A Personal Story
For 20 years I lived with a violent man
N, from a town in the southern part of Israel and the mother of four children, shares her story with us:
For 20 years I lived with a violent man. For 20 years I held everything inside. I told no one about the beatings, the curses, the threats. I was afraid – afraid that if I talked, if I tried to get up and do something – anything – about it, the intolerable situation would become even worse. He abused me physically, emotionally and economically: I couldn’t buy anything without going through him first, and if I did dare to buy something I knew he wouldn’t like, I had to hide it from him. He didn’t let me go out. When I wanted to try studying something, he discouraged me and told me I wasn’t up to it. He was good at finding ways to keep me from doing anything that might make me feel good about myself, and it hurt and angered him that I even wanted to try. Any attempt to do something I wanted for myself resulted in threats, curses, and beatings.
For 20 years, that is how I lived – and that is not living. Until I reached a breaking point, when I knew I couldn’t go on any longer. It took only a minute to organize our things – mine and the children’s – clothing, a few toys, documents – and run away to stay with a sympathetic cousin.
It was the hardest thing I’d ever done in my life.
It was obvious we couldn’t stay with my cousin forever, but I had no where to go. And so for the first time in my life I approached the welfare authorities, telling them everything. But when they said that they wanted to send me to a women’s shelter, I panicked: what did I want with a women’s shelter? Why did they want me to go to someplace that sounded underground? They reassured me that this was not someplace dark and windowless, but a place where I would have a space for myself and my children to be safe and to heal. They encouraged me to take the step, and I realized just how badly I wanted the promise of help it held out.
We soon made it to the shelter; the first few days were not easy for any of us. But as I became accustomed to the space and the routine, I began to sense that the shelter was indeed a place where we could be safe. For the first time in my life I felt that I was being looked after, that there was someone who could lift me up from where I had fallen so low, and not let me go. I had come to a place where someone was listening to me, someone was trying to help me. I began to understand and come to terms with what I had gone through for all those 20 years – and I wanted to move on!
On my last birthday, they asked me what I wished for myself. That was an easy one: I wanted to be free, finally and utterly separated from my husband, with a get in my hand, once and for all on my way to a new life.