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I Was Abused By My Boyfriend

By Ruth

We all have heard horrific stories about violence against women, but sometimes I think stories of extreme physical abuse make it easier for other women to say 'this only happens to women with low self esteem', or 'if any man laid a finger on me, I’d leave immediately.'

It wasn’t that simple for me.

We met at an outdoor concert. It had begun to rain, and we (the audience) had lifted a tarpaulin above our heads to keep dry. Suddenly he was beside me, a recent immigrant from another country, charismatic to my white middle-class eyes, a sexy man with a gift for poetic language. When I look back now, I realize I should have known right then – I was helping to hold up the heavy tarpaulin and his arms were by his side.

Within three weeks, he had persuaded me to drive him to New York to visit his brother. There was only sleeping room for one on the living-room couch. When I refused to sleep on the floor, he let me have the couch. So I thought I had some control.

That turned out to be untrue. But things changed gradually. What was the turning point? Was it the first time he borrowed money when he couldn’t get a job because of racism? (I had been an anti-racist activist for many years, so I understood.) Was it when he began isolating me from my friends and family? (They warned me but he said they were racist and I couldn’t trust them.) Was it when he broke into my bank account? (He said I was selfish to not share my money.) Was it the vague threats, so vague I couldn’t be sure they were directed at me? (He said he could sneak up on anyone and shoot them and they’d never know he was coming.)

He was incredibly romantic and the sex was unbelievable. He became my own personal cult leader. How else to explain that I’d given up all of myself, that I came to believe his version of reality over mine? I told myself this was not abuse. After all, he’d never hit me.

Finally it happened, two years into the relationship. I said something he didn’t like. He took off his shoe and started hitting me with it. I crouched into a ball on the floor and covered my head with my arms as best I could. I had bruises on my arms and my hair came out in clumps.

He promised he would never hit me again and he didn’t.

I saw my doctor the next day (for another reason.) She didn’t notice anything, and I was too ashamed to tell her.

It would be another year before I left for good (I had tried several times but always went back). The threats and the emotional and financial abuse got worse. We had decided to move to his country and I sold my condo. My 12-year-old son didn’t want to move, so he went to live with his father in Australia. Then my boyfriend said someone was going to kill him because of a debt. So I used the money from the sale of the condo to save his life.

One day he had some kind of breakdown. He was committed to a mental hospital for a few days. He confessed that he was living with another woman and they had two children. He told her about me too, and we both left him.

For months I was terrified that he would sneak up on me and shoot me. I knew the statistics – that women were more likely to be killed by their abuser after they leave him. He called me every day, sometimes to threaten, sometimes to beg me to take him back.

I found a supportive therapist who helped me stay away from him. But it will never be over completely for me. It’s been many years now, and my son hasn’t forgiven me. I understand that: I haven’t forgiven myself. I still live with shame and embarrassment. I face retirement with very little money.

All because I fell for a psychopath – a pathological liar and con man who was great in bed. Because I believed he loved me. Because I couldn’t believe that evil exists.

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