Don’t walk between the bark and the tree.
“What’s wrong with me, choosing a man like that?”
Name: Cathy and Michael
Age: 39 and 19
I’m a Christian, and for me my divorce was a huge failure. I wanted to be married and live a secure and stable family life, that was what I really wanted. He knew that. He made me believe that he wanted the same.
He had told me that he had had problems in his life and that he had abused different substances, but he said he had given up everything. “Everyone is entitled to a second chance,” I thought.
He had a daughter from a previous relationship, a girl he said he missed. His relationship with his own parents wasn’t good. He wanted my help to sort all this out. His daughter moved here after a while and I looked after her as if she were my own child. I tried to make everyone happy.
What he didn’t tell me, was that he had been in prison for abusing women and that his daughter’s mother had taken out a protection order. He also had convictions for possessing illegal weapons and for drug-related crimes. I just saw a poor soul who’d had a difficult life.
Now I know that it all happens in this order: first control, then verbal abuse and cruelty, and finally violence.
He was possessive and controlling the whole time. Now I know that it all happens in this order: first control, then verbal abuse and cruelty, and finally violence. The first outbreak of violence occurred before we were married. The children’s father had come to visit and Joe went through the roof because we happened to be dressed the same way – in a white t-shirt and denim shorts. That was the first time Joe threatened me with a knife. He cut my hand.
After that incident we went to family counselling, and he stopped drinking. He started going to Church and taking part in Bible studies. That’s when I agreed to marry him.
I tried so hard to make it work. I loved him.
Things got worse after we were married. He thought he had the right to whatever he wanted – I was his wife. It was impossible to refuse him sex. He drove me to and from work, and he always wanted to know where I was.
It wasn’t all bad. Sometimes he applied for jobs and held on to them for a while. He wasn’t drinking, but I know he carried on smoking marijuana. He went to Church with me sometimes. I tried so hard to make it work. I loved him.
After a while the arguments got worse, and so did the beatings and rapes. He threatened me with a gun twice and several times he almost strangled me, once so I lost consciousness. I had to go to hospital several times, with injuries to my back, or a broken jaw.
I called my brother on one occasion. He was furious when he saw my injuries. When Joe came home, he told my brother not to interfere. “She’s my wife,” he said. I just wanted my brother to leave. I was worried Joe would hurt him.
I tried to get help at the Church, but the pastor just read something from the Bible and left. I go to a different church now.
I tried to get help at the Church, but the pastor just read something from the Bible and left.
I work at the courthouse, where one of my jobs is to receive abused women. I knew what could happen, and that it often just gets worse. I was so ashamed of being in the same situation. I went on sick leave so my injuries would heal. I knew that the violence could kill me but my self-worth was at rock bottom. He said it was all my fault, that he only beat me because I made him.
It was what happened in the early hours of the 18th of September 2010 that finally made me understand that I had to do something. Joe came home and started arguing. He hit me several times and then forced me down onto the bed with his hands around my neck. When he let me go, I told him I couldn’t take any more, I was going to tell my brother. Then he went and got the gun, held it to my head and said that if I went telling tales he would kill both my brother and me.
I just lay at home crying for several weeks, and then I made my mind up. I couldn’t take any more. If Joe stayed in our house he would kill someone – me, my brother or my son. What would happen if he hurt Michael! He was a big boy now, and could stand up to Joe.
I couldn’t take any more. If Joe stayed in our house he would kill someone – me, my brother or my son.
If I managed to get a divorce and make him move out, he would find a new woman. Sooner or later someone would die, I was convinced of that. I had no choice but to report him to the police.
Joe was sentenced to ten years in prison. I have been in therapy, and when I started reliving everything that had happened I thought I’d go crazy. I’m plagued by terrible thoughts. What’s wrong with me, choosing a man like that? How could I love someone who treated me so badly? Someone who ripped my panties off and threw himself over me, no matter how much I protested? How could I expose my children to that? I have such feelings of guilt.
My health isn’t good. I have headaches and I’m on sick leave. I think it might be difficult for me to keep my job. These have been the worst five years of my life. I pray to God that no-one will ever have to go through anything like it. If anyone reads my story here and understands what she has to do, that she has to leave before it’s too late, then I’ll be grateful.
I was 15 when mom started seeing Joe. I never liked him, but she said that’s not unusual when you’re a teenager and your mom has a boyfriend. But I didn’t trust him. Not even in the beginning, when he was nice. Neither my brothers or sisters nor I were happy when they said they were getting married. He was living off mom. He rarely had a job.
I’m angry with her because she let him stay. It wasn’t just about him and her.
Mom always used to argue with us when we didn’t want to go to Church, but he didn’t have to go. We weren’t allowed to smoke or drink – but he was.
Then the arguments started. We used to listen to them, but if I tried to take mom’s side Joe said I wasn’t showing him respect, and mom would agree with him.
My sister tried her hardest to pull him off mom once when he was sitting astride her with his hands round her neck. My sister has called the police several times too, and we had to testify at the trial. Joe did everything he could to give her a bad name, he said she was a drug addict and things like that. But she isn’t.
I’m angry with her because she let him stay. It wasn’t just about him and her. There were four other people living here – my three brothers and sisters and me, and later Joe’s daughter.
Joe beat his daughter, and I tried to stop him. Mom told me not to interfere. She said she was his daughter and he had to bring her up the way he thought best. He was allowed to do everything that no-one else in our family was allowed to do.
I’m proud of my mom now. Proud that she finally did it.
I remember how I used to sit completely quiet in school. I was 17 and had a girlfriend, but the only thing I thought about was what was happening at home. About what I could do to hold my family together. I remember thinking: I can’t take any more! But maybe I was the person who came out best, because I could argue with Joe. My sister never said anything.
I’m proud of my mom now. Proud that she finally did it. We’re all happy that he’s finally gone, even though we can see that she’s unhappy because she’s on her own again. We have family meetings again where we decide things together, and we read the Bible. We’ve decided never to say we hate Joe. We don’t hate anyone in this house.
Maternal deaths: 16 deaths per l00,000 births
Number of children/woman: 2.06
Abortion legislation: Right to abortion. Some states have regulations making certain information to pregnant women mandatory, including the size and appearance of the foetus.
Law against rape within marriage: Yes
Violence against women in close relationships: one woman in six has been subjected to sexual violence.