Pam’s story as told by Robert Hunt and Ammity Means
When I was in high school, maybe like a sophomore or so, this boy, Jerry, really caught my attention. He always looked tired. He was 6’4” and back then he wasn’t huge; he was just really tall and thin. Jerry would come to school with black eyes. I felt sorry for him because I could see how badly he must have been hurting and I knew what that felt like.
My mom got remarried to a guy that was awful. They were married from when I was 7-14, and he was just cruel. Mostly verbally. But I decided I wasn’t going to let him fight with me, anymore. I hit him and I put him in the hospital, and I didn’t feel bad at all. For seven more years, my worldview became hyper focused on just making sure the environment around me would be perfect. My mom taught me that it was my mission in life to try and make my husband happy so that he wouldn’t be mad.
I became controlling and started to misunderstand sympathy. Jerry (now my ex-husband) could see that I was somebody that was easily manipulated. My vulnerability was just like a beacon. People that are abusive, they know how to pick out the kind of people they can abuse and that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t know he would hurt me, physically, when we started dating. But, I should’ve seen the signs. I believe I didn’t recognize them because he gave me the attention I needed and wanted. Whatever attention I got was good enough, and so long as he didn’t leave. He didn’t just use me and throw me away; he stayed, and to me, that was enough. I began to notice his jealous behavior. He started to isolate me from my friends and family, and it seemed like nobody seemed to care. I was an easy target; I had nobody.
When I was with him, I naturally did what I had learned from the seven years of abuse. The relationship wasn’t about me; it was about pleasing him. I thought it was supposed to be about the other person to tell the truth. He moved me to the next city over where his family was from and on our wedding night, he hurt me for the first time.
Just like with my stepfather, I tried to please him by making sure the house was immaculate and trying to make his life easier. My coping mechanism became cleaning because it was the only thing I felt I had control over.
I liked working and almost always worked at least two jobs at once but it wasn’t enough because Jerry would get a job and lose it, get a job and lose it. It was never enough money. I remember one of my best compliments I ever got. I was working for this guy who owned a diner. I loved it, and I remember the owner came in one day, and he says, “When I come in, you don’t try to pretend like you’re working hard.” And I went, “Well no, ‘cause I work my butt off every day!” He put me in charge and taught me how to be a manager and everything. I loved it because it gave me a sense of worth.
Jerry moved me around all the time because we didn’t have any money or something would happen with his job. However, I would just find another job within walking distance because I still had not gotten my license. He had me convinced I was too stupid to drive and that I would kill somebody. I finally decided I didn’t want to drive anymore because I didn’t want to hurt anybody. Then, I was even more isolated because I couldn’t drive. I had to walk to get a job, and I was so ashamed. I didn’t want to talk about my home life, you know, I just wanted to be seen for the worker I was because that was something I knew I could do well.
I was married seven years before I worked up the courage to take the first steps and finally file for divorce.
Jerry was running around on me the whole time we were married, and I didn’t realize it at first. I don’t think I cared, cause as long as he wasn’t hurting me, I didn’t care what he did. But, he started bringing girls home and stuff, and tried to persuade me to take part in threesomes. I did whatever he said because I didn’t want him to hurt me, and I’m ashamed of that. This woman moved in with us and brought her little girl, Cassey, with her. Cassey was so neglected, and I related with her, which made me love her even more. I wanted children so bad, but I couldn’t have any. Jerry would use that over me because, “What kind of women can’t have kids?” I didn’t believe I was much of a woman because I couldn’t have kids. All I wanted to be was a mommy, and Cassey gave me that chance.
One time, Cassey was in the back seat of the car and Jerry got mad about something. It was always something stupid, just like my stepfather. He took my hand and bit me in the area of skin between index finger and thumb. I let out a sound, but I didn’t want to because I didn’t want to scare Cassey, but she saw it anyway. When we got home, I pulled up a chair and said, “Let’s wash dishes,” and I made lots of bubbles. She looked at me and said, “Why did he hurt you?” A two-year-old baby asking me, “Why did he hurt you?” I didn’t know what to say, and that was it. That was when I decided that I had to get out of there.
I just took some clothes and threw them in a basket, took them to the basement where the laundry was, put them in a trash bag, and then, after he went to sleep, I called the police. They said they wouldn’t come get me at my home, so I had to go across the street to a store. I took my trash bag, and they picked me up and took me to a women’s shelter.
The shelter gave me a care package that had shampoos and other things, I’m not sure what all was in it, but it was really nice. It gave you that feeling that somebody cared, and it really meant something at the time. It’s hard to explain, but I remember just crying.
I finally took a shower, and they asked if I wanted to talk to somebody and I said yes. I sat down and talked to this young woman who was probably as young as me. But, I remember saying to her, “Well, how would you know? Are you even married?” I couldn’t believe that came out of my mouth, but I was just so beat down. She kind of hollered at me, thank god, she said, “I know, cause you women are all the same! You come in, you do this, and he does that.” She said, “I’ll tell you what’s going to happen. He’s going to come to you and say this, and then you’re going to say that, and then he’s going to say this, and you’re going to say that, and then you’re going to go right back and this time, maybe he’ll kill you.”
He probably would’ve because he had almost killed me a lot of times. Thank God she was able to be so direct and stern with me though because that was exactly what I needed. Jerry came after me and he said, “well, I love you,” and he said exactly the words she told me he was going to say, and it made me laugh. Then he looked at me and said, “I can’t believe you’re laughing.”
And, as I was laughing he said, “but, I love you.” And I said, “Well, who wouldn’t! I mean really, who wouldn’t? I jump when you say jump.” He then continued to ask, “Who’s going to take care of me?” I said, “I don’t know, not me.”
I felt guilty and that made it hard because I did care, and I felt like a failure because I couldn’t make him love himself. I couldn’t make things okay. I couldn’t fix this. It was not getting better, but I was done and I really was done.
I never saw him again, and I’m so thankful. I could’ve went right back into it, exactly the same relationship. I should have really got help, but I didn’t. I met my second husband, and thank God he was sweet and passive. I’m just lucky. I could have done exactly the same thing all over again, but I soon came to realize that it was God’s mercy, and he was blessing me.
This story originally appeared in Facing Teen Dating Violence, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by A Better Way in Muncie, Indiana.