Fleeing from domestic violence
“Ruthie, is that you?” My father asked, as he answered the phone.
“Hi Dad, Happy Father’s Day……I’m just glad I’m alive to tell you.” I replied, before bursting into tears.
The night before was one of the absolute worst, most frightening, longest nights of my entire existence. A night that has replayed in my mind, on recall for over 10 years now.
Before I ever got married, I used to love to go out on the streets and share the love and message of God to others. Just through a simple smile in acknowledgement of an individual passing my way was often enough to stop in our tracks and have an hour long conversation about life, eternity, beliefs, or the sunshine.
Once I married though everything changed. I was told not to go out any more to share what I was so passionate about. But, my new husband said he was going out with a group of others late on Friday, Saturday or Sunday nights to “street witness.” I said, “Okay, I’ll stay home and pray for everyone and for those you all meet.” I would pray for hours, always believing that great conversations would take place and lives would be changed, as the group was out until the early morning hours. Faithful in prayer, wide awake with expectation, hopeful to hear of lives changed, waiting patiently as the hours ticked on…. midnight…. 1:00 a.m…. 2:00 a.m….
My husband and I recently became the care takers of a wedding function center in the heart of a city known for crime, theft, drugs, and violence. We had recently moved into the small cottage on the gated, locked property that covered a city block. We took care of the rather large watch dog as well. Huge trees covered the property, an elementary school was nearby, no close neighbors, other than a couple we had met recently that lived a few blocks away. The estate was covered in beautiful gardens, flowers, and wedding bells by day. The setting at night eerily like that of an enormous haunted mansion. At times, the newlyweds or even the wedding party would lodge as guests for a few days or for the night.
On one of these late nights……..my husband returned to our small cottage from being out until the early morning hours street witnessing. I was thrilled, waiting to hear all that had happened. Believing he too would be just as excited to tell me. I had put the kettle on to boil so we could have a late night cup of tea and conversation about the events of the night. He went straight to our room, stripped down to his underwear and crawled into bed without a word. I started to get extremely anxious, nervous…..his behavior not what I was expecting. I began to wonder, “What was he actually out doing until after 2:00 a.m. if he didn’t want to talk about it?”
I suffered from PTSD already from being married to this man, from previous episodes of domestic violence. So, my anxiety levels continued to rise. “Please talk to me,” I begged, as I stood motionless in the doorway. I just needed to be comforted with a word, an acknowledgement, maybe a hug. He simply rolled over yanking the covers over his head like a child not wanting to get up for school. I tried to pull the covers back because I was so afraid by now and just needed to talk, to be comforted. I knew he could get angry so quickly, but I had spent the entire night alone just like all of the other weekend nights when he went out “street witnessing” without me.
I fidgeted around, decided to pour some boiling water into a thermos. Again checking in to see if he would talk. He flew at me before I knew what was happening. He started smashing up our bedroom, ripped the closet door nearly off, smashed the laundry basket into pieces on the floor, I was scared to death! I fumbled through my wallet in search of my folded up paper phone card, that once stretched out looked much like a long grocery receipt. I reached for the phone to call my mother overseas. I began to dial numbers, shaking like a leaf, barely able to see the small numbers on the card through the tears blurring my vision, or even press the right buttons on the phone. I was completely terrified!! He stormed over to me like a raging bull, tore the phone card from my hand and shoved it into his mouth, chewing it up and spitting it out, he then grabbed the phone out of my hand and yanked the cords out of the wall. By this time I was beyond a nervous wreck. I was on the floor in tears, begging him to let me call my mother half way around the world in America. I started cleaning up the broken pieces he had strewn all over the floor. He yanked me up and squeezed his massive hands around my slender neck. It was over now I knew, I looked deep into his eyes, now black with rage. I felt like I was staring into the eyes of a demon. I couldn’t breathe!! I saw some keys on the dresser close by. Swiftly reached for them, grasping them tightly in my fist and then smashing the keys into his right temple in hopes he would just let me go!! I felt horrible for doing this but, my husband was killing me!
He threw me onto the bed and began to wrestle me, attacking me, holding my wrists. Suddenly I was on top, kneeing him as hard as I could in the groin, hoping the pressure from my knee would be strong enough to make him release my wrists so I could run away. I actually thought in this moment, “The wedding bed is sacred, we should be making love in this very bed, I should not be trying to flee for my life!” We were up again, his back against the wooden frame between two windows. My back to his chest, my heart pounding so hard, my breath labored, trying to push my feet into the bed frame just inches away, to produce more force to press into his chest to weaken him enough to release the painfully tight grasp he held me in. I was trying to wriggle my arms free!! I was screaming for help in vain! Longing for anyone to hear me! The newlyweds in the mansion enjoying their first night of romance together, oblivious to the torture occurring in the small cottage in the back corner of the property.
I felt him weaken just enough for me to drop through his arms and race towards the bedroom door. Suddenly he grabbed me by the right wrist again. He twisted my arm up tight behind my back, and slammed me into the foot of the bed. The down comforter was suffocating me as he drew his right knee deep into my back, still pinning my arm behind me, tearing muscles in my shoulder. He started yelling into my right ear…. “Are you going to give up yet?” Over and over he screamed this at me. I was suffocating. Pinned into my own bed by the man who I thought was supposed to love me, protect me, provide for me, hold me when I was afraid. I was ready to go, ready to die, I could not struggle out of the terrible position he had pinned me in.
I don’t know how or why but at last he released me. I ran straight out of our bedroom. Still fully dressed luckily, completely unable to reason, to think, unaware any longer…. “Get away, get away!”…. my only thought. I saw my address book on the small table in the hallway and a $20 bill, I grabbed the lidless thermos of hot water… no idea why. Sped to the front door for dear life, all this in a matter of seconds. He chased after me as I ran out of the house screaming at the top of my lungs for help, somebody, anybody!!! I turned around, he was directly behind me, standing in his underwear! I threw the hot water at his face, hoping again for a chance to escape. I ran with all of my might as he turned back to the house. I knew he was going for his clothes because the pursuit of his prey was not over yet. I got to the far corner of the acre lot, climbed up the walled garden. Knowing all of the gates surrounding the premises were locked. Luckily all the adrenaline in my body catapulted me high over the eight foot iron fence as I smashed onto the hard earth on the other side, my eyes blinded with tears. I raced a few blocks to the house of the new couple we had met a few weeks ago. Knocking loudly on their window, hoping they would let me in. Knocking loudly again!!! No answer!!! “I better run, he will know this is where I am,” The thoughts racing through my head.
I ran for blocks, heart racing, mind whirling, I got to a main road, just after 3:00 am. One single white van coming towards me as I stood on the center island in the middle of the road. I then knew my only hope was to jump in front of this van right as it got near and let it smash me, kill me, run over me so my spirit could be safe in the arms of God. And then, the man pursuing me could do no more harm to my body. Suddenly I looked away from the van and right across the street I saw a phone booth. I still had my address book in my left hand and money in my pocket. I chose to let the white van pass me by and raced to make a call to the first person I could find in my little blue address book. I had no idea who to call. No one knew of the months of suffering from abuse I had already endured. I stood there, only then realizing that I needed coins, not a $20 note to make a phone call.
I was on the run again, knowing he must be close to catching up to me by now. I raced down dark alleys, down streets with old houses, crumbling porches, a night as black as the eyes of my pursuer. No house lights on, no porch lights on. I turned another corner, hoping he would not find me. I needed shelter, someone to let me in!! I knew no one in this new city. I ran onto the porch of an old house, pounding on the screen door, frightening myself with the sound I had just made. I pounded on the screen door again. I heard locks clicking, a chain bolt leaving only inches for the aged woman to peer out at the frantic young woman standing on her porch at nearly 3:30 in the morning. “What do you want?” She rasped. “Can you let me in? My husband is chasing me, I’m so afraid, please let me in!” I begged of her.
She told me to call the police and handed me a portable phone through the crack in the door. I felt even worse now. “I’m not crazy!” I was thinking!! “I just need help!” I dialed the police and explained my situation briefly, the woman gave me her address to relay to the police. The police said they would come pick me up soon and hung up. I handed the phone back through the crack in the door. Wishing she could just let me in. She shut the door, turned out the lights and left me to die on the porch, so I thought. My husband was sure to find me and kill me right there on her front porch. I backed my body as far into the corner of her porch as I could, scared to breathe too loudly, feeling that he was lurking close by. I tucked myself into a tight ball and felt like a frightened mouse being pursued by a hungry lion. My body was so tense, tense with fear, anxiety, dread, my eyes wide open, straining, keeping watch in the dark, pressing myself tighter into a ball. I was hiding in the dark corner of a stranger’s front porch, my back pressing tightly into the wall of the house, trying to disappear all together.
At last, the police car crept slowly in front of the house. The two men came up onto the porch, their boot steps heavy on the wood, pounding like the sound of my heart. I stared at them, keeping as still as could be, watching their movement, making sure it was safe. They came to the door and then saw me crouched in the corner and proceeded to help me up, they walked me to their car, placed me into the back seat, asking me where I wanted to go. I luckily had my address book, and found the address of a couple I knew nearly 20 minutes away, a couple I had originally come out to Australia with. A group of us from the states came to start a Bible College, to plant a church, to be a part of a new culture nearly four years earlier.
The police drove me to the address I requested. The policeman walked me up to the front door and knocked loudly. When my pregnant friend answered the door, the police asked her if she knew me. She said yes, fear written all over her face, wondering what on earth had happened. I told her, “My husband tried to kill me tonight.” The police said they needed to take me to the police station and write up a report. My friend agreed to come with me for moral support.
Once at the station they pulled up my husband’s file, his criminal record. After seeing the extensive list, I was encouraged to file a report. I was so scared. I looked at my friend, and said, “There is no way I could stand up in court against my own husband. Can we have the church elders talk to him? To help us?” After all, he had asked Jesus into his heart, we went to church every Sunday, he was out street witnessing, he had gotten baptized in the ocean with dozens of church members as a witness before we were ever married. Even then, I was sure it was all my fault, sure we could work it all out, sure my church family could help, so sure he would want to do what was best for us both. Surely I could just pray that everything would be as it should be in a marriage. What was wrong with me? What did I need to do differently?
My friend drove me back to her house. She got a bed ready for me in their home. She came and rested next to me. I was petrified my husband would still find me, now 5:00 a.m. My friend said, “I nearly went into labor early you scared me so much!” I was so sad, so depressed, so full of sorrow, my heart was heavy! What on earth just happened! I was now in the home of the couple who had married my husband and I less than two years ago.
My friend asked if I wanted to call home to my family in America. I sure did! She gave me a phone card and I dialed, longing to hear the voice of my mother or my father.
“Ruthie, is that you?” My father asked.
“Happy Father’s Day…..I’m just glad I’m alive to tell you.” I replied, before bursting into tears.
The date was June 18, 2006. A date still replayed like a horrid motion picture in my mind to this very day.