Living with Domestic Violence

Trigger Warning: mentions of physical abuse, extreme violations of personal space/invasions of privacy, threats of violence, gendered slurs. This is a pretty heavy post.

Being in an abusive relationship is exhausting. You find yourself walking on eggshells, constantly trying to gauge your abuser’s moods and act accordingly; anticipating a bad day so you can prepare yourself for the impending damage, both mental and physical.

Once, I  came home after dark and he, claiming he was worried, didn’t let me go out alone after that. I could go to the library but I needed to be back home at my curfew which was before it became dark. If I wasn’t I was subject to beatings and “panty checks”. He was convinced I was unfaithful and so would inspect me to find any evidence of “another man”.

I was only allowed to use the phone to call my mother but he dialed and held the phone to my ear.

The bathroom didn’t have a lock, so I didn’t have any privacy there either. If I took too long in the bathroom, he’d come in and check on me. He was worried I was “washing (myself) thoroughly to get rid of any signs of infidelity”

When we’d go to bed, he’d wrapped his arms and legs around me. If I needed to get up in the middle of the night, I would have to wake him. He wouldn’t go back to sleep until I came back to bed. Cuddling was a trigger for a long time after leaving him.

He said I couldn’t love my friends because I had him.

At first, I wasn’t allowed a cell phone. He eventually gave me a prepaid cellphone but I could only use it for him.

I thought that once I went to live with my mom, I’d have a bit more freedom. I was wrong. He’d call constantly, or show up unannounced. When he wasn’t at my mother’s house, I was able to use the phone and check my social media accounts. As soon as I heard him at the door, I logged off. I learned to do this after he became angry that I was messaging with friends. I stopped using my mother’s phone when he was around because he’d monitor the conversation.

I thought that once he started working I’d be free to come and go as I wanted. He’d be too busy to call my mother’s house to check if I was there. I was wrong. Although he lived in another borough, he managed to get a job 10 minutes away from where I lived. He worked full-time but still checked up on me every chance he could.

I wasn’t allowed to have a baby shower because it hurt his male pride. He said he would pay for everything the baby and I needed, and that I didn’t need anybody else buying me anything.

When we went out, I wasn’t allowed to make eye contact with people. I used to walk with my eyes downcast. I didn’t realize I did until after I left him and my brother and mom pointed it out. If I smiled at anyone, especially a man, I was accused of being unfaithful.

While I was pregnant, I slept a lot, of course. He’d come over and want me awake but I was so exhausted. He would  accuse me cheating. Why was I so tired? Never mind that he continually kept tabs on me so even if I wanted to cheat I couldn’t have.

He threatened to burn down a friend’s house so I couldn’t go visit anymore. He said he didn’t care who he hurt. No one was going to keep him away from me.

Since I was no longer living with him, and I now had a baby, I became bolder. He never hit me when I lived with my mom. I was too afraid to leave him, so I started doing things I thought would make him want to leave me. I would go to my best friend’s house with my daughter, TJ and not come back at the expected time. He hated this particular friend. He even thought I was cheating on him with her. I told my mom not to answer his phone calls. Eventually he did start threatening to leave me and I acted nonchalant about it. I didn’t care. I wanted him to leave.

My best friend was disappointed about not being able to throw me a baby shower, so she decided to have a welcome home party for TJ when we were discharged from the hospital. TJ got the presents and he had to deal with it. He hated that my friends would hold TJ.

Then he became jealous of TJ. He didn’t like that I breastfed her. He said TJ was just borrowing my breasts, that they were really his. He hated that my attention was hers and not his.

I slept when TJ slept. It was the only sleep I could get. He became angry that I didn’t stay awake to talk to him.

He was at my mother’s house all the time and as soon as he left, he would call me. He’d become angry that I didn’t want to talk. I told him that he had just left after spending the whole day with me. He said it didn’t matter.

He once made me call another best friend because he had became jealous of my relationship with him. I grew up with this guy. We’ve been friends for almost 20 years. Jekyll was convinced that this friend was in love with me. So I called my friend and apologized for bothering him but Jekyll “needed to talk” to him. Jekyll asked my friend what he felt for me. My friend said, “Well, I love her. We’ve been friends for a very long time. I’d do anything for her”. Jekyll’s whole face changed. I knew I was in trouble.

That night I got one of the worst beatings he ever gave me. I was a lying whore. I was cheating on him with my best friend who lives an ocean away who I barely even talked to, because of Jekyll.

Jekyll even scrutinized the music I listened to for hidden meaning. The Killers’ All the Pretty Faces was clearly a message for him. When Brandon Flowers sang “I don’t feel like loving you no more,” it meant that I wanted to leave Jekyll. The lyric “you’re not going anywhere without me” was used to threaten me. Jekyll told me not to forget that I was his, that I indeed could not go anywhere without him.

Even after I finally left him, Jekyll still felt entitled to me. Someone told him I had become friendly with the local shop keep. He threaten the shopkeeper for “touching (his) merchandise”. He said it didn’t matter that we were no longer together. I was his forever.

I ended up getting an order of protection.

I decided to write this because a lot of people believe domestic violence is just that, violence, plain and simple. They aren’t aware that although many times physical and sexual violence is part of domestic violence, it isn’t the only type of abuse to exist. Financial abuse, reproductive coercion and emotional/psychological abuse are ones that very rarely get talked about.

Even when speaking to other survivors, some are surprised at the severity of Jekyll’s abuse. 

This isn’t even a full account of what he did. There some things I feel are too gruesome to talk about. There are other things I don’t talk about for privacy issues.  

Music, social media, phones and even a goddamn bathroom break are simple things that most people take for granted. These things remind me that I’m lucky to be alive because Jekyll monitored them heavily when we were together.

Being with him was suffocating, in every sense of the word.

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