When I got to my parents’ house after The Incident, one of the first things I did was to contact the domestic violence agency in their town and the kids and I immediately began going to counseling. The children absolutely refused to speak with their counselor. I understand now that they were too traumatized and just weren’t able to trust a stranger with what had happened. I, however, had a driving need to talk to someone who understood and who could help me.
Beth, my counselor, was wonderful and gave me so much to think about during our few short weeks together. She was the first person to encourage me to journal. She said that if I journaled and we reconciled the following year, as we had planned, I’d have a barometer to use to see if there was actually change. I thought it was a good idea and yet I never picked up the journal she gave me. I ended up writing in other various places though and it helped a great deal.
When I first called my local domestic violence agency after getting back from my parents’ house, I had to go to an intake appointment. I left the boys with my friend, Maria, and took Serenity with me. I wanted her to get counseling too since she was Bubba’s other main target. First we met with Gwen, the Director of the agency.
Gwen told me that she was going to read a list of behaviors to me and I was to answer “yes” or “no.” There were to be no “maybe’s” or “I don’t know’s.” As she read the list there were items that she read that I absolutely could not say “yes” or “no” to. I simply didn’t know. After we got done with the check-list, Gwen asked Serenity what she thought about my answers. Serenity told her that there were a lot more “yes’s” than I’d said. Gwen then told me that as she read all of the behaviors I couldn’t decide on, Serenity had been behind me, nodding her head and signaling to Gwen that the answer was actually “yes.”
Gwen told me that it was ok that I didn’t say “yes” to things. She told me that I had a lot of very hard decisions to make about things I couldn’t possibly decide now because I didn’t have all the information I needed to make those decisions yet. She told me that once I started telling myself the truth, those decisions would become very easy, indeed.
Gwen knew I wasn’t ready to admit to the full extent of the abuse and she was correct. I asked her for a copy of the behavior checklist so that I could go back and look at it again in a few months and see if my answers had changed. I also asked her how I could still be lying to myself about anything when I did realize that I’d been abused.
Gwen explained it this way:
Have you ever watched Storm Chasers? It is a show on the Discovery Channel about people who do research on tornadoes. They operate in teams. One vehicle drives as close to the tornado as they can in order to assess the magnitude of the damage it is creating and to get meteorological data. One vehicle stays far away to keep an eye on conditions so that they can keep the close car safe. She said that when you are living in abuse, you are like that close car. You can see the debris and the damage but you are too close to see the full extent of it. Also, you are so busy trying to keep yourself safe that the debris and damage aren’t that important to you. You see it, you know it is there, but it is secondary to trying to stay alive.
When you admit to being abused, you start driving away from the tornado. As you get further and further away, you can start to see the magnitude of the tornado – how big and powerful it is and exactly how much damage it is doing.
Gwen told me that I was in that close car and that I was only starting to drive away from the tornado. I was beginning to get a picture of what I’d lived through but I was still too close to see the full extent of the storm. She said that as I healed, I would get further and further away from the tornado and then I would be able to fully see how terrible it really was.
Gwen was spot-on. At that point, I’d only really turned the car around. I’d only admitted that there was danger and I had started to see the debris. I couldn’t possibly know the full extent of the damage because I was still too close.
Gwen was also spot-on about those hard decisions. Once I got further away from the tornado – and that didn’t take long thanks to the realization that Bubba had been raping me all those years – those decisions became so easy. I needed a divorce.
I needed to be free from Bubba’s abuse because he was clearly showing that he was not going to change.