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A True Story

Domestic Abuse Tips - A True Story

This is the story of a WBFN member. She has volunteered to share the facts of her situation, in the hope that her example might encourage others to make the decision to seek help.

"My husband and I were married more than ten years, and we have one child. As with many couples in the Bank, we are of different nationalities, and we have lived in several countries. My husband’s abusive behavior began quite early in our marriage, but at first I didn’t understand what was happening. I thought that perhaps he just had a difficult personality.

Around the time our child was born, his behavior became more controlling. He insisted on exclusive control of all our money. I thought the control was a bit excessive, but reasoned that perhaps it was the custom in his culture. However, as time passed, things got worse.

He developed a substance abuse problem and his behavior became completely unpredictable. He would become excessively upset over little things, and it was impossible to predict what incident or action might throw him into a fury. He insulted me at every opportunity, saying that I was stupid and incompetent, and he blamed all his upsets and problems on me. Because I couldn’t understand the causes of his anger, and because he blamed me for all his troubles, I concluded that I was stupid and incompetent, and convinced myself that I would be unable to survive without him. I felt like a child – yes, I became a child. I pushed all my anger on to my child. My child suffered very much during that time.

After we came to Washington, the situation deteriorated even further. He began an affair with a colleague. This was particularly hurtful for me, because the woman involved was much older, a very motherly woman whom I had considered a friend. During this time, my husband’s efforts to control and isolate me became worse. He controlled all the money, and gave me only $80 per week for all household operations, although he did allow me to put some purchases on a credit card. Every day he presented me with a list of tasks I was expected to accomplish, and if any of my efforts displeased him, he resorted to the “silent treatment” and would refuse to speak to me for three or four weeks at a time. I had no chance to meet anyone or make friends.

There was one woman in my neighborhood from my country, but she was my only friend, and when I was on the telephone, he listened on the extension to monitor my conversations. At the same time, his substance abuse problem was getting much worse. I learned of his affair after it was over, and I begged him to attend counseling, but he refused. However, he did promise to reform.

I soon learned that I was the only one trying to salvage the marriage. He began another affair, this time with his manager. She is also a much older woman. I have seen her. She isn’t much to look at and frankly, I can’t understand the attraction. Perhaps he thought it would bring him professional advancement. When I confronted him about the affair, he became violent and threatened me. Although he did not strike me, he did a lot of property damage, throwing things and breaking them – that sort of thing. My child witnessed this outburst.

By that time I was seeing a therapist, but I was still in denial. I didn’t recognize the abuse for what it was. Instead, I told myself that he was depressed and that his actions were the result of his substance abuse. I was afraid every night he was home. I lost my will to live. I didn’t think of taking my own life, just wished it would be over so I could get away from the abuse. I had no knowledge of the law, no connections in this country and no connections left in my home country. I finally concluded that I couldn’t go on in the marriage and mentioned divorce. His reaction was to withdraw the credit card.

A short time later, I saw the Mosaic article in which the types of abuse were discussed. Except for the absence of physical battering, every other feature mentioned was present in my marriage. Finally, I had a name for what was happening to me, and I knew where I could find help.

I went to WBFN. The Domestic Abuse researcher, Sepideh Mohadjer, was very helpful. She explained my legal options. I thought about it for a week, and then went to the DC Domestic Violence Intake Center (DVIC) to learn more. Telling the story of my situation to strangers was very difficult, but the staff there was extremely helpful. No one should be afraid to go and seek help from them. Two days later I asked for and received a protection order against my husband. That day, and the day the protection order was served on him, were two of the hardest days of my life.

The court papers were served on my husband at the Bank. Several Bank authorities became involved in assuring that the papers were served promptly and correctly. The Legal Assistance Officer urged my husband to cooperate with the court and explained, in detail, the legal consequences that would result if he ignored the court’s instructions. As a result of this intervention, my husband has complied with all the court’s orders. The court ordered him out of the house, and granted me sole custody of our child, financial support, and benefits, which I am receiving. My child and I can now sleep in peace at night. There have been some hard times. Recently I was hospitalized for a week for treatment of post traumatic stress. I am in therapy and so is my child but things are getting better, and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I have enrolled in the training course offered by the Domestic Violence Intake Center and I will become a “victim advocate”. I hope to be able to help others who find themselves in abusive situations.

I have told my story here because I hope my experience will encourage other WBFN members to take advantage of the help that is available and break the cycle of abuse. If I could do it, you can too."