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When love hurts: The story of an abused woman

Author: Canadian Living

Relationships

When love hurts: The story of an abused woman

I was overcome with conflicting emotions when I heard the judge issue the sentence to Rob*: two years plus a day in a federal penitentiary for raping and physically abusing me for six months. Part of me felt guilt. I know it sounds crazy, but I still loved Rob and pitied him having to go to jail. I also felt rage. The sentence was too short. Will this really deter Rob from beating another woman? I also felt satisfaction. Justice, albeit not enough, had been served.

It started with romance
When I first met Rob, I had been a single mom for about eight and a half years. I have four children (then aged eight, nine, 11 and 16) and had full custody of them following my divorce from their father. My entire life was devoted to my two jobs -- security guard and store clerk -- and raising my children, trying as best I could to give them opportunities to succeed. I didn't date. I didn't have the time, nor did I want to bring another man into my kids' lives unless I was sure it was going to last.

Rob's stepmother was my youngest son's school teacher. For a year and a half she begged me to meet him, saying we would be perfect together. I hesitated because I didn't want to be set up with anyone, but her nagging eventually worked, and I agreed she could give him my telephone number.

When I first met Rob, it was electric and magical. He wined and dined me like no other man; he bought me chocolates, sent me flowers and left me little gifts on my pillow. He always touched me softly on the hand and the back of the neck. He made me feel like I was the most important person in the world. Even to this day, I never loved anyone as much as Rob.

The abuse begins
The honeymoon period ended the day after we were married -- six months from when we first met. He moved into my townhouse and brought his dog despite my explaining to him that we weren't allowed pets. When I came home from work, he was on the way out with the dog.

"Are you going for a walk?" I asked.

"No," he replied. "I'm leaving. You won't let me keep my dog."

"Well, maybe you should have married your dog," I answered jokingly.

Rob is about six foot three and 225 pounds. I'm five foot four and 100 pounds. He grabbed me by the waist and lifted me up against the wall. He wore big pewter biker rings on every finger and started smashing me in the face with his knuckles. He grabbed my hands and bent them backward, breaking one of my fingers.

I was in shock. I was stunned. But I didn't leave. A few hours after the incident, Rob broke into tears and told me how sorry he was. I loved him so much, so I believed him when he said it wouldn't happen again.

But life became hell after that. For the next two months the abuse was nonstop. Rob kept me in a constant state of terror. I'm not a drinker, but he'd toss a rum and Coke in my face and say drink. He'd punch me in the stomach or kick me in the thigh if I didn't. I started walking on tiptoes around him, fearful of everything I'd say and do. But it didn't matter; the abuse continued. He dislocated my shoulder several times. He'd lift me up by the ankles and bang my head against the floorboards in the living room.

A woman of two minds
A part of me wanted to leave, but another part of me hesitated. I've since learned that most battered women put up with an awful lot of abuse before they finally leave. Somehow I felt I was partially responsible for the abuse. If I hadn't made a particular comment or if I had just sipped the rum and Coke everything would have been OK. And for the first few months Rob was apologetic after the beatings. He'd say he felt rotten and that he didn't mean to hit me so hard. He'd cry and show such remorse that I'd forget my own pain. He'd become romantic and sweet, and I'd fall in love with him all over again.

I started to isolate myself from friends and family. I didn't want them to know about the violence. I covered my facial wounds with makeup. I put on a happy face with my kids and tried to act like things were fine. They knew about the violence but didn't know the severity. I was a security guard and worked most nights by myself or just one other person. I didn't have to do a lot of explaining. When my mom wanted to see me, I'd lie, saying I was busy. I didn't want her to see my bruises. I was embarrassed.

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The abuse worsens
The rapes began about two months after we were married. I was dressing into my security-guard uniform when Rob came out of the shower and asked me where I was going. He didn't wait for my answer. He threw me on the bed, sat on my stomach, pinned my arms up beside my head and ripped off my clothes. "If you want sex, wait until I get home tonight," I said. "You'll do it when I want, and how I want," was his response. It got worse after that. Rob would tie me up and put foreign objects such as necks of beer bottles and dirty washrags into my vagina.

Five months into the marriage I endured beating after beating. While most of the assaults were done when my children weren't home, they did see Rob hit me near the end. I was worried that they might step in and try to protect me. If they did, they might get beaten, too. I began plotting our escape, but it was difficult. Rob had begun making threatening comments: "You can never get far enough away from me. I will always find you. If I can't have you, no one will." I felt trapped.

The breaking point
But then came the night I had no choice but to call the police. Rob had disappeared for three days. I didn't know where he was. I thought he had been in an accident and was hurt. I left messages on his truck telephone and called the police and hospitals in the area. Nobody had heard anything.

He arrived home on the third night at about 1 a.m. and immediately started screaming at me that he didn't appreciate me trying to track him down. We were in the kitchen and he grabbed the phone receiver and began to beat me in the face with it. His eyes were red and flashing like I'd never seen before. I ran to the bedroom, and he was right behind me. He picked me up over his head and threw me across the room twice. I broke my tailbone in the second fall.

My 10-year-old daughter woke up. She must have heard something and came to see what was happening. We were now in the hallway. She just stood there, stunned. Rob looked at her and got scared for some reason. He went into the bathroom to pack his things.

I found my way to the kitchen, fighting the pain from the broken bones, and called the police.

A responsibility to other women
At first I hesitated making a statement. Even after everything, I didn't want to send Rob to jail. But then a police officer said something the next day that changed my mind: "Do you think you have a responsibility to other women? Do you want this to happen to someone else?"

What I didn't know at the time was that Rob had a history of violence against women. All he ever told me was that he had been married once before. What I learned from the police was that she had been found unconscious in a pool of blood on the floor of her garage. Rob had married a second time, too, and beat that woman up. But he was never convicted of assault because I was the only one of his wives who turned him in to the police.

The police had no problem charging him. But they were honest with me: it was going to be difficult to prove spousal rape in court. I didn't care. I wanted Rob to be charged with rape. He might not be convicted, but at least the charges would be on his record. I felt I owed this much to the next woman who crossed his path.

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Not alone
The police held Rob for a few days, and I moved into a counselling facility. The staff wanted me to join group counselling, but I couldn't speak in front of other people. I felt like such a fool for having been beaten up by my husband. I thought the others in the group would judge me as a failure as a mother and wife.

But then I met women just like me -- lots of women. It shocked me how many of us are out there, abused by our loved ones.

It took about a year, but eventually I looked at Rob with fresh eyes and started to connect the dots. I was finished counselling but still doing a lot of emotional healing, reading books, writing poetry and meditating. I came to realize that all the other men in my life treated me horribly -- screaming, yelling and controlling me. I saw that it began with my acceptance of this behaviour when I was a child. My stepfather sexually assaulted me from the age of seven until I ran away from home when I was 15. When you're a kid and you're abused, you think you deserve it. Unconsciously, I came to accept violence as part of intimate relationships. Affection and abuse went hand-in-hand for me.

Breaking the cycle
It took a long time for me to realize that I am a good person. I'm loyal, giving and loving. I deserved to no longer have violence in my life. But then I started to panic. Had I passed the cycle of violence onto my kids? They had witnessed me being abused, so would my boys become violent predators? Would my girls accept abusive partners like I had? Over the years I've told them that violence is unacceptable in any form. But more importantly I have showed them this is true by becoming a healthy person, dating men after I left Rob who were not abusive and learning to love myself every day.

The case against Rob took two years to wind its way through the courts. It was emotionally exhausting, particularly having to listen to Rob on the stand talking about the rapes. He said that I liked kinky, rough sex. The only way the crown could prove the contrary was by calling my ex-husband and Rob's ex-wife to the stand. My ex testified I was never into violent sex, and Rob's ex-wife testified that everything he had done to me, he had attempted on her.

At one point in the trial the Crown asked if I wanted to quit. If I agreed to let the Crown make a deal, Rob would be convicted of assault but not rape. The Crown said it was my call. It took 20 minutes for me to say no.

I remembered one of Rob's friends saying to me during the trial that I brought the abuse on myself. This made me mad. "Rob is in trouble because of what he did," I told him. "He chose to hit me on his own. Rob was charged because he chose to beat me up."

Rob was eventually convicted of everything, including rape. Part of me felt guilty, but I also felt satisfied. Justice had been served.

Moving forward
During the trial there was a restraining order against Rob coming anywhere near me. Now I'm on my own. Thirteen years later and far away from the town where we lived together, I am still terrified of this man, even though I haven't seen him in years. Every so often I hesitate when I go to the mall alone or walk to my car. "Is he out there waiting for me?"

I may be risking my safety by coming forward with my story, but I feel it's important. There are so many women going through what I went through. They need to know they're not alone and don't deserve to be abused. There are other women, like me, standing with them, ready to open their arms and provide safety and refuge.

*Name has been changed.

Read more: How to spot a psychopath.

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When love hurts: The story of an abused woman

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