When she got pregnant and wanted to keep the baby, the father of the child said he would have her beaten until she miscarried. Terrified, she hid from him. She eventually went back and stayed with him after the baby, a girl, was born. She stayed for years, even after he began to hit her. She was smart, educated, and never thought that she’d become one of “those women.” How did she join the substantial numbers of women in our country–one in every four–who have suffered domestic violence?
He was wealthy and powerful. She was 20 and just out of school and landed a job working as his secretary. He quickly became the center of her world. He isolated her from her friends and family. He owned the car she drove and the house she lived in. He was her boss. During the beginning of their relationship, she thought that his demands on her time were an expression of his love for her. She did not recognize the patterns of emotional and financial abuse closing around her.
When their daughter was born, Patty wanted to file with the court to ensure that he would support the child. He talked her out of it. He needed to control the situation completely. She believed him when he said he would take care of her and her child, but her fear grew.
Four years later, the little girl discovered her father strangling her mother. “Daddy!” she screamed. He threw her mother onto a cement floor, knocking her out.
When their daughter began telling people in the neighborhood that her daddy hit her mommy, Patty tried to hush her. She was afraid of what he would do to her if he found out. But then she realized that she didn’t want her daughter to grow up thinking that it was normal and acceptable for men to treat women this way. She enrolled in counseling sessions at the Women’s Center & Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. With the help of their legal services team, she began the long fight for her freedom.
He fired her. He took the car. He took the house. She faced homeless and poverty, but she refused to live in fear any longer. Patty found a job at a church, and later took another position in a law firm. Thanks to her determination and the support she received from the Women’s Center and Shelter, she extricated herself from her abuser, and eventually bought her own house and her own car.
Why didn’t Patty leave earlier? It’s simple. He had terrified her. Thank goodness she found help for herself. Thank goodness for the fantastic people at the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh.
Domestic abusers like Patty’s boss and partner terrorize and erode their victims’ self-confidence in many ways without bruising their bodies.
- They isolate them from friends and family by pretending to care for them more than anyone else ever could.
- They threaten to withdraw their affection from the woman who has no other support system.
- They dominate their lives by controlling their finances, by setting themselves up as the sole source of income, the sole source of food, shelter, and clothing.
- They treat their victims like children, encouraging them to think that they are helpless or too stupid to take care of themselves.
- They react jealously whenever their victim shows the slightest interest in other human beings, particularly other men.
- They demand that their victims demonstrate their devotion continuously, with greater and greater displays of affection.
- They belittle their victims through allegedly harmless “jokes,” negative innuendos, and put-downs.
- They deliberately manipulate their victims with guilt trips in order to keep them under their thumbs.
The most telling sign of an abusive relationship is fear of your partner. If you find yourself walking on eggshells, worrying that the slightest mishap will set your partner off into a rage, the chances are that your relationship is abusive.
If you believe that you are in an abusive relationship, please do not hesitate to reach out for help. Immediately call the WC&S 24-hour hotline: 412-687-8005. Someone will help you.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 1-800-799-7233
Note: Patty recounted her story at the 2010 Spring Clothes Out Fundraiser for the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh. You can read more about her in the Summer 2010 issue of Rosewood.