A domestic survivor’s story
“June” told so many lies about her life that she began to believe them.
She was an intelligent, pretty 24-year-old with two beautiful children, but her life was filled with tension and paranoia. She was ever watchful for the one detail that might start the nightmare.
June was hoping for the day he would finally do something terrible enough that she could leave. What she didn’t realize is the day had come and gone a long time ago.
“You don’t believe it’s going to be you, and then you get there, and it is you,” June said. “I used to watch girls being put down by their boyfriends and say ‘I’d never put up with that, I’d leave.’
“It’s really easy to deny you have a problem when you don’t have the broken nose and the black eyes. That’s what I thought a domestic violence victim looked like,” June said. “He was always smart. He’d punch hard enough to hurt, but not to bruise, and never in my face.”
Things weren’t always bad. When June met her boyfriend and the future father of one of her children she was swept away by his attention.
“He was wonderful. He wanted to be with me all the time. He would drive me to the grocery store every time I needed to go. I thought it was sweet. If I had a thought that it was a little strange I pushed it aside. I thought he just wanted to be with me,” June said.
After more than six months of honeymoon, a slow change began in the relationship. The man she believed loved her above all else began to make snide comments. He insulted her intelligence, her housekeeping abilities and mothering skills. He started to separate her from her friends and family, made her quit work, then came bouts of extreme jealousy.
“It wasn’t like, all of sudden it was crazy,” June explained. “It was so subtle. It goes slowly. By the time it’s insane, you’re in love with this person.”
June began to live a life of fear, waiting for the next explosion.
“Three or four hours before he would come home, that’s when the nerves would start. I’d start double checking everything in the house. He hated dirty kids so I would bathe both children almost five times a day. Everything could be perfect. The kids could be dressed and clean, the house spotless, and a beautiful dinner waiting on the table, but the butter in the butter dish was melted, and that’s what set him off,” June said. “I never knew what it would be. I’d strive to have everything perfect.”
What was even worse for June than her own situation was the verbal and physical abuse her toddler son had to deal with.
“It’s the worst thing in the world to watch your child be abused,” June said, the pain still fresh on her face. “(My son) is the reason I will never go back.”
June said she never suffered any broken bones from her relationship, only a broken spirit.
She felt trapped with no money, no job, and two kids to support. Her abuser did a good job. June had no self-esteem, and she believed his threats of violence against herself and anyone she might go to for help. She was also afraid of losing her child.
“It’s hard to stay, but it’s even harder to leave. Leaving was the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” June said.
Education was the key to June’s salvation. A relative, unaware of June’s situation, talked with her about a domestic violence class she was taking. She also offered her some information.
“Something planted a seed,” June said. “It’s like they knew him and our relationship.”
Three weeks later June contacted the South Lake Tahoe Women’s Center and got into the shelter program. She’s come a long way in less than three months.
“I blamed everything in the world but him for his violence,” June said. “It was his choice and a conscious choice to abuse me. Nothing that happened to him made him do it.”
June’s abuser was never prosecuted. She never called the police, which is not uncommon. Not all domestic violence takes the shape of broken bones and trips to an emergency room. He still believes he did nothing wrong.
June is soon moving from the shelter to transitional housing offered by the Women’s Center. She found a job and is slowly putting her life back together for herself and her children. Even more importantly, she is making decisions for herself. She attends weekly group meetings to help talk out her pain and share her experience with other women. Her son is also in counseling.
“It’s getting easier to talk about,” June said. “I don’t need to be embarrassed. This is something that happened to me, not something I did.”
June’s name was changed in this story to protect her identity.
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