Teela Hart

Surviving Domestic Violence

Forgive Me


19 Comments

Forgive Me


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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The Nature of Innocence


19 Comments

Innocence Lost



I have said many times that I would never be with a man who abuses me. As a nurse, my training taught me to recognize the signs of abuse; as an ER nurse, I had occasionally cared for abused women (not that domestic violence is a respecter of either sex).

I employed educational materials and I prepared a “one size fits all” speech completely bereft of first-hand knowledge, and gladly so.  I was innocent to the trappings of Domestic Violence.

I understood the physiological outcome of domestic violence easily enough and I believed that I understood the psychology behind the abused and the abuser. I followed protocol in expediting cases of domestic violence with empathy and compassion.  It had been my experience, unfortunately, that the abused returned to the abuser. My intellect could effectively deduce those reasons; however, I could never get a tight rein on the workings of the deadly cycle.

Any self-respecting emergency care worker knows that a full moon invites all sorts of characters to the ER.  The graveyard shift had run amuck with code blue calls, gunshot wounds, and shackled prisoners from the local jailhouse.  The ambulance bay had more traffic than the bypass at rush hour.  Rounding my twelfth consecutive hour, I was looking forward to using the bathroom (bathroom privileges are not always guaranteed) and going home to the man of my dreams for some much needed down time. 

We will call him “Jon.” Jon and I met at church; I had known his family for years before we met.  Jon’s sister-in-law informed me, one Sunday morning, that he wanted to meet me and before my inner gatekeeper could assemble a proprietary lock-down, the word “sure” escaped my lips like a desperate criminal. A demanding nursing career, coupled with two small children, left the proverbial totem pole without a ‘dating’ sign; in fact, I vaguely remember deciding not to put it on the totem pole at all.  Yet, there I was, giving my consent. 

At the time, I was very strong in my faith and all the outward appearances proved Jon to be a decent man in his thirties with a heart for the Lord.  Humble, seemingly shy, extremely polite, and handsomely chivalrous all described him to a tee. 

I walked through the automatic doors into the humid night air; the wind whooshed around my body as tresses of hair overcome by the blast whipped my face. My scrub top tugged to the left from my pocket being loaded down with surgical tape, hemostats, various pens and notes. I leaned against the concrete support, lit a much-needed cigarette, and deliberately took a long drag while massaging my neck.   A lab tech, getting off work at the same time, stopped to exchange small talk about the night when Jon arrived.  We had only been married a few weeks and I was looking forward to seeing him.

Worn from the trials of the night, I flopped into the seat of the car, leaning in for a kiss at the same time.  Jon glared straight ahead, his facial expression intense, and before I could get the door closed, he stomped the gas pedal and chucked me back into my seat.  The force of my body colliding with the back of my seat forced a deep exhale from my lungs.  Shocked into silence, I tried to make sense of what was happening.  Lunging forward I grabbed the door and secured it with a slam.   I gasped, “What is wrong with you, Jon?” Tears welled up in my eyes, a lump formed in my throat and fear began its ugly inception.  

“Who the hell was that? You fuckin’ him? I knew it…I knew I’s gonna’ have trouble with you working with them damn hard-sides….”  By this time, we were on the interstate and my heart was in a power sprint inside my chest; my son and daughter were in the back, in their car seats, screaming bloody murder.  Deciding it was dangerous and futile to engage Jon in this twisted game, I begged him to calm down.  

 Jon continued his verbal assault driving faster than the law allowed.  The man who wooed and doted over me was rapidly devolving from my white knight into a monster.  His anger escalated, he slammed on the breaks, the tires screamed and smoke bellowed from beneath us as the car made a 180.  Facing North on a southbound interstate, at a dead stop, with headlights approaching, terror overcame me. My body was shaking violently; my breath hitched as I tried to stifle my cries and reassure my children that everything was going to be OK.  Grinding the gears, Jon righted the car quickly.  During the rest of the ride home, the kids were silent, I was silent, and Jon was silent.  My whole world changed in a matter of seconds on that night. 

“I will never be with a man who abuses me” played in my mind like a broken record.  The faces of the women I had counseled flashed before my mind’s eye.  In rapid succession, memories of the well-rehearsed speeches I had given, pamphlets, social workers and shelters haunted me.

No longer was I bereft of first-hand knowledge.  In some cruel twist of fate, I found myself no longer innocent to the trappings of domestic violence.  I was now a victim.  Survivor would not become part of my vocabulary until 19 years later.