This story has been collected by the « eLLes of women’s » team, in June 2019.
» I grew up on California coast raised by a Buddhist father and Catholic mother.
During my youth, I was often sent to India to study the art of compassion and self-sacrifice. In Puttaparthi the values of living with unconditional love and awareness conflicted when returning to the city of Los Angeles where the goals of self-value and personal advancement reigned. I tried to apply the lessons I was taught in my Balvikas and studies of Buddhism but never felt at home in Los Angeles.
I stayed in California to be near my family for nearly 30 years until I finally gathered enough courage to change my life and move across the country alone. 3,735 kilometers away from everyone and everything I knew.
I moved into a tiny studio apartment and began my master’s degree in Thanatology, the study of death, trauma, and bereavement. While in school, I began working in Crisis services for people with psychotic disorders and victims of sexual and physical abuse. I have always had a deep passion and belief in the power of rehabilitation and trusted that with support, proper tools and understanding, comes growth.
In the new town I had moved to, I noticed that the men I encountered where particularly pushy about being in a relationship, and when they didn’t receive what they wanted, they would do their best to ruin one’s reputation. Worse off, the women, some who had also been victims of this behavior participated in spiteful gossip, cultivating an environment of suspicion. After a large amount of feeling pressured, I entered into a relationship that ended when I was pregnant and lost the baby we had both wanted. When I told my companion about the loss he responded by hugging me for several minutes before asking if I would be upset if he went to the bar to finish watching a football game. I broke up with him shortly after. After our relationship ended he went around town trying to demonize me and victimize himself in what I can only assume was to suppress his own guilt. He told everyone I had pretended to be pregnant to keep him when it couldn’t have been any further from the truth.
After our relationship ended, a man I had become good friends with over the last year and a half insisted we begin to date.
Since I felt I had lost my new friendships by ending my relationship with the “popular” boy in town, I reluctantly agreed to try to date my friend while still processing the grief from the loss of a child, companionship, and community of fair-weather friends. During the first week of our dating, my grandmother died and I lost two of my cats. I flew to Puerto Rico to be with my family and when I returned to the East Coast, we fully entered into the relationship. I was aware I was making the same mistake as my previous relationship, yet was afraid of losing my friend in a time I deeply needed one.
After several months of dating, I felt the love he shared with me deeply and we moved in together. My companion who I will refer to as D and I began making plans to leave the state and move to build a new life and home together. We would joke about our children’s names, attend workshops on natural farming and scout locations to move to. On my birthday we had a little too much champagne and were less than careful while intimate.
We found out the next month that I was pregnant. When I told D the news, I was greeted with silence.
I stated that I felt we had summoned the baby with all our drawings of children and the name we had specifically chosen for our first daughter. D made it clear to me that the child was not wanted, and that he required me to get an abortion.
I cried for several weeks saying I couldn’t. That it would kill my heart, body, mind, and soul and that I had already lost a child and didn’t believe I would survive the loss of another.
I reached out to my mother who had long ago divorced my father and told her about the circumstances. She told me to leave him and return to California and raise the child with her. I said I could not. I did not want to struggle with the hardships my mother and I faced when she became a single parent and I didn’t want my child to live a life of struggle and non-belonging like I had felt. My mother calculated the birth of my child to be the date of the first anniversary of my grandmother’s death, which happened to be also ‘Dia de Los Muertos’.
I went into a dreamlike reality and felt my self separate from who I was. I agreed to the abortion on a crescent moon night and took the pills to terminate what I felt was a little girls life. Several weeks went by and every vice I had went away. I had no desire for coffee, wine, or anything but cherries and cream. I could feel her inside me and the ache of what was such a painfully clear mistake coursed through my body. I could feel my right ovary with constant sharp shooting pain and constantly cried and begged the moon and my child forgiveness. After feeling as though something was wrong, I went back to the doctor seven weeks later. He revealed that my child was still partially inside me and after an ultrasound showed me her shape, a crescent moon on my right ovary. It required a very painful surgery to remove her and they refused to give me her remains.
After a Taco Tuesday event at one of D’s friend’s house, we returned home. Something didn’t feel right. D had mostly female friends, and most were the “mean girls” the kind that often viewed other women as threats and liked to state ugly and cruel misgivings whenever they could. I knew D had grown up as a large kid and had told me that the girls at school would often pick on him. I had found it interesting that in adulthood he had chosen to befriend women similar to those who had tormented him in his youth. I hypothesized that this was a tool to empower himself and though he tended to take on the nasty gossiping they participated in and became one of them while in their company, it could have been a tool for him to regain strength from a population he had previously felt oppressed by. Several of these girls had decided to dislike me. I had not actually had conversations with them, but they had VERY strong opinions about me. The one who hosted the Taco Tuesday would comment often on my wearing skirts and what kind of woman that made me, whereas the others would go back and forth on whether I was allowed to join them on their outings.
This Taco Tuesday, even though I was wearing a skirt, I was permitted entry. The night felt odd and as D and I had not told anyone about my pregnancy other than my mother, it almost felt as though there was a secret decaying within us. When D and I returned home there was a shadow lingering. I told him I couldn’t keep up a façade any longer and that I was leaving him. The visceral moment of his response is burned into my mind.
His eyes went black. We were standing in the corridor between the bathroom and the entryway room. He grabbed onto my wrist and would not let go. An evening of 6 1/2 hours of him refusing to let me leave while throwing me around and strangling me entailed.
By morning I had run up the stairs as he had overpowered me on numerous occasions to get out of the front door and I had successfully locked myself in the bedroom.
I hid in the bedroom for three days, too terrified to leave and unable to walk enough to do so. I had no idea where my phone was and did not feel safe enough to go looking for it. By the end of the week, I was able to mobilize myself but D kept breaking into our house. It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later I was able to secure all the doors and windows when he wrote me multiple texts telling me he needed to desperately speak with me. I had not filed a police report and after the evening of violence had happened, I had severe head trauma and irreversible nerve damage, causing me to withdraw from school and quit my employment.
D called and texted non-stop stating he needed to disclose something very important to me and I conceded to meeting with him in public. After an extended period of time, it was finally revealed that he had not been sleeping and had evading dreams from a childhood sexual trauma that he had encountered around age 8 from a long-term babysitter’s boyfriend. My suspicions from early on in our relationship were confirmed and I encouraged him to seek counseling. This was around the time of his birthday, a very large event I had planned and even though I would be attending with a cast on my arm (to which no one asked about) due to what I felt was a loathsome and painful time, I did not cancel the party. I told him that even though I was not taking him back, I believed in the importance of taking responsibility and working through these traumas. That him facing the violence from his abuser even though he projected it onto me, needed to be met with responsible action and not punishment. This, along with the next steps is what doomed me in the town I lived in.
Regardless of my own suffering, I did not want him to been seen as a victimizer but as a victim who had become this role due to a history of oppressing the violence that he had incurred. I reached out to D’s family hoping it would help him.
The information was met with denial and placing blame on me. His mother stated he was not capable of such actions and I was “sick” for suggesting such a thing, regardless of the numerous doctor’s bills I had incurred, the broken wrist, fingers, neck, and other injuries she had seen as well as my need to quit my job due to them.
I began to understand the role of a victim in a very different way. All of the clients, studies, and what people are WILLING to believe about people they care about made sense. I started reaching out to my local friends after quitting my job and having to quit grad school with only 2 classes left due to my inability to focus from the brain trauma.
I saw the ugly face of denial in a new way and felt more isolated then I had ever been in my life.
I received ultimatums from male friends because I was now single and other friends completely ignored me, opting to hang out with my abuser. People refused to believe he was capable of such crimes and stated generic excuses such as “he’s such a nice guy”. The major problem in the denial being he was told he hadn’t done anything by his community, so he started the cycle of oppression again. He negated all personal responsibility and was told by his mother and some friends he had not committed those crimes. He quit therapy and believed it.
Every time I reached out to those I thought cared while I was struggling, I was met with silencing or abandonment. I noticed a trend of who it was “cool” to speak out with and if you weren’t in that circle you were alone or chastised. The louder I attempted to make my voice the louder the resistance against it felt. I had not thought much about the hierarchy of grief and inner circle of protection for abusers until this point. »
~ Testimony from the USA on domestic violence, June 2019 ~