A domestic violence victim speaks out
- Barbara Sherman
- The Times - News
Angelica is not a typical domestic violence victim - in fact, she did not even realize that she was a victim.
Married for nearly 20 years, she had a college education and a good job at a high-tech company in Washington County. She also had a young son and so with her busy life, she wasn't surprised when she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.
'I was seeing a counselor and sharing stories about my home life,' said Angelica (which is not her real name), who married when she was very young. 'She said that my marriage was not healthy.
'I confronted my husband, who was passive-aggressive. He would throw or break things that were important to me. There was a lot of name-calling and put-downs. It was like taking a little drink of poison every day. It was so subtle, and you get used to it.'
According to La Donna Burgess, executive director of the Domestic Violence Resource Center, 'Verbal abuse happens in plain sight. It's a true form of abuse. Victims say it is like walking around on eggshells, never knowing when you're going to set off the abuser. Verbal abuse cuts to the core of who we are.'
Angelica said that her husband would say, 'You're too sensitive' or 'You'll never find anyone else.'
'You feel trapped,' she said. 'They make you feel isolated - that's a real threat.'
During an altercation, a door got shut on Angelica's hand.
'He left it stuck in there,' she said. 'I got most of my fingers out except the middle one. My finger broke. He had such a look of pleasure on his face.'
Angelica's neighbor recognized the signs of domestic abuse and handed her a packet about the Domestic Violence Resource Center.
'It shocked and embarrassed me,' Angelica said. 'Not me! We're in such denial.'
She got the courage to leave her husband, but it was only the first step on the long road back.
'When you're so emotionally wounded, it takes a long time to heal,' she said. 'Those tapes replay in your head. You must totally get your self-esteem back.'
Angelica saw a counselor at the Domestic Violence Resource Center for six months and also participated in an abuse recovery ministry at her church.
'It's easy to fall back into the ditch,' she said. 'But after six months at the resource center, I was ready to take on my future. My son heard and saw a lot (during the domestic abuse), and I took him to a private counselor. Kids definitely need counseling.
'He still has a lot of anger, but he's beginning to see that his dad's broken and that he won't get what he hopes from his dad. His dad also puts him down, saying to him, 'You're just a mama's boy,' or 'I'll move you to another state where you won't see your mom.''
Angelica thinks that the courts don't understand the impact on children of domestic violence situations.
'There's no broken bones, there's no hospital visits,' she said. 'He's still seeing his counselor and a mentor.
'My goal is that this will not continue. It ends with this generation. I tell him that there will be no name-calling in this house. Words have the power to hurt. I am very thankful to my neighbor because she had the courage to hand me that packet. My goal is to watch out for other women who might be in a similar situation.'
Having made the long road back to a safe, healthy life, Angelica realizes now that 'your soul can only take so much.'
'You can stay in that misery or get out. Sometimes people feel they need to stay for financial reasons, so it's hard to leave. Domestic violence is a shameful thing. When you try to stop it, that's when the battle begins. The batterer will try to hold on and be in control, so women need to learn to be strong.
'Some women think (domestic violence) is normal, but it's not.'
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