Category Archives: Tony

Sleeping With the Enemy…Revisited.

I can’t watch this movie.  I just can’t.

And yet, I do.  And I am.  Right now…as I am typing this post.

It was a long time ago, a world far away that I was a victim of domestic violence.  Yes, I know you are not supposed to say “victim”.  It’ s not empowering enough for most feminists.  It makes you sound weak, pitiful.  Yet, when you are going through it, you ARE a victim.  You can pretty up the words all you like, make them sound less pathetic, but the point is…you are still a victim until the moment…you’re not.  That’s when you can change your moniker from “victim” to “survivor”.

Or, the moment they place you six feet under and you become what your headstone says you were.

When we talk about women who died at the hands of their lovers, we don’t call them survivors.  They didn’t.  They were victims.  They succumb.  I will always consider myself a “victim” of domestic violence in some aspects, despite the fact that I survived, because of movies like “Sleeping with the Enemy”.  Because the scent of “Polo” still makes me significantly ill.  Because being in my home alone, I am still plagued by the inability to sleep peacefully.  Because I still feel my breath catch in my throat when I hear a certain type of gruff male voice.  Because certain songs can still make me break down and cry (I’m looking at you, November Rain).   I can’t wear red lipstick.  It reminds me of bloody mouths and bleeding noses, broken teeth and cracked jaws.

It reminds me of 33 broken bones in just under 3 years.

Yet, when I watch the part of “Sleeping with the Enemy” where Laura “dies”, (This is not a spoiler and that aside, the movie is 23 years old.  If you haven’t seen it by now, well…not my problem) I realize that the funeral scene could have just as well been mine.  The irony of all this is that the release of this movie came the same year as MY release from this relationship that has scarred me for life.  Maybe it’s not irony.  Perhaps coincidence.  I never get those two right and neither does Alanis Morrissette, so I don’t feel too badly.  The ironic part really is who I first saw the movie with.

Yes.  My abuser.  The love of my (then) life and the enemy I slept with.

We saw SWTE in a movie theater in Suffolk County, Long Island, shortly after its release date in February, 1991.  We had a good day that day.  No fighting, no arguing, no yelling, no throwing things.  It was what I would come to call a “safe day”.  I never put a time limit on those days.  The morning could start one way, the afternoon could end another way and the evening could bring us back to the “safe day” status once again.  I lived moment to moment with him.  I counted every breath with him.  Measured.  Careful.  Always concerned about not changing my facial expressions too often.  Never looking left, never looking right.  Straight ahead, always.  That night at the movie was no different.  As I watched Patrick Bergin beat Julia Roberts, I kept the hand to popcorn to mouth ratio well timed.  Counting my breaths…in 2…3…4 out 2…3…4…

I wouldn’t dare give him the clue that inside, I was terrified, watching my life play out on the big screen in front of me.

I felt like everyone in the audience was staring at me.  I felt that familiar hand squeeze from him.  He was putting me in check. His way of saying, “Keep it together, CP. Don’t you dare betray our dirty little secret.” I sat up a little straighter in my seat.  I crossed my legs casually. I leaned my head on his shoulder.  [LOOK AUDIENCE WE ARE A VERY HAPPY LOVING COUPLE THIS WOULD NEVER HAPPEN IN OUR HOUSE YOU BELIEVE US RIGHT]  My body was giving me away.  My breath was giving me away.  My silent count in my head was not working.  I inhaled deeply, the scent of the popcorn nauseating me.  I dared to glance sideways, to see how he would react to this man on the screen beating this beautiful, gentle woman.

He kept eating popcorn as though it didn’t matter at all.  And I suppose, to him, it didn’t.

When we left the theater, I couldn’t gauge his mood.  His affect, as always, a blank canvas.  Over two years into this bloodbath of a relationship and I still could not read him.  We drove home in silence when suddenly he says, “I’ll never understand how a man could hit a woman like that.”  If I wasn’t so exceptionally trained in controlling my facial expressions, I would have given away the “are you fucking kidding me” that filled my mouth, but never left my lips.

“Mmm hmmm,” I said.

“Well, I mean, he basically hit her for no reason.  You know what I mean.”

“Uh huh.”

“You know that when I lose my temper, it’s because you provoked me.”

“Yes, I know,” I replied.

“But I love you.  I always love you.”

I smiled.  He was staring at my side profile looking for that smile.  The smile that says, it’s okay, this thing you are doing to me.  I’m fine with it.  He reached over, squeezed my knee, patted my thigh before stroking it, firmer, higher.  Oh, okay. Right.  Sex.  Got it.  The way you right the wrong.  The way you remind me you are still in control of this thing.  The way you pretend that I’m okay with all of this.  Sure.  We’ll have sex after we get home.  It was his version of the “reboot” button for us.  Anything that happens prior gets erased, thrown in the recycle bin and permanently deleted.  But, it also means I will have at least 5 hours of peace and quiet once you fall asleep…to shower you off my skin.  To brush my mouth clean of your kiss.  To throw up.  To cry.  To take my makeup off and assess the damage from earlier in the day.

And it was also during those moments of sweet repose for you that I would plan my getaways.

Watching the movie “Sleeping with the Enemy” alongside him, I knew my nights of plotting and planning would be forever destroyed.  There would be no more squirreling away of funds.  No more leaving clothes in hiding places.  No more hiding the spare key to the car in the back of the toilet.  He would now be forever aware that women definitely do plot to escape their abusers.  Even though he didn’t see himself in that light, I knew the lesson wasn’t lost on him.

I spent that night in terror.

When he wakes, will he start the scavenger hunt in our home?  Will he find the coins in the kosher salt container (It had that pull up lip that you could slide change and dollars into easily.  Plus, it was made of cardboard, so it wouldn’t rattle like say, a coffee can.  Yes, these were the things you had to think about) or the key in the bathroom?  Would he realize that in our car, where the spare tire used to be, there were spare clothes instead?  Would he look in the bottom of my daughters toy box and find copies of our birth certificates, medical records, anything I would need on the fly for when we fled?  I debated whether to start finding new place for all these things.  No.  No, I won’t.  I will leave everything the way it is.  To start moving things or getting rid of them means I no longer had a safety net.  I needed that safety net.

It’s all I had.

When this movie came on my television screen, just now, 23 years later, I watched only the beginning.  I only paid attention to the fear, not the inevitable victory.  I don’t need to watch that part…her transition from victim to survivor.  I don’t need to watch Julia Roberts get paid millions for a role I lived.  Julia lived happily ever after. (Now, that’s a spoiler, Folks. Sorry.)  But sadly, just like in the movies, sometimes real life comes with alternate endings. This is not the reality for many women and it certainly wasn’t mine.  My story of morphing from “victim” to “survivor” would include hospitals, three months in a bed, a brain now laden with epilepsy, physical and emotional therapy and the inability to remain in safely in New York state.

Still, my outcome is better than those who died at the hands of their abusers.  Now, all these years later, I have a different reality.  I don’t sleep with an enemy, but my best friend.  I am safe in my home.  I am safe in this life I have made for myself 1300 miles away.  And, despite knowing this, I still can’t watch this movie til the end.  I still can’t listen to those songs.  I still get queasy from the scent of Polo cologne.  But, I am alive.  Divinely alive.  Happily alive.

Phrase it any way you’d like, but I will always be a victim who survived.

I can live with that.

Focus 52: Shadows

I love make up.

I am a girly girl who lives and dies for the sparkle, the shimmer, the gloss, the gleam, the bling, the shiny and all things that are wonderfully and magically feminine.

Lately, I haven’t been feeling so girly.

Since my hysterectomy, it has been hard for me to jump back on the “Sparkle Wagon” as I call it and make myself fabulous.  It’s been a real struggle. A chore for me.  Even showering is a process.  Bending over to shave my legs is a true production as I can feel the incisions in my abdomen tugging hard to the point where they feel like they are going to snap.  Showering usually exhausts me to the point where I don’t feel like going out any longer.

The other day, in the mail, one of my dear friends, a fellow blogger who shares my love of all things make up, sent me a pallet of eye shadows, cheek tints and a nude lip gloss.  Just something to brighten my day and make me feel “gorg” (as she put it) after all the shit I have been through as of late.  Well, I played with those eye shadows in a gazillion different color combinations on my arm til it looked like one big long bruise.

You know, when a bruise is healing?  All those crazy colors; purples, yellows, greens, blues, blacks.

And when I realized that, I scrubbed my arm clean.  It brought me back to a time in my life where I had to rely on cover up, thick, copious amounts of cover up, to cover up bruises that were given to me by someone who claimed they loved me.  As I was washing off my arm, still staring at these glorious eye shadows, I wondered why…why would I be thinking about something so terrible out of nowhere when just five minutes earlier, I was in girly girl heaven?

Then, I realized.  20 years.  This November will be 20 years since someone tried to end my existence on this planet.  20 years since someone beat me into a coma with a baseball bat in front of my 4 year old daughter.  20 years since doctors told my parents that I may not come back from this and if I do, I will probably have severe brain damage for the rest of my life.  The “anniversary”, if you will, of one of the worst moments of my entire life.  I suppose it had been brewing just under the surface in me for awhile.  The night before receiving this wonderful present from my friend, I had had a very restless sleep.  At one point, my husband had to wake me, because not only had my sleep been fitful, but apparently at one point, I ended up flailing about, punching him violently and screaming for whomever I was dreaming about to “leave me alone, leave me alone…stop!”  My husband shook me awake.  “It’s me, baby…it’s me,” he said as he slowly brought me out of my tortured slumber and back into reality.  I stared at him for a minute, still confused and somewhat dazed.

“It’s me,” he said again, softly.

“Okay,” I nodded, understanding that he was reassuring me that I was safe.  “Okay.”

I curled back up on his chest and went back to sleep.

It’s peculiar to me that even 20 years later, the silliest of things can trigger me.  A certain scent.  The sound of a man’s voice when it is particularly gruff and laden heavily with a thick, italian accent.  There are specific sounds that make me jittery, like the sounds of footsteps on a wooden floor, especially if that wood floor creaks.  There are certain actors I can’t watch on TV or in the movies who remind me of my abuser and even if the movie is supposedly “sooooooooooo good,” I will still avoid it like the plague.

The day after I got my friends gift, I went back into my bathroom, and played in front of my mirror again, combining golds with peacock blues and and lush, rich purple shadows.  And it became fun again.  The joy was restored because those other shadows, the kind that hover over you and wake you from restful slumber…the kind that haunt your thoughts and dreams, the kinds that are long, tall and ominous?  They eventually go away.  And they are replaced by 16 pots of beautiful eye shadows sent with love from a gret friend.  A silly soap opera palette called “The Balm and the Beautiful”…with names like “The Other Woman”, “The Drama Queen” and my personal favorite, “The Perfect Man.”

However, I think I will steer clear of the one called “The Coma Patient” for a little while.

Hits a little too close to home.  😉

Day 4 – Forgiving Someone Else…

Forgiving someone. Not as hard as forgiving yourself, but a challenge nevertheless. There are a few people I could put under this category. A perfect example would be my own father, who selfishly left my family behind only to succumb to a cocaine induced death back in 1986. I think I have made peace with that. He was a man-child, who never really wanted the ties of marriage to bind him let alone the children that came along with that commitment. I have let that one into my mind back and forth over many years and believe I have long since come to terms with the fact that the man lived the best way he knew how, fast and on the edge, and eventually died the same way. I have a lot of his traits only I feel I am stronger than he was and his death was an example to me of the road I could have taken had I not been more careful.

But, with this being Domestic Violence Awareness month, I carefully thought over the aspect of forgiveness. Some might be horrified by my choice, but for me, this just feels right. The person I am trying to forgive is Tony. If you are a long time reader of this blog, then you will know that Tony is the man I was with for 2 and a half years, who beat me within an inch of my life. It started with a slap in 1989 and ended with my being in the hospital in November of 1991, bleeding in my skull from a brain hemorrhage.

My story about Tony is told here:
Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

For all these years, I couldn’t bring myself to feel anything but hatred for this man. Now, nearly 20 years later, all I can do is feel pity. Pity for him. Pity for the fact that he had such a hard and traumatic childhood that he felt the need to take it out on the flesh and bones of a woman he supposedly loved. When people would ask me “is there anyone in this world that you absolutely hate,” my answer would be Tony. Not even a pause. Not even a thought. It was something I had programmed my mouth to say.

Now I realize that hate is such a wasted emotion. I don’t hate him any longer. When I think of him, it is with sadness. Nothing more. I used to have deep-seated regret stemming from my time with him. Now, I feel he has done me some what of a service. He has made me a much stronger woman, knowing I am capable of living through a situation that others might have died in. He let me know that I am the type of mother who would protect her children at all costs, no matter how horrible the situation might be. He made me an activist, working diligently for rights of women everywhere. He made me rise above, showed me how powerful I actually am and what I am capable of when cornered.

To me, forgiving him is the ultimate. It is like forgiving the person who stole your child from you. He stole a huge portion of my life. Not just the two years that he beat and battered me, but many years to follow. All the years of self-loathing. All the years of physical pain from my various injuries. All the mental and emotional pain that had to be treated by doctors dumping various and sundry drugs down my throat to right my wronged brain.

But now, all that is gone for me. And I think, if I ever encountered him now, I would do so without fear. I would be able to look him in his eyes and where once upon a time I might have asked “why”, I find that that doesn’t really matter any more. I would be able to tell him that I forgive him. He was a child of abuse and neglect. He related to me the only way he knew how, with fists rather than words. It was his only way of having power in his life, the power that was stripped from him as a little boy. I understand that now. I can empathize with him…

and I believe with empathy comes forgiveness. And Tony, I forgive you. My nightmares about you are long gone and I wake up every morning with a huge smile on my face, knowing what an amazing life I have since created for myself. I hope somewhere in the world, you are living the same way and are released of the demons that caused you to brutalize the things you loved best in all the world.

I wish you peace. I hope you have found it.

When Rape Becomes Funny

I have been blogging for five years. I have shared the triumphs and tribulations of many bloggers during this time. There have been posts that make me laugh out loud. Some have even moved me to tears. Rarely there is anything that leaves me speechless…until now.

On October 28th, a 15 year old child was gang raped by a group of five very disgusting men. This occured while a crowd of minimally 20 people stood idly by and watched this crime being committed. It is an utter disgrace and a tragic statement about our society and the lack of willingness to get involved. As far as I am concerned, the people sho stood there watching as this child was violated repeatedly are just as guilty as the offenders themselves.

Of course, I am talking from a personal stance.

Back to blogging. My dear friend, Avitable wrote about this situation. However, his take on it was one of a humorous perspective in his blogpost titled Gang Rape: Looking Deeper Basically, what he was attempting to do was make a statement about the onlookers and what could have possibly possessed them to just stand there and do nothing.

You will have to read the post to understand what I am referring to.

Anyway, if you read through the comments, you will find that many women were hurt by the post. Some accused him of making fun of the victim. He wasn’t doing that at all. Rather, he was making commentary on the pathetic onlookers and their lack of vigilance when it came to helping this poor girl.

I get that. And, in some comments, I even stood up for him.

However, it doesn’t negate the fact that making light of rape is never a funny issue, regardless of attempting to use humor to assuage the pain. I have to admit, as a survivor of a gang rape, I didn’t find the post amusing. My ex-boyfriend, Tony, who I have written about countless times, passed me around to a few of his buddies. I was spit on. I was violated. I had my hair pulled. I was hit and battered. I was bit. And, this occurred while a few other people sat in my living room, not partaking…but rather, observing. No one stopped this. No one stepped in. Only ONE person “suggested” that they go get something to eat instead of continuing. It was said very passively and not for my benefit at all. I was left on the floor to rot. To cry. To curl up in a fetal position, wishing that the floor would suddenly open and my battered body would fall away freeing me from the utter pain and despair that I was feeling.

Last night, Avitable’s post brought that all back to me. I read his post when he first put it up. I didn’t fall asleep until several hours later. I was crying. I was shaken. I let him know that in a comment; that while I understood his intent, that he was sending me to bed in tears. Several other women expressed their pain upon reading his post. While I defend his freedom to write as he sees fit, I can’t deny that I felt anger and disgust toward what he had chose to blog about. I posed the question if this had happened to his wife, would he still be able to bring himself to form a humorous post about it?

He didn’t reply to that particular question…and that’s okay. There would be no need for him to state the obvious.

Having said all this, I get the intent of his post. I know he wasn’t out to hurt his female readers (though I must admit that the most angry comment that I read was from a man). However, he did pick open the scabs of old wounds for many of us.

I have been thinking about his post all day long. I can’t shake it from my head.

There are some things in this life that should never be made light of and rape is one of them. It destroys lives. It shatters and demeans people. It is a crime that stays with you for the rest of your life. It strips you of your ability to trust human beings. It steals your faith in God. It rips you of your dignity. It is heinous and ruthless. In my eyes, it is worse than murder. You are left to live your life dead inside; a heap of damage and ruin.

Women have died at their own hand for being unable to live after being raped.

I love Adam. He is one of my dearest friends, online and off. I treasure his candor and his comedy. He is always out to find the humor in any situation and funny, for him, is the end all/be all. Anything for the laugh. I would never suggest to him that he censor his words. I wouldn’t want anyone to tell me what I can and cannot write about. These are our blogs, our outlets. And, for Adam, humor was the way to deal with the pain of the situation. At least, that was his reasoning.

I choose to believe that because I trust him.

I can only hope that other women who have been his longtime readers can reach a place of understanding. I hope they don’t hurt from his words. I hope that they can forgive him for this particular blogpost and that they know what is actually in his heart.

Most of all, I hope that he is NEVER put in the position of knowing that type of pain when it comes to the women in his life.

It would render him speechless.

Long time since the last time…

It’s been 52 days since I relapsed. It sure feels like a lot longer. Not really sure why. I thought, when I checked the dates that it would surely be past 60 days by now. For some reason, addicts use 60 days as a target goal. So, I guess that’s the direction I am heading in.

Admittedly, it’s been hard. Talking so much about Tony has been a huge trigger for me. I have a hard time talking about him without wanting to use. I told my counselor this. When we did the EMDR (see last post) it had me completely frazzled. I was able to hear him, feel him…like I could feel his breath on my skin all over again.

Is it insane to think that there is a part of me that misses him? I guess that sounds nuts to many people. But, there were good things about him, when I wasn’t so scared of him. He made me feel protected for a long time. Ironic, because the one person I didn’t feel safe from was him. It’s crazy the way the mind works. I don’t discuss this with anyone, except here, in the safety of my blog. I know people would think I was nuts if I revealed this. I don’t mind you guys thinking I’m nuts.

I have 5 years worth of documentation on this site to prove that I am.

I can’t help but think of him though, especially lately. I have to admit…I do wonder where he is and how he is. Not necessarily in a good way, the way we wonder about old friends we haven’t seen in a long time. More in a curiousity sort of way. Is he still beating other women? Is he in prison? Has he learned his lesson finally? Did some woman finally reign him in? Has she learned how to control his temper?

And mostly, what did I do wrong that I wasn’t the one to be able to “fix” him?

I am a bit of a drama queen. This is nothing that people don’t know about me. I thrive on the adrenaline of the moment. With Tony, there was nothing but drama…and after awhile, it defined me. I couldn’t live without it, but I couldn’t live with it either.

People tell me to get over it. After all, it was 1991 when that baseball bat made contact with my head. It should be over now. I am in a better place. Much better. I am with a man who loves me, adores me, in fact. My children are safe. They are protected and secure. They have a father who loves them and a stepfather who worships them as though they were his own. I am a fortunate woman, no doubt.

But, there’s always those times. Those times I can smell that cologne…and it takes me away. Takes me back. And I dream. No nightmares. Just dreaming.

And I wonder…