I Made it Out of an Abusive Relationship Alive. So Can You.
As I picked up the phone, my heart was pounding in my chest and my hands were trembling so violently that I was afraid I might drop it. I talked myself into taking deep breaths to try to stay calm. I wasn’t quite sure why my body was responding this way, but I knew that I had to get ahold of the attorney that would help me file for divorce, quickly, before my husband returned to the house. I had already told him that I was planning to file, but he was determined that he would talk me out of it.
My plan was to ask the attorney to have everything prepared so it would be quick. I had to handle my husband delicately at this point. I told him I was going to the grocery store, so I figured I could make it to the attorney’s office, sign everything, get to the grocery store and get back, before anything seemed out of the ordinary. I knew that this was a fairly safe time to try to get to the attorney’s office, because we had house guests in town, and they would be joining us for dinner. He would put on a front and be sugary sweet to me, in front of them. If he didn’t have too much to drink, I might make it through the night relatively easily, as long as he didn’t find out where I was really going.
I quickly dialed that attorney’s number, which I was careful not to save in my phone. I knew it by heart, because I had tried to dial it so many times. We had communicated via email, on a new email account that I had made, because my husband had my passwords to my email and phone and regularly checked my activity. When the secretary answered, I told her that I was getting ready to leave my house and head that way, but cautioned her that when I arrived I would only have a few minutes, so everything must be ready to sign. It was the first real step toward my freedom, and I couldn’t stop now!
I hung up the phone with a huge sigh of relief, but as I turned around, there he was, my husband stood right before me! My body began to tremble. I had not heard him enter the room, and I knew that he had heard me talking hurriedly to the attorney, telling them that I was ready to sign everything needed to file for divorce. He stood silently staring at me, his eyes raging with anger. I could hear him taking long, slow, deliberate breaths and see the veins in his forearms bulge, as he clenched his fists.
“What do you think you’re doing?” he asked through clenched teeth, careful not to yell, because our guests were sitting in the next room.
“I told you that I was going to file,” I heard myself say. “Every day, I am walking on egg shells, scared to death that something I say or do will send you into a rage,” I told him. “I can’t live like this, and I constantly make you so angry. We both deserve to be happy, and this just keeps getting worse and worse.” Tears were streaming down my face now.
His fists relaxed, and he looked at the ground briefly before exhaling loudly. He started speaking slowly and deliberately: “You have hurt me more than you could ever imagine. No one has ever disrespected me as much as you just did by making that phone call.” I tried to interrupt, to tell him that I never meant to hurt him, but his speech quickly turned tense and strained. “You will not go to an attorney! You are my wife, now f*cking act like it! I have guests here for God’s sake! You are such an embarrassment to me, and your entire family! What the f*ck is wrong with you?!”
I started past him, toward the door, and flung my purse over my right shoulder. He quickly grabbed my left wrist and pulled me toward him. “Let go of me,” I said quietly. “I have to leave now, so I can get to the grocery and get back in time to have dinner ready for our guests!” All I wanted was to get out of the house, perhaps more than I had ever wanted anything in my life. He grabbed my other wrist, so I faced him, and he shoved me through the doorway directly behind me, into my closet.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he hissed through clenched teeth, just inches from my face. As I pushed him away from me and out of the closet, he closed the door, trapping me in my own closet. I felt my world start to spin, as if I was in some crazy dream, and I started to panic. I could feel the fear welling up inside of me, and I could feel the sting of tears in the corners of my eyes, but somehow, I wasn’t aware that I was actually crying. I felt like the closet was closing in on me, and I charged at the white, wooden door; pushing as hard as I could with both hands, which thankfully only locked from the inside. I was able to push it open a couple of inches.
“I am finished with your f*cking disrespect! No one leaves me! Do you hear me?” he yelled, seething with rage. Panting from pushing against the door with every ounce of physical strength that I could muster, I looked into his vacant eyes, and said, “Your guests are one room away, and if you don’t let me out of here right now, I am going to scream as loud as I can, and I don’t care if it makes you look bad! I don’t care! Do you hear me?” He sneered at me and threw his head back laughing as he slowly backed away from the door. I hurried past him, as fast as I could, didn’t look back, and I went to the attorney’s office.
Approximately 75% of women killed at the hands of their abuser, are killed when they try to leave or have left the abusive relationship, according to the Domestic Abuse Shelter. I filed for divorce that day but did not listen to the advice of my attorney. He suggested that I file a protective order. I hadn’t even told him everything that had gone on, just alluded to the fact that my husband had tried to physically prevent me from coming to his office to file.
The National Network to End Domestic Violence cites that three women die at the hands of domestic violence every day. I knew that I was ready to leave, but I did not handle the situation the right way. I know that now. He got angry and left town, which I naively believed would be end of his violence. However, the abuse continued in different ways. He began stalking me, texting me sometimes hundreds of times a day, somehow put a tracking device on my vehicle, and less than two months after I had filed for divorce, my husband tried to kill me.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship or a potentially abusive relationship, there is a way out. At least one million times, I have thought, What if I would have listened to my attorney’s advice? Would things have turned out differently? Would I have been spared the physical, mental, and emotional trauma of barely escaping a murderous attack? I will never know.
I am a survivor of attempted murder and domestic violence. If you know someone who is in an abusive situation, please share these resources with them. There is a good chance that they do not understand the danger that they are in. I am advocating for a world where we start calling attention to the silent killer that domestic violence is, and has been for centuries, where we meet victims with empathy and understanding, and we do not tolerate abuse.
Because I survived, I choose to speak, and when a survivor speaks, it is powerful!
If you are contemplating leaving an abusive situation, please take advantage of every resource that you are offered!
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is available 24 hours a day to assist in creating a safety plan that includes provisions for planning to leave and safety after leaving. Their detailed plans of action are a means of creating the safest way possible to leave a bad situation behind. If you have experienced ANY type of abuse during your relationship, please don’t underestimate the possibility that your intimate partner could become violent while you are trying to leave or after. Leaving takes away the power of control that your abuser has had over you during your relationship. An abuser desperate to regain control of a victim has the potential to turn deadly in a hurry.
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233
Last modified on March 13th, 2019