Hannah is continuing to tell her story of redemption, today. Part one can be found, here.
Two months after my decision to leave Butler, I would meet a man who would come to me in the perfect disguise. A pastor, a man who would claim to love and accept me, despite all of my brokenness. A man who would seem to be a gift from God.
A man who didn’t just want my body.
We began dating, and within a whirlwind of 9 months we would be married. In my naive mind I saw this whirlwind romance being things fairy tales are made of… not nightmares. My husband would take the broken pieces of who I was as a result of the rape, and break them even more over the following three and a half years.
The control and manipulation started early in our relationship. I had blinders on to all of the red flags. He convinced me that my family was going against God by voicing concerns about us getting married. I was forced to move out of my parent’s house and into his parent’s house prior to our wedding; cutting all contact off between me and my family was a red flag. My family was not allowed at our wedding. My mom wouldn’t get to go wedding dress shopping with me, and my dad didn’t get to walk me down the aisle. I was blinded by what I believed was true love, and I did whatever he told me to do in order to keep his love.
Once we were married things escalated very quickly. It would feel like the walls were caving in on me, but I couldn’t escape because I wouldn’t ever get a divorce… Love was meant to endure, not give up… so that’s what I did.
Early on I endured the comments about what I was allowed to wear, or how my hair should look. His opinion was of utmost importance to me, and I wanted to do everything I could to make sure he wasn’t ashamed to be married to me. He would spend long nights drinking, stumbling to bed at 5am. Yet yell at me for being upset and tell me I needed to learn to be more independent. One night he would get so drunk I would have to try carrying him up to our bed, and at 6’5”, 200lbs, that was no easy task. That would be the first of many nights I would spend silently crying myself to sleep wondering how this could be love.
Things began to escalate. He moved us 2 hours away from anyone I knew, and the isolation began. I was told who I could be friends with. It was a short list. The isolation from my family continued, as he would begin monitoring my phone logs to ensure I wasn’t sneaking away to call them. I was expected to bring him dinner on a tray every evening, and he had to be served before I was allowed to get my own food. He would begin abusing our dog, becoming more and more aggressive with her. His time as a pastor would end because he would be kicked out of 6 different churches, and his ordination would be pulled due to his violent behavior. The isolation was so real that I truly thought that this was how a “good wife” was supposed to act, and I would do anything to try to keep his love no matter how much it hurt.
The next level was reached. Degrading comments about my appearance escalated into weekly weigh-in’s in, during which I was ridiculed for being too fat if I didn’t hit his weight goal. He would pinch certain areas on my body while I was on the scale and tell me that was why he wasn’t attracted to me anymore. The abuse towards our dog escalated into attempts at killing her when I wasn’t around, followed by detailed explanations of what he did to try to kill her and how upset he was that he didn’t succeed… and no matter how much I screamed for him to stop telling me, he’d just keep going.
But still, I didn’t leave him. He had convinced me that I was unlovable and that who I was would never be enough for anyone. I was convinced this vicious, abusive nightmare was the best thing I would ever have.
And yet, things got worse. He’d get upset at our dog in the middle of the night and when I tried to calm him down he would come after me, pinning me against the dresser and later telling me he wasn’t actually going to hit me… he just wanted to scare me. He would “teach me self defense” by pinning me to the ground and not letting me move no matter how much I screamed and begged for him to let me go. An argument in the middle of the grocery store would escalate when we got to our car, and while I was driving us home he would throw my car into neutral while grabbing the steering wheel causing me to lose control and wind up on the curb. He jumped out of the car and walked home… and I remember getting home and believing he was going to kill me, and figuring out where the most visible place would be so when he did kill me, at least maybe the neighbors would see…