Not One More
Updated: Jan 25, 2020
In 1996, in the presence of my former mother-in-law and a good friend from our church, I watched helplessly as my ex-husband held a gun to his Father's head. In a fit of temper over something his Father had said or done, he flew into a rage, took his .45 caliber handgun and pressed it into his Dad's head until it left an imprint of the barrel in his flesh. I shoved my infant daughter into our friend's arms and told her to get my children out of there. My mother-in-law and I didn't move, frozen in sheer terror. Minutes ticked by like hours while he screamed and threatened, until finally, the old man fainted from stress and fear. To this day, I remember thinking "That's going to be me some day". I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that I would be on the receiving end of his homicidal rage at some point and yet...and yet...I did not leave him. Neither his Mother or I called the police. Instead we called his brother, who was a Pastor in Texas, and he came to Missouri to "sort it out". I'm not sure what that included. A stern talking-to, perhaps? All I know is, he was never held accountable for his actions and it got progressively worse from there.
This man terrorized me for the better part of six years. He left no physical marks on my body because he didn't want any evidence of his actions, but his temper was no secret in our neighborhood. The only person who didn't realize it was me. One morning, after a particularly long night of screams, threats and rage, our neighbor from down the street appeared on our doorstep after he had left for work. This man told me - in no uncertain terms - that if he heard him screaming at us like that again, he was calling the police. Period. It was clear by the look on his face that he had no respect for me and regarded me as a failure for allowing my children to endure nights like these. He didn't have to say it, because I felt like an utter failure already. Broken. Weak. Helpless. Pathetic. And more than anything, afraid.
All. The. Damn. Time.
He didn't break me all at once,you know. It took time. Every disagreement that ended with him smashing furniture; a "look" that he didn't care for that resulted in him being inches from my face, daring me to move; a comment that didn't set well and was somehow deserving of being tormented for hours. He took me apart piece by piece until I no longer recognized the brave young girl I had once been. I endured it so he wouldn't turn it on our children. I stayed because Church leaders told me to forgive was the "Christian" thing to do and good girls who love God don't abandon their husbands. Divorce was a sin. I'm not sure what abuse was, but it somehow fell lower on the sin food-chain than divorce. He controlled the money, the car was in his name and I had nowhere to go. I just kept telling myself it would get better.
It did not.
Eventually, he left me for another woman he had met in Okinawa. I was six months pregnant with our third child, a two and five year old along for the ride. He left us with nothing, all the while whispering threats through the phone lines, making sure I understood what would happen to me if I went to his commanding officers. I believed him. I still believe him. His abandonment was the greatest gift God ever gave me. My children and I spent the next 20 years untangling our lives from his wrath, a process that has left each one of us scarred in our own way. It is my deepest shame that I let my children go through that. They have forgiven me; I wish that I could forgive myself.
Last year, a beautiful young woman named Kourtney was shot in the head by her jealous boyfriend. She survived, but her life will never be the same. He made all the decisions for her in that one moment. Two weeks ago, my friend Staci was strangled and then shot to death by her husband, Todd. She had filed for a restraining order, but didn't make her court date on July 1st, so they threw it out. He murdered her 18 days later in her own home. As I stood next to her casket, I knew that it could just have easily been me in that box. I don't know why I was spared and she was not. She has four children and the look of shock and grief on their precious faces was almost too much to bear. I left there angrier than I've been in a long, long time. A beautiful young woman snuffed out in her prime and for what??? Because he decided to play God? Something has got to change.
I am not the smartest person in the world. I am no one's standard of bravery, either. But I have had enough."Evil persists when good men do nothing" and I, for one, am sick of doing nothing. There has to be a way to help women like Staci, Kourtney and the countless other women just like them living in fear, right here in our own community. I have an idea and tomorrow night, I will present it at a meeting held at our local library. It is a call to arms; a plea for good people to come together, work out a plan and do something. We can't wait any longer for "someone else" to handle it. The time is now.
Because for some women, time is rapidly running out. I can't stand to see one more broken woman lying in the hospital. I can't stomach one more funeral of a beautiful young Mother. I can't. Enough is enough.
NOT ONE MORE.