Behind Closed Doors…

“Hi Donna, how are you? How are the kids…the husband?”

I always got stuck when people asked about my husband. If the question was coming from an old friend, I was never sure if they were asking about the first or second husband. After two failed marriages when asked the dreaded question, “How’s your husband?” it became a longer and more embarrassing story.

As far as I can remember, I’ve always suffered from low self-esteem. My value and self-worth was fulfilled through relationships. From the age of 13, with my very first puppy love to my second divorce at the age of 36, I NEVER knew what it was like to NOT be in a relationship. I had never experienced what it was like to just be alone, to experience the joy and the very essence of ME. I was never the type to have a multitude of men, but I always had to have one. My relationships would last years. The fear of being alone kept me in situations that weren’t ideal. When in a relationship my whole world revolved around my mate. I had no identity. I was lost in the relationship and I was lost in them.

I married my first husband at the tender age of 22. Looking back, I see all the signs why the marriage failed. I don’t have many memories from that marriage other than the constant arguing. We were both too young, but the blessings in that marriage came by way of my two beautiful daughters.

Fast forward to my second marriage. “You never make the connection. You’re so stupid. You’re lazy. No one will ever want you with three kids.” These are just some of the things my second husband would constantly say to me. I’ve managed to block a lot of things about my past relationships, but this one was the worst of all.

There were no red flags or warning signs, nothing to indicate the turmoil I was about to endure. We dated for a year and six months before I got pregnant – and he was always the perfect gentleman. I had never seen him angry or upset. I started to notice a difference in his personality when I was pregnant with our son. I was 2 months pregnant when I first experienced the other side of him.

Our arguments would usually start when he questioned me about something that I never remembered saying or doing. All hell would break loose and a simple argument escalated into major fights. If he asked me to do something and I forgot…fight. He would pick me up from work, and if I had to wrap things up and came out five minutes late – the ride home would be filled with insults, name-calling and many times a barrage of punches being thrown my way.

There were days and weeks in between the abuse, but the threat was still there. When he did snap, I felt like it was for all the times that he warned me when he would say “You’re asking for it.”

I can write a novel about the abuse I endured during this relationship. I recall the times I was stomped on with Timberland boots, or the time I was pushed down the stairs, or when I was made to sit in the closet, or the time I was hit over the head with a chair and saw stars (I thought that only happened in cartoons). I had black eyes, knots on my head from being punched while he was wearing a ring. The worst was when he would spit on me.

While pregnant with our son, my stomach became the punching bag, purposely aiming at our son’s head. How our son and I survived the pregnancy, I don’t know.

On two separate occasions, I was forced out of a moving car – while pregnant. One time I was pushed out of the car and I fell in the street. I looked up at a Police car coming my way; I got up and ran in the woods. The second time, I grew tired of him punching me in the face over a baby shower invitation a male friend gave me in my church. He swore the guy liked me…. on the 10th punch (yes I counted), as we approached the red light, I thought the car stopped. I opened the door and stepped out of the car just to find the car was still rolling. Once again, a Police car was approaching the lane where I fell. This time the Officer stopped as I crossed the street. I don’t remember how the story ended, I can’t remember how I got home, but I do know I didn’t press charges.

One day, I remember walking out of work less than 5 minutes late. He was furious! As he started to drive off, he literally kicked me out of the car. I could hear the tires screeching as he drove away. Due to the nature of our relationship, I always kept my cell phone and some extra cash on me for times like this. I walked over and sat in a parking lot, in awe of what just happened. I sat down on the sidewalk that divided the parking lot. My legs stretched out in front of me, but not far enough where it would block a car from parking in the space ahead of me. After kicking me out of the car he sped off in the opposite direction…but I heard the car coming back my way. I looked up and the car was speeding towards me…it was too late to move. He zoomed into the parking spot with such rage, that the car ran right over the stopper where I was sitting. When I tell you it was nothing but GOD that stopped the car from completely running me over. My face was less than 12 inches away from the car’s bumper. I could feel the tire burns on the entire left side of my body. In true fashion, he got out of the car cursing and yelling. He blamed me for making him so angry AND blamed ME for causing the car to damn near run me over.

Even after nearly being killed, I didn’t walk away. At that time in my life I didn’t think I could do any better. I can still hear the echoes of his voice when he would tell me that I’ll never find anyone to love me with three kids. For whatever reason I believed him, I also believed him when he called me stupid and lazy. The saddest thing that prolongs an abusive relationship is that you start to believe the negative things the other person says about you.

I was living in Tampa, Fl. during this abusive relationship – away from my immediate family. My mother had passed away during this time and she never knew the conditions I was living under. No one really knew. I prayed for things to change, and change was finally coming. It was time to renew my lease and I needed more space so I started looking for new apartments…my application was denied everywhere. There were many complaints filed about the noise in the apartment I was living in, and the last complaint was the final straw. Not waiting for our lease to be up, the office sent us a letter that we had to move immediately. God had already tried to send me help when the cops where around in the previous incidences, I didn’t accept those blessing, so he did it again. This time he closed all the doors to me finding another apartment in Tampa. I had no choice but to pack my kids up move back home with my Dad, in Miami. My husband followed a year later.

Since I was living with my Dad and he was living with family, the abuse did not take place as often as it did in Tampa…but it did not stop. At this point, my son was 5 years old and very smart. He knew what was going on. His Dad would make him get out of the car to play (on the side of the street) while he threw a few blows my way…my son was aware of everything.

My final breaking point was when he snapped and punched my son. It was one thing for me to be abused, but I was not going to allow that to happen to my son. My husband wasn’t feeling well so we went to the hospital to get him checked out. My son was “acting like a baby,” wanting attention and he was getting annoyed. He punched my son with a closed fist and told him to “man up.” I found an excuse to leave the hospital and I dropped my son off to a friend’s house. Once I returned to the hospital, he asked to use my cell phone. Instead of using the phone, he went through my voice mail and found out that a male friend was coming to Miami to celebrate his birthday. The Doctor walked into the exam room, but that didn’t stop him from yelling and cursing at me. He stormed out of the exam room, leaving the Doctor standing there – and made me follow him out. As I walked out behind him, I noticed two security guards, I walked up to them and told them to call the Police…“I’m in fear of my life.” They noticed the anger in my husband’s eyes and saw that he was outraged. The guards blocked him from me and made sure that I was in a safe room in the hospital. Once the Police arrived, they detained him and allowed me to get in my car and leave. That was the day I broke free of the abuse and never looked back.

It’s still hard talking about this relationship…no one around me knew how bad it was. I could have been an Oscar-winning actress when it came to making my situation look normal. Family members heard through friends of some of the horrific things that went on, but they never witnessed it firsthand. Some lived less than 100 feet away from the chaos and never had a clue.

I am opening up here because there are a lot of women in the same position that feel they can’t get out or feel that they are alone. I hope that being open about a few things I went through in this relationship can free the lives of many women that live in this silent fear. We all know that we shouldn’t be in an abusive relationship but yet we think there is no way out. Hoping things will get better, they won’t. Many abusers were abused themselves. They grew up being hit and yelled at. Many abusers suffer from mental health issues and don’t realize it or don’t want to believe it. They’ve convinced themselves that you are the problem, not them. Whatever the reason, they need help and so do you! It’s not easy walking away, it took me 7 years to finally pick up and go. It’s taken a lot to rebuild myself, rebuild my self-esteem, but it’s possible. It doesn’t matter what the situation is or what you’ve done no one deserves to be in an abusive relationship.

“I would never imagine you to be the type of woman to allow a guy to hit you, you’re such a strong woman,” That’s usually the first thing people say to me after hearing my story. It doesn’t matter how strong or weak you are – it happens to the best of us. It’s easier for someone with low self-esteem to get stuck in this type of relationship. I looked strong, confident and like I had it all together. That was so far from the truth.

If you are in an abusive relationship there are places available to help you. It’s not worth it. It’s not worth your pride, your dignity; it’s not worth your LIFE. There are a lot of people who end up in the hospital or even worst, DEAD because they tried one more time to make it work. Don’t let that statistic be you!

My sister brought this picture for me although it never made it out of her house. She never knew why it meant so much to me…. for years I would look at this picture and say I can’t wait to let go of that bag. It took a lot but I finally did on August 19, 2010…DIVORCE GRANTED! That was the day I was able to let go of the red bag for good and never looked back.




Entre Cuatro Paredes (Spanish)

Entre Quatro Paredes (Portuguese)

Derrière des Portes Verrouillées (French)

This story would not have been able to reach the multitude of people it has without the help of the great people below. Many thanks for your time and efforts in translating this blog.

MAPA Translations & Language Solutions Drita Protopapa, MA, MPH (Spanish & Portuguese)

Joel Hilaire, M.D. (French) Pastor of Orlando Gospel Assembly

Author of: On The Other Side Of The Desk & Fantaisie De Ma Jeunesse 

By Donata Joseph


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