Journal Entry August 1991: small town, Pennsylvania: Last night was the worst night ever…drunk again, only this time it was so bad…waving a gun around a bar…I feel so humiliated.. They put a gun in my face! … the laughingstock of all those people, giving me those looks…yet again he has ruined another day. He hit three cars and tried to run me over… I’m scared… when will this all end?…screaming in my face and stole my car…what have I done so wrong? Why is this happening?…I just can’t anymore…I am hoping they will keep him this time…I’m afraid of how he will be if they do, or if they don’t…
Although I do not remember writing this entry, I do remember the event all too well, despite the decades that have swiftly passed. Unless being of a certain disposition, as in the case of the “he” mentioned above, one would have these scenes seared into their memory for all time; terror filled images of several police officers pointing guns at your head; being physically forced upon the hood of a car face first, breaking your nose in the process, and the finality of being rendered helpless and dehumanised in handcuffs. All due to another’s actions of which you had no part in. Collective memories of this season of my life bring to mind the novel “A Tale of Two Cities” by Charles Dickens. So many quotes, morals and themes contained within this literary work could so easily pertain to the essence of my life during the era of my early twenties.
In keeping within the confines of this blog, I will not write of any numbers or stories, and do not subscribe to any social movements, nor cling to any hashtag coattails. This truth is mine and mine alone, penned with retrospective knowledge and intended dignity.
So how did I arrive at this scenario? Indeed, very easily and unassumingly enough. At the tender age of twenty one, I had acquired a failed marriage, two children and a lengthy admittance to a hospital unit. However, after having been endorsed as “well”, I also acquired something that would change the course of the rest of my life. I attained a newly found faith in God. I began to immerse myself in church activities and service. I was determined to make God clean up my mess and become the person I was meant to be (whoever I thought that was at that time, I cannot recall). I was in a state of ignorant bliss; my physical, emotional and mental damage was unconsciously unacknowledged as I began treading a pathway to grace.
It was there that I met the above “he” person, whom for all intents and purposes, I will call A. A was a nice enough person; very polite, and had a lovely smile. I do recall hearing stories about his past and having been directly warned twice by well-intentioned individuals, but took no real notice, for who was I to be judge and jury to another’s past mistakes? Surely, being a man who professed his faith so loudly and so boldly is a changed man indeed. I have since come to the conclusion that hindsight can be both a blessing and a burden.
Before entering into a relationship with A, I maintained two part-time jobs while studying for degrees in English and Applied Science. I was inculcated throughout my childhood with the belief that I was a small town girl with small town mentality, and would therefore never achieve anything more than a meaningless existence. At that point in my life, the one and only thing I knew for certain was that I would defy every expectation set upon me and become something or someone noteworthy in this life; with or without assistance, knowing full well the former would not be forthcoming.
I expected to, and should have been, filled with joy and excitement of an entire lifetime yet to come, exploring the world with hopeful and optimistic young eyes full of wonder and endless possibilities. However, due to my previous disastrous choices, implemented through inherently linked perceptions of reality, this period of my life had fallen well short of what, ideally to me, it should have been.
Within two weeks of beginning a relationship with A, I found myself on the receiving end of the first slap from someone other than my parental figures. I forgave easily given the profuse apologetic words that followed and the assurance that only he could give me a life I would love. The second instance followed the same pattern. The abuse had begun its slow escalation to knock out punches, broken bones, rape, and isolation from the few individuals still secretly able to be a part of my life. I was not permitted to attend church any longer. Our pastor came calling on his regular rounds, only to be met with an unopened door when knocking. As A was jobless (and continued to be throughout the relationship), I continued to work at my places of employment, however my attendance was sporadic, due to forced confinement or fresh wounds. I was eventually dismissed by one employer as a result of attending my public service workplace with a blackened face and a dislocated shoulder. My studies were deferred.
The incident described in my journal was indeed traumatic, not only to myself, but to the many bystanders who witnessed A’s rage, which had become all too common and accepted by myself. I had foreseen some sort of episode occurring due to the availability of alcohol (among other substances), and recall being terrified to accompany him, yet at the same time, reasoning that if I were present, I could in some way control any eruption with persuasive reasoning. I did not drink alcohol at all during that era of my life, having experienced the devastating effects of alcohol abuse firsthand, and a supposed predisposition for addictive behaviour.
A did return three days later, with a Magistrate’s fine in hand and a dire threat to my life on his lips, should I pursue criminal charges of aggravated assault against him. At the time of this incident, A and I had been in a relationship for six months. Due to readily accepting the role of an emotional caregiver in the relationship, I ensnared myself in a trap of my own making. I did not imagine the relationship would get any worse. What was to follow was beyond the comprehension of my immature mind.
The freephone 24-hour National Domestic Abuse Helpline
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness..”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities, 1859