Wednesday, November 3, 2010
I HAD AMBITIONS AND DREAMS THEN I WENT TO JAIL FOR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE
October was domestic violence awareness month. My month for domestic violence awareness was September. It has been 9 years since I was arrested for attempted murder. It has been nine years that I have lived with the choice of that fateful day, September 2, 2001. How do you go from a good girl who has never ever been in trouble other than a traffic ticket, to walking into a jail with your loves blood on your shirt? The tumultuous road that led up to that day was paved with good intentions and I had a bright future ahead despite the fact that I stayed in an abusive and codependent relationship too long. I fell in love with someone who did not love themself, that is where all of our problems started. He was a bad boy and mysterious and beautiful and I was naiive even though when we met he was 18 and I was 25. I was the proverbial good girl, I still lived with my parents. Worked full time and had ambitions and dreams and he was just someone I was finally going to have sex with, because despite all of the whispers and gossip in highschool I remained a virgin. It was not supposed to be me falling in love with him or he with me, it was supposed to be a fling. The kind of great romance you tell your grandchildren about. Instead I found myself in a situation that I did not like, there was something about him that needed rescuing and something in me that needed to be needed. We were destined to a fate that neither one of us saw coming.
I found myself pregnant and him in another state. I did not know that he was absconding Youth Authority Parole and I did not realize the depth of his issues until it was too late and I was in another state away from my family and away from everything I knew. I never witnessed any potential for violence from him. He became angry when I told him I wanted to leave and return home. I decided to stay because that is what I learned from my parents that despite any problems you have you tough it out. Not to mention that my father would not have let me come home. Although we eventually did return home and that is when our nightmare began. It was during this time that my love became addicted to methamphetamine and a cycle of drug use and physical and emotional abuse started. The cycle stayed in tact for 8 years and 3 children later and jobs lost, and jail and prison time and welfare and instability. I left him several times but always went back even though he had infidelities and lies about his drug use. In this time I too learned to be abusive and became addicted to the cycle of domestic violence, you fight, you argue, you provoke, you get physical, you actually inflict some physical or mental and emotional warfare on your love, and then when they break you are in control, finally you feel remorse. After that remorse comes the honeymoon phase when there is a period of calm and you are happy and content. Then the calm before the storm, and waiting for the bottom to fall out because inevitably it will and the chaos that is domestic violence starts again. He is not the monster here, I want to make that clear I will not villify him. I too was just as responsible for the life I lived and the danger I put my children in. My violent tendencies only flourished under his maltreatment and my uncontrollable anger. His drug addiction became bigger than our domestic violence lifestyle and it came to an abrupt and all too predictable finale on that September day.
I remember all that led up to it and I remember being ready to confront him on what I assumed was another infidelity. I remember needing diapers and waiting for him to bring my car home so I could go and get some shopping done. I remember needing new clothes for a second interview with Sams Club, and getting papers filled out to become a Girl Scout Troop leader. I remember making plans to finish up my AA in child development so that I could go on to become a kindergarten teacher. He saunters in smelling of beer and ciggarettes and I knew that I needed to get him out for good. The volcano woman that I would soon become was dormnant no longer. We began to argue and he yelled at me and I remember my middle lovelie telling him to leave me alone, she was all of 5, soon to be 6 at this time. I see in slow motion as he picks her up and scolds her for getting into an "adult" conversation and I saw her little feet leave the ground. I ran and picked up the biggest kitchen knife I had. I remember motioning towards him and his eyes being as big as saucers filled with fear, as I told him to leave. Somehow we ended up in our room and all I know was that the very tip of this very big knife hit his neck and it was like a poke. When blood came out it was not gushing or pouring out, it came out in bright scarlett drops. I knew that I was not going to be a teacher anymore and all of my dreams left me and I sunk slowly down the wall onto my bed and crumbled under the weight of what I had just done. That is when I saw my middle lovelie in the doorway of my room and my love rushing in a blur before me. I snapped out of my shock and saw that he needed medical attention and drove him to the hospital about a mile away. Leaving my three daughters with the neighbor who had heard it all.
As I drove I remember saying "see what you made me do!" and I remember him saying "I love you" and telling me to say he fell on the knife. I told him how stupid that was and to shut up! I drove into the emergency room and ran and got a nurse, a girl who I had gone to school with, telling her my husband was stabbed. She calmed me down and he was whisked away into a back room. "Who did this?" she asked and I said, "I did." It was not long after that a police car arrived and this idiot of a cop came and basically said that I was not scared of my love that I was the aggressor wasn't I and I started it. And I told him I have nothing else to say to you, and he said you will go to jail, and I said matter of fact, "well then take me". I was mad, that I was not the victim in his eyes, my love had given his alias and none of his domestic violence arrests were showing up. A younger officer felt compassion and gave me respect and sincerity when he spoke to me. My love did tell them he fell on the knife and I could hear him calling my name. I just wanted to disappear into complete nothingness, because surely not existing was going to be better than anything that awaited me.
I cried and tried to sleep for the first two days of incarceration and I remember the shackles that I was wearing and how they clanged on me. I had a public defender and a clean record going for me. My lawyer John Garvin was very real about my situation. My kids were placed in foster care with my sister, my husband barely survived surgery. I severed his carotid artery with the tip of that knife. He had open heart surgery to repair a lung and food duct that was damaged when they replaced the artery. He was in a precarious situation and so was I. I was originally charged with attempted murder and before I went to my final hearing my lawyer presented a plea deal to me or the option to risk going to court. I say risk because I was looking at doing 7 years in the State Prison for Women in Chowchilla a town away. The other thing I had to factor in was waiting until December to have a court date and the possiblitlity that having a jury trial could go either way because jurors do not want to be deliberating someones fate when they should be Christmas shopping. My other option was the plea of no contest and five years probation, and being released after serving less than 30 days. I had already missed my middle lovelies 6th birthday. I went ahead and took the plea felony domestic violence. My love and I were both released on the same day and he actually called the jail and told an officer there to tell me to pick him up. How crazy was that? I wanted nothing more than to get away from him I was afraid of him. Everyone that heard what had happened said he got what was coming to him that he deserved it. I thought that it was going to be me not him and I came to realize that neither one of us deserved any violence we comitted against one another. Family violence is an epidemic in this country. Not just intimate partners but sons and fathers, mothers and daughters, siblings. What creates violence? I believe violence is a learned pattern of behavior. So I had to take a good look at myself.
I went through so much that year that followed my family viewed me as a failure, I had no one to turn to at times. I perservered through homelessness and found two jobs.Went to counseling and anger management classes. I did end up seeing him we were both trying to reunify with our daughters but my relationship with him was not the priority and it shouldn't have been. Getting my daughters home was. He ended up using again to numb the pain from his surgery first oxycontin and then back to meth. He had not learned that meth is what destroyed our lives. I did whatever CPS and the courts asked and my girls came home. I saw him on and off during this time and he told me that he never blamed me for anything. I still loved him after all. I still cared about what happened to him. 9 years later he was still using and at times he stayed with me but it was always short lived because his addiction was his love. I still put my daughters through a lot of unnecessary drama by dealing with him when he was in his addiction. Last year I stopped communicating with him and moved and changed my number with strict instructions at my job that no one tell him anything about me. I know that it sounds so twisted to you, to hear me say I still love him, but I do, because for all of the terrible times, there were good times between us too. There was love between us that no mere mortal except our very close friends could fathom. My love made one last request to see his kids and so I let him and this time I noticed that he was not chasing me down that he hung on their every word and there was a sadness in his eyes as he saw what he no longer had, his family. The next day he was arrested, he asked for help. He went into a facility for drug rehab and has been clean since May of this year. He has made great strides in his progress. Will it be enough? We know it is one step at a time, one day at a time. We have both grown up in so many ways.
I am not saying domestic violence is something that you grow out of on the contrary the more you live it, the more you know it, the more insidious it becomes. To me change is possible and souls are resilient. Today we know what our triggers are and we know that it is work on both of our parts. I and my daughters have had ongoing counseling. I hate when media says "he" is an abuser and therefore a "bad" person. I was violent too. You don't think women can be violent? Go to the womans prison and listen to their stories. It can be learned for us too. I say there are two sides to every story.
Not every family can heal from domestic violence most people must leave a situation, but where there is hope and love and a willingness to change, then all is not lost. I would never tell a woman to stay in a relationship that was violent where she feared for her life or her childrens well being. There are a lot of agencies and help available to women and men who want to make a change in their lives.
Almost every day I see women being released from prison and I say there go I, but for the grace of God. I wonder what their stories are? I wonder if they know that change is possible. I wonder if they still have hope? I know I did the right thing taking that plea no matter how much it limits my choices career wise. Besides the only real thing limiting me, is me. This was something I had to go through to get to where I am now. Where am I? I know myself better now than I ever have, and I love myself more now than I ever have. I know I have to be realistic and not fantasize about what my family is or will be, but they are my family and for all of our dysfunctions we are stronger than most! I cannot predict the future but I will say that I am a realistic optomist when it comes to my love. His addiction fueled his violence and his violence fueled mine and my violence taught my daughters that violence is acceptable. By seeing our lives change hopefully our daughters will also learn that violence is not acceptable. Are you willing to break the cycle? If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence in their lives check out these links http://www.ncadv.org/ and http://endabuse.org/ http://www.thehotline.org/ or call the national hotline number 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-789-787-3224.