Teela Hart

Surviving Domestic Violence

Forgive Me

Forgive Me

19 Comments


This post is not one of pride or heroic achievement, but one of regret and shame.  Judge me if you must, but I respectfully ask that you embrace my testimony with compassion and understanding.  Moreover, to my children, I simply ask, forgive me.

Somewhere between sleep and consciousness, the precipitous footsteps of my daughter running down the hallway toward my bedroom accompanied by cries of terror rang in my ears, jolting me out of bed.

“Mama, mama, help me!  He hit me with the truck.”

Barely comprehensible she conveyed the horrifying story as rage and fear consumed me. 

Red faced and barely consolable, I implored her to tell me what happened.

“He wanted me to wait in the truck with him until my bus came to pick me up, but I didn’t want to, we argued and I got out of the truck.  For some reason he got really mad and revved the motor driving the truck in my direction going really fast.  I thought he was going to run me over!  I moved forward and he revved the motor and came at me again, this time he actually knocked me off balance and I fell to the ground.  He was screaming at me to get back into the truck, so I got up and ran back toward the house.  He revved the motor again, put the truck in reverse and sped toward me as I ran toward the house.  Mama, he was going to run over me!”

By this time, my son was standing in the doorway to my room sobbing uncontrollably and nodding his head in agreement to the events my daughter had described. 

“I was in the truck with him mom.  I tried to stop him, but he wouldn’t listen.  He said over and over, “I’ll teach that little bitch not to listen to me.  She is going to be sorry, she gets on my GD nerves and I can’t take it anymore”

“I was afraid he was going to kill her mom.”  Tears flowing like a fountain down his cheeks. I’m scared mommy.” 

Over the course of two months, following my tragic court appearance, I had been gathering information, making plans, squirreling away money and preparing emergency travel bags in anticipation of an event just like this one.  Jon had never directed physical abuse toward my children before, he would have had to kill me first and he knew it.  The only way to get away with abuse aimed at them would be to do it when I was unaware; however, he was spiraling out of control making the worst mistake he could have ever made.  I am certain his recent victory in the court system gave him the sense that he was untouchable.

I deliberately walked slowly down the hall, in deep thought over how I was going to handle this and escape with my life to boot.  Jon was standing in the foyer, his face stern and hardened.  I pretended not to know what had just taken place for safety’s sake and coolly announced I would be taking the children to school that day. 

“I have to go to my mother’s house to help get her meds organized after I drop the kids off for school.  I won’t be long.”

Jon granted permission and the kids and I headed out the door. 

Shamefully, I did not take immediate action that day.  Although I felt somewhat prepared, fear continued to wrap about me like a poisonous vine.  I sent my children to my mother’s after school to question Jon about the events that took place that morning. 

He was so convincing, “that’s not the way it happened, your daughter is a drama queen, it was all her doing.  Get her here and we’ll discuss it like adults.”  Somewhere deep inside I wanted to believe him therefore I obliged and retrieved my daughter from my mother’s home.  She strongly protested the entire time.  “How could you betray me like this mom?  How could you take me back there knowing what he did this morning?” 

Thoughts of being a terrible mother swirled around me as I ignored her pleas.  I desperately needing to believe Jon would never attack his own daughter and I proceeded to the house.

Jon, my daughter, my son and I sat in the den as we each described our version of the incident.  Without fail, Jon became irate; insults ensued, objects flew, and mayhem ruled.  Jon tackled my daughter, I tackled Jon, phone in hand to call 911 but he snatched it from my hand and threw it out the front door before I could make the call.  My son ran after the phone, I grabbed my daughter’s hand and pried her from Jon’s grasp.  In a mad dash, we ran to the neighbor’s home seeking refuge, but not before my daughter delivered a right hook to the cheek of the man, she once adored causing him to free us from his grasp.

I had failed my children once again and the agony was nearly more than I could bare.  I had to do something.  Abusing me was one thing, but my children.  Well, that was a completely different ball of wax.  Prior to this incident, the kids were wholeheartedly on their father’s side. 

Acting as his punching bag kept the children safe and my presence gave me peace of mind.  I knew that I could watch over them as long as I was present.  I never took into account the effects observing domestic violence would have on them in the years to follow.  At least not until I questioned them both in an interview of sorts, which I intend to post later.

The following day I took them to school then headed straight for the domestic violence center and conveyed every minute detail of the events of the day before.  The caseworker provided her usual story concerning my situation, as I had been there on several other occasions, followed by the announcement that she would be contacting child protective services to make a report.  She then handed me a stack of papers to sign for their records, which I gladly filled out.

Skeptical of their true intentions, (due to the last experience  I had with them in court) I proceeded to inform my “advocate” that I would be present and accounted for with my daughter in short order so that she could recount the events in her own words.  She assured me that it was not necessary.  I ignored her somewhat dubious assurances and brought my daughter to the center.

This was the last time my babies witnessed or experienced domestic violence.  I made a vow to them and to myself.  From that day on survivor had become a permanent part of my vocabulary and it rings in my ears every other minute of every day.  I will never betray my children or myself again.  It is my promise to them.  It is my promise to me.  I love you J, R, H, C.

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Author: Teela Hart

I am a mother, daughter, sister and domestic violence survivor.

19 thoughts on “Forgive Me

  1. After I read this the first time, I found the post referenced about your court appearance and read it. It sounded as though that was your first big attempt to stop him, and pretty much everyone who had the power to help you, failed to help and protect you and your kids. This left you with facing the fallout alone.

    I thought about the concept of learned helplessness, and how the animals in the experiments for that were shocked repeatedly on what was supposed to be a safe space. Eventually, those poor animals couldn’t understand there was any place safe, even if an experimenter picked it up and carried it to a place where it wouldn’t be shocked.

    Abuse is like that. The one who’s been abused (whether physically, emotionally etc.) looks around for safe space. For a time, it seems that if you ‘do’ this or ‘don’t’ do that, that you can manage some safe space. Little by little, that changes, and too often dull resignation and hopelessness seep in. Choices that seem abundant and obvious to others, are lost in the fog of ‘no safe space’. You don’t see them.

    Trying to hit your daughter with his truck was not only shocking in a way that produces traumatic disbelief, but it came on the heels of you being soundly smacked down for trying to protect yourself and the kids. I’m guessing that you knew in your gut immediately, that it happened just as your daughter said, but your mind probably swirled in a fog so thick, deep, and dark, that just immediately calling for help wasn’t seen as a choice that would actually work. To the battered and manipulated thoughts of someone who’d just recently wept in public and plead for protection, why should acting immediately be something that would actually ‘work’?

    What I think may have happened is more of the freeze response. Look at it this way, you’re a deer in the headlights of an on-coming semi, but at one side of the road is a snarling, hungry grizzly bear, and at the other side of the road is a hidden hunter ready to gun you down. Truck, bear, or bullet.

    Someone who’s never experienced trauma, learned helplessness, or fog, would just say, “But there is no bear or hunter, run!” This person doesn’t understand that what you perceive is what you believe. Perception was formed by actual events in the past. Not seeing choices is not the same thing as not choosing something better.

    I think that if this had happened prior to the court trauma, that you would have probably responded differently. You would have still had hope, and the perception that obvious abuse would be condemned as wrong by society and the world at large, and that the appropriate people and institutions would move to protect you and your kids.

    I’m guessing that remembering that your gut told you the truth when your kids ran in crying, is what fuels some misplaced shame. You probably remember your gut feeling as witnessing the truth at the time, but that doesn’t mean you saw a choice that beckoned clearly as safe for your kids and you. You need to see a choice to act on it.

    In fact, it makes your act of tackling him to protect your daughter all the more courageous. You did that in spite of not believing that anyone would protect you from him.

    You don’t need forgiveness for this. Understanding, yes. Compassion, comfort, and validation, but not forgiveness.

    When we know better, we do better.

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  2. Reblogged this on By the Mighty Mumford and commented:
    I’D TRY TO HUG YOU TO CALM YOUR FEARS…BUT YOU DON’T NEED ANOTHER UNKNOWN MAN IN YOUR LIFE. WE SOB AND CRY WITH YOU!

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  3. Dear Teela,
    I honestly cannot imagine what you have been through. My DV experiences were more in the line of comic farce. Yours truly are not. I respect your courage. Not sure I could have been that brave. Suppose if I had children, then maybe. I’d like to hope so.

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  4. Pingback: Homepage

  5. I am so sorry; and I care

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  6. You did the right thing. Guilt will cripple you. By waiting until you were absolutely sure, you gave yourself and the children no wiggle room of doubt. You had to leave, that was the clincher. It was hammered home, that day.. No room for regret, in the face of such certainty, is how I look at it. Take comfort in knowing that you tried everything, prior. I am sure you did.

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    • Thank you so much for taking time to share this with me. I live with the guilt every day for not doing something sooner. What you have said makes a lot of sense and I thank you for that!

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  7. We don’t judge you. I remember when my oldest son was about five and he asked my Ex one day (we were still married then), why are you mad at me? My Ex replied, “Because you’re trash like your mom.”

    If I had it to do over again, I imagine the Ex would be missing some teeth.

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    • Thank you Kim, I needed to hear that!

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      • Any time, Teela. When we are in the middle of the abusive relationship, it’s like we are detached from reality.

        After a few years of his cruel words, I finally started taking up for myself and my children and that’s when things began to turn around for us.

        It’s almost as if I was a little girl again, letting the grown up do whatever he wanted to do and say what he wanted to say. Then one day, I just stopped allowing it.

        Almost all of us have a turning point that changes the course of our destiny. What matters is we left. And if we can observe what happened objectively, we can learn about ourselves, why we stayed and overcome the reasons for it.

        By the way, thank you so much for the award nomination! It’s such an honor. I have a little catching up to do with other awards, but I will let you know when I publicly accept this wonderful gesture 🙂

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      • You are a true blessing Kim.

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  8. You made the right decision. It seems that you are still ashamed of what you did and not likely to forgive yourself. Since this involves your children I can see where this sentiment comes from. I will simply point out that I’ve heard so many stories like this from women I respect and trust that I hold a different view of what can make a woman do something like this. The progression of abuse is insidious and slow. The desire to preserve the family coupled with the time it takes to really accept the unacceptable (that your children’s father is insane) can cause so many false steps. The power of the abuser is unpredictability and I’m sure if you had conceived that he could do what he did, you would have wasted no time putting distance between your family and him. I think you are brave.

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