As victims of domestic abuse, we stay under the threat of violence longer than would someone who isn’t abused. I remember reading that over time, an abuse victim learns to tolerate the threat of violence because the abuser’s threatening behavior escalates slowly.1 Like the frog placed in a pan of cold water and not noticing as the water heats to boiling. Before the frog knows it, she’s dead. Boiled to death in the pan of water she thought was safe.
Below is an excerpt of my book describing the night my marriage ended. When I wrote it, I’ve understood for about a year that he abuses me. I’ve become aware of the signs that the verbal abuse is about to escalate (something I didn’t pay attention to before). I even recognize the threat of violence. That comes after he snaps his belt and as I realize my heart is pounding.
The excerpt starts with verbal and emotional abuse, quiet and threatening. He then begins pacing with his belt in his hand, snapping it at my cats who he hates merely because I love them.
After writing the last “Smack” on this page, I drove away from the house to stop my heart from failing, to hopefully make it through to tomorrow without more fear. When I came home a couple of hours later, he hadn’t passed out as I’d assumed. He was right there, at the door, popping up out of the darkness, big and angry. The physical violence followed, and the rest of the story is on another page.
How the Threat of Violence Began That Day
He tells me that I am twisted and sick, and that I am doing the same thing to my kids. He’s now on the couch, muttering. I cannot hear his words, but they’re hostile.
My heart is beating quickly because I recognize the signs, but there is no way to get out from under them. We are here. Together.
He’s walking around threatening the cats with a belt.
I wish I wasn’t afraid to go to bed. Doing so requires me to walk past him.
He wishes I would disappear. Life would be so much easier for him if I were dead and gone. I’m afraid dying is easier than living, but I know that I will continue to do the hard thing because the easy thing abandons the children I love.
He’s smacking the belt in the other room. Smack. Smack. Smack.