The separation was two months before that day she went to meet her soon to be ex-husband at his motel room. She brought their infant son along for the visit. She asked about child support. “You’ll be lucky if you get fifty dollars!” he said. Suddenly furious, her husband picked up the playing baby and threatened to take him away. The husband became violent as she reached for the baby and she feared the child would be hurt in the struggle. Then her husband pushed her onto the bed, grabbed her neck and began to strangle her. Frightened and gasping she tried to fight back. He told her he would kill her and no one would find her. She continued her fight reaching for the baby only to be kicked into a night stand where her husband’s hand tightened around her neck once again. Finally, she broke free and rescued her baby but not before being pushed into a radiator. Clutching the baby she reached the door and ran outside. The husband wasn’t far behind. The woman noticed a man and hoped he would see her and help. “I will tell that man to call the police!” she said. The husband didn’t care and continued to swear and threaten. She made it to her car but couldn’t move fast enough to properly put the baby in his seat and lock the doors. This gave the husband a chance to open the door and try to grab the baby. Miraculously, his attempt failed. She and the baby were finally safe in the car with the doors locked. The husband backed away as she started the car. She sped away sobbing. Some would probably think this was a scene from a movie. But it was the horrific reality of a woman named Bella who in secret courageously survived physical and verbal abuse from her ex-husband.
The Fairy Tale and the Con Artist
“He was the knight in shining armor at first” says Bella. “He made me feel safe.” Bella was brought up in a household where they attended church several days out of the week. Although she showed respect for their beliefs, she felt like she was different from her family. “With my family everything is either in black or white” she says. They are conservative and religious; she likes the mystique of unicorns and has an admiration of tattoos and piercings. Bella also refers to herself as a “free spirit” often choosing to see the good in people. So it’s not a surprise she fell in love with a man who charmed his way into her life. He came into where she worked one day and they started a conversation. “He kept coming to my job to see me” she says. Not long after they began dating. Soon Bella was caught up in a whirlwind romance completely unaware of the other women or the children he fathered. “Everything seemed fine” she says. She trusted him and after three months of courtship they were married.
“It will never happen again.”
Bella found early that she was pregnant and was excited to become a mom. The excitement was sadly interrupted when one day she was alone at her home not feeling well. Later that day she miscarried. Devastated, she went into a depression and “Didn’t get out of the bed for a week.”
The first occurrence of abuse began one month after the marriage. Bella’s husband became angry and shoved her into a wall and she ended up leaving for a few hours. He wrote a letter apologizing and promising it would “never happen again.” The plea for the reconciliation continued as he showered her with gifts of “shoes and purses” and a date out to dinner. Being loyal to her marriage Bella forgave him.
Bella says her husband was “very impulsive” so they moved often. The physical and verbal abuse continued throughout their marriage and with each move. “He would become angry and scream in my face” she says. “Today, I can’t be in a room with a man if he shouts, it scares me.” When her husband lost his job he never explained what happened. In need of a place to stay they moved in temporarily with his father. Bella got a job to support them and learned of her husband’s alcoholism. He said “hateful things” telling her she was “disgusting, fat and ugly.” “He would say things like,” “This is what you chose and you have to make it better.” “One time he threw a beer bottle at my head” she says. She also recalled a particular time when he was in a rage “I remember sitting on that couch ready to die” she says. “He never left a bruise so I felt like it wasn’t bad because other women had been killed. I just felt like it wasn’t fair for me to be upset.” Bella kept the abuse hidden from family and the only person who knew was of her friends.
Bella learned that she was expecting another baby. “I wanted this baby so bad.” she says. Since age fifteen she struggled with diabetes. So during the pregnancy she worked hard on becoming healthier, losing weight and trying to exercise. Unfortunately, she suffered another painful miscarriage. Bella confided in her mother about the losses. “My Mom has always been there for me” she says. “I asked my Mom, what is wrong with me and why does God hate me?” Although the miscarriages were beyond her control, she somehow felt responsible. “I felt like I wasn’t good enough to be a mom” she says.
The Big Wish and the Tiny Miracle
The day before Thanksgiving Bella found out she was pregnant again. During that time her husband found a job and was on the road for the holidays. She didn’t reveal the baby news until Christmas day when she shared it with her family. “I was so happy that he wasn’t there,” she says. “I had my family around me and he wasn’t there to ruin that happiness.” Months later Bella gave birth to a son. Overjoyed, she was finally a Mother. Her husband was absent for most of her hospital stay. “My Mom was there the whole time” she says. Being on the road kept Bella’s husband away for months at a time. When he was not working, the abuse continued and when needed he was never present. “I always did everything by myself “Bella says. When she had gall bladder surgery after the birth of her son, she was unable to take care of the baby. She had to rely on her mother and sister to help with her recovery as well as help with the child.
“It’s kind of your fault.”
Bella received a call from her husband saying he wanted a divorce and a confession that he was cheating on her. “He said, “You got fat and I couldn’t bear the thought to have to touch you. It’s kind of your fault.” “I blamed myself” she says. They separated and then there was the incident in the motel room.
After Bella left the motel she called her parents who advised her to contact the police. She drove to local restaurant and there she filed the police report. She obtained a Protection Order soon after. As of late, Bella’s ex-husband has not tried to contact her.
“I went through life feeling like I wanted to die; now I want to live.”
Bella is happily raising her son. She also has a job she enjoys. “I love my job. They gave me a chance and gave me my life back” she says.
Bella is in a relationship and describes him as “amazing.” He is a huge part of her son’s and her life. She is very happy but has moments of questioning her own self- worth. “I feel like I am not worthy,” she says. “He works every day to make me feel worthy. He makes me happy and makes me feel secure.” For the future Bella hopes to someday get married and to have more children. What keeps her going on the toughest days is her son. “He’s the only reason I got out of there… the only thing I live for” she says. “He saved my life and if I didn’t have him, I don’t know if I’d be here.”
Anyone who is experiencing physical or verbal abuse Bella says she would tell them, “Anything that’s happening is not your fault. The person is not going to change, that is who he is. Leave and make your life better. Even if you don’t have a family anybody can help you with the situation.”
Bella no longer chooses to hide the trauma she experienced or blame herself. “I came out a stronger person” she says. “It’s not something I should be ashamed of. I am who I am with all the issues and flaws.” She still looks for the good in people and appreciates what she has today hoping to pass those traits on to her son.
Through telling her emotional story, Bella holds on to her positive spirit; never allowing what happened in her life to take away her happiness. “I want people to know you can always love. You can find happiness. I have somebody who loves me and I deserve that.”