As I have been revealing more about my experience with domestic violence in my marriage, a few people have mentioned that they “never knew” or they “wouldn’t have guessed” that was happening. So, I thought it would be a good idea to write about why you never knew.
Firstly, I didn’t even know that what I was experiencing was abuse until 2 years ago. I joined a group on facebook designed to help people develop stronger, more peaceful marriages. As I read posts from other women and they were sharing their stories, I was seeing similarities between things happening in their marriage and things happening in mine, but they were calling it abuse. Then I began asking questions, reading articles, and connecting the dots. For a long time, I still didn’t want to call it “abuse” because I told myself that those things just happen in relationships. I told myself that it was normal, that I was overreacting, that I was too sensitive.
Then I joined the feminist movement. I learned about the patriarchy and about control and entitlement and began to feel empowered to stand up for myself. I started telling him “no” more often and being more vocal about my opinions. I began seeing things about my husband that didn’t mesh well with my newly developed values.
Secondly, I was terrified to share my story in a public forum. I made sure only to join closed or secret groups and dreaded the day when he logged on to my computer to see something I had posted. I didn’t even share memes or quotes about domestic violence on my wall unless I could explain them away.
Thirdly, I loved him. I wanted to believe he was a good man and much of the time he presented himself as such. He presented himself as a good father, generous, outgoing, funny, loving, empathetic. I wanted to believe that was who he really was. He told me that he would get in bad moods because I was being “bitchy” or because he was horny but I wouldn’t have sex with him. I looked forward to outings because that meant that I got to see the good side of him. So, when people saw us together, usually we appeared to be a happy couple.
Finally, I was ashamed. I felt like sharing my story would look like I was airing dirty laundry or that people wouldn’t believe me (come to find out that this was partially true). I was embarrassed that I hadn’t realized that I was being abused sooner. That I wasn’t ready to leave even though I knew that what he was doing was damaging to me and my kids.
So, when you say that you didn’t know or that you “never would have guessed”… I didn’t expect you to. Not many people did know and even fewer people knew exactly what was going on. I didn’t even know that I was being abused until the very end and then I knew I needed to get out.