||It is only in the past couple of days that I have been able to call myself a survivor. That is how long I have been out of my abusive marriage. Before that I called myself a victim.
The path to where I am now has been long and complicated. I have a history of a one-off incident of child sexual assault and was also assaulted by a friend's married lover in my early twenties. I lost my virginity to a man who I liked purely as a way of getting rid of it. It was too attractive to the man who had assaulted me.
Combine the sexual assaults with chronic low self-esteem from unemployment and I was ripe for the first man who showed me care and attention. I was 26 when I met David. He was a nice, solid guy. Nothing special to look at and kind of quiet but nice. And nice was what I needed.I slept with him the first tme we were alone, at his instigation. It was, I thought, what you did to say you were interested in a guy. Within a month he was talking marriage and telling me he loved me. He was open about his past, including the previous girlfriend who had cheated on him then, on finding out she was pregnant, tried to trick him into believing the baby was his. I felt sorry for him. Nobody should be treated like that.
David is what you would call a pillar of the community.He has been a volunteer with an international service organisation since he was 11. In fact, it was through this organisation that we met. He is the solid, respectable guy who is always out serving his community.
The first time he raped my was about four months into our relationship.We were away for an event with the organisation we volunteered for, staying in a motel room with another member. With her in the room he raped me at night and again the next morning. I lay there and made no sound, hoping against hope that the other member wouldn't realise what was going on. Being silent was doubly hard as he raped me anally both times. The humiliation was beyond words.
Two weeks later we were engaged. Throughout our engagement I remained living at home with my parents through the week but staying with him weekends. My mother, who was very ill, died one month after our engagement party. I felt pleased that she had been so very happy for me in finding a man who loved me so much.
We were married 13 months after we started seeing each other. Twelve months later our son was born. You have never seen a prouder dad. He used to do the last feed at night so I could get some extra sleep. Twelve months later we moved some 200 kms away, so that David could further his career. It meant I had to give up the job that I was on family leave from. A small price I thought at the time to ensure he moved up in his profession. Besides, it was only a prt-time job with no real future, I thought at the time.
About 12 months later I was pregnant with our second child. I discovered that he was cheating on me. It cut me to the core. I was immobilised. Where could I go? My dad was in a new relationship, I have a child who at nearly two didn't speak a word (he was later diagnosed with high-functioning Autism) and pregnant. I was, I though, trapped and allowed myself to believe that he was genuine in his remorse. So I stayed. It was from that point on that sex became something to endure rather than enjoy. Regardless of how I felt, what I wanted, whether I was sick, he wanted sex and took it. To be honest it never occurred to me that I could say no. He was my husband. Didn't that give him certain rights? Besides, if I did say I didn't feel like it he would just turn his back on me in bed and ignore me. I craved physical affection. If doing something that I found distasteful was the price I paid then so be it.
Over then next few years the situation persisted. We moved a futher 800kms away to a different state where I had no friends or family. Sex remained a chore, something to be endured. When he was feeling 'romantic" he would purchase a sex toy of some sort and use that on me. I fought for a little freedom, gaining one evening a week out to play bingo (very exciting but it got me out of the house and meeting people). That little bit of freedom came at a price. There was hardly a week that went by when I wasn't told that my time away from my family would cost me. In fact, any measure of kindness from him was always tempered with that phrase.
Once my kids started school I began to make friends, or at least people who I could be around and pretend to be normal. There was nobody I could talk to. I was desperately unhappy with thoughts of suicide never far from my mind. I never understood why I was so miserable. I had a husband who was a good provider and wanted for nothing. But I hated myself. I knew I was unhappy but didn't know why. My life revolved around my family. If I got told that I didn't know what I was tolking about or he was not at home much....well that was the price of marriage. He travelled often for work and was still heavily involved with his volunteering, something I had given up because with two young children there just wasn't time.
Last year, through a twist of fate, I made real friends. Friends who I could talk to. These friends helped me see that the way I was being treated was not right. They even went as far as to call it abusive. It was like a lightbulb going on in my head. Suddenly I knew I just did not want to be married any more. I didn't tell them much, certainly nothing about what happened in the bedroom. I was too ashamed of that. With friends, and disclosure, came fear. Suddenly I was feeling things that I hadn't let myself feel for a very long time. I began to self-harm after years of not doing it. I started planning for a future when I would be responsible for my kids alone. I enrolled to study at university by distance and started building stronger friendships with people.
A few months later I found I was having a lot of disturbing thoughts about the sexual assaults when I was in my twenties. I went looking, as is my habit, for a book to see if something could help. The only book on the shelves of the library was Real Rape, Real Pain. I borrowed it, thinking maybe it would have something that would be relavent, even though it was about partner rape and the man who had assaulted me wasn't my partner in any sense of the word. I got the book home and started reading. As I read a horrible sense of the familiar crept over me. Suddenly what was happening in my marriage had a name. I read the book in two days, days that my husband was away for, as luck would have it. From the book I found my way here, then onto Pandora's Aquarium where I found support and validation from some of the bravest, strongest people I have ever known. I also told one friend what I had realised. At that point I wasn't able to call it rape. She also validated my feelings that
what was happening wasn't right.
Interestingly, over the next few months, as I gained support and vaildation for what was happening in my life things started to escalate. What had been a case of him having sex with me then falling asleep began to move into a new pattern. David would now, on a regular basis, force oral and anal sex on me. He was also rougher, frequently causing me pain, using sex toys on me that would, to my shame, cause my body to become aroused and orgasm. He saw this as a reason to do things harder with the resulting pain lasting for days. The one morning, in January of this year, he raped me while our children were awake in another room. There was no room in my mind to all this anything other than rape. I said no. I said don't. And he did it anyway. The same thing happened two weeks later. Over the past five months the assaults have become brutal with things happening that I may never talk about.
But also over those past five moths I began to develop a network of support, on line and in real life. I approached the local domestic violence centre and started to receive support from them. A dear friend helped to organise some phone counselling by a Centre Against Sexual Assault, a service I could not access in my own area as I was still in the relationship. More recently I began to see a Trauma Psychologist. I also worked hard at developing a support network amongst my friends. Learing that I could tell people what was going on and knowing that they cared about and supported me. I was very lucky that I received so few negative responses to my situation.
Two days ago came the last straw. I told him to fuck off. And to this point he has. I am leaning heavily on the support of my friends and the professional agencies available to me. The sense of freedom, of relief, is at times overwhelming. I know that the road will be long and painful. I do not expect to heal overnight. But I know I can now. And I am proud to call myself a survivor.