They were driving to a wedding, from Michigan to South Carolina, when it happened. He grabbed her arm and bit it. Hard. Wendy, 28 years old and five months pregnant, contemplated jumping out of the car but decided against it. Instead, she asked her fiancé to take her to the ER.
More than 26 years later, Wendy is still able to vividly recall everything. The doctor asked if she’d like to call the police. “I wasn’t home in Michigan. I was scared. I had never felt that much pain in my life. My skin was broken and bruised. I just wanted to try to make it through the weekend.”
Once they returned home, Wendy called off the wedding. “But of course, he wanted to make up and we went through the whole honeymoon stage.” A month later he got violent again.
One night after a terrible fight, Wendy was trying to leave when the police arrived. “I was trying to get their attention but he was telling the officers everything was fine. He was friends with the police.”
Shortly thereafter they were married. “On my wedding day, I broke out into a sweat. I didn’t know if I should go through with it.” They married on Valentine’s Day and on their wedding night he got angry and held Wendy ’s head under water in the Jacuzzi. “I knew I’d made a mistake.”
Their relationship flashed before Wendy’s eyes. The two met at a sporting event and it was full-speed ahead from then on. He wanted to be with her all of the time, “at first I was thrilled.” But soon, it was obvious that togetherness was used for control. He was jealous of Wendy ’s male neighbor and in order to monitor their interactions, moved in.
One night he broke off all the heels on her shoes so she couldn’t go anywhere. Another time, he pulled a gun on her and pushed her down the stairs. Wendy went to her parents a couple of times for help, but always returned back to her husband. “My mom was very old fashioned. I don’t think she wanted me to be abused, but her advice was, ‘marriage has its ups and downs’. She never understood my situation and I stuck it out as long as I could.”
But one night, two months after their son was born, Wendy’s husband disappeared for two days and when he returned—hungover, beat up and unemployed—she knew it was time to leave.
They were divorced, but little did she know she’d endure 18 more years of torment. He called and wrote letters to her friends, co-workers, supervisors and potential employers, feeding them lies about Wendy, like she was on drugs. At one job, Wendy was pressured into quitting because of harassing phone calls. “At that time many women and companies lacked education on domestic violence.”
Things would begin to look up and then quickly be shattered. Wendy began a PR business only to have her office broken into and equipment destroyed. The same police, who ignored her earlier reports of domestic abuse, also ignored the burglaries.
The final straw came after her house was broken into another time. Wendy packed up her son and moved to a suburb 40-minutes away. In the new town, police took domestic violence seriously, effectively ending the abuse.
Wendy has yet to share her whole story with her son but she believes, “parents should educate their children about domestic violence and tell them to leave right away if they’re abused. You have to love yourself and realize that anyone who loves you would never try to hurt you.”
Wendy has a thriving public relations business and says she’s grateful for everything she has because, “I lost everything I had like three times.” Besides PR, Wendy is passionate about helping survivors of domestic violence and parenting, “I just wrote my first book on parenting. I have a lot in me.”
*Due to privacy concerns, the survivor’s real name was not used
This article originally posted on domesticshelters.org
Sunday Survivor Series is a bi-weekly blog series highlighting survivors of domestic violence and their success after abuse.