• Sarah Strong

The Aftermath of Leaving Abuse

Five months pregnant, lying on the kitchen floor crying. The man who pushed me down just standing there, not batting an eye. He had physically abused me before, but this time was harder, and there was more at risk with the baby growing inside me and my 4-year-old daughter watching. I knew things had to change, but I was still terrified.

Even as I got my phone to call for help, he told me that if I called the police that they would arrest me and take my kids away from me. So, I opted to call his command (he’s an active duty Marine) and get them to kick him out of my house. He said they would laugh at me. Said that they wouldn’t do anything because it was HIS apartment. If I had a problem, I would have to be the one to leave. As I made the call, I gathered up my daughter and got in the car. I drove around crying, waiting for his CO to call me back and tell me that my husband was out of the apartment and it was safe for me to go home. When I got the call, I was waiting in the parking lot. I saw my husband leaving with his bags and he glared viciously at me the whole time he walked by.

When I settled down that night and got my daughter to bed, I finally realized how much pain I was in. I saw purple beginning to develop on my chest where he had forced his hand to push me to the floor. The next morning, the bruise was obvious, along with several others down my arms. The injury on my chest hurt the worst-- so bad that even my seat belt grazing it was painful. I still had hope for my marriage and hope that he would get help. But something inside me told me I needed to protect myself and my kids by taking photos of the marks, so I did. And I’m very grateful I made that decision.

Over the next day, he and I texted. I wanted him to apologize. I wanted him to admit what he did. He told me it was my fault if anything happened to the baby. And he started changing his story and making up things that didn’t happen to justify what he did. When he had been physical with me before, he also told me the incidents were my fault. He even told me that if he wanted to hurt me, it would have been a lot worse. Like I should be grateful? This time was no different. He didn’t ask if I was okay. He didn’t ask if the baby was okay. In fact, in the weeks that passed, the only question I got was through his staff sergeant who said my husband wanted to know how the dog was doing. The fucking dog.

Because my daughter was present at the time, CPS got involved, which was terrifying. But talking to the CPS worker was truly a wakeup call to me about what needed to be done. I knew I needed to take further action to keep this abusive man away from me and my kids. I finally started to see that I didn’t deserve any of this abuse, and I realized that each incident had escalated in intensity and in my injuries. I filed a police report and for a domestic violence restraining order.

Unfortunately, because I waited to go to the police, the report did not result in charges. However, I was fortunate to have my DV restraining order granted by a judge who acknowledged that domestic violence occurred in my home. I finally felt safe. For a minute.

Once the restraining order was granted, my husband became even more vindictive than ever before. He had been ordered to pay spousal support by the Marine Corps. But he got the amount lowered and didn’t give me any warning. Which lead to bills falling behind. He also started shutting off various services we had in our apartment, again without warning. Then came the legal attacks. Just a few days before our son Max was born, I was served with an order asking for a paternity test. He made this ridiculous declaration that I was crazy, must have been cheating on him, and so the child must not be his. Served with the same document was a request for joint custody, though….I swear I can’t make this shit up.

So, I brought my son into this world alongside my daughter and two amazing friends. His birth was perfect. The day he was born, I received a text from an anonymous number asking, “you really think it’s okay to have a baby and not tell the father?” Damn right I do, in this situation. I didn’t respond with that, though. I told the “anonymous” person to stop texting me.

Two days later, I received an email from my husband’s attorney stating that he had “been advised” (wtf does that mean?) that the child had been born and he wanted to set up a meeting with him. I responded that I did not believe it in the child’s best interested to meet the man with a DV restraining order who was claiming the baby wasn’t his. Since Max was born, I haven’t received an ounce of help from my husband for our child. The paternity test was conducted, and lo and behold, Max is his child. Yet still, nothing. He even told the department of child support services that he didn’t think Max was his, which prolongs an order being made for child support. In my opinion, and I think most people would agree, a parent should not need a court order to support his child.

Since the Marine Corps support order was not reliable, I asked the civilian court to issue spousal support. Since I was not working because I just had a baby, the judge agreed. Since that order was issued, though, he has yet to pay me the correct amount. Failing to pay a support order puts him in contempt, but the process to rectify this is lengthy. I’m in the middle of it now and hoping for results soon, along with some sort of child support order.

I’ve never received an apology from this man. And I probably never will. In the beginning, he admitted that he pushed me to the floor, but claimed it was “self-defense.” Then in court, he said I threw myself on the ground and he had no idea how I got the bruises. He continues to claim that because I was depressed after my miscarriage last year (before conceiving Max), that everything I say is a lie because I must be crazy. He can say what he wants. I know the truth, and I believe the truth will always prevail. I’m a great mom and I will do everything I can to protect my children. My kids are happy and healthy. I would never do anything to hurt them. I just want what is best for them. And for me. Because no one deserves this abuse.

The thing people don’t realize is that the abuse often doesn’t stop when you leave the relationship. Many survivors of abuse deal with controlling exes who continue to abuse in new ways. It’s exhausting, and I get why many stay in abusive relationships to avoid this backlash. God has strengthened me, though. And I will not quit. The Bible states repeatedly that God will help the oppressed and honor those who speak what is true. Even when things are difficult, I know I can get through it. It is always my hope in sharing my story that I can help another. The only way we can fix the problem of domestic abuse is to spread awareness of it and stop shaming victims into silence. We can change the way abuse is handled, one truth at a time.

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(...But they should have) When I left, I spoke with lawyers, domestic violence advocates, a therapist, and law enforcement. And I hate to say it, but none of them filled me in on what it would actuall