Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dating and Domestic Violence Survivor

I AM a SURVIVOR of dating and domestic violence. This is the first time that I have openly made such a declaration, in such a public place. Over the many years since I was abused, I might have hinted at some terrible event in my past that changed me. However, I have never really been all that open about discussing what happened to me and how I felt about it. AND, how it changed me.

In my case, my abuser was first my boyfriend at college and later my husband. Yes, I actually married my abuser. I met him on the campus of Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. Our relationship spanned the Fall of 1969 to Spring 1973. He was two years older than me, 5'11" tall and weighed 235 pounds. Today, he is 6'1" tall and weighs 270 pounds. I was 5'5" tall and weighed 105 pounds. He was an ONU football player, and I was an ONU wrestling cheerleader.

In the Fall of 1969, it was an exciting time as my stepfather and mom drove me to Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. I was a freshman attending ONU and would be away from home for the first time. That previous Summer, my mom and I had spent some time at ONU for freshman orientation. That time there was a hot one, temperature-wise. It also helped to get me excited about my college life.

I didn't know much about college life or what to expect. A junior high school friend of mine, Alta, had a sister who was in college. I remember seeing a lot of stuffed animals in her bedroom at home. So, I packed my stuffed animals to take ... rather ironic that I gave up those stuffed animals soon after I arrived at my dorm. I had a roommate Becky from Columbus, Ohio, who would pledge Alpha Xi Delta sorority. Soon we would go through Rush and pledge different sororities and be on our way to new social opportunities and new relationships.

As a freshman, you wore beanies and signs on your back featuring your name and home town. You'd visit various university personnel who would autograph your sign; it was a way to introduce you to key people you might need to know. The Dean of Women, Mrs. Florine Jacobs, was one of those key people that I would soon visit for help. So, I'm glad I got to meet her first before I needed to get help from her!

The Meeting! I hadn't been on campus all that long. I was standing in the McIntosh Center bookstore checkout line when an upperclassman came up to me to say hello. Afterwards, I would get the impression that he had been "stalking" me on campus since the first time he spotted me and was looking for that opportunity to introduce himself. He would later tell me that he had told a fraternity brother that I was the girl he was going to marry. That's where it all started. He had sought me out. Before too long, we were dating and had begun a relationship that would be all-consuming.
ONU Ada, Ohio - New College Friends on the Railroad Tracks
ONU Ada, Ohio - New College Friends - October 1969
Fall 1969 quickly passed into Winter 1969. The campus of ONU can be quite brutally cold in Winter with the wind blowing over that flatland. ONU was rather out in the middle of nowhere, in a small town. It was difficult to get anywhere if you didn't have a car. It was more than a 3-hour drive home!

Those first months of college life are an adjustment period when a young girl is away from home and learning to adjust to a new social life. And, deciding if you will participate in Greek Life, you realize your relationships will change. Not all the independent girls, with which you have formed new friendships, will pledge a sorority, let alone the same sorority! About 20% of the students will decide Greek Life is for them. I found the girls I first got to know either remained independent or pledged other sororities! I was rather starting over and forming new female relationships.

After the holiday season, things would begin to change with sorority life. It was January 1970, and I was already pinned. When I attended the various fraternity rush parties, I would be wearing my pin. That meant those fraternity brothers would have a visual sign that I was taken. Hopefully, they wouldn't want to interact with me.

I don't remember the exact date and time that the violence on campus started for me. Problems started fairly early in that I hadn't yet become a ZTA, and I was still living in Stambaugh Hall. I remember the president of ZTA driving me back to that dorm as I had definitely consumed too much beer at a social function with a fraternity. That was probably the first time in my life that I had really had alcohol, and it had affected me. It was an important lesson for me in that I first learned to set limits on alcohol and never had a similar experience on or off campus. However, I do believe alcohol was not my boyfriend's friend as it served to fuel his violent behavior.

"The University affirms its historic belief that the consumption of alcoholic beverages is not beneficial to the academic environment of the University." ~ ONU Student Handbook

My boyfriend was standing outside the dorm and had a couple of independents on my floor hold me up to the window so he could see me. I remember I had to throw-up a few times after that incident. I later heard that he was raging with anger and went off to find the fraternity brothers with which I had socialized. I can remember hearing how at the Sig Ep fraternity, a certain brother was locked in a closet to protect him from my angry boyfriend!
ONU Ada, Ohio - Zeta Tau Alpha Rush Party - January 11, 1970
ONU Ada, Ohio - Zeta Tau Alpha Rush Party - January 11, 1970
I was in the middle of being rushed by Zeta Tau Alpha Fraternity, Delta Theta Chapter. I would pledge ZTA and continue to attend more and more social functions ... like I had never experienced in my life. It was important for my abuser that other young men knew he had claimed me!
ONU Ada, Ohio - Zeta Tau Alpha Pledge Class - January 19, 1970
ONU Ada, Ohio - Zeta Tau Alpha Pledge Class - January 19, 1970
Some of those social functions were mixers with the various fraternities. And, in some of those mixers, there was alcohol. Looking back on those mixers, I do think alcohol should never have been served!
ONU Ada, Ohio - Zeta Tau Alpha Campus Chest - 1970
ONU Ada, Ohio - Zeta Tau Alpha Campus Chest - 1970
Over the years, the mix of sororities and fraternities at Ohio Northern University have changed. I'm not sure of all the reasons behind why some of those organizations are no longer affiliated with ONU. Zeta Tau Alpha still is part of the Greek Life there!

ONU Zeta Tau Alpha - Delta Theta Chapter
ONU Zeta Tau Alpha - Delta Theta Chapter
In the photos I share, I have concealed the identity of my abuser with a mask. I don't believe he is ready to make amends and come forward, so I will not reveal his face.

ONU Letterman Queen Contest February 13, 1970
ONU Letterman Queen Contest February 13, 1970
Once I was immersed in the Greek life on campus, the abuse was more prevalent. There were more activities between sororities and fraternities. That posed some kind of threat to my abuser in that I would be meeting other young men through these functions. He insisted that I wear his pin so that the young men wouldn't try to get to know me.
ONU Phi Kappa Theta Spring Formal May 22, 1970
ONU Phi Kappa Theta Spring Formal May 22, 1970
As my boyfriend was two years older than me, I often wondered, "what about those other girls he dated?" How did he treat them? I knew he had a girlfriend before college that he told me about. I saw a picture of her, a brunette with a paigeboy hairstyle and a voluptuous figure. Was I the first, or maybe the last, to experience abuse at his hands? Surely there must be other girls. I could not be the only one!

"Causing or attempting to cause physical or mental harm to oneself or to another is prohibited." ~ ONU Student Handbook

By the time that I became a ZTA sister and was now living at Lima Hall, the abuse had already started. That unacceptable behavior would reach a fever pitch when I lived at Lima Hall. The verbal lashings were mind-numbing and were so frequent that I probably zoned-out when they would start. Soon he was spitting at me, pulling my hair and pushing me. The punching and more physical abuse really didn't start until after we were married.
ONU Outing - Middle Bass Island May 30, 1970
ONU Outing - Middle Bass Island May 30, 1970
On one abusive occasion, I remember spending a good part of the night and early morning in the cemetery in Ada, Ohio. We were sitting in the front seat of his car. The verbal abuse and berating had gone on for hours. I had been sobbing throughout the abuse. I do not remember ever fighting back.

"Threatening, endangering or causing physical harm to any person or causing reasonable apprehension of such harm is prohibited." ~ ONU Student Handbook

When he brought me back to Lima Hall, I went to my dorm room and spoke with no one. Hours of verbal abuse would happen in the front seat of his car. And, I would ultimately come back to my dorm and tell no one. I often wondered, didn't my ZTA sisters wonder or know something was going on?
ONU Zeta Tau Alpha - Rush Party at Alpha Sigma Phi - January 10, 1971
ONU Zeta Tau Alpha - Rush Party at Alpha Sigma Phi - January 10, 1971
During the early abuse, I did seek help from the Dean of Women, Mrs. Florine Jacobs. Back in 1969-1971, there wasn't a counseling center at ONU; she was it! The advice I received wasn't much aside from her making the suggestion that I avoid my abuser and break up with him. What about my classes? ONU isn't a large campus. I do remember breaking up and also missing a few classes. But, before long, we were back together.
ONU Bearcub Wrestling Cheerleader January 23, 1971
ONU Bearcub Wrestling Cheerleader January 23, 1971
ONU Core Values - Integrity: "We expect individuals to conduct themselves with honesty, trustworthiness, and respect for others."

Relationship Violence Warning Signs

Here are some of the documented warning signs for relationship violence that I experienced countless times. I would add something additional, about the threats the abuser makes, threatening to kill you or himself. After the violent event, he would sometimes say he was sorry and couldn't believe what he had done to me. He might cry a little and then beg me to accept him back -- that he would change. He never changed; the abuse behavior only got worse. Violence was threatened if I told anyone what was happening. I was sworn to secrecy. After all that, who would believe me?
  • Tells you who you may be friends with, how you should dress, or tries to control other elements of your life or relationship.
  • Gets jealous when there is no reason.
  • Is physically violent to you or others, even if it's "just" grabbing and pushing to get his/her way.
  • Acts in an intimidating way toward you by invading your "personal space."
  • Is unable to handle sexual and emotional frustrations without becoming angry.
  • Does not view you as an equal.
  • A man who thinks poorly of himself and guards his masculinity by acting tough.
  • Goes through extreme mood changes.
  • Is angry and threatening to the extent that you have changed your life so as not to anger him.
ONU Phi Kappa Theta Turtle Dance February 13, 1971
ONU Phi Kappa Theta Turtle Dance February 13, 1971
ONU Counseling Center - "Call 419-772-2190 to make an appointment or call the 24-hour mental-health crisis hotline at 1-800-567-4673. They have counselors available 24 hours a day."

Oh no S-E-X! It didn't say on those signs, that we freshmen wore, whether or not we had yet been introduced to sex. I was a virgin and naive when it came to sexual matters. I remember finding a magazine on the second floor of McIntosh Center. On the cover, it showed a nude young man on a swing sporting an erection. I took the magazine back to Stambaugh Hall and was soon sharing it with the girls on my floor and the girls of ZTA. That was my first introduction to the male anatomy and probably the same for some of those girls.
ONU Phi Kappa Theta Spring Formal - May 1971
ONU Phi Kappa Theta Spring Formal - May 1971
I do recall discussing with one of my ZTA sisters about my angst over my first sexual experience. She told me it would be OK. You know, I still remember that Lima, Ohio hotel room. And, then on the floor in his study room in the fraternity house. He actually found that certain "something" that he needed as proof of my previous virginity.

"Causing or attempting to cause mental, physical or emotional abuse of a sexual nature to another, whether in the form of sexual harassment or sexual assault, constitutes sexual misconduct, which is prohibited." ~ ONU Student Handbook

I remember when he introduced me to oral sex. We were sitting in his car in the parking lot of the fraternity house one night. Without much ado, he pushed my head down on you know what. I about gagged. And, not much later, I was outside his car throwing up!

A short while later, we were sitting outside the library. The verbal abuse had continued until I was in such a traumatic state. I was sobbing. Didn't anybody hear us? Why did nobody intervene?
ONU Phi Kappa Theta Spring Formal - May 1971
ONU Phi Kappa Theta Spring Formal - May 1971
ONU Student Code of Conduct - "In essence, the Code of Conduct requires students to behave in a manner consistent with the values described in the University Mission Statement. To do so, students are expected to demonstrate: Commitment to Self with maturity, openness, accountability, and self-discipline; Commitment to Others with supportive, mutually collaborative, respectful, social interactions in all living and learning environments."
ONU Phi Kappa Theta Formal - May 1971
ONU Phi Kappa Theta Formal - May 1971
By the Spring of 1971, I had become accustomed to the verbal abuse along with the spitting, hair-pulling, slapping and pushing. I guess you could say that I expected to have an unpleasant experience so I wouldn't be surprised when it happened. We had become engaged and were planning a June wedding. We still had our issues. I don't know what it was that he doubted about me. I had been "devoted" to him; I had no other relationships with any other young men on campus. I thought he would relax once we were engaged.

One of the visible scars of the abuse is a small scar on the inside of my ring finger. Sitting in his car at the back of Lima Hall one night, he had pulled off the engagement ring and threw it at me, bouncing it off my head. We nearly lost the ring as I opened the car door to leave and it dropped on the ground. The wedding would be delayed until December 1971.

The Wedding - December 4, 1971

The wedding was quite impressive. After a formal ceremony at Immaculate Conception Church in Willoughby, Ohio, the reception was held at Manakiki in Willoughby Hills. My ZTA sisters were in my bridal party along with my two sisters. There were several Phi Kappa Theta brothers in attendance and a lot of his relatives. We hadn't made definitive plans for a honeymoon, but were waiting to see how much cash we got at the wedding.
The Honeymoon - Daytona Beach December 1971
The Honeymoon - Daytona Beach December 1971
After the wedding, we drove to Akron and stayed in a hotel before embarking on our honeymoon. We were driving to Florida. When we arrived in Florida, we stopped off in Daytona Beach and then made it to Ft. Lauderdale for the duration of the honeymoon. I remember keeping the cash in a large white envelope. Each time we made any type of purchase, we recorded the details and amount on the side of the envelope.

Married Life

I had been working as a Tax Cashier in the Lake County Treasurer's Office in Painesville, Ohio. He hadn't yet got into the career that he wanted. We had a modest 3 bedroom home in Eastlake, Ohio. Looking at the Google Maps street view surely brings back memories! It was in that house that the abuse became physical.

Lake County Treasurer Mable Johnson Home - May 1972
Lake County Treasurer Mable Johnson Home - May 1972
I worked a full-time job, first at the Treasurer's Office and later at Picker Corporation and then Babcock & Wilcox Industrial Systems. I had to find a better paying job than county government since my husband was still getting started in his career. When I was at B&W, I would come home for lunch. Often my husband was still in bed as he would come in 2:30-3:00pm many nights. I thought that strange, but wouldn't ask too many questions risking making him angry and setting him off.

One Saturday morning, I was still sleeping and he had gotten up to go play football. He jumped on the bed, rolled me over, and then had his way. That may have been the time that I said something that he didn't like. Instead of punching me, he punched a hole in the bedroom wall outside the bathroom.

By this time, the abuse sessions included him punching me and throwing me across the room. It's a wonder that I never had a broken bone! But, I did have plenty of bruises and a black eye once. I wore plenty of eye makeup to cover that and would wear long sleeves to conceal the bruises on my arms. I have a problem with my right jaw that is slightly misaligned from being punched in the face.

It was the end of December 1972. I had invited my sister Diane to come along with us to a holiday party. Something happened at that party to set-off my husband. It could have been me chewing gum or a guy looking at me; who knows the actual catalyst. I told my sister that I was going to get it that night. Many times, I would be told, "you're going to get it when we get home" ... so I knew it would be coming. Other times, it was from the "if looks could kill" look that he would give me. That was the first time I had said anything to my family about the abuse! My sister went home and told our mother. But, mom and my family had NO IDEA about how long it had been going on and how bad it had gotten.

It was February 1973. Possibly the evening of his birthday. Something had set him off. He was in the living room doing something with our stereo unit when I let our german shepherd puppy run through the house to go outside. He yelled and came at me. I remember him yanking the door of the refrigerator and a bottle of ketchup fell out and smashed on the floor. He told me he would be dealing with me when he got home ... then he left. I quickly dialed my mom! "Mom, can you come get me?" I pleaded. "Where are you going to go?" she asked. "I don't know, but I have to get out of here." I packed some clothes and mom drove over to pick me up. On the way to her house, she told me that my sister had told her I was being abused by my husband.

Divorce! After staying with my mom and stepfather for a short time, I decided to move away from the Cleveland, Ohio area so that I would feel safer. My husband was trying to see me, but my stepfather would tell him he was trespassing. One day, my husband blew down the adjoining street and scared my youngest sister. I heard her screaming at the back door that he nearly ran her over. When I got to Columbus, Ohio, I stayed with my sister Diane for a short time. She had an apartment on Town Street. I secured a job at the Kircher, Helton, and Collett advertising agency. I was ready to put the abuse behind me and get on with my life.

Miss Columbus Ohio. Funny thing? The divorce was final in June 1973 and it was shortly after that time that I entered the Miss Columbus Day USA competition. In the rules it said a girl had to be single; it didn't say never married. My agency coworkers suggested I enter it. Much to my surprise, I was chosen Miss Columbus Ohio! Unfortunately, that meant the papers in the Cleveland area carried my photo with the announcement. One day the phone rings at KH&C; it is the president of the Columbus Day USA Association. He tells me my ex-husband's mother called him and said a few choice words about me. He asked, "Had you been married." I answered truthfully, "yes." Well, he went on to say that my ex's mother said she had a lot more to tell him. What a surprise that was; what in the world could she say? I continued in the competition, but heard from my sponsor that I wouldn't be allowed to win the USA portion. They let me continue in my role as Miss Columbus Ohio. I'm sure that irritated my ex's mother!

Catholic Church Annulment. How do you annul a Catholic church wedding? Money! It was the Summer of 1973; I had heard from my mom that my ex was proceeding with an annulment. "Can he do that?" I asked. Well, apparently, money could buy that annulment and did. I'm not sure what lies might have been told as I didn't testify in any proceeding.

Another Wedding. My ex remarried in 1975 and is still married to that same woman today! He has two lovely and intelligent daughters. I too remarried. My second husband was also a football player who played under the coaching of Woody Hayes at The Ohio State University. Although that marriage ended in divorce for us, I've often wondered what would be my circumstances today if we had stayed married. I've been in contact with him over the years and told him how much he meant to me. Then, after some 25 years of being single, I married for the third time. Our relationship spanned some ten or more years. We divorced in November 2010. I never had any children as I took steps to ensure that I wouldn't have children.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. After my abusive relationship, I didn't seek counseling until several years later when I was going through my second divorce. I was still in my twenties, but I believe I suffered from PTSD. I had issues with anxiety and ultimately experienced agoraphobia which haunted me for seven years. Although I continued to work to support myself, I didn't tell people that I was dealing with a phobia. I'm sure many of my coworkers wondered about the attractive "reserved" gal. By the time I was into my early 40s, I had learned coping strategies through my counseling sessions.

Abuse Changed Me!

I've often wondered where I would be today and what would I be doing if I had stood my guns when I first broke up with my college abuser. I stayed at Ohio Northern University for two years before leaving. I didn't want to leave; I wanted that 4-year degree! For a time, it seemed that I might be able to return for the third and fourth years; however, my boyfriend was not accepted in ONU's Law School. So, we got married instead.

Help for survivors. "Abuse is rooted in power and control, and an abusive partner holds that power by minimizing their victim’s self-esteem and breaking their spirit."

Back in the late 60s and early 70s, there was still talk about girls going to college to find a husband. That wasn't my goal; it happened. That, and so much more.

Gaslighting. "You ask yourself, 'Am I too sensitive?' multiple times a day. You find yourself withholding information from friends and family so you don’t have to explain or make excuses."

866-943-5787 Campus Conduct Hotline
866-943-5787 Campus Conduct Hotline
"If you experience or observe what you believe is unsafe or inappropriate behavior and are unsure what to do, call Campus Conduct Hotline to report it."

I have the most difficult time TRUSTING! Throughout the past 40+ years since the end of the abusive relationship, I have dated more than my share of men. I have had a number of relationships and remarried twice. However, through each of those relationships, I was always wondering WHEN and IF ... would this man become abusive towards me. The answer? Never. No other man in my adult life, with which I had a relationship, was ever abusive towards me!

I also have a difficult time with CONFLICTS. After escaping my abusive relationship, I found that I did all I could to avoid arguments, disagreements and conflicts. For me, I now associated those differences of opinion with abuse and violence. It was a fight or flight reaction and I would opt for the latter.

Dating After Domestic Violence - If you’ve experienced domestic violence, you might have more trouble connecting with potential romantic partners, you might have a hard time trusting people or you might find that your perception of what is healthy/unhealthy in a relationship was warped by your abuser.

Fast-forward 42 years later! I was talking with my mom this past week and told her that I would be writing my story. She wanted to know where would I be writing it; would I be writing a book? "No, mom, I'm not writing a book ... but I need to tell my story."

How can abusers change

"Admitting fully to what they have done. Stopping excuses and blaming. Making amends. Accepting responsibility and recognizing that abuse is a choice." It's been a lot of years since the abuse ... I would like an apology, an explanation, and some amends from my abuser.

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

ONU Business Exchange
A code of ethics! "To drive home the point of ethics, the College of Business Administration adopted a student honor code in 2008. This honor code details the college’s commitment to developing global leaders by instilling the values of integrity, leadership, teamwork, continuous improvement and community service."

As I look back on that dark time in my early adulthood, I am still mystified about it all. Why me? What was it about me? What did I do to cause that abuse? I was a quiet young girl with high standards. My education was important to me. I do remember something that my abuser said to me a couple of times, "you are not going to do to me what my mother did to my father."

Ah! That might have been it. His father had an artificial leg and often his wife would slap or taunt him when he was sitting around with his leg off. Could that have been the germ of the abuse? In high school, my abuser had suffered an injury to his foot when sliding into a base in a baseball game. His foot was totally broken and twisted around. He didn't lose his foot, but he shared a severe limb injury - much like his dad.

College Co-ed Murder Mystery

This could have been my story! As I watched the NBC Dateline episode about the brutal murder of Alexander Kogut, in her Brockport dorm room in September of 2012, it struck me that I very well could have ended up that way ... dead. Thankfully, I survived. It was this episode of Dateline that spurred me to finally tell my story so that if one girl would not go through what I did, that would be my goal.

Stop the Violence! "How do you stop violence against women and girls? First, you get people talking. It’s all about getting people talking, and then taking action."

For my protection, in December 2013, I took a Concealed Weapons Course in Jacksonville, Florida. In January 2014, I purchased a Smith and Wesson 38 revolver and have it loaded with hollow point bullets. I've spoken with the local police recently who have suggested that I take regular target practice to become one with my gun. It's been recommended that I also take some self-defense courses so that I can defend myself against an attacker.

Help put an end to dating and domestic violence. Say "NO!" Tell someone. Get help. You deserve to be loved and treated with respect. I AM a SURVIVOR! Make that choice to not accept abuse of any kind. Be a SURVIVOR.