Survivor

I didn't realize the significance of my story "Breathing" being published in the October issue of r.kv.r.y. when I got the news from Editor-in-Chief Mary Akers in August. I was, instead, straddling a vast chasm of emotions from excitement about the story being accepted and realizing that this particular story--the story of my first marriage--was the story that would be out there in cyberspace. I kept going back and forth from total excitement and fear that people would hear this story and see me differently. I didn't want anyone to see me as a victim, feel sorry for me, or see me as anything other than a strong capable survivor who found a way to make her life work.

And, I have to admit that in that first marriage I turned away from the truth and from the red flags that were there long before he ever raised a hand. There was the advance evidence of a lack of moral fortitude and a slightly askew sense of right and wrong that my ex-husband possessed. So for many years I lived in a sort of haze believing that the devil I knew was easier to live with than the devil I didn't know. You see, back then, in my world, there would always be some sort of devil.

It took a really long time to realize that I could actually have a life without devils; without abusive behavior; without putting up with intentionally hurtful or out of control people. It took an even longer time until I could finally begin to draw lines in the sand and demand to be treated with dignity and respect. Leaving my first marriage was just the first step.

The reason leaving was only the first step was because he was not the only person I allowed to treat me that way. My acceptance of domestic abuse started from when I was a very young girl.  It was something I grew up accepting because it was all around me.  How could I expect to grow up and see the world any differently?

So my hope with this story is that others will see that there is a way to get out. There is no reason anyone should be allowed to treat anyone this way. Women have to know that there is life after abuse.

If you know someone who is in this kind of a situation; someone who just got out; someone who has been out for years; and more importantly: someone who is heading into a marriage or relationship like this, please, pass my story along. I was strong enough to get out and save my life. We can only pass that strength to others by sharing our stories. Here is mine:

"Breathing can be severely compromised if your soon to be ex-husband’s knee happens to be in the middle of your chest, pinning you to the couch, as he wraps his fingers around your throat and squeezes.

It’s funny the things that run through your mind. You think about the already packed bags and boxes ready for their escape at the front door. You think about the empty apartment waiting for you. You imagine the rooms and how safe you will be there: alone. You wonder what the police will say because you are wearing these old lady pajamas with lace on the edges of the sleeves and pant bottoms. You wonder if your daughter will see you and be embarrassed that you are wearing the ugliest pajamas in the world when your body is found and she will have to live with that image burned into her brain for the rest of her life."

To read the entire story follow this link to the October issue of r.kv.r.y.

5 comments:

jodeeluna said...

I found your link through the Writer's Digest Forum and read your story on r.kv.r.y. What a chilling account of abuse. The descriptions are vivid and the emotional impact stunning.

I relate with your hesitation to put your story online. I'm writing my memoir and trying to overcome the same concerns you described. I drew strength from your courage.

dawn said...

you should be proud, joan. you took the leap and you touched others in a way that gives them courage, strength and validation.

Joan Hanna said...

Thanks Jodee, I'm so glad you are writing your memoir on this ... so much needs to be talked about ... so much needs to be shared.

Joan Hanna said...

Thanks Dawn! I was hoping it would be a story that would inspire people to realize that there is not only a way out but also another way to live.

Speaking is tough but living with it is tougher.

Sharon Lippincott said...

I wish stories like yours had been around thirty years ago. Yesterday I was thinking back that long to a young woman I knew. She was a participant in a youth leadership camp when I was on staff. We stayed in touch for two or three years as she returned to be a junior staffer. Then she sent a letter around informing all of "us" that her new husband insisted she sever ties with past friends and devote herself entirely to him.

All sorts of alarms went off in my head, but what could I do? We lived 150 miles apart, and there were no books, blogs, or other materials to arm her with.

I doubt that marriage lasted long. I hope she learned and grew!