting, is that in our little theatrical/dance world, I was one of the best in the country. I knew it. He knew it and he was jealous of that. He crushed everything I had built for myself over the course of a three year relationship. Something else you should know. I didn’t break up with him that night. In fact, we stayed together for another 3 or so months. Once you are in these relationships, breaking up is a fearful act. You think to yourself that if it’s this bad now, what will it be like if I try to leave. What will he say to our friends? What will he do?

Two adult relationships and two abusive men. Nothing I had seen as a child was the life I was leading. I had amazing friends and family. My friends coincidentally were for the most part therapists and none of them knew what was happening.

There are a lot of reasons that women don’t tell people about their abuse.

For me it was fear of showing people that I wasn’t as strong and confident as I was. Over time the erosion of my self-esteem and my dreams started to kill me. Literally. I had found that xanax numbed the pain and allowed me to take whatever was thrown out at me. I would take so much xanax that there was times I didn’t even know where I was. It wasn’t until my “therapists” friends knew something was wrong when I wouldn’t eat, when I was high all the time, and almost got a DUI. This is when they stepped in.

It’s funny how people on the outside of abusive relationships can’t understand what it’s like to be in it. They can’t see a building of fear and tearing of the victims soul.

We have a huge problem in this country. We desensitize violence so much that it doesn’t even register anymore.

Abusive relationships tear you down and you never have to be touched. I would even venture a guess that many women in abusive relationships don’t even realize it, because they are told they are loved, but shown how much they are hated. That’s what happened to me over time. The power a man has over a woman can be immeasurable and the smartest women can end up there without realizing it.

To end this, I want to tell you a time when I knew I was nothing that I had dreamed of as a child. This was a time when I thought that death was my only out and I really believed God had left me to suffer, while I tried to figure out what I had done wrong. I had gone to see the play, “Les Miserables,” with a group of friends. I had seen that play probably 3 times and knew the soundtrack like I wrote it myself. When Fantine sang, “I Dreamed A Dream,” I heard the words as I had never heard them before. “…But there are dreams that cannot be and there are storms we cannot weather I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living. So different now from what it seemed. Now life has killed the dream I dreamed.” I bet I had heard those lyrics a million times before. On this night though, she finished singing and I had to leave the theater. I went to the bathroom shaking and tearful. I knew then, that somehow I had to find my way out, but it was not going to be that night or even that year. In part three of this, I will tell you how I found my way in and found my way out again, because once this cycle starts it is not just one relationship you are running from, but years of fear.

If you have never heard the song you have to listen to it. If you know the song, listen to it again. Close your eyes and try to be the woman in the song. Listen to the words. Listen to her angst. Listen to her passion. Listen to what her dream is and how her dream was killed. It’s important that you do this as then you can start to understand what it is like for a person to have their dreams and soul shattered by another.

 

Patti Lupone: I Dreamed A Dream

I Dreamed A Dream

There was a time when men were kind
When their voices were soft
And their words inviting
There was a time when love was blind
And the world was a song
And the song was exciting
There was a time
Then it all went wrong
I dreamed a dream in times gone by
When hope was high
And life worth living
I dreamed that love would never die
I dreamed that God would be forgiving
Then I was young and unafraid
And dreams were made and used and wasted
There was no ransom to be paid

No song unsung
No wine untasted
But the tigers come at night
With their voices soft as thunder
As they tear your hope apart
And they turn your dream to shame
He slept a summer by my side
He filled my days with endless wonder
He took my childhood in his stride
But he was gone when autumn came
And still I dream he’ll come to me
That we’ll live the years together
But there are dreams that cannot be
And there are storms we cannot weather
I had a dream my life would be
So different from this hell I’m living
So different now from what it seemed
Now life has killed
The dream I dreamed.

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