Archive for the ‘Abuse’ Category

“Hi my name is Stellah and I survived.”

“Hi Stellah!” came the chorus reply that seemed to echo endlessly in the dim-lit basement hall.

This was the first time I actually stood up to share. I would come every Monday of every week, sit in the corner of the back row and listen as people gave horrific stories of abuse; years of physical, emotional and psychological torture. I would cry and ache for them but I wasn’t like them. He didn’t force me to do anything. He only ever slapped me once. Even after he did he came crawling and I mean literally on his knees slapping his own face over and over screaming “I was wrong!” “I was wrong!”

I had had others before him, I wasn’t naive. I had heard the stories, I had friends who had suffered in the hands of their abusers.  Some survived; if going through life feeling like a broken empty shell is what you would call surviving. Others were not so lucky but maybe they are the ones we should be jealous of; at least they found peace in death.

I knew how to protect myself so I did not know what abuse really looked like as I had never experienced it. Maybe if I had I would have seen this coming. Maybe I would have sensed that that’s what it was even though it did not follow the typical pattern, even though I didn’t have the scars on my body as they had, both self-inflicted and others to remind me that I was being abused.

When I first met him, he wasn’t wealthy, he didn’t promise me the world, he didn’t promise to love me forever, he just wanted to know me. I didn’t have much either but I was comfortable. He asked me out on dates a few times. At first it was just for coffee. He liked his black, no sugar. That soon turned to lunches, then dinners. You know the drill. Sometimes he’d pay, other times I would, most times we’d go dutch.  It was two-way at least it felt like it was. How was I to know he wasn’t showing me the whole hand?

He didn’t treat me extra special; he didn’t make me feel like a queen in that sense. He didn’t treat me like trash either.  He was just normal I guess. Maybe that’s what threw me off because I expected the extreme, I was experienced in the extremes but not this. He simply slid so smoothly into my life that by the time I thought I needed to leave I still wasn’t sure why.

He started accidentally leaving stuff at my place; a tie, cuff links, a watch, documents he’d need for work. It was cute so I let him. He’d always remember to pick them up the next time he was over. I must admit he put the time in. He never asked for anything but I gave him everything anyway, not all at once, just drops at a time really so I didn’t feel it, I didn’t see it. See everyone seemed to know what he wanted from me but less was said and known about what I wanted from him. I’m a simple person. I rarely ever demand for anything.  I get comfortable very quickly.  Some of my friends joke that I come pre-domesticated. I would be offended by that if it wasn’t completely true. In short, I didn’t know what I wanted from him, not really.  I was comfortable but he knew what he wanted from me, knew how to get it without asking, and because he didn’t ask, I didn’t know what I was giving.

He came over one night, we watched a few movies, I fell asleep on his lap, and he carried me to bed, tucked me in and slept on the couch. Next morning, he made me breakfast, we had it in the dining room. I found his toothbrush next to mine; “How did he know he was going to stay over?”

He said goodbye after breakfast, he was running late for work.

A couple of weeks later he came over again. We had dinner which he made, we watched movies, I fell asleep, he carried me to bed, tucked me in and went to sleep on the couch again. I got up, watched him toss and turn on the couch, I slid in next to him. Next morning, I made him breakfast and asked if he was coming over again that night. He said he would.

I cleared out a drawer on my dresser for him.’

At that point of my sharing I knew most of the people in the room were wondering why I was there. Why I was claiming to be a survivor yet I had the proverbial (mythical) ‘perfect man’. That’s why I had never spoken up; there were no scars to prove it. It was the same look they gave me at the hospital after they pumped my stomach. They asked me why I took all those pills, why I slit my wrists and I couldn’t explain.

‘I had a big project coming up, one I had been passed over for about sometime before, actually around the exact time I met him. I only figured out that particular connection later. It was worth millions. The guy they had put in charge had scammed the company and ran off, but they needed it done. I had a spotless record so I was chosen. I was ecstatic that night and couldn’t wait to share the news with him. I blocked out a few details but told him everything else. He didn’t ask any questions, he told me I was the best for the job. He made dinner, we watched movies, I fell asleep, he carried me to bed and as he was walking away to go sleep on the couch, I pulled him back and showed him his side of my bed. He slid in next to me. It felt right. Next morning I made us breakfast and asked him to move in.

He said he needed some kind of guarantor so he could still keep his old place; maybe rent it out, more income for us. I signed the documents. I didn’t read anything.

He changed his forwarding address to mine. I received a few packages for him, my signature on all of them. I didn’t open them, I wouldn’t. He didn’t ask me much so I didn’t ask him much either, that would be rude.

I talked to him about my big project, he offered advice, and every time I followed it, it worked out so well I asked for more and more advice. I even showed him a few of the plans, just to get a few pointers really.

He asked me to marry him, I said yes. Two months later he was gone. He didn’t take anything with him, not his clothes, not his shoes, not the espresso machine he had bought; nothing. He just disappeared.

Just days after he left, I was dropped from my project; the company found someone better who knew a more efficient way of doing it. That was the official story.

Turns out he had developed the same project only better in another country and patented the license.  He then somehow  blackmailed the company that hired me into letting him take over and so it would be kept quiet I was offered a handsome severance package but the company blacklisted me, I would never be able to find a job in that industry anywhere in the continent.

I have no physical scars to prove it, not even a dented bank account. I met a woman a few months ago, she has a son, 8 years old, we became friends somehow but she told me it wasn’t by chance, she had been tracking the man for 4 years now and the trail led her to me. We weren’t the only ones either. We don’t know how many are out there or how many there are still to be.

The bouts of uncontrollable rage started coming later, when it finally sank in. I’d have panic attacks every night just before bed and every morning like clockwork. I spent those moments sprawled on the cold bathroom floor, unable to move, clutching at my chest unable to catch my breathe. Sometimes I’d sing to calm myself, most times I’d just cry, cry until the moment passed. I wasn’t able to keep anything down in those moments, any food I’d try to eat would come right back out. It felt like my tummy was permanently stuck on a roller coaster. I didn’t tell anyone, not even my family or my closest friends.  What would I say? How would I prove the damage? I thought I was losing my mind, that I had dreamt it all but he was real, it was real.  I willingly gave him everything so I honestly felt like I had no one to blame. You can blame a rapist, a burglar, a kidnapper, a serial killer, a wife-beater, an emotionally abusive friend. They take, by force, with devastating consequences for their victims. But how do you blame someone you loved and who seemed to have loved you back. Someone who gave you five beautiful years. The heavy drinking came soon after and eventually the suicide attempt. That brings us to now.

I have a son too, he is 4 years old and he looks exactly like him.”