Breaking Free

A story about the unknown based on my real experiences of domestic violence. I originally wrote this story for the magazine, JOY.

In the dark hour past midnight the house is still. My children are sleeping next to me and I’ve just realised that I am finally free from the domestic violence of the past seven years. I wish I could say a huge weight has been lifted from my shoulders but I can’t. The future looms before me, distant days, weeks, months, and years of emptiness. I no longer know where I am going or what my plans are. I wish I knew. Maybe I’d feel better.

Looking back on my partner Ernest’s behaviour, I’m ashamed I stayed for so long. His abusive behaviour crept over our relationship until it became normalised. He never hit me or beat me. I didn’t have the tools I needed to protect myself or to identify the abuse. I know all this, yet I still feel disgusted for not leaving sooner. Maybe it is because I still continue to keep his secrets. Maybe it is because I didn’t protect my children enough. Maybe it is because the abuse affected my parenting.

The first day I started to break free was a Sunday. Ernest’s day off work, and he was displaying the entitled attitudes typical of abusive men. He was playing a computer game, we had no food and the children were hungry. I approached him a few times, waiting for him to look at me. He ignored me even after I started talking. “I’m busy!” was his eventual reply. My frustration grew until I yelled at him.

Finally we went shopping. It did not go well. Ernest was projecting his bad mood outwards at everyone. He upset the children by trying to dominate and control them, told me to do something about them crying or he’d leave the shops. He made repeated threats to leave (he had the wallet) while I was trying to help the children regain emotional balance.

When we got home, Ernest went to the bedroom to read. I was left with food to put away and hungry kids underfoot. I felt so frustrated. I didn’t want to yell at him because I didn’t want to do anything that he would latch on as me behaving badly. He did this to avoid addressing his own inappropriate behaviour. In the end, I just sat down and cried.

My children were climbing all over me, pulling on my arm, asking for food and I found myself unable to cope. My frustration and distress was fast becoming a burning rage. I was afraid of what I’d do if my rage got too large to suppress. So I went to sit in the car and talk to a friend on my phone. I came to realise this whole way of living was ridiculous! Why should I have to live like that? I tried so many times, so many different ways, to find solutions, to fix this relationship and nothing was working.

My rage carried me back into the house, tossing clothes into a suitcase. I would go for a trip. Anything to get away from Ernest! He stopped me. He took the bag and threw it in the bedroom. He said I could go, but I couldn’t take the children. I tried to leave with them and he grabbed them, scaring them. They were screaming and crying for me. Of course I stayed. I tried to tell him he couldn’t do this, and to let the children go. He started blocking my way, and grabbed my wrists at one point. I called my mother who came over and she called the police.

I was mortified. How fucking embarrassing. The police took Ernest to a friend’s house after telling me privately that it was abusive behaviour to try and stop me from leaving the house. They said I should get a Domestic Violence Protection Order on Ernest. I didn’t want to. They said it was just a court order insisting Ernest behave appropriately towards us, and that we could continue to live with him. The more I thought about it, the more it appealed to me.

I got the DVPO. Ernest agreed to it. He stopped being physically intimidating and didn’t touch us or throw his feelings about. In the meantime I was reading “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. I started to see the cycle of violence. I started to understand what sorts of behaviours were abusive. It was a nasty shock when I realised Ernest was still being abusive in how he related to us even though it wasn’t physical. I started to see that Ernest had a serious problem in his thinking and conditioning and that until that was dealt with, he would continue to be abusive.

I started writing things down. I saved Ernest’s text messages to me. I talked to friends about it. I referred to the book on abusive behaviours to identify what was okay and what wasn’t. I made lists. It was overwhelming. I was horrified. Sweet goddess, I am still horrified. The level of abuse was escalating. There were so many incidents I remembered even though the actual details were blurry, I remembered enough.

No more shameful secrets of his shall I keep. The one that wounds me the most is the night 3 years ago where my then 3 year old daughter ended up high on the wall, Ernest’s hand around her throat and the back of his other arm pushing her chest, holding her there. He was pissed off. I don’t know what she did. I don’t know what I did. I only remember he was angry with me at the time. I don’t know what happened or why he did that. I flew at him screaming and hit him. I don’t know what was broken inside me that I stayed. I think it was the first time he promised he would see a counsellor. But the weeks went by...

So now, how dare I? How could I in any conscience, stay? After all I had learned, I would be betraying my wildish soul. I’d be betraying my heart. I’d be betraying my children. All the dangerous conditioning was stripped free, like the one that had me trying and trying to fix the relationship and stay together for the sake of the children, for the sake of our dreams and future plans together.

I started looking at rentals, getting more and more desperate. There was nothing I could afford that happened to be a house with a yard for the kids. Then I came across an affordable two bedroom cottage about two hours out of my town in a tiny community that only had a pub and post office. In a numb fog, I emailed the realtor, asking to see the place.
I went to the bank and got new bank accounts in my name. The children were with me, a big accomplishment given that my 3 year old is a loveable wild animal. At Centrelink I got crisis payment and single parenting pension set up.

I was shaking inside the whole time, not knowing what was going to happen. I didn’t know if I would end up failing again and staying with Ernest. I didn’t know if I’d get approved for the house . I kept going despite the massive amount of unknowns I was dealing with. I knew once I had done all the steps, there was no way I could go back and undo it. I drove down to see the new house, still numb. The children loved it. My 5 year old immediately asked if we could move there.

I was so excited when I got approved. I was moving the coming weekend, and it was time to tell Ernest. I said we needed to talk and that he was not changing my mind this time. I stated I wasn’t going to live like this any longer. He got upset and angry, saying he had not been abusive since the DVPO. I was adamant. He started to get desperate but I remained calm. I was running a commentary inside my head identifying the strategies he was using on me. I shut down my feelings despite my Inner Good Girl screaming at me that I was being a cold heartless bitch. I was so proud of myself that I didn’t allow Ernest to manipulate my feelings.

I moved out before I knew what would happen with our old rental, the bills, the car payments, and my new budget. I just knew I could pay the rent and that was enough for me. I had so many doubts and each time, I would squash them. I had good support to bounce my thoughts off, and it helped me to stay strong and continue to squish the undermining of my Inner Good Girl. Wild Womyn was out and she was stomping! Stomp that, stomp this, swat that, squish this back into a box for later. She protected me and I did my best to work with her instead of against her.

I am free. I did it. I broke free of the fucking cycle. I broke free of the confusion and inner emotional muck that Ernest caused. The healing has already begun. I had no idea the emotional abuse affected me so badly. I find myself in a healthier position to help my children because there is no Ernest to interfere with my positive, healthy parenting model. Maybe the unknown isn’t so bad after all. I’m now living what was once my unknown, and its wildly empowering.

The future from where I stand? Screw it. I don’t need to know. I’ll just keep dreaming my dreams and moving myself in that general direction. The universe takes care of its own.

Narratives of My History Herstory.

Narrative, n. A spoken or written account of connected events; a story.

Please read this first before continuing...!

Inane Drivel ~ Fuck Skool Yo. - the beginning of my unschooling journey at 16 yrs old.

Seven Years in Me - my experiences of domestic violence

Breaking Free - a short story based on fact, names changed

Confessions of an Ex-Lapdog - on cults and recovery.

Joyous Birth - A political cult? - exploring cultish aspects

Growing Into Me - the transition from child-me to adult-me.

Shae - single mothering by choice.

A Recalcitrant Pity-fest - realisations of the hardships of deafness.

Thrice October - A tumultuous progression.

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copyright © Lisa Morgan 2007-2012