I wonder if it is normal for a person to be abused and not know what is happening to them? I found the answer to this question after entering a shelter called Harmony House, a refuge for the hurt and maimed who only ask for a safe place. I can’t begin to tell you my whole story because it goes back thirty four years and many memories have been repressed. I CAN explain the feelings of worthlessness, deprivation, feeling watched all the time, feeling alone, isolation, hyperventilation, and sometimes feeling terrified of just going outside.
The abuse started early in our marriage. It was subtle at first, maybe just a finger in my mouth every time I yawned. I know it sounds odd but after years of this you look around and cover your mouth whenever you yawn. There was no place for me to be alone. He was always there, peeking at me while I showered, making scary faces at me thru the window in the dark, one time he even slit the shower curtain with a knife as I showered. He jogged at night and always wanted me to accompany him. He would disappear only to jump out and scare me. Then the walks at night took on a whole new dimension. He would completely disappear and I couldn’t find him, alone and scared in the dark. He would ask me to make a certain dish for him, only to quietly walk to the garbage disposal to empty his plate of food. I remember being locked in the basement on a hot day after the children left for school. He said the door must have jammed, but now I know it was because I had been listening to music, enjoying myself.
The abuse seemed to move in cycles and I learned how not to react. The more I didn’t react though, the more the abuse took on a new level of danger. It was like a game to him. He never raised his voice or lost his composure. I learned to do the same. There is much more I could share but it is shocking to think about and I’m not able to deal yet with the truth or the magnitude of it all.
What brought me to a shelter is one morning in April I was enjoying watching the snowflakes fall at the window and heard him softly walking down the hall. As I turned, I could see he had something behind his back as a surprise for me. It wasn’t flowers. It was a pistol and he gently held his hand up and pointed the gun at my forehead and asked what would happen if he pulled the trigger. In a softer voice I said “pull the trigger.” He stood there with the pistol aimed at my head for a minute before he lowered the gun and said “I would never shoot you, see the chamber is empty.” He put the gun away, walked down the hall and calmly asked if I was thirsty. I realized then it was time to leave.
Susan made the most of her time at Harmony House attending classes, filing for divorce, and getting her driver’s license (something her husband had not allowed her to do). Susan was ready for a new life and left Harmony House with the tools she needed to start a life free from abuse.