It’s been 20 years since I left my abuser. I have two children from that marriage, a son and a daughter, and I’m in awe at how they’ve risen above the dark and difficult road they have had to walk. I couldn’t be prouder of them.
I used to feel tremendous guilt and shame for not doing enough to protect them from the abuse, although I left when my oldest was 3 years old. After the divorce, I fought my ex in court for two years because he was putting the children in situations that compromised their well-being, physically and emotionally. He was jealous of the affection the children felt for me and he told them they showed more love to me than they showed him and that it made him sad and mad. When he returned them the next Sunday night after their weekend visit with him, they walked slowly towards me with their heads down, not making eye contact until they got into the house and into their bedrooms. It took hours before my son and daughter felt relaxed enough to express happy feelings again in my presence.
At one point, he was evicted from his apartment and he refused to tell me where he was taking our children for the weekends. When I asked where he was staying for the weekend, he proclaimed in front of our small children, “I don’t have to tell you anything, bitch!” And with that, he grabbed my son and daughter and drove off in a car that I wasn’t sure would make it to the end of our street.
There are so many other heart wrenching stories I could tell you, and I will, as I write more, but suffice it to say today, that no non-abusing parent ever wants their baby or babies to ever go through one second of abuse. Ever. It kills me to think of it. But the moment I decided to get help and leave that son of a bitch, was the moment that I changed the world for my son and my daughter. No longer were they going to be exposed to his violence. My son wasn’t going to grow up thinking it was OK to hit and abuse women. My daughter wasn’t going to believe it was OK to be abused.
I changed the world with one decision. That one act of leaving my abuser was the hardest thing I had ever done up to that point in my life. I was a timid, fearful person. But I had to be courageous and do it, and I was fortunate enough to have the help of friends and family, but ultimately, it was my decision to leave.
If you, too, left your abuser, regardless of how long you stayed in your marriage, you made a difference for you and your children, too. That one decision, my friend, changed the world.