I'D TAKE A BULLET FOR MY CHILD
How many parents have uttered these words but how many have really been tested and had to put them into action?
In 1988, I found myself stuck in an abusive marriage. A lot of people cannot understand how a woman, especially one that is perceived of as being strong, would stay in such a situation. It’s because there is no simple and easy way to leave a controlling, abusive spouse/partner and I had started to understand that a year earlier when I had tried to leave the marriage peacefully. I just wanted a divorce. I offered liberal visitation with our 3 year old daughter, requested minimal child support and asked for no spousal support. The answer I received? “You will NEVER get a divorce from me. If you try to leave me I will put a contract out on you and have you killed”. Now to some this may just seem dramatic, but my ex-husband, in addition to running a successful business, was a drug runner on the side. Not the heavy stuff like cocaine…it was marijuana, but this was the 80’s and it was a big deal. I knew the “friends’ he had and he enforced his threat with “I could find someone to take you out for the price of 2 six packs of beer”. Nice to know my life was worth so much (note the sarcasm here) but needless to say, I knew better than to take this threat lightly. However, me being me (you know, tough!), I came back with, “Oh yeah…and you don’t think that law enforcement won’t look at you first and you’ll end up in jail and our daughter will be in foster care?” He reiterated with, “I love our daughter so much that if you leave and try to take her, I will kill you, her and then myself”. Ok…this is a game changer and this was the beginning for me of why I chose the abuse over leaving the marriage.
So the plotting begins…I know that I cannot stay, but I have to protect myself and my daughter, so I have to have a plan. The idea of taking a person’s child away from them, without allowing them any future contact seemed cruel but I was beginning to understand how for some women it is their only way of escape. I started considering it…quietly in my mind. One day I went to his office, where I helped out with paperwork and bookkeeping and our desks sat front to front so that we faced each other, and he very calmly says to me, “If by any chance, you are thinking that you are going to just take off, I want you to know that I won’t come looking for you”. Wow! Best news I’ve heard in a while…maybe I can leave and not have to look over my shoulder. So I asked, “You won’t?” Again, very calmly he replied, “No. I won’t waste my time. Instead I’ll start going after your family, starting with your sister’s children”. He specified my younger sister’s children who were 1 and 3 years old at the time. I suddenly felt like I was going to throw up. Are you still wondering why women hesitate to leave an abusive relationship?
I won’t go into all the details of the next year, as I tried to be the perfect mother, homemaker and wife to a man who cannot be pleased or appeased. One of the ways an abusive man controls a woman is to never let her know that she does anything right…she is always wrong, can’t do anything right, never attractive enough, and basically totally inept in every way. I was sweet, I was submissive, I tried to be the best sex partner, cook good meals, be the best mother…I tried to be perfect…but that does not exist in an abuser’s life. Finally things got to the point where I knew I had to leave, not so much for myself but for our daughter, and I took advantage of him going out of town for a few days on “business” (read: drug run). I rented a storage space and a U-Haul. I packed up all I could that belonged to me and my daughter, with the exception of furniture. I remember taking dishes and Tupperware…hey, I expected to start a new life and I might need those things. Then I withdrew some money from the bank being careful to take only what I felt entitled to and not take money that was “his” or leave him broke…in other words, I took very little. I rented a motel room for us to stay in for a few days while I figured out our next move, but once I heard that he was back in town, the paranoia set in. Every car that came close to me, I imagined was a hired gun to kill me. I moved into a friend’s house where I didn’t think he could find me because I didn’t think he knew this person. Once he arrived home and realized I was gone, he started the phone calls to my family, mostly my mother. He would cry on the phone telling them how much he loved me and that there was something wrong with me mentally and how hard he worked at the marriage but I was just crazy. Yep, he was the victim…I was just crazy. My mother fell for the act and my family got tired of the phone calls. I got tired of being scared and always looking over my shoulder so I agreed to meet him.
The meeting place was at Bennigan’s on US1 and Hallandale Beach Blvd in Hallandale, FL. He wanted me to bring my daughter but I refused. I was sure that I was being set up to be killed (sorry for the dramatics) and if so, I didn’t want my daughter to be a part of it. We were meeting at night and my friend begged me to take his car so that my husband would not recognize it giving me a chance to scope things out first. I refused. I was tired of running. I was tired of being scared. I didn’t care what might happen to me but I was going to end this tonight and make sure that my daughter would be safe. On the way there, it started raining…not a gentle rain…but a huge down pour. I got to the restaurant and the parking lot was deserted and flooded. I did not see his car anywhere. Should I sit in my car and watch for him? No, I’m tired of being scared, this was it. I got out of the car with my umbrella and ran to the front entrance. I was surprised when I actually made it without being shot and the smart thing, for several reasons would have been to go inside. But NO, I wasn't going to live my life in fear for even one more day. So I stood outside, under the canopy, with my umbrella in the pouring rain, literally waiting for a car to drive by, shoot and kill me. I was calm. I was ready. I was willing to give my life so that my child could have a chance to be raised in a family with love, free from abuse. I waited ten minutes…and he casually walked up and we went inside.
It seems that I am the lucky one…my husband, in the end, was nothing more than a big bully. In fact, I later found out that the reason I never saw his car or saw him pull up was that he was afraid of me. He thought it was a set up for him to be arrested by DEA (he thought I had spilled my guts). So HE had borrowed someone else’s car and watched me as I drove into the parking lot, he scoped things out until he felt safe. We talked, it went nowhere…we both left.
The next morning, I was unable to console my daughter as she asked for her father (she was a daddy’s girl) and so I agreed to take her to him. I was not afraid any more and I thought that I could make things work. I drove to his office and at the surprise on his face I told him, “I’m coming back…but I’m not afraid of you anymore and you cannot treat me the way you have. If you do, I will fight back”. So we reconciled.
I wish that I could give you some fairytale happy ending…but the marriage lasted less than a year when he told me that he was divorcing me. It seems that when he couldn’t control me, he just didn’t want me. He made some non-physical threats during the divorce period to get what he wanted but none of it fazed me and as divorces go, it was basically very simple, easy and without drama. I can’t say it’s what I wanted. I did love him, as crazy as that sounds, and would’ve liked to have had that forever, even if imperfect marriage, but I was free….I was strong and I survived.
I now dedicate my life to helping women learn how to defend themselves in all kinds of situations…both criminally and domestically. I teach them to survive with the ultimate goal of thriving.
Written & Submitted by Katie Randall, owner of KISS Survival Services
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