Stronger Than Silence
Alli (a pseudonym) went through emotional, financial and verbal abuse from her ex-husband.
Can you describe who your abuser was and how the abuse began?
He was my husband. We met while he was working as a top administrator at a university and I was working in the Dean’s Office of the law school I attended. He seemed charming and funny. We got married. At first it just started with calling me names and mocking me. He would say awful things about my family and call them dysfunctional. If I received a career accolade or award he would scoff and pout. He told me “do not be the center of attention” at functions or parties and forced me to stay quiet while he was the life of the party. He cheated on me but shamed me and made me feel it was my fault. He isolated me from friends and family. I still didn’t think it was abuse. I was a lawyer and a professional, I had a hard time seeing that I could be a victim.
Please share more of your story, as much as you are comfortable.
I got pregnant. He went crazy. He told me that I was forbidden to tell anyone. I didn’t understand why. He told the doctor that WE wanted an abortion…we didn’t, he did. The doctor gave us pills because it would help my nerves before the procedure. The doctor said once I took the pills there was no turning back because it would cause birth defects. I cried and begged to save my child. He held me down and put them in my mouth. I ran to the sink and spit them out. He left. I didn’t see him for months. He stopped paying bills, my mortgage and bills were due. He didn’t answer his phone. I didn’t tell my family or friends because I was ashamed.
After months of struggling financially, he came home. I thought it would get better. It got worse. He refused to tell me where he had been. Called me “crazy” and “unfit” to have a child. I went to doctor’s appointments and birthing classes alone. My unborn child heard more tears than laughter. I thought about suicide but the life growing inside me saved me. We had a wedding to attend. I was six months pregnant and no one knew. He told me I looked “fat” and too pregnant in my dress and said I could not attend. I begged him to let me share my pregnancy news with people. I was happy to be having a baby. He said “no”. I went to the wedding in a dress that hid my belly. I felt shame for being pregnant. Later, I learned his mistress was at the wedding and that she didn’t know his wife was pregnant. That night he told me he was leaving for good because I was “crazy”. He left. He turned off his phone. He racked up credit card bills in my name. He left me to pay for the mortgage on our huge house.
Please share more about how you felt during the time of the abuse and what happened or changed to help you start taking steps to get out of the situation?
I felt alone, embarrassed, worthless and scared. I just wanted a normal family and was terrified about what my son was being born into. I felt Like I saw perfect families all around me-social media, in the neighborhood, at work. I wondered what was damaged about me that prevented me from having a happy family. Finally my OBGYN encouraged me to seek counseling. I wanted so desperately to find a path out for my unborn child.
What is life like now that you have gotten out of the abusive situation? How has it become better?
In counseling I learned about narcissistic abuse. I learned that emotional and financial abuse are forms domestic violence. I got out by finally telling my family. I moved to NY shortly after my son was born. I used the legal system to save my son…and me. I now have full physical and legal custody.
Now, my son and I are happy. Being a single parent is tough but so amazing. Years later, I am in a relationship with man who loves me and my son. He is kind and good and shows me the way. I am still a lawyer but am in school to become a clinical social worker too. I want to work with survivors. There is an ease and peace in my house-no yelling, fighting, nor tension. I’m proud that I’m able to give my son something I never had.
What else would you like to say to any women reading your story who are currently experiencing domestic abuse?
If you are considering leaving, and can do so safely, do it. I promise it is better on the other side. Ask for help. I wish I had asked sooner.