I am 64 years old. I was married for 14 years to a graduate of Ivy League colleges and corporate CEO. I had 5 years of college without a degree and was a homemaker. In his mind, this made me stupid and inferior.
On a daily basis I was told in a myriad of ways how inadequate I was. “Telling” came in the form of yelling, cursing, and profane name calling. I don’t recall how quickly I went from being human to becoming a turtle. I formed a shell and pulled inside, isolating myself from the world. He would chase me from room to room as I tried to escape the verbal assaults, and the shell didn’t seem to block out the sounds of hate. I decided to tell someone when the inevitable day came and I realized that I was slowly dying inside that shell. I was terrified that I was going to die at his hands, and no one would know I was gone.
Within a month of separating and filing for divorce, I contacted Safe Harbor. The day my Safe Harbor counselor met with me was the first time I felt I had taken a deep breath in years. If it wasn’t for the weekly sessions during the 15 months it took to finalize the divorce, I would have been unable to cope with the escalated threats and daily stalking. I was incredibly proud of myself for finding my way out of a monumentally abusive marriage; but his stalking multiple times a day convinced me that I was in even more danger.
With support from Safe Harbor, I was able to cope with the extended separation. Each time my counselor and I met, I entered her office, believing that that space was the only place where I could feel safe. I poured out my fear and frustration in staccato fashion, fearing she would think I was nuts, as my husband said I was. It was the only place I was understood. My friends turned away. No one wanted to deal with a woman in the middle of a divorce from an abusive husband. My family abandoned me, convinced I was making it all up.
One of the most important lessons I learned is that it is difficult and near impossible to leave an abuser without support. It wasn’t that I doubted my ability to leave, it was that other systems had failed me.
I was not able to get an Order of Protection or 90 day divorce due to the fact that my ex-husband had not injured me within 60 days. I needed that protection to prevent more harm from being done.
In the beginning, every time I saw him or his car, I was terrified. “Is this the day he kills me?” I learned to quiet the thought. I put my intellect to work and multiple layers of protection in place. In that golden weekly session at Safe Harbor, I released my anxiety and was girded for the week ahead. The shame I brought with me in the earlier sessions seemed to disappear. All his lies left in those precious hours with my counselor. With every word said, I let go of the pain.
Five months post-divorce finalization, I am preparing to move into the first home I have ever purchased without a husband. With my goal of moving a few states away from him fulfilled, I am overjoyed! I applied and have been accepted to a local college to complete the Bachelor degree I never finished. My beloved dog and I are finally living in peace. When we #DefyTheLie, we can accomplish anything.