A whole other lifetime ago, life was very different in our family. We didn’t have a lot of money, and things were really tight. When money is tight, so is patience, as well as everyday common decency. My then-husband (the Ex) and I thought nothing of our verbal sparring matches we held way back then. There were some nights when we screamed at each other through to the early hours of the morning. Eventually, those screaming fights escalated into something more physical.
Abuse was not something that just popped up out of the blue back then. It had first appeared many years before, when we were first dating. The first time it happened, a guy I knew had looked at me suggestively when we were at a party. The guy had obviously been drinking too much, and likely wasn’t even seeing straight. But that one look sent the Ex over the edge, and he challenged him to a fight. Naturally, we were told to leave the party. But when I defended my friend to the Ex, he reached his hand up and came down hard on my leg next to him. He immediately apologized at his action, breaking into tears as he repeated, “I’m sorry,” over and over. I was so shocked over the action that I didn’t know what to do. And I was disgusted in myself as I reassured him that it was okay, placing all sympathy on him over what he had “accidentally” done to me, forgetting that I was the one who'd been wronged. The next day, where he had hit me developed into the blackest bruise I had ever seen, taking up my entire thigh.
I often look back at that moment and wonder how things would have been different had I done what many women swear they would do – LEAVE AFTER THE FIRST HIT. It’s so easy to say. But trust me, the grooming from an abuser begins long before that first strike.
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