Marina's Story

I married young. We had our first son right away and only a few months later I was pregnant again. When the boys were very small, only a couple years down the married path, my husband punched me in the face. I was a “peace and love” hippie chick, and I really didn’t get it. I thought, “What was that? What just happened?” It was so random to me; I didn’t know this is what people did. Ever. The second time, however, it was a different ball game. He punched me in the face and I clobbered him with a frying pan upside the head. “Uh, no. No, you don’t do that to me.” But did I leave? Hell no. I had all the reasons to stay. He told me he would kill me if I took the kids, and I believed him. Of course that did not keep him from trying to kill me anyway. He hit me again, a number of times, 6? 7? I lost count. One day he grabbed my head and beat it against a pile of lumber in the back yard. He beat me and choked me until I was unconscious. I thought I was going to die. I don’t know how many hours I lay outside unconscious, but when I came to and saw the stars I realized I was still alive. We had a gun in the house; I went to get it. He came up to me and I tried to shoot him, but he had unloaded the gun. He laughed in my face.
After that episode he kept me prisoner in the house for three days. He raped me. This man, who all our friends thought was such a “nice guy”, would not let me out of his sight. I had finally had enough. I managed to escape. I ran down the road hiding behind trees, terrified that he was following me. I stayed with friends, always moving around. I couldn’t stand to be away from them, so I would go back to try and see them. One day I moved into a little cabin I had. All I had, besides that cabin, was a sleeping bag, a pillow and a car. Meanwhile my “friend”, who was also my babysitter, moved in with my husband; they went to court and took my boys away from me. I was so afraid, it nearly destroyed me.
I remember Christmas that year. I just wanted my boys for one day; it didn’t have to be on Christmas day, just one day around the holiday. I called and begged, but she said to me, “Christmas is for families, we have our plans and they don’t include you.” If I could have reached through that phone line and strangled her, I would have. Instead I ended up curled up in a ball on the floor. I don’t know how many days I was there. A friend found me and got me to eat; it was Christmas Eve. I don’t know how, but somehow she got me through the holiday. I’m pretty sure I would not have made it without her.
When I went to pick up my oldest son the first time, (he was 5) he told me that he had been beaten with a shovel; he showed me the bruises. I wanted to go somewhere to have a friend take photographs but he wouldn’t go with me. A few years later my younger son was bed-wetting. This woman’s approach to dealing with this was to have him wear a diaper on his head and humiliated him. She was clearly physically and mentally abusing my children. At 9 years old my youngest child wanted to come live with me. He went to his dad who answered, “Well, I went to court for you, you are mine!” I said, “This is not a toy – this is your child!”
In the interim I had gotten into another relationship. We were off and on for ten years. Mostly off. Somewhere along the way I became pregnant with Mackenzie, my third beautiful son. He is a Down syndrome child and he saved me. There were so many things going on with him when he was born. He wasn’t the perfect baby you envision, but he gave me the light at the end of the tunnel. He was precious, despite his health problems. I lived for him, I started doing everything I knew how to do with him (I was a psyche tech on the child development ward) and we did it all. I loved my little boy and I was determined this would work out.
All I wanted was a happy family. I thought, as I had left my boyfriend a few times, he would be better behaved. He was a Vietnam Vet and he had some issues of his own, but I was addicted to him; I wanted that family, regardless. I was sure if I could just make it perfect, then we would all be OK. I remember that final Christmas with him. Mack was in the crib, I was baking pies, and I had great plans for a lovely evening. He was quite a drinker and we got into a fight. I took his whiskey and poured it out in the snow. He actually cried. Then he got angry and violent.
I was trying to cut an avocado with a knife and he grabbed my arm. He tried to grab the knife from me, but I wouldn’t let go, so he wound up cutting his own hand instead. He freaked out – blood was everywhere – he was yelling and waving his hand getting blood on the pies, blood on me, blood everywhere. He cornered me. I had nowhere to run, there was no escaping him. I warned him to stay back, to get away from me. Instead he lunged at me with his fist. I aimed the knife forward to defend myself. I was cornered, and I physically had nowhere else to go. I got him in the gut – Self defense.
I called the police. He was lying on the couch, bleeding, and I didn’t want him getting blood on my couch. It was a superficial wound and didn’t even need a single stich, but at that time I didn’t know. I told the emergency people that he had been threatening me, pounded my head against the wall, and that I stabbed him. The Fire Dept. EMT’s got there first – they told me not to worry. Then the sheriff came and took me to jail.
I was in jail for one night. I liked the lady sheriff. She talked with me, asked me what was going on. When I told her what had happened she told me to stay away from him. “Just get away”, she said. She was nice to me; she made a difference. I was more pissed off that I was dealing with this a second time than anything else. It sucked. Is this what I deserve?
I was really depressed, pacing, I would look outside, but I wouldn’t go there. I knew I needed to talk to someone, someone who was good. I went to see a psychiatrist and he helped me. I had been abused at the age of 5 and raped at the age of 13. He helped me see the cause of my depression.
Mack is the one who really saved me. All my life I wanted a child no one could take away from me. Having a Down syndrome child is different than most people think. We have had a lot of happy times and it was much more fun raising him than you can imagine. I was blessed.
When my second son, Isaiah, was 16 he called me from Washington where he was living with his father, and asked if he could come home. I said, “Yes, of course.” The next morning he was there. I didn’t realize it would be that quick, but I was joyous to have him home. His older brother came home briefly, but he did not want to deal with me. I would not put up with his disrespect and verbal abuse. I am done with that in my life.
Two years ago, right after Thanksgiving, Isaiah was killed in a head on collision. He was only 33. I had just returned from Hawaii with Mack and started a new job with Hospice. I cry every day for the loss of my son. He was the son who wanted to come back to me.
I’m OK. Mack and I do well. It was a very tough road for a long time, and still is!
It isn’t easy to be in an abusive relationship by any stretch. People stand outside looking in and think you should just leave. It’s not that simple. The thoughts are there, “Where do I go?” “I have no money!” “It will get better – I can make it better!” None of these are reality based. It won’t get better and you have to go. Do whatever it takes. Do what you think you can’t do – call the police, get a restraining order, do what you have to do. No matter how old you are, no matter how old your children are – get out. Nothing is going to change if you stay. It is only going to get worse. Talk to someone. Run. If I hadn’t run, quite literally, I would have been killed. Don’t let anyone hit you and convince you that it is your fault.

If you get out, stay out. I finally did. I’m happy and I matter.

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