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NEVER LOOK BACK – by Debbie A. Heaton

Tall as a model, Jaclyn was svelte with rich black hair complimented by chocolate brown eyes bright with laughter. Popular in school, she dated the team quarterback, but soon found herself pregnant and unwed. Joining the ranks of teen mothers, at sixteen she welcomed a beautiful baby boy. After graduation she sought out full time employment,bypassing college altogether.

Acclimating well in the workplace, she made friends easily with co-workers and supervisors. Vivacious and fun loving, Jaclyn eventually paired herself with, “the man of her dreams,” who just happened to be in upper management. Spending pleasant days and nights together, she grew to believe she was as important to him as he was to her.

Three months into the relationship she discovered her pregnancy. With a two-year-old son already, another child wasn’t something she looked forward to. Breaking the news to her lover, she quickly shared her plans to terminate the pregnancy. Declaring undying love, her lover encouraged her to marry him and hesitantly, she made them one big family.

Ten days into their nuptials, Jaclyn was fired from her job and forced to become a stay-at-home mom. Verbalizing her discontent, her new husband slapped her across the face with such intensity she slammed into the ground. Before she could respond, he dragged her by the hair across the floor, flinging her across the bed before ripping her pants off and raping her repeatedly. To all appearances, he saw nothing wrong with his actions.  Jaclyn knew down deep that it was wrong, but she was eighteen, he was thirty-five, and she had another child on the way.

Escalating, the hitting turned into daily beatings. Anger is a powerful thing, and when it’s crackling in the air, the line between reason and emotion is likely to get blurred. Unconcerned about her condition, he justified his behaviors by telling her, “If you would do what you’re told, I wouldn’t be forced to discipline you.”

After giving birth to a beautiful baby girl she thought things would improve, the miracle of life renewing itself and all. But they didn’t. With two small children now, Jaclyn felt as if there were no options open to her. Black eyes, busted lips, and bruised body had taken a toll on both heart and spirit. Isolated from family and friends, life had become nothing more than survival.

Hundreds of beatings and two years passed only to find her unhappily pregnant again.   He was sorry–always sorry.  Jaclyn despised her life, fantasized about death, and found hope in the obituaries inspired by the knowledge that death does come eventually. Miserable as she was, she stayed for the love of two children she could never leave behind.

Early one spring morning, one black eye swollen shut, Jaclyn risked calling her parents for help. “You made your bed now you can lay in it!” Her father shouted the words at her before slamming the receiver down. Despair washed over her, agony gripping her insides and buckling her knees. No. Her father saw her pregnancies as “her fault, always the woman’s fault.” Both parents distanced themselves farther away from her. Wallowing in misery, she began hiding money all in hopes of saving enough to pay for a tubal litigation. If it’s the woman’s fault when children are conceived, then the woman has a right to severe her own fertility. During her last prenatal visit, Jaclyn arranged for the procedure, setting plans for future change in motion.

Just days after the birth of her new son, Jaclyn told her husband, “I hate you with every bone in my body.” With powerful fists he slugged her, propelling her across the room like a rag doll. Smiling, she said, “Are you done?” The physical violence escalated. While Jaclyn endured the beatings, she stashed every penny she could. No matter how long it took, she was going to take her children and leave, one way or the other.

The familiar bland look that had begun to spread across her husband’s face looked too smug for her liking, and she felt her anger spike to new highs. With determination born of blinding rage, Jaclyn stood up to him, openly defying his orders. He hit her because he found dust on the coffee table, a dirty dish in the sink, a laundry basket of unfolded clothes. Locked in a silent standoff, tension crackling between them, each one waiting for the other to retreat, a determined Jaclyn stood her ground gripping a roll of pennies in each fist. When her husband threatened to hit her, she gripped both rolls and pounded back. There wasn’t a chance in hell she was backing down–never again. Her children and escape took precedence.

Flipping through a magazine while waiting in the pediatrician’s office,  it fell open to a picture of a battered woman. “This could be me!” All she needed was to look in the mirror for confirmation. What did that mean? Reality seemed to be lying in tatters around her feet, and she didn’t know how to reassemble it. Words on the page sprang out at her: “Domestic violence, sexual assault and emotional abuse are behaviors used by one person in a relationship to control the other…violence can be criminal and include hitting, shoving…Anyone can be a victim!”

Jaclyn had been in an extremely abusive relationship for seven years, never recognizing it for what it was. Gutting it out day after day, her self-esteem, self-confidence and self-worth were destroyed. Resigned to her fate, hate and bitterness warred inside her heart and soul. Withdrawing into herself, she subconsciously built a force field around her, numbing down her emotions to the point where she wasn’t able to feel or think beyond the day-to-day survival. In spite of the abuse, she had stayed for her children.

When the nurse called her back to the examination room, she settled the children and erupted like a volcano. She had to speak out. This was exactly what she had to do. She let her words and her certainty settle into her bones, washing away her fear of sharing secrets, leaving determination in its wake. When the flood of words subsided, silence fell like a blanket over the room. With assistance from the clinic staff, Jaclyn and her children entered a women’s shelter.

Haunted by her violent memories, Jaclyn struggled with depression and anxiety, both clinging to her like lint on a black sweater. Looking at her children, seeing the fear etched in their faces pulled her up, allowing her to rally. The staff connected Jaclyn and her children with support services. Therapy and anger management  classes filled their days. As soon as Jaclyn acquired positive coping skills, the staff assisted her in finding employment, daycare, and housing. Independent now, her family is stronger, more confident.

When asked about her ordeal, Jaclyn encourages other victims to educate themselves about domestic violence. It is possible to change your life–but only you can do that. No one deserves to be emotionally, physically or sexually abused. In her own words, “I found a hero inside myself I never knew was there. I was able to fight back, move forward, and never look back.”

For more information, or for those seeking help in combatting domestic violence, please click here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Debbie A. Heaton has been a licensed therapist for more than twenty-six years with a background in mental health, substance abuse, and domestic violence. Currently working with families and children, she specializes in behavior modification. Heaton is the author of the multiple award winning novel, The Haunting of Wolfe Haven, is a member of both The International Women’s Writing Guild and the Paranormal Romance Guild. Heaton resides in Southeastern Arizona where she enjoys hiking with her dog and reading. She serves on her local Library Advisory Board promoting early childhood literacy.

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