Women fight affects of abuse

By Abby Morris
Star Staff
amorris@starhq.com
Editor's Note: October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. This is the fifth story in a series on domestic violence. The names of women have been changed to protect their identities.
Fat. Ugly. Worthless. Stupid. These were words Anne constantly heard from her boyfriend, someone who claimed to love her.
He also called her lucky - lucky to have him to put up with her. Lucky that he would "lower his standards" to be seen with her. Lucky that he did not leave her.
"He would constantly put me down. He would tell me that I was so ugly that he did not want to be seen with me unless I would wear makeup," Anne said. "He would never talk to me in public like that though. He didn't want to give up the image that he was a 'good, Christian man'. He also used that against me. He would tell me that if I reported him for abuse or tried to leave him for that reason, that no one would believe me."
However, when the two of them were alone, he would verbally beat Anne down, she said.
"He said some of the most awful things to me; things that should not be said to anyone," Anne said while holding back tears. "I would be getting ready to go somewhere with him, and he would come into the room and look at me and tell me I was nothing but a 'fat cow', and that he would not go out with me like that. Then he would start throwing my makeup around and throwing my clothes at me until he found what he thought I should be wearing. Then he would leave the room and tell me if I wasn't ready in five minutes he would leave without me."
After she and her boyfriend had been together for awhile, Anne's situation worsened. "At first he was not like that. He was sweet. But after the first couple of months together, things started getting really bad," Anne said. "One night he told me that I wasn't allowed to visit or go anywhere with my best friend anymore because she was a whore, and, if I continued to be her friend, I was going to be nothing more than a whore either.
"At first I tried to hide my friendship with her, but he found out. One day he borrowed a car from someone he knew and he spent the day following me around. I had went and picked up my friend and we went to McDonald's to get something to eat and then went straight back to her house and watched a movie. When I left her house he followed me again and nearly caused me to wreck my car. When I got out of the car he started screaming and yelling at me and told me that I was a 'dirty whore', and that no girlfriend of his was going to act like that."
That was the last time that Anne had any contact with her best friend for a long time.
"Once someone gets you in a position where they can treat you like that, it is easy for them to keep you there. The more he told me I was worthless the more I believed it," said Anne, adding that she had often been teased when she was younger for being overweight. "When you have heard these things for so long, and now it is someone you love and who claims that they love you that is telling you these things, you believe them."
Anne believes the only "luck" she experienced in the relationship with her boyfriend was being able to escape before the physical abuse began.
"He drew his hand back to hit me one night and that was when I knew I had to get out. I was able to fight him off to keep him from hitting me and I got away," Anne said. "At that point I knew that I could be fighting for my life. And I knew that he couldn't really love me as he said. My parents had always told me that any man who would hit you did not really love you, but they never talked to me about verbal abuse."
According to Anne, she still fights the affects of verbal abuse. "I can still hear him sometimes, telling me that I'm no good," she said. "It took a long time for me to be able to trust someone again. In ways, I sometimes still feel inferior and I try to overcompensate by being extremely nice and giving in to people a lot of times."
Jane's story begins much like Anne's; however, Jane wasn't fortunate enough to escape the physical abuse of her boyfriend. Jane's pattern of abuse also began with verbal threats and did not end until her boyfriend physically attacked her in a parking lot, leaving her so badly injured that she spent more than two weeks in the hospital.
"In the beginning he was real nice," Jane recalls. "But after a while he changed."
The abuse began by Jane's boyfriend calling her names to humiliate her, calling her fat and ugly.
"Now I realize that he tried to make me feel like he was the only person who would love me," Jane said. "If I complained about the way he talked to me or the way he treated me he would say, 'You're not the kind of girl that guys fall over, so you better be happy with what you've got.
"He was just really good at making me feel bad about myself."
Jane's boyfriend began controlling who she had contact with and where she went. While he would be out at parties or spending time with his friends, he made Jane sit around her house, not allowing her the same opportunities he afforded himself.
"He would call me a couple of times while he was out to make sure I was home," Jane said. "I had to be there; otherwise, he would fly off the handle."
Her boyfriend's temper was something Jane feared about him. "One night, we had went out for Valentine's Day, and he had gotten mad at me for something and he was driving really fast down the road. We ended up getting in a wreck that night because of the way he was driving. The car ran off the road and struck a tree," Jane recalled.
Then, one day, Jane decided she had been controlled by her boyfriend enough and she wanted to go somewhere with her friends. "Finally my backbone kicked in a little and I decided I wanted to go to the movies with a friend," she said.
When Jane and her friend entered the movie theater, she had no idea what would be waiting for her when the two of them left.
As Jane and her friend returned to her friend's car, Jane saw her boyfriend's truck parked just a few spaces away and then she saw her boyfriend headed toward her. "The next thing I knew was he had me by the throat choking me and my friend was screaming and running away. I guess she went back inside to get a security guard," Jane said.
After he grabbed her by the throat, Jane's boyfriend slammed her head into the door of her friend's car. Jane said she does not remember much of what happened next because she blacked out, but witnesses told her that he had slammed her head into the door of the car four times, hit her, and, once she was on the ground, he began kicking her.
Jane suffered severely bruised ribs and a fractured clavicle. She had two black eyes and cuts and scrapes on her face. Her boyfriend had also broken four of her teeth. The door of her friend's car was dented from Jane's boyfriend pushing her head into it. All of these injuries came from the hands of a man who claimed that he cared about her.
The assault was the deciding factor for Jane that she needed to leave her boyfriend. She said that after the attack she never went back to him and, in her own words, never looked back.
Jane spent approximately 16 days in the hospital recovering from the injuries of abuse. For Jane, the mental and emotional impact was harder to overcome than the physical abuse.
"That's something you can't get rid of," Jane said. "It's easy to listen to people tell you that you are fat or you're not pretty and that you aren't anything, especially when it's someone you care about telling you this stuff. You begin to believe them."