It was a beautiful summer day when he moved his entire life into my apartment. Almost immediately he began re-arranging my space to suit his needs, but I overlooked it. I had never lived with anyone else outside my family, and I assumed his childish requests about how I arranged my things were all part of a normal period of adjustment. After all, I had seen several friends endure the same growing pains in this stage of their relationship.
It can be a big adjustment, more than some for others. No, I decided to be accommodating as much as I could. And he was doing the same, was he not? The same as all my friends had, but their stories didn’t turn out like mine. But I swear on my life that I never expected something as simple, pointless, and trivial in the most basic sense as the positioning of a microwave on the kitchen countertop to herald his descent into his abusive treatment toward me. I am sure that anyone else would either, but now that I look back, it was the first true sign of his overbearing need to control and manipulate even the minutest of details in the environment surrounding him.
In the beginning, as all abusers do, he put on fantastic airs, parading around like he was kind, generous, and compassionate. He was careful to point out how many successful architects and designers in the industry that he could also count among his friends, as if this qualified him as successful as well. Never-the-less, it made him feel important, he was very skilled at his vocation, and I learned a lot from watching him churn out projects three to four times faster than his contractors ever could expect.
What I could not understand, however, was how someone so talented and seemingly so driven was not the principal of his own firm at this point in his life and why he didn’t have degree and licensure in his field. (Be careful what you wish for: remember the adage? Relatively soon, I would unfortunately feel the answer slap me across the face.)
The first time Kevin called me stupid, we had been playing a juvenile game of tug-of-war over where on the counter the microwave should sit. Stupid, because he wanted it flush against the wall in a hard-to-reach corner. Because I told him repeatedly that it did not belong there, shoved back far enough where you have to stretch to reach the buttons, especially when the door opens toward you. Stupid because I deliberately irritated him by moving it closer and closer to the edge. Because on this occasion, when I came into the kitchen and saw it pushed all the way back into the corner, I pulled it out one final time, all the way to edge so the face of the unit was flush with the lip of the countertop.
“What the **** is wrong with you? I thought I told your stupid *** that the microwave doesn’t belong on the edge of the ****** counter! How could anyone be so stupid?”
And so it began. It is a devastating thing to be subjected to systematic erasure of everything that makes you who you are, everything that makes you unique and whole. Once he called me stupid, multiple insults inevitably followed, each one more hurtful and insidious than the last. Nothing was safe from his verbal attacks any longer, including my family whom he repeatedly threatened to attack. Most of the time it was my father he made this threat about. He threatened to cut me up and leave me in the basement of the apartment house, and he had several dreams where he would wake up and tell me he just dreamed that he killed me.
Then he shifted his attention to my appearance. I am not known by anyone who is in my life to be boyish in any way. In fact, I relish in being a woman and all the accouterments, baubles, and behaviors that go with it. As my mother summed it up once with a bit of disdain in her voice, I eat, talk, and walk like a priss. My closet and dressers overflow with it. As such, my first apartment was filled with a myriad of goodies – jewelry, shoes, handbags, cosmetics, clothes, a few dozen jackets, trenches, and coats… all of which Kevin promptly came to use as a point of contention, a deliberate but unjustifiable path into an even less justifiable argument.
One slightly chilly September morning, he was on the computer in the living room where he always seemed to be perched. I went through my typical routine getting ready for work, and just as I was finishing up applying my makeup, he came barging into the bathroom. He looked at me and cut his teeth at me.
“Who you wearing that for?”
If I could go back now and change what I said, I’d pause myself right before I opened my mouth and said the extremely stupid thing I said. Maybe it would have turned out differently. Or maybe it would have just prolonged the inevitable. The world, and, more importantly, I will never know. The sad thing about going through abuse is the training and indoctrination they subject you to in order to encourage just enough doubt to take root in your mind that maybe, just maybe it was you.
But I have this rash impetuosity about me. Before I could think long enough to maybe say something that would have been less inflammatory, it flew out of my mouth with reckless abandon, eye roll in tow.
“What, are you crazy?!”
After all, I had just spent my two days off with him, and my morning routine had not changed simply because I was off those two days. I resented the insinuation.
“You don’t ever do that for me! Who you gonna go see on lunch, you fat, stupid whore?”
I rolled my eyes – again. Maybe it was the fact I called him crazy. Or perhaps because I added the eye roll for effect. Truthfully, he was just waiting for something he could twist and manipulate. He was itching for it, and I apparently handed it to him on a platter with all the trimmings.
I went to walk past him out of the bathroom, but before I made it to the door, he grabbed my arm, spun me around, and threw me against the bathroom wall, right against the light switch on the bathroom wall. Apparently, he has good aim, because it caught me in the middle of the back. Seething with rage, Kevin stomped on my feet and pushed me flat to the wall and wrapped his hands around my neck. I don’t know how long they were constricted around my neck, but he proceeded to choke me until I almost passed out.
It’s funny the things that come to mind. I do not remember the fear I must have felt, but I do remember looking at him, my head turned to the left, and this foreign gurgling noise coming from my throat. I remembered the light pouring in the window from behind him and how I was so surprised that his face was shrouded in shadow. He ripped his hands away from my neck and stood there in front of me, his chest heaving, nostrils flaring, eyes burning holes in me. Without warning, he pulled back his arm and hit me in the chest.
I was in shock. Who was this person? Did this just really happen? It was like my brain just shut down, and all I could do was stand there staring. I couldn’t think. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t move. What must have been mere minutes felt like an eternity. He pushed me out the bathroom door and told me to change my shirt — the first of countless marks to come — and go to work. I couldn’t tell you what happened the rest of the day; I spent most of it in a daze. From that point on, I was allowed to wear only what he approved, and I was not allowed to wear makeup or jewelry unless I was with him. And even then he accused me of wearing it for someone else.
Unlike a lot of stories I have read, this was not a slow descent into his madness. It opened Pandora’s Box and unleashed everything on me relentlessly for the next four years. The only change was it worsened over time. He started to rip my clothes and break things; the first thing was an alarm clock my parents bought. He did it during one of his many “stalking” phone calls when I was work. When I came home, the dresser was cleared off onto the floor, and the clock lay mangled on the carpet. Just weeks after he first choke me, he discovered his favorite place to hit me was in the head. He would push me in corner, knock me on the floor, and start yelling at me when I put my arms up trying to protect my head and face as best I could.
My shelves of Japanese reference books began to do nothing except sit on the bookcase and collect dust. Every time I went to sit down and do maintenance studying to retain the language, he would find some excuse that I urgently need to stop what I was doing and be at his beck and call.
Due to Kevin’s jealousy, I had to stop taking classes online. He incessantly accused me of having something going with male students and professors, and even when I began responding to only female students, he still insisted I was hiding something. He started to complain about the time I had to put into homework, and he would physically prevent me from completing my assignments earlier in the week, pushing everything to the last minute. I have no clue how, but I was still able to get everything done and in on time. And I maintained my GPA. However, one day came when he forced me to contact the college and withdraw from classes. This was the end of October; it had already grown cold in more ways than one.
I found out that the ex he claimed was his ex was still in fact his wife. The children I knew about, because he always complained about their mother trying to get him to uphold his responsibility and provide for them. He devised ways of not having to. At this point, I detested him. Once he had started abusing me, whatever feelings of affection or anything else for that matter, pretty much dried up. Then, after finding out he was betraying the mother of his children and had been for years — and clearly showed no regret of any kind — I struggled against him to keep him from trying to initiate any kind of physical intimacy. This would end up being one of the major issues that would earn me regular physical punishment from him over the next several years.
Initially, when I had started my Bible study, he made others believe that he was supportive of what I was doing, even going to weekly meetings with me. Little by little, he stopped going, asking me to lie or cover for him, and I refused. Eventually he would start arguments about my studies and the meetings and act out in ways to try to prevent them. When the arguments did not work, he kept me from using the notebook and then the server for research. He would take my literature away, so I began hiding it so I always had something else to pull out. When I was studying with his sister over the phone, he began leaving the house and taking both cell phones with him so I could not speak to her. He would keep me up days at a time with no sleep. I struggled to maintain my meeting attendance, but I did not waiver.
Eventually, after on countless occasions of slamming my head into door frames in an attempt to keep me from getting ready, he moved on. When I still persisted after being dragged across the floor by my hair, thrown into a corner and pummeled on, he became enraged. The first test was the wood board he broke on my right leg. I still went to the meeting. Once he pulled out the metal bar and developed a liking for its efficiency at getting me to relent, he did not stop. It became his favorite object to use on me. I walked with a cane for two winters.
Once he started running the streets, he started stealing from me. The first time he went out, he got into my purse, took my debit card and disappeared. When he came home, he had put my account $1000 in the hole, and the bank made me pay it back. Bills backed up, rent became late. I lost my life insurance, and credit cards that were maxed out got cut off. The first time I fought back was when I told him he wasn’t leaving the house with my money. Obviously, he disagreed. He grabbed my purse and started to reach for my wallet. This turned into a brawl which ended with him getting my card and tearing out of the apartment, the purse shredded, its former contents strewn about the apartment, and me bruised up with what was to become a normal pounding headache.
The first time I truly feared he had the capacity and willingness to kill me, I had the car for not even a month. It was cold and snowy. A female co-worker had brought me home from work, and he saw us pull into the driveway. He was standing in the bedroom window watching, just waiting for a fight. When I got upstairs, he was waiting for me in the hallway, and he began an argument with me, accusing me of having someone else bring me home. We argued for a while. As he reached his hand out, I thought it was time for the usual punishment.
Instead, he dragged me downstairs, out of the apartment, and pushed me into the car. It was twenty degrees at 2 A.M., and I didn’t have a coat on. We sped off into the darkness with him repeatedly hitting my head hard enough that it bounced off the window. He stopped in a wooded area, and told me to get out. When I refused, he ripped the key out of the ignition and came around to my side of the car and pulled me out, pushing me into the middle of the road. I think it was the tire iron he took from the trunk, but I can’t say for sure. I only saw the moonlight flash off it a few times. I remember him yelling and threatening me, and I can still see him walking up to me with the cold metal in his hand…and then nothing. I have a 36 hour hole in my memory. (Covered in detail in my blog post “Peering into the Abyss“)
The phone gets shut off, electric is on its way. Eviction number one. He promptly disappeared and left me to pack up an entire apartment in three days by myself, because, as he put it, it was my ****. He only came home at night after he could find no more crack, would tell me he needed to sleep, and I needed to keep packing. I called my family out of desperation to help me, so I could get everything out. He did this every time we got evicted. And my family always took it out on me.
I wish we never got that car. He turned it into the dope-mobile. We stayed in a hotel for several weeks, until he got arrested, and I was staying with family. He called collect and ran up a nice phone bill that I had to cover. When he got out, he showed up and got me in the car and took off.
We ended up staying in a dingy, sub-par building, and he continued to punish me. My ride to work was late one day, and he forced me back up the stairs and punched me in the head so hard that my head bounced off the wall. He said it was because I lied about who was coming to pick me up, but he was there when I called to ask.
On another occasion, he asked to have one of my female co-workers stop at the store on the way home from work one night, and I was gone too long according to the time he allotted in his head. When I walked in the door, he ripped the bags out of my hands and kicked me from the kitchen into the living room. The rest of it was a blur, but I remember being thrown into a glass table (that somehow failed to break) and standing up to a stereo being hurled at my head.
He grabbed me and threw me on the couch and hit me several times, dragged me on the floor and kicked me in the side and screamed at me when I could not get up right away. Then he planted me in the chair at the desk and forced me to let him go through my email with him standing over me, slapping me and punching the back of my head. This went on for hours, and he demanded I go back and let him re-read things over and over. I went to work with my entire left leg bruised and swollen. Working on your feet like this for nine hours a shift is not fun.
His drug abuse worsened. For the second time, he overdrew my account by $1000, even after the bank insisted they cut off the overdraft. Despite trying to talk to the bank about him stealing my card, they simply bullied me into another payment plan. This time I was not given the opportunity to pay it back, because Kevin was burning through every last cent he could get his hands on. He started bringing dirty, shifty street people in the house, including a crack dealer he helped. He accused me of sleeping with them, too. He started to sell DVDs and electronics that I paid for, obviously, because he didn’t have a job. Eventually that wasn’t enough, and he started helping dealers so he could get free stuff.
Part Two of this story, next week, Tuesday, 10 September.
About the Author
My name is Amy. I am not what one would consider to be a typical survivor of domestic violence. However, there is no such thing. I am a self-professed geek who prefers documentaries, biographies, and history over drama and action. My time would be better spent in galleries, museums, and bookstores than anywhere. I speak three languages and have plans to learn more. I play flute and piccolo and regret not continuing with piano.