It is January 2019 and nine years ago this month my ex husband started to rape me. I have written about these assaults before , but as I am reaching the nine year anniversary of a most terrible time in my life, I found myself to be reflective and asking myself, how am I doing now?
Perhaps I should start by saying that my ex husband was very abusive. We were together for 15 years and over that time he subjected me to verbal, emotional, financial, physical and sexual abuse. Not only to me, but also to our three children. The abuse was slow and insidious at first, which is what most abusive relationships are like. The abuse happens so gradually that you, the victim, barely understand what is going on until you are in the thick of it. I know for myself, in the beginning, I would sometimes notice things that made me uncomfortable, like a comment or a look he made, but I made excuses for him. I told myself that it was just because he had a bad day and then I swept the incident away. The thing is, is that over time he had many “bad days” and they started to leave me with knots in my stomach and “walking on eggshells” trying not to make him angry. What I didn’t understand is that I wasn’t “making” him anything. He chose to be the way he was and he was being that way because he wanted to have power and control over me and he did that through fear and intimidation. As time went on he didn’t even have to physically touch me to cause me upset he only had to give me that “look” from across the room and I was shaking on the inside knowing what was coming later. For 15 years this is how we lived, day in and day out. My decisions were based around his moods and his actions. My needs became nonexistent to me and his were all important and this is exactly what an abuser wants; to be all powerful in the relationship. Why do they do it? Well Lundy Bancroft’s book; “Why Does He Do That?” will give you many reasons why, but basically they do it because they are broken inside. Somewhere at sometime someone hurt them too and they never want to be in that weak position again. They want to be the one in power so they achieve that through hurting others and creating fear in them so that they do not stand up to them. Over time they continue to push the limits with their victim, seeing that they can get away with, they keep increasing the level of abuse to intimidate their victim and feel that powerful feeling. It is extremely sick.
At some point the victim does come up for air and they do see through the fog of the abusive relationship. It was an eye-opening time for me, a period that I often call “my waking up period”.I was learning to make my own boundaries, telling my ex that I would not let him treat me this way, or our children. He did not like that. At first, he would just yell back at me, in fact screaming at me that he would “Never, never stop abusing me!” Then he started to escalate the abuse. I was at this point when my ex first raped me. I had secretly been talking to friends who validated that yes what he was doing to me was abuse and I had also secretly been seeing a counsellor learning about the dynamics of an abusive relationship. You see abusive people do not like it when their victim starts learning that what has been going on is in fact abuse. This could be their own realization or perhaps a friend or family member said something or maybe they saw some info on the web. However it happens the victim is validated to take their own power back. They feel extremely threatened so they are known to increase the level of abuse to intimidate the victim again and hopefully get them back under their control. This can be a very dangerous time for the victim so it is important that they reach out to supports; friends, family, hotlines or shelters. It is important for them to know that they are not alone in this battle. For myself as the abuse escalated I pushed back by kicking my ex out of our bedroom. I told him that he was no longer welcome there, that I did not want him touching me ever again. In fact I wanted him to move out, but he refused and instead moved downstairs to our family room. For mine and my children’s safety I did not push it further. That basement is where he was, 9 years ago this month, when he ran up the stairs one early morning, and he raped me in our marriage bed.
To say that I was changed by that assault is an understatement. At first I was dazed and stunned that this had happened. Yes he was abusive, but this was my husband and the father of my children so how could he possibly hurt me this way? I did not understand and walked around for days in complete shock. Himself, well he acted like nothing had happened and then it happened again. In fact he raped me on a continual basis over a nine month period. It was the last nine months of our marriage. On Sept 27th 2010 I ended our marriage and he moved out. The following year I filed for divorce, which was finally granted in 2017 after a lengthy battle.
It is now nine years later and to the average person they might expect me to be healed from all of this, but can I tell you something? I am not. I recently remarried; in fact we have just passed our one year wedding anniversary. I adore my new husband. We were high school sweethearts and were actually supposed it marry in our early twenties, but instead we ended up parting ways. It was during my “waking up period” that we reconnected on line. His first marriage had fallen apart and as we started talking I started confiding in him about what was happening in my marriage. At first he tried encouraging me to work on my marriage, but as I revealed more and more the level of abuse that was happening he became one of my support people.
You might wonder what our sex life is like. Or maybe you don’t. I will tell you that sex in general is an issue for any rape survivor so yes we have had our trials. To be frank and I think honesty is best for you to fully get what happens to a rape survivor, is that we had the best sex life when we first started dating. Like “break the bed” good sex. Yes I am being blunt and I apologize if that is too much for some of my readers, but I want you to be able to see the contrast. We had fabulous sex. Plain and simple. Then something changed. It was nothing he did or anything specific that I did, it was simply that the effects of all the trauma I had gone through had finally sunk into my whole being. Say what? Ok, I will explain. When anything traumatic happens to a person it shakes your whole being right down to your cellular level. That is pretty intense when you think about it. That is why often you will hear, long after a traumatic event has happened, the victim saying that they have trouble sleeping, or they are extra jumpy at the smallest noise or they have no appetite. This is because when trauma happens the person becomes disconnected from themselves, they often go into autopilot and your whole being is on alert, waiting for the next traumatic event. Sometimes these symptoms show up right away other times it can be weeks, months or even years later. The effects of trauma do not follow a straight linear line. That is where I ended up; dealing with the traumatic aftermath well over a year later. I struggled to sleep, I fought terrible night terrors and when I went to bed I piled on clothes and blankets, as if that extra covering would somehow keep me safe from ever being raped again. I was not well and was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
How am I now? Well bloody H….I still struggle!! I no longer have night terrors and I rarely have a flashback, but I still pile on the blankets and somewhere along the way, without consciously making this decision I started sleeping on my side, always facing the outside of the bed, in case I have to escape and I often find my arms crossed across my chest in defense. There are also times when my husband and I go to make love and I have a panic attack. He is always respectful and will just hold me through those moments. He respects my boundaries and if I say no he never pushes it. He loves me deeply and I love him so we have learned that sometimes before anything can happen between us I just need him to hold me while I positively talk to myself in my head, reassuring my whole being that I am safe. Then there are times where sex can be totally spontaneous and I am completely fine. Again, like I said, trauma is not linear. Sometimes life will go smoothly and other times your trauma will resurface and knock you completely out of the park. We do our best to take it all moment by moment and with tons of patience. I absolutely adore him for standing with me on this crazy journey of recovery.
In another nine years I pray that those assaults will just be a distant memory. Perhaps they will be, perhaps they won’t. I have learned that you cannot control how trauma will affect you. You can work on dealing with the effects; talking with your loved ones and seeking therapy are always good options, but honestly I think that trauma just takes the time it needs to take to heal and then one day it doesn’t feel like a heavy weight on your shoulder. One day you feel lighter and freer and you know that you will never forget what happened to you, but it no longer controls your life. I know that one day I will get there.
If you are thinking of leaving your abusive relationship I encourage you to create a Safety Plan. A Safety Plan helps you safely leave an abusive relationship. Please check out this link; https://relationshipabuse-recovery.com/resources/safety-plan-workbook-ver3.pdf
Are you an abusive relationship? Do you need extra support? I supervise a Mentoring Program at verbalabusejournals.com. Here you can receive free support via email from one of our Mentors. You can sign up at https://relationshipabuse-recovery.com/abusive-relationship-support/
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