The words rang in her ears as she desperately tried to regain her composure. The children were getting up soon and she surely didn't want them to see that she had been crying. The thought of her kids seeing her in such a mess, snotty nose, red eyes and visibly shaking, she just couldn't allow that again this morning.
Surely they had seen enough of the fighting, felt the tension that permeated the house like a thick fog, always walking on eggshells, never knowing what would trigger another explosion.
It hadn't always been like this, had it? As she reminisced about the past, she remembered the early days of their relationship. How attentive he had been, almost envious of others attention to her. But that was so romantic to think he cared so much for her. As the children came along and her attention was divided, he seemed to grow colder and distant. When the focus wasn't on him, he often became sullen and moody.
That's when the drinking escalated. It seemed that he needed more and more to calm his nerves, help him sleep, help him cope. She tried everything she could think of to make him stop. If only she could keep the kids quiet, clean the house better, lose weight, be more attentive, whatever it took to appease the angry man he had become. But of course, nothing worked. Oh, maybe a day of peace or week if the stars aligned properly, but there was always the waiting...when would the bomb explode again?
While others wives talked about their frustrations with husbands, she sat quietly, somehow knowing that her situation was different. Typical advise was along the lines of, go to a marriage retreat, just talk to him, read this book on how to be a praying wife. It all fell flat. Didn't they know, couldn't they read between the lines and see how much pain she held in her heart? How could they not know that she was falling apart, dying on the inside, day by day.
She prayed he would die. That seemed like the only solution to her misery. Guilt overtook her conscious mind every moment. Envy of other marriages permeated her thoughts. As it became more difficult to keep the facade, she knew that it was time to make a decision...but what?
This is the story of many women today. Fearful, alone, confused, afraid. Where do I go? Who can help me? Friends don't really understand the life of abuse, whether physical, emotional or sexual. Many times women live lives that are subjected to all forms of abuse. It is a frightening place to be and an even more frightening world to escape.
Where is help? Who can I talk to? Nothing feels safe, nothing is certain. What if he finds out I went to counseling? What will happen if someone tells him I attend AlAnon to cope with his addiction? The fear is overwhelming, the pain is deep. The secret has to be kept.
As I write this, I do not have answers, only more questions. I have seen this scenerio played out in the lives of many women, myself included. I do not share this to expose or lay blame on my previous spouse. I share this to ask the question...Where is Help?
I recently walked through this reality with a woman who is currently in a similar situation. She called various organizations, asking for help. The only help she could receive was advise...go to the mission. Unless she ends up in the emergency room, their isn't a bed for her, a place of safety, a place to sort it all out, or even a listening ear.
I understand the cycle of abuse, the percentages of women who return to their abuser and all of the statistics. I understand that there are wonderful organizations that help so many women and children in these circumstances. What I understand most of all is the loneliness, the fear, the guilt and the isolation that abuse causes.
How can I help? How can you help? To be honest, I'm not sure. Be available, be a listener, look for clues. When a woman is being abused, she leaves clues. She tries to tell others through some kind of code, but you have to listen. Don't tell them to get help. Take them, when they are ready. Don't offer pat answers, her world is falling apart. Fear grips every waking moment. A bible study or church attendance is not going to save her from this situation. Be a friend. It takes patience and understanding.
There are no easy answers, but my hope is, if nothing else, someone will read this and know you are not alone. Someone sees and understands. Someone is praying for you, even as you wonder if God has abandoned you. For those of you in healthy relationships, I hope this will open your eyes to the needs of others not so fortunate. Be a voice, an ear to listen, a shoulder to lean on, a heart that is open.
Thanks for being here,