Five years ago this very morning, I became a victim of violent sexual assault, a widow, and a single mother.
I’ve eluded to this in my writing from time to time, sharing with you many times that I know what I’m talking about when I share with you about domestic violence…emotional abuse…verbal abuse…physical threats…
They’re all in the pages of my personal history book.
But until now, I haven’t shared the ultimate demise of that abusive relationship, a day that’s forever burned into my memory and turned our world on its ear, causing us to grab hold of our faith in a desperate clutch like never before.
Why did it take me five years to speak out about this horribly painful and traumatic day? you may wonder.
“It just wasn’t time and I just wasn’t ready,” is my sincere reply.
These weeks leading up to this significant “anniversary” might have made me feel ready, that there’s been enough time and space between then and now. Maybe I feared judgement: how could I share this intensely personal information about the father of my children? (Read the disclaimer below). Or maybe I was worried it was too much for you all to hear, too big a burden for you–some of who bear your own tremendous scars–to shoulder.
But then I realized that’s what community is about: bearing each other’s burdens, wiping each other’s tears, and offering a shoulder to cry on or lean on. And that’s what I try to be and do here as I write: be your “sister’s” shoulder to lean on. I almost feel a responsibility to share because I encourage others to share and keep sharing their stories of survival. How could I withhold my own?
When my children and I awoke that morning five years ago, we had no inkling this day would alter our lives so achingly. My then-husband was out of town for the week, doing a clinical rotation for a college degree he’d been working very hard to earn for the previous several years, one he was set to graduate from just days later.
We three drove to school as usual and while still in the parking lot, I left a voicemail for a girlfriend saying I wouldn’t be at breakfast with our friends that morning as planned. I wasn’t feeling well and had a lot of work to do and thought it was better to head straight home. I’ll never know what may have been different had I gone to that breakfast gathering.
Coming home, work was on my mind and I went inside and straight to my home office where I’d worked for years as a medical language specialist. Within a moment I noticed him sitting in the corner of my office, waiting.
The details I’ll share don’t begin to cover the horror that actually took place. It’s just too hard. But you’ll get it. You’ll understand.
By the time I discovered his presence, it was too late. I couldn’t escape. I would learn later that instead of going to clinicals that morning, he left his hotel an hour away and drove back to our hometown and essentially lay in wait for me to leave. Then he hid his vehicle so I wouldn’t be aware he was home, loaded a gun (that was safely locked away from the children) to use against me. And then he waited.
Although I’ll never know exactly when he devised this plan, it was indeed planned, even if just a few hours in advance.
In one sentence, I can summarize the events: I was bound, forced at gunpoint (and yes, it was loaded. He fired a warning shot just in case I had any doubt) to comply with his commands, brutally and repeatedly sexually assaulted, then forced to witness him turn the gun from me to him, and pull the trigger against his own head.
For us, things were just beginning. The beginning of pain, of PTSD, of residual effects that last still today, of fatherless children, single motherhood. That was the last day we would wake up in the house we called home for a decade. We would suffer the results of his refusal to seek help for his undiagnosed mental health issues and his ultimate giving over to the demons that haunted him and led him to his actions that day, that led him to tell me that I may not have him any more but I’d “never have anyone else either.” Looking back, I think he needed to imagine he could control me from the grave once he was gone.
On that day not only would I have to suffer at his hands, but also have to tell my children devastating news that would change them and shake their security to its core, that would leave them with too many questions and so few answers. I would have to let us fall into the loving hands of friends, family, and church who would envelope us. I would have to face what happened to me while comforting my children. I would have honor my rapist and abuser at his funeral, for the sake of the good parts that once existed and more importantly, for the sake of my children.
There’s so much more to this story. In many ways the story begins this day and in the brilliant ways we have survived. I will share more this week. It won’t be easy, I promise you. But I need you to know that there is hope. I need you to see it. Maybe that will encourage someone to share their story. Maybe an abuser will stop his or her behavior because they will read this and see just how far someone can slip. Maybe it will encourage some healing of your own. Please come back and walk through this with me.
Disclaimer: With the permission of my children I share this. Aside from the featured image, I used no others. I hope my words speak well enough and that you’ll hang in there with me for the next chapter of my story tomorrow.