Self-worth: If you don’t define what it is for yourself, someone else will gladly define it for you. In Ebony’s case, as told in Ebony: Part 1, Joey and Ricky did a thorough job of breaking her down and, when she met Dick, she had no idea how much more breaking could be done. Even before she married him Ebony knew he was not a good man and, one day into their marriage, it was confirmed that she was stuck in another abusive marriage. At the end of Ebony Part 2, Ebony and I had just met, and this is our story.
The first time I met Dick and Ebony at our home group, they seemed like a normal couple. When it was their turn to introduce themselves, Ebony was noticeably nervous. She talked about reconnecting with Dick via Facebook, and that they had just gotten married a few years ago. When she was almost done talking, Dick finished her story by saying, “And it has been perfect ever since”, looked into her eyes and smiled like Prince Charming. Although I never buy the “everything is perfect and blissful” story, that wasn’t what got my attention; it was her response to his statement that surprised me. She laughed nervously, rolled her eyes, and said in a very drawn out and nervous voice, “Okay.” By our third meeting, although they were both trying to portray themselves as the perfect couple, I knew something was wrong in their relationship. At the end of that meeting, I wanted to encourage her, so I gave her a hug and told her she was loved. Ebony had been feeling completely alone and broken and it had become overwhelming for her to pretend that everything was ok, and this gesture of kindness made her feel like someone cared.
On the ride home, Dick, who had been standing by Ebony when I hugged her, voiced his dislike and distrust for me. This is a typical response from an abuser. They want full control over their victims and isolation is vital. If they have control over when and whom their victims can talk to, they can control the information flow. In many cases, an abuser will not even allow their victim to spend any time alone with someone, as was the case with Jack in the story of Eryn. If the opportunity is available, it is best to meet with someone away from the toxic person in their life. This will give them room to trust you as a safe person and to be honest about what is really happening. This was the reason for inviting Ebony to join me for coffee; to talk outside of the group and away from Dick. He was very angry that she and I were friends and even angrier that he didn’t know what we were talking about. It took several meetings for her to admit to how bad things were and, once she admitted to the physical abuse, I assured her that when she was ready we would make a wise plan and help her escape.
Ebony was starting to find her courage and began to fight back. Unfortunately, this led to more frequent and more violent arguments. Because of the drinking, they would get loud, and the police were being called to their home on a regular basis. Dick was strategic with his abuse and knew how to injure Ebony and leave little to no evidence. One time, Dick pushed Ebony to the floor and she got back up; but he shoved her back down. This went on for an hour and, at one point, Ebony looked up at the top of the stairs and was mortified to see her 9-year-old son standing there watching. The fighting had woken him up and he had gotten out of bed to find his mommy. The next day she could barely move because of the soreness and pain in her body from being slammed to the ground so many times. Of course, Dick was once again “humble” and “apologetic” because he didn’t mean to, but she shouldn’t have said whatever she had said to upset him. This is a classic pattern of empty apologies that turn the blame on the victim to excuse the abuse. As per usual, Ebony did not call the police to report the abuse or injuries.
The First Eviction: Dick came into the marriage having already had four DUI convictions. One night, he was drunk and threatened to take her car, so she grabbed her keys and ran outside. He followed her and yanked the keys out of her hand so hard that she fell and slammed her head on the bricks of the patio. Frantically, she called her sister, who rushed over to take Ebony and her son to spend the night at their house. For the first time, Dicks behavior was exposed, and he was asked to leave the house.
It is important to know that abusers are master manipulators and are extremely cunning. They know how to manipulate their victims’ emotions like a puppet master. Ebony should have been relieved that Dick was finally exposed, but she wasn’t. Dick instantly went from being short-tempered and violent to being sad, vulnerable, and seemingly lost without Ebony. He made her feel shameful and embarrassed because she couldn’t fix their marriage. So, out of sheer guilt, she let him come back. It doesn’t take a genius to know that things got worse.
I had been helping Ebony for over a year at this point and many people would have given up on her because it is unfathomable that she let him back. They would walk away in disgust believing that she deserved whatever he did to her because she asked for it. But that is the kind of response that makes a victim feel even more victimized. They do not have a normal or healthy mindset and are easily manipulated by their abuser. The only way to support a victim is to stay faithful, remain truthful, give them as much guidance as you can and prove to them that you are a safe person for them to turn to. I continued to meet with Ebony and did my best to communicate to her that she was in a classic abusive relationship. Unfortunately, she believed that it was her duty to endure the hardship because she deserved it. But finally, she hit another breaking point.
The Second Eviction: One morning, Ebony was about to leave for work when she said something to Dick that displeased him. He walked over to her, shoved her to the floor and, once again, she slammed her head on the tiled floor. She waited for him to leave and then called me. I advised her to call the police and file charges and she finally did it! After filing the report, she spent the night at her sister’s house and, the next day, Dick was asked to leave for the second time. However, after a month had passed, he walked into the house as if nothing had ever happened and moved back in without even having a conversation with her about it. Ebony was embarrassed and was afraid to admit to me that he was back. When she did tell me, I could hear in her voice that she was already regretting the decision not to challenge him. She felt like she had no backbone, no confidence and self-loathing took over her thoughts. I talked her through these emotions and thoughts to help her realize that she did not let him come back; he bullied her into it with intimidation tactics.
The Third Eviction: As you can guess, things got even worse than before. Dick became more controlling and unstable. The drinking, the anger, the violence, and the intimidation were at an all-time high. Then one morning, he threatened to harm her if she didn’t do something that he was trying to make her do. There was something different about the way he spoke that time, and the look in his eyes made her feel extremely fearful. As soon as he left the house, she called me, and I could hear the fear in her voice. I asked her if she was ready to get out and she said she was. We met at the courthouse and began the process of applying for an Order of Protection.
To the average person who has been reading Ebony’s story from part 1, it is incomprehensible to think that she was unaware that she was in an abusive relationship. However, Ebony had only known abusive men and this was normal for her. She was recounting some incidents to the case worker who, at a pivotal point in Ebony’s story, looked at her and said, “Ebony, this is abuse 101.” It was the first time that Ebony understood the truth of her situation. We had been at the courthouse all day and as soon as the judge read her statement, he immediately granted the Order of Protection. A few hours later, ten police officers came to the house and escorted him out.
At this point, I wish I could continue Ebony’s story differently, however, it didn’t get better. She believed that all the trouble he was in was her fault because she had him kicked out. She could not comprehend that it was because of his own actions that he was suffering the consequences for. As expected, Dick was more than happy to let her take responsibility for his abusive behavior. Unbeknownst to myself or anyone else, he would come over to her house after her son was in bed and they would drink and get into fights. Next time, I will write about the final part of Ebony’s journey, which will include the harrowing details of a night that neither she nor I will ever forget.
Until next time, know who you are and stay safe!
Domestic Violence help in Rochester NY: https://willowcenterny.org/
Domestic Violence help everywhere: https://ncadv.org/learn-more