A textbook case of abuse in marriage

By Susan Hartley

January 14, 2014

A newspaper recently reprinted the description of an abuser, along with a phone number for a national domestic violence organization. Sadly, I believe the space was wasted. If the person being abused doesn’t report it to a doctor, spiritual leader, law enforcement, there’s not much chance a victim will call a stranger to tell private, shameful things that are occurring. Sometimes they lie to those closest to them and are reluctant to disclose injuries. That was all true during our daughter’s marriage. She shared some of it with me but when it was appropriate to report it to an authority figure, she blamed herself or lessened the severity of the abuse.

Their disagreements began before marriage. Following an argument, she chose not to see him but he was determined to get into our house and continue the word battle. When we didn’t answer the door, he circled the house, looking into the windows. The police came and advised him to be on his way but he went only as far as the front steps and sat down. The police ushered him to his car and escorted him to the city limits. Another time, following a terrible scene at their house, the police said one of them had to leave. He insisted that it was his house and he wasn’t leaving. So, she packed up their toddler, some clothes, toys and the dog and went to a motel. He was a reckless driver, even worse when backing up. Just leaving their driveway, he destroyed two mail boxes, a child’s bike (thank God the child wasn’t on it) and crashed into a car parked across the street. He said none of it was his fault; the car shouldn’t have been there.

His possessive behavior was evident shortly after the marriage when he told her father and me that she wouldn’t be spending much time with us since they’d become “a family.” He quoted the Bible; a husband and wife must give up all outsiders and devote themselves to each other — further isolating her from family and friends.

His work frequently took him away from home and he had few friends except for an old college buddy, who was his best man. Taking charge, he insisted his friend’s wife be included in the wedding party, regardless of whether she was known to the bride or not! She politely declined his invitation.

My sister and brother-in-law visited, meeting him for the first time. He was walking the dog; not paying attention, he walked through the dog’s excrement. Coming into the kitchen where we’d gathered, he took off his shoe, intending to wash it in the sink! When he learned he was not invited for Thanksgiving, he phoned me, whining. I said I was through with his rudeness and his disturbing others with loud arguments and insults. He promised he’d behave, knowing I meant to bodily

throw him out. He controlled the purse strings, cutting off a charge account without telling her. She had to explain to their little girl why she couldn’t have her favorite broccoli soup at the department store. He cut off something else that was painful — the head of her pet garter snake, leaving it for her to see.

He lived by his own rules. It was not unusual for him to drive on the berm to cut her off in traffic. During a violent argument when they were in the same car, he was rough and began hurting her. As he slowed down to get through Urbana’s traffic, she jumped from the car and ran into a store. Her blouse had been ripped down the front, she was crying, and the clerks called the police. They were both taken to the station and questioned. When asked about her torn clothing he said — he really said this — he thought she wanted to be raped. The police phoned us, advising us to come to the jail and get her, that she was alright but had been badly treated and was frightened. We heard him calling her name, although he was repeatedly told to quiet down. So…he was invited to stay awhile, in a “room” of his own.

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