Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Lenore’s Story Pt. 3
I made friends online. Some of them lived closer by, however. Upon meeting up with them, I did my best to make sure nobody knew the truth about what my life had become. I was 100% convinced that I kept that secret quite masterfully, although the truth of the matter is that I fooled no one. Little did I know, they were all nervously discussing their suspicions behind my back.
Steve wanted to take things slowly. There was no immediate rush. He had his own life going on without the need for me to be in it. Having me in it was merely a bonus. So there was no great pressure for me to feel like I had to commit. Which, of course, made me want to.
On our third date together, he took me to a bowling alley. Just before my first turn, I eagerly rubbed my hands together and then pushed up my sleeves. I was having so much fun that I completely forgot to be careful. I grinned at him and then saw his face fall into a very disturbed expression. “What happened to your arms?” I looked down and felt a wave of panic and shame as I realized they were covered in bruises shaped like large hand and finger prints. I pulled my sleeves down again and began to stammer. He put down his bowling ball and gently put his hand on my back and led me out to his car. As we sat inside, I began bawling. It was as if the weight of 8 years of pain had struck me all at once, and I couldn’t hold it in anymore. I couldn’t laugh it off anymore. I couldn’t pretend like it wasn’t true anymore.
The next thing you know, Steve was helping me to move out. He was a realtor at that time, and found me a very inexpensive little apartment that I could afford that was very close to where he lived. But more importantly, extremely close to a local women’s shelter for victims of domestic violence.
He encouraged me to go to the shelter, where I began extensive therapy. I had both one-on-one counseling as well as group counseling there. The group counseling helped me the most. I got to hear all of these stories that sounded so similar to my own. We learned from the therapists there that this is a typical pattern. The abuser sweeps you off your feet.
They rush the relationship along very quickly, so you are committed to each other exclusively far before you are feeling actually ready. They isolate you from your friends and family, or at least they do their darnest to try. They give you some big sob story that oftentimes leads you to pity them and sympathize with them when they attack, instead of having them arrested and then running for the hills. They get you to trust them and feel like you need them, so that you want to protect them from getting into trouble; because if they get arrested and taken away, then you might feel guilty and alone. They all apologize tearfully and then are on their best behavior for a short time thereafter, until something sets them off again. And so on.
I hadn’t run in eight long years. And I would suddenly realize why she hadn’t, either. Because as horrific as it can get… it isn’t all bad. You don’t only think about the bad times. It’s so much more complicated than that. Because there are so many good times, too. And to say goodbye, even when it is the right thing to do, hurts. It hurts to say goodbye to somebody who you have had really great times with, and for so long. Somebody who has felt like your best friend and your worst enemy all at once. Somebody who you have gone through something intense with together. It is really really HARD to do. I still remember the last time I ever saw him. I knew I wasn’t going to see him again. I lied and told him I would see him soon. And then I cried for days because I knew that if I was to do this right, I would never see him again. I had fallen out of love with him YEARS before. But it didn’t mean that I didn’t still want the best for him. That I didn’t still care. WHY did I care? I still don’t know. But it just felt true.
Life after that was wonderful. I still had a lot of therapy to get through, however. I was diagnosed with PTSD, and was prescribed anti-anxiety medication. Any time I bumped into Steve I would turn to him in a panic and say “I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Oh my gosh, I’m SO sorry!”. Any time I would accidentally burn dinner when he would come over for a date, I would say “Oh my GOD, I am SO sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” as I frantically would look for something else to serve him. If he brought me carnations, Russ’ “I’m sorry for beating you up today” bouquet of choice, I would feel sick to my stomach and feel my heart beat faster in a way that made me woozy to stand. I was pretty messed up. But I was on the right track to getting better.
Click here for the final part of Lenore’s story.
For more information on Domestic Violence, please visit the National Network to End Domestic Violence.
SAFETY ALERT: If you are in danger, please call 911, a local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233