Abused Mamas: Escape by Trula Breckenridge

 I left after a 'minor' beating, meaning no skin breaking/bleeding,and no kicking. He 'just' pushed me into a wall, smacked me really hard several times and knocked me down. This was in response to him coming home and finding me on the phone. He had recently stopped taking the phone with him when he left and allowed me to use the phone again, so I thought it was ok to use the phone when he was gone. I was wrong in that belief and I paid for it that day.
I say this was a minor beating because prior to this much worse had occurred. I had been thrown down a flight of stairs and lost a baby, I had my head banged on the sidewalk leaving me with multiple fractures to my skull, and I had been held hostage, duct-taped, and threatened with a hatchet in front of our child. So why was the 'minor' beating the trigger for me to leave? One reason is it was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back.
A bigger reason was my daughter's response. Usually after he beat me he would storm out. I would cry and she, age 3 at the time, would rush to console me, hugging me and patting my face. I lived for those moments of kind touch from someone and felt my daughter was the only person who cared for me in the world. This time she looked at me sobbing and shook her head, and turned away. She actually turned her back on me, hunched her shoulders, and started playing with her toys. Her whole body language conveyed, You are a sorry woman and you get no more pity from me. It was like being doused with cold water. I saw clearly for the first time how it all was negatively affecting her. The hunched shoulders were a clear sign because that was how she was whenever he was around; all hunched over and afraid. It occurred to me that my child was also afraid of...me. and I understood why she would be, because she saw, at 3 years old, that she couldn't depend on me or trust me to keep her safe. She saw that I couldn't even keep my own self safe. I saw clearly for the first time that my child deserved better. My child deserved a chance.
I want to talk about how to go about escaping an abuser. Professionals will tell you to have a safety plan and to go about it a certain way, because you are more likely to be killed if he catches you trying to leave him than at any other time. I agree with this, because the most severe beatings I got, including being chased down the street and having my head banged repeatedly on the sidewalk, were the result of me trying to escape him. But on the other hand, I felt trapped by all the escape advice because I had no way to follow the advice of the escape plans I was given.
That's how bad it had gotten, he was almost to the point of keeping me locked in entirely. I had no money, and in my confused thinking no where to go. I had allowed him to isolate me from my friends and family, and I thought no one cared about me at all. So I ditched the idea of biding my time and forming an escape plan, because I thought I didn't have that kind of time, that he would kill me or beat me so bad the next time I'd be disabled (the minor beatings were always followed by a short lull where he would be kind then a severe beating). So I made a decision to throw caution to the wind and just leave.
I decided to go to my parents home and if they turned me away (I actually thought due to his brainwashing that my parents no longer loved me or cared about me), to go to a women's shelter. I packed a bag of our things and my daughter's little book bag and told her we were leaving. I told her we were going to go live at grandma and grandpa's for now. She asked after her dad with a scared look and fear in her voice. I told her it was ok, I would keep her safe. We were going to live at grandma and grandpa's and never coming back.
Her smile lit up the room. She clapped her hands then quieted immediately, looking scared again when I told her he was gone and we'd have to leave right then. We crept down the stairs hand in hand and out the back door. I didn't even know if he was still in the house but I was fairly sure he had left. Even still, I was more frightened than I had ever been in my life.
What if he came back right at that moment? What if he hadn't left and was in another part of the house? We were silent, so silent we made not a sound as we crept down the stairs.
Once we got outside I picked up my daughter and ran like the wind down the street. I heard a rumble that in my confusion sounded like thunder. My daughter said "Mama, the bus!" I looked behind me and there was a bus coming. I quickened my steps to the bus stop. The bus stopped and we got on. I stood at the meter silent, because I remembered I had no money. I felt very scared that the bus driver would not believe me and turn us away.
I have no idea what my face looked like but I was crying and obviously distraught. everyone on the bus got quiet and stared at me. The bus driver asked me, "Are you ok?"
My mouth moved and I tried to speak but I couldn't get any words out.
My daughter cried out "We're running from my daddy he's gonna kill my mommy! Hurry, We need to go to grandma and grandpa's house! Please hurry!"
The bus driver was silent for a moment then said "Miss, please sit down."
I sat down and covered my face. Someone, I will never know who, walked up the aisle, pressed my shoulder, and said It will be ok. Then they paid our fare and got off the bus.
The bus started up. As it rumbled down the street I felt the barest glimmer of hope that we would actually get away. We would survive.
If you are being abused here are tips that might help you plan your escape:
How to Escape Domestic Violence Escape to Safety Before The Physical Abuse Starts
The Greatest Escape: Special for Victims of Domestic Violence What You May Need to Escape
Recommended things to have prior to leaving:
Medical records
Address book
Insurance policies
Birth Certificates
Kids school and immunization records
ATM, and Credit Cards
Social Security Card
Passport or Green Card
Eye Glasses and Medications
Baby books and negatives of photos Irreplaceable items, family heirlooms
Auto title and registration
Evidence of past abuse - police reports - restraining orders
I had none of these things, it was all replaceable. Except for my daughter's baby pictures...the only thing I miss are photos. But that's ok because we built a lifetime of photos of her life after we left. had we stayed or went back for those photos, I truly believe we'd be dead.
Trula Breckenridge is a writer and mother who survived domestic violence. Now happily married, she lives in Northeast Ohio with her husband and three children. She maintains the Beyond Battered blog and is working on a book about her experience with domestic violence.