Editor’s Note: The names in this story have been changed to protect the anonymity of the innocent. The people in this story are in no way connected to Cedarville University.
Trigger Warning: This story contains content that may be disturbing to readers who have and have not experienced relationship abuse.
by Hannah Deane
Three weeks before Samantha was leaving for college she went on a walk in the woods with her fiancé, George. In the ground, among the tall pine trees, was a hole. Samantha’s fiancé told her, as they came upon that hole, that if she ever tried to leave him that opening would be her grave. He told her he would make it look like an accident. No one would ever know.
The last time Samantha interacted with George was in his truck. She was on a break from college. She had broken things off with him and was in another relationship that was going well. George begged her to come talk to him. She agreed and they drove to the top of a dam.
“The stupid thing that I did was I went back and talked to him,” Samantha said. “Once you’re out of it, never ever, ever, ever, ever go back.”
He told her that he had something for her. He told her to open the glove compartment. She did. Inside was a .357 Magnum pistol. He reached across her and pulled out the gun. He pressed the end of the heavy steel barrel into her temple.
“I just want you to know that if you ever try to date anybody,” he said,” I’m going to kill you.”
He put the gun down. Samantha then said something she now realizes she would never recommend to someone in that situation.
“Well, you might as well kill me now because I already have,” Samantha said. “And I am going to do it again.”
He slammed the pistol back into the compartment and furiously drove her home.
Abusive relationships are a reality many people face. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV), over a course of one year, nearly 10 million women and men are physically abused by their partner. This means that every 20 minutes a person is abused.
Samantha didn’t always like George. When they were growing up, she never liked the way he treated other kids. Then the latter years of high school hit, and she found herself in a relationship with him. She was now suddenly attracted to his strong personality. She thought this meant he would protect her. However, it was merely a mask for the abusive propensities that hid beneath the surface.
George grew up in a home where his father abused his mother. Samantha’s relationship with him didn’t begin that way. They would play-wrestle and sometimes George would get a little rough. However, Samantha didn’t know what direction this playfulness would take in the coming months and years.
“It happened so gradually,” Samantha said. “It’s kind of like you don’t know how you got here from there.”
Misty, like Samantha, was also attracted to strong personalities. Tears welled up in her eyes as she recounted the occasions in which she had been tied up in a closet, locked in her basement, and mentally abused. The very person, her first husband, who was supposed to protect her, had been responsible for causing her deep and agonizing pain.
Samantha and Misty suffered abuse as a child and teenager. That is why, perhaps, that the partners they chose were abusers. Because of their circumstances, Samantha and Misty didn’t know that they deserved more from the very people who should love them.
Misty’s mother had been married multiple times and in and out of relationships. From the time Misty was six months old until she was 14, she suffered physical, sexual, and mental abuse. The treatment she suffered during this time made her believe that the abuse she endured in her intimate relationships was normal.
“Sometimes the abuse doesn’t look as bad as what you’re used to,” Misty said. “So, you think ‘Oh, this is good,’ but it’s really not.”
When Misty married her second husband, William, she felt like life was better. He was not as physically abusive as her first husband, but he was controlling. She remained with him for 23 years. The situation was not good.
After Samantha’s mother went through some health issues, her life took a different path. Not only did Samantha suffer physical abuse from her mother, but also mental trauma. A mother is expected to tell her daughter that she loves her. In Samantha’s case, her mother told her that no one liked her. This mental shaping caused Samantha to blame herself rather than the person, George, who hurt her.
“I really thought all this stuff was my fault. I thought if my mother was like that and he was like that, that pretty much it had to be me that made everybody feel this way,” Samantha said.
Samantha was in a relationship with George for four years. She was engaged to him for three of those years. The abuse worsened throughout the relationship. He never wanted to set a date for the wedding. She felt she was destined to stay in this relationship. She believed no one else would want her, that George was the best she could do. The abuse drove her crazy. It caused her to drink so that she could forget.
“I was doing all I could to cling to that relationship, which sounds really stupid when a person’s abusing you,” Samantha said. “Not that I wanted to be with him, but I was always trying to be good enough that he would want to be with me.”
Samantha felt trapped. Misty did too.
One day, Misty asked William if he would help her with the cat’s litter box. This made him irate and he shoved Misty. This action, compiled with the awful things he said, the shouting and the spitting in her face pushed Misty over the edge. She left William but tried to return to him three times. It wasn’t easy to leave the life she had known for over two decades.
“I was with him for so long I developed what you call a trauma bond,” Misty said. “It’s where you form a bond within the trauma. So, it’s dysfunctional, yet it’s all you know.”
After Misty returned to William, the situation worsened. He tightened his grip on her, so she couldn’t escape again. The first day after she went back, she waited on the front porch for him to get home from work. Every day forward, he expected this same token. If Misty didn’t do this, it angered him. She couldn’t even shower alone or shut the door when she was going to the restroom. He had to have control over her every move.
“I always said I felt like a bird in a cage,” Misty said. “Then when I left, I felt like the door was opened. Well, when I went back, I felt like I was back in that cage.”
While Misty wasn’t allowed to shut the door, the abuse always happened behind closed doors. In public, William was kind. He appeared to be a wonderful husband. Misty would ask him how he could act like a perfect gentleman in public, but a monster in private. He would get frustrated and usually never answer. But he swore that he loved her.
George also knew how to fool his audience. There was an occasion where the dark part of the relationship showed through. He and Samantha were out at the rifle range with friends. Their friends were smoking and offered the couple a smoke. George didn’t smoke, so Samantha was surprised when he took the cigarette. Samantha, as a joke, said she would take one.
George snapped. He smacked it out of her hand and pulled her from where she was sitting on the trunk of the car. He then threw her onto the gravel. One of their friends tried to calm him down. George, surprised he revealed this part of himself, stormed off. Samantha ran into the woods. She was making her way home in the darkness.
George and the friend that had intervened picked her up. George screamed at Samantha to get in the truck. She was scared to do so, but the friend assured her that she would be all right. She consented. When they were back at George’s house, Samantha gave the friend permission to leave, so he did.
George screamed at Samantha and pushed her into a telephone pole where a nail pierced her shoulder. She still has a scar.
While these events greatly impacted the lives of Samantha and Misty, both were able to escape. Eventually Misty was able to break free from William. She now only has contact with him if there is an emergency with any of their children. Misty has since found someone and is happily married. The relationship she didn’t believe to be possible now graces her life.
Samantha married a guy that she met at college and has a wonderful marriage. When she was first married, she would have nightmares that she had actually married George. She would instead wake up to the man she is thankful God has given her.
“There are still times that I am just like shocked,” Samantha said. “And I think, ‘Wow how did I end up with somebody like this?’”
Both Samantha and Misty, although free from the abusive relationships, are still healing. Samantha and Misty struggle with the emotional toll that abuse took on them. Both have made improvements and slowly they are getting better. They warn anyone involved in a similar situation to get out.
If you are experiencing relationship abuse, there is hope. You can escape the relationship, just as Samantha and Misty did.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. Relationship abuse is dangerous. Do not let relationship abuse be the hole that takes you to your grave.
“I would have died. He would have killed me,” Samantha said. “I know he would have killed me.”
Hannah Deane is a junior Journalism major and the Off-Campus Editor for Cedars.She loves going on adventures, riding horses, and is definitley a fan of the Lord of the Rings.