• Sarah Strong

Grooming for abuse

I’ve talked before about how abuse usually just doesn’t happen overnight. It’s gradual. Abusers groom their victims to be used to it. To believe they deserve it. In my marriage, it started with small arguments. If I was upset about something and wanted to talk about it, I was automatically arguing and causing trouble. I was wrong. Always. He made me believe I didn’t have a voice, and if I tried to speak up, that I was fighting. I learned to be quiet.

Then in January of 2017, we had been married for seven months, and I was pregnant with our child. I had brought up concerns I had about us potentially moving out of state. I was worried about how it would affect my co-parenting relationship with my daughter’s father. But having concerns was not allowed in my relationship. If I wanted to discuss this issue, I was being a bad wife and unreasonable. Most of the time, I would drop whatever I wanted to talk about because I didn’t want to fight. But this issue was important to me, so I continued to talk about it. This led to an argument in which I interrupted him. I saw his face change. He was already angry, but the look in his eyes when the flip switched was intense. I can still see it. He pushed me down hard onto the bed, climbed on top of me, and pinned me. I couldn’t move. He put a hand over my mouth because I was trying cry for help. I couldn’t breathe. I was scared. I was worried for my baby. I tried to push him off, but I wasn’t strong enough.

Survival instincts kicked in at this point. I was so afraid. I scratched him and bit his hand. He finally got off of me because he was bleeding. He told me I abused him. He couldn’t believe I drew blood. That if I told anyone what he did, that he would press charges against me and because he was bleeding, I would be arrested and my daughter would be taken from me. He said I “should have known better” than to interrupt him because I knew how much that made his blood boil. I remember him saying these exact words. The police came shortly after because the neighbors heard my screams. I was so afraid. I told them we argued but that nothing physical happened. They gave me their card and left. After they left, he told me he was afraid of me. He said he was going to sleep in the bathroom and lock the door because he was so afraid of what I was capable of because I bit him to get him off of me. In the days following, he continued to say he was afraid of me and that it was all my fault. He threatened divorce. He threatened to take the child I was pregnant with. I apologized to him. I was so scared. He never apologized to me or acknowledged that it was wrong. About a week later, we learned that the baby’s heartbeat had stopped.

I can’t stress enough how damaging emotional manipulation is. This behavior continued for another six months leading up to me leaving and obtaining a DVRO. In that time, I got pregnant again, and the threats and manipulation with that pregnancy made it incredibly difficult to leave. At one point he told me had wished he had just thrown me down earlier in the pregnancy so we could get divorced without a child involved. But since I was already a few months pregnant and we knew it was a boy, he would just have to divorce me and take full custody of the baby. And this manipulative talk continues even today as facilitated by the court in “co-parenting” our son.

I have grown tremendously and can recognize this abuse now. It has taken time, education, and therapy to get to where I am today. I wanted to share this because it gives insight to how coercive control works and why it is so difficult for victims of abuse to leave. I think one of the best things we can do to help end abuse is to talk about it and to stop shaming victims for their choices in leaving or not leaving. These are difficult, scary, and often dangerous situations. Fuck DV.

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