After fifteen years of marriage, my husband announced that he had found someone else. Hadn’t I been a good wife? After all, I cooked for him, cleaned for him, let him control the TV remote, looked the other way when he stayed out late at the casino night after night. When my family told me that he did not treat me well, I thought “What? He doesn’t hit me.” It was not until I decided to give back to the community and volunteer for AVA (Advocates for Victims of Abuse) that I realized how deep and devastating the wounds from my marriage were.

When I heard the line “abuse is not always physical,” I envisioned weak, oversensitive women that were self centered and spoiled. Then I learned that when my husband ignored me for days and didn’t show any kind of love toward me at all – not even so much as a hug—that was emotional abuse. I just figured that was the type of man I had married. I’d have to live with it. Maybe if I tried harder to be a better wife, I would deserve a hug. When I was diagnosed with uterine cancer, there was no support. My family was with me when I went through the hysterectomy – but my husband was not at my side. In fact, he did not even visit me in the hospital. I explained to my family that he really did not like hospitals. But my heart was broken that he did not visit or even seem to care what happened to me. But he was my husband and divorce was not an option. Marriage was “until death do you part” – God hated divorce, right? I had to keep God happy.

I was unaware that financial abuse existed. I knew something was not quite right when he would go to the casino for hours on end, but I wasn’t allowed to get a haircut or buy any new clothes (I told people I did not NEED them). The bank started calling saying the mortgage payments were late. How could the mortgage be late – I was being so careful with the money. When I asked my husband he said that he would take care of it. When I asked to see the bills, he would always make excuses or change the subject or make me feel as if I did not trust him. According to her Christian upbringing, the wife was supposed to submit to the husband. So I did just that – submit. I wanted to make everyone happy – my husband, God, my friends, my family.

For more than fifteen years, I had no idea that I was a victim of abuse. When the smoke finally cleared, I found myself lost, broken and very afraid. I was even afraid to cook for my family fearing it would not be good enough; afraid to make a decision because it would be the wrong one. I did not expect to be listened and responded to and was shocked when it happened. I did not know how to make simple decisions like what to watch on TV. I realized that I had lost myself!

Thanks to AVA, I’m finding my way back to myself again. I am also finding strength and self confidence in myself, my decisions and my world. It will take a great deal of time and work to become who God made me to be, but I’m on my way, again, thanks to AVA.

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