As a single mom, daycare was hard to come by. When the kids were out of school, I had no one to watch them because my mother worked for the school district and many times she had to go to work even though the children were out. On this particular morning, I found myself in that situation.
The morning started out like any other, sunny, hot, and very humid. Such is the life in the great state of Texas. This particular day though, would be a defining moment in my life.
The children didn’t have school that day. They were too young to stay home alone and the daycare didn’t take children for one day. Taking off from work was not an option. So, I was faced with the difficult task of finding a sitter.
Against my better judgment, I took my children to their father who was living with his parents at the time. I drove the fifteen or so miles to their home with butterflies in my stomach. I couldn’t shake the uneasy feeling that I had. (Don’t let anyone tell you that woman’s intuition isn’t real.) I knew something wasn’t right, but I had no choice.
I began to rehearse over and over in my mind what I would do when I got there: drop the kids off at the front door watch them go in, and leave quickly. I didn’t want to give their father the opportunity to get near me. I didn’t want to be placed in a compromising position.
Initially, everything progressed as planned. But, all of the rehearsal in the world could not have prepared me for what was about to happen next.
In my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined that the father of my children could be so calculating, so coldhearted, and so cruel.
I arrived at my in-laws home determined to follow my plan to the letter. I dropped the boys off and watched them step inside. I immediately turned the ignition in the switch and started my car. As I was pulling away, I heard my husband yelling something to me. I stopped, rolled down the window, and asked him what he said.
“Your mother is on the phone,” He yelled.
Cell phones were not readily available at this time so believing him; I put the car in reverse and parked in the driveway. I proceeded to the front door with apprehension, but I also knew that I didn’t want to keep my mother waiting. Once inside the house, I noticed that all of the curtains were drawn and no lights were on. Even in the morning sunlit hours the house seemed eerily dark. I moved toward the kitchen quickly. I spotted the phone, but what I saw frightened me. The phone was dangling loosely beside the hard and cold countertop. A busy signal chillingly reverberated throughout the room. I could fell my stomach touch my back. Fear raced over me like a stampede of horses trying desperately to cross the finish line at the Kentucky Derby. My heart was ticking like a time bomb that would go off at any minute. My head was pounding so hard that I thought it would explode. My brain was telling my feet to run, but they didn’t move fast enough. By the time I made it back to the front door it was locked and my worst nightmare was about to come true. It was like a scene from a horror movie. All of a sudden you feel like you’re in a tunnel and the closer you move toward the door, the further away it seems to get. I tried to move his five foot eight frame away from the door, but my five foot three inches was simply no match for him. My attempts were useless. Slowly he inched toward me like a snake about to devour his prey. My mind drew a complete blank as panic set in. I drew a complete blank as I tried furiously to figure out an escape route. As often as I had been in this house, it never dawned on me that there was only one way in and one way out. As I tried to run away, he grabbed me and drew me near to him. I could smell the stench of marijuana on his breath. He forced me into his parents’ bedroom clawing and screaming, but it was as if my screams went on deaf ears. Thankfully, my children were locked away in another room fast asleep. I scratched, swung, bit; but nothing deterred him from his mission to humiliate me at all costs.
He began pulling and tugging at my clothes, slowly ripping away at my soul with each pull. Eventually he arrived at his destination and had access to what he was looking for. I thought to myself, “Here it comes.” Suddenly, I thought of my children. What would happen to them if they woke up? Although their father had never hurt them before, in this state of mind, there was no telling what he would do. I couldn’t be sure. I also knew that my children would be frightened and confused about the mayhem that was taking place. I closed my eyes, braced myself, and became silent and still. In my mind, I tried to take myself to another place. I wanted to be as far away from there as possible. He thrusted and gyrated moaned and groaned until he got tired. All I could think of was when the madness would be over. Right now, my children were my main concern. They were the only reason that I could withstand what was happening to me right now. Again they were my strength; my courage. I couldn’t bear the thought of them being harmed in any way so, I kept quiet and motionless. I’m sure that my husband thought he had won. The truth is the depth of a mothers love sometimes goes so deep that even the most tragic of situations can cause her to triumph over adversity for her children’s sake.
After the ordeal was over, I quietly and quickly gathered the children as my husband looked on with a smile of satisfaction on his face. I got back into my vehicle, thankful that at least I had my life. We drove away silently, I was in a daze.
Disheveled, heartbroken, and disillusioned, I called my mother at work and she immediately came home. A friend of mine, concerned that I had not shown up for work, called me. When I told her what had happened, she too rushed to be by my side. Together we called the police to report the incident.
“Houston Police Department how may I direct your call,” the voice on the other side of the phone said.
“Yes, I want to report an incident,” I said unable to call it what it was.
“What kind of incident ma’am?”
“An assault,” I replied.
“One moment please.”
The next few moments were almost surreal. I began explaining exactly what had happened to me at the hands of my husband.
“I’m sorry ma’am, but there’s nothing we can do. This is classified as a domestic dispute. We can file a complaint, but that’s as far as it will go.”
After bearing my very soul to this woman, all she could offer me was a complaint filed with the department. Why was the system this way? How could they just let someone get away with an act as heinous as this? It’s just not right! It’s not fair! These were the first thoughts that I had after I came out of my fog.
Disappointed and inconsolable, I cleaned myself up, changed clothes, and never spoke of this incident again until now.
No one except someone who has been through this before could possibly understand how much this entire ordeal hurts. It can change everything. It can slowly eat up your soul if you let it. After this, how was I ever to trust another man again? How would I ever be able to have intimate feelings again? How could I trust even my own judgment?
The destructive actions of abuse and its messages threatened to bind me. The guilt and shame that I felt engulfed me like a flame. I struggled not to internalize the destructive messages so that I wouldn’t end up in a place that God didn’t intend for my life. Internalizing the violence caused self blame rather than the ability to see myself in the process of becoming. Everyday you struggle to hold on to a little piece of your soul so that it doesn’t end up slipping away completely. My children were a large part of that.
It may sound strange now, but I thank God everyday for my ex-husband (he became my ex-husband many years later when I filed my divorce myself) because he taught me many things. Not the kind of lessons that you can learn in a classroom or in Sunday school, but lessons that can only come from experience, wisdom, and maturity. Without him, I may never have learned how resilient I could truly be. I would not know the true meaning of forgiveness.
How does one come back from such trauma and forgive? It isn’t easy, but I heard someone say that being unable to forgive is like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die. Not forgiving only hurts you. Usually the perpetrator has long since moved on. You, the victim, are left to become bitter, vengeful, and resentful. If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself all alone as people slowly away because of your constant inability to maintain healthy relationships.
For me, forgiveness was a conscious decision. It was a choice that I made. Even now, some people don’t understand it. Had not chosen to forgive my life would be on a downward spiral. Let me make it clear, I didn’t forget what my husband did to me, nor did I deny his responsibility. I simply chose to untie myself from the thoughts and feelings that bound me to the offense. I didn’t minimize what had been done to me. Instead I gave the hurt, shame, disappointment, and humiliation to God. I allowed the Holy Spirit to help me forgive my ex-husband and myself. Forgiving him enriched my life in ways that no one could ever imagine.
I had to learn to release all of the guilt, anger, and fear to God before I could move on. Forgiveness however, was not the most important lesson that my “ex” taught me. The most important lesson he taught me, was to know the kind of man that I didn’t want in my life.