Ladydee’s Note: Lenore is a domestic violence survivor. She is sharing her story for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is Part 1 of her story.
Whenever October is approaching, people start turning their minds to fun costumes, vibrantly colored fallen leaves, crisp cool nights, and pumpkin-flavored everything. So do I! Don’t get me wrong! I see October coming up on the calendar, and I get just as excited about decorating for Halloween and buying candy as the rest of them. But something else always crosses my mind, too. Something far more important, that most other people who haven’t been in my shoes don’t even think about.
When I was in my 20’s, I met someone when I least expected do. At the time that I met him, I was still nursing a break-up that I didn’t see coming, from a young man that I absolutely worshiped like the sun. He was my first great love, and like most hopelessly-romantic young 20-something year old girls feel, I was convinced at that time that we were going to be in love forever and ever. So when this new man came into my life, I realize now that I was just desperately looking for some sort of proof that I really was still worthy of being loved. I was very young, incredibly naive, and have since learned that an abuser sees a person like that as prey. I was basically a walking target to a guy like him.
I met him in college. His name was Russ. (Name changed to protect his identity). He was nice to me. He asked me out on a date. I was in a very vulnerable place in my life, so I fell for his hook, line and sinker.
On our first date he brought me flowers. Carnations, as a matter of fact. Slightly wilted and adorable. I swooned. He opened doors for me, and blessed me whenever I sneezed. He paid close attention whenever I spoke, and laughed at all of my jokes. He kissed me on the cheek at the end of the night, and did not try to take advantage. That night, I lay awake in bed staring at my vase of slightly wilted carnations by the bed. I thought about how sweet and kind he had been. I thought about the conversation we had had about our parents, in which he confided to me that his own father had been abusive with his mother, sister and him when they were growing up. I pictured him as a little boy, cowered and frightened, and my heart went out to him completely. I thought about how brave he must have been, and how difficult of a life he must have led. “We have each been through something really difficult,” I thought to myself that night. “I have lost the person who I thought was the greatest love of my life. I feel broken. Russ has lost the love and trust of the person who was supposed to be the greatest male figure of his life. From the sound of it, he feels broken, too. Maybe we could come together to heal each other, somehow?”. It was the hopeless wish of a very naive young woman. But at that time, it felt so right.
For the first few weeks of our relationship, things were going great. I was surprised by how quickly our relationship was moving, but he was so sweet and kind that I was excited, too. I felt so fortunate that somebody like him liked somebody like me. After just a few weeks of dating, he had some sort of an issue with his roommates. He wasn’t very clear about what it was, but he decided to move out. He had nowhere else to go, and begged me to take him in. I felt sorry for him when he showed up in the middle of the night with nothing more than one large duffel bag, and swooned when he begged me with all of his might. In the rain. Suddenly we were living together, and my friends grew concerned. They didn’t like how fast our relationship was moving, and many of them were growing suspicious of how quickly he was moving things along. There was something about him that they didn’t like, but nobody could really tell me what or why. I was angry with my friends for not being happy for me, and for not being more supportive that I had been lucky enough to have found love again. He confided in me that it hurt him deeply when he realized that my friends clearly did not approve of him. He said it made him feel worthless, the same way his father made him feel when he was little. He also said that he was sad for ME that they were not more supportive of my happiness, and he encouraged me to question whether or not they were REALLY my friends after all.
That’s how I became isolated from everyone else I knew. The next thing you know, I had nobody else in my world but him. Oh sure… I had my family. But they all lived so far away. Russ was my family now.
I felt lonely when we weren’t together. But I assumed that was just what it meant to be in love. It was very different than the previous serious relationship I had had. With my previous serious boyfriend, we had lots of friends together. We were both very active within our social circle. As much as I had felt like he was the person I adored most in my world, I never felt like he was the only person in it. But with Russ… it was different. After a few months I felt like he was all that I had. It made me feel so lonely, and so sad. When I would talk to him about this, he would remind me that it was their decision to walk away from us. Their choice. So why would I want people in my life that did not support me and approve of my happiness? Of OUR happiness? What he said to me made sense at the time, so I believed him.
One day we went out for a quick bite of lunch together. We were sitting in his car, and pulled into a McDonald’s drive through. I ordered some Chicken McNuggets, and he ordered a burger. We each ordered a drink. Mine was an orange flavored soda. As he handed it over to me, I squeezed the cup a little bit too hard. Soda went spilling all over his shirt. I gasped, and then laughed as I blurted out how sorry I was. He glared at me, and I thought he was just being playful. So I laughed even harder as I tried to towel him off with little bits of napkin from our to-go bag. Suddenly he began screaming at me, and shouting obscenities in a way that I have never experienced before. I sat there in shock, as he screamed so loudly that veins began to throb all over his temples and his eyes seemed to almost pop out of his head. Then he began to throw his food everywhere, bits of shredded lettuce and pickles sticking to the inside of the windshield. Beef patties on the dashboard of the car. Once he quieted down for a moment, I slowly began to cry. I was afraid to do it too loudly, and could not believe what had just happened. Then he ordered me to eat my nuggets. I was too upset to eat, and all I could do was to sit there and quietly cry. This pissed him off to no end. “EAT!” he shouted, getting all riled up again. I shook my head no and said that I couldn’t.
Suddenly be began to grab Chicken Nuggets and started cramming them into my mouth, one by one. I felt like I was choking on them, and my heart was pounding so hard that I could feel it in my ears like tiny beating drums. “EAT IT! EAT IT! EAT IT!” was all that he could shout at me as I struggled to get away. I don’t really remember how that incident ended. I don’t know why. I should, but I simply don’t. Maybe I was just in too much shock. Or maybe it’s simply because it happened so many years ago. But the next memory I have of that day is going back home to our apartment together, and watching him punch a hole in the wall as he burst into tears and sobbed that he was just like his father. Then he curled up in a ball in the hallway, crying like a baby over it. My heart went out to him, imagining him tormented as a child and watching his father torment his sister and his mother as well. I pitied him, especially since my own father has always been one of the sweetest, kindest, most supportive and most wonderful men I have ever known. Realizing that not everybody had it as good as I had in their lives, my heart ached for him as he cried on the floor of the hallway next to the hole in the drywall. I cradled him in my arms, and rocked him as if he were 5 years old. And so began the eight-year long pattern of him abusing me, and then me lovingly comforting him shortly thereafter.
Click here to read part 2 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 use a safer computer, or call 911, a local hotline, or the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233