Staring at my phone. Why won’t my fingers dial 9-1-1? Do it, Katie, fucking call! I hear myself shouting in my own head. I lose my chance. I’m covered in glass. My knuckles are bleeding. Now I am screaming. I climb out my passenger-side door and instinctively touch my face. Blood. How hurt am I? I can’t feel anything.
“Katie, I am so sorry,” he says. The metal shovel he broke my car window with now out of his hands, he follows me inside, trying to stop me along the way. “Please, Katie, please, I’m sorry,” he pleads. Get out of my way. I must see how hurt I am. I walk into the bathroom and look in the mirror. There are lines of blood coming down my face, but I can tell nothing is deep. I’m wearing glasses and a knit hat, which thankfully protected my eyes from the glass that had just been launched into my face.
I stare at myself blankly in the mirror as I begin to dab at the blood. My heart is pounding, and I barely recognize myself. The blood-streaked reflection keeps looking at me, but who is she? How did I get here? He tries to take over at dabbing the blood off my face. I tell him to get the fuck away from me, and I look at my phone once again. Must call for help. How can I call with him standing there? I text my dad, “Please come get me.” Then he takes my phone away. Fuck.
This is how my marriage ended. I’m 30 and divorced. I’m educated, and I live what most would describe as a comfortable, middle-class, white-privileged life. Yet I experienced domestic violence for years. My marriage ended when my husband assaulted me and was arrested two days after Christmas. Upon his arrest, a full order of protection went into place. This meant he could not contact me for (at least) six months, or he’d be charged with a felony. We’d been married for two months.
That night, one cop asked how a “woman like me” could find herself with a “guy like that.” Were there really “no signs of behavior like this?” they asked. Of course there were signs. I hurt deeply with feelings that I had “known better,” that I had “seen this coming.” Though I was the victim of a crime, finding forgiveness for myself would prove to be the most challenging part of recovering.
Our first date was the best first date I had ever had. He was sweet and generous. We were vulnerable. We talked for hours. I gushed over it to friends, and I came back to the feelings it brought out in me many times when things got bad. At one point during that first date, he got up, walked over to my side of the table, and kissed me. Because he liked something I said THAT much.
At 25, I was more familiar with men treating me poorly than otherwise. But here I had a handsome Midwestern gentleman who could cook, sing, and dance, and he looked at me in a way I had never experienced. Finally! Wading through the sea of douchebags had led me to him. It was all very romantic.
I didn’t realize until I was out of the relationship that verbal and emotional abuse is domestic violence. The way he hurled insults at me during a disagreement, how he’d use his physical size to intimidate or block me from walking away, how nothing was ever his fault, how scared he could make me feel, how powerless. “You’re a bitch, and I’m not the only one who thinks so.” “What happened to the sexy, confident girl I fell in love with?” “Nothing is ever good enough for you.” “You’re a cunt.” “This is all your fault.”