Survivor Story: The Abuse in My Childhood Home Primed Me for Abuse as a Young Military Wife
Written by: BTSADV Survivor
Growing up in a home of emotional and physical abuse led me on a three-year journey that taught me valuable life lessons. I look back now on those three years of my life and see the strength that I never knew I had. I see my bravery in maintaining my resilience, and I find myself impressed by that young woman who took those chances.
I grew up in a Persian American home raised by a mother and father who met each other through a Persian newspaper ad. My mother was 28 and unmarried, and she wanted to get out of her controlling parent’s house. My father has been married three times, one for papers and two for money. The first woman, he said, wasn’t a virgin, so he divorced her as soon as he found out.
We grew up below poverty level. My dad worked all day as a waiter, and my mother was a stay at home mom. I was raised around daily violence and insults; he emotionally tore two innocent children apart. We ate the worst food and lived in many insect-infested ghetto apartments. Just an average childhood, right? Plates and other things were regularly thrown against the wall. Both my brother and I were diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
It was normal for my father to rip up drawings I made, spit on my face, and call me a whore – even when I just five years old. My mother, who would tell me I needed a nose job when I was ten, accused me of going to sex parties if I wanted to wear short sleeves in the summertime. The woman who forced me to drive her everywhere – even if it meant missing classes – didn’t do a thing to stop my father.
He would come home from work reeking of alcohol and use my body as a punching bag at night. He’d wake up and call me a cunt, throw off the covers when I had a fever, and tell me that if I didn’t go to school, he’d show up and tell the vice principal to announce to the high school that I – and I quote – “shit my pants.” This actually happened once. He came to high school after threatening me to not watch television too loud at night. (He’d actually call the police for the same reason.) My father would come to my high school, and the principle would pull me in and have hours of conversations with me <insert expectations here> on how to be a better, daughter, student, or person.
I ended up dropping out for health reasons. I was so happy about it. The anxiety I’d get about going home, and the suicidal thoughts were too much for me to continue any longer in that chamber of hell that was my high school. The year that should have been my senior year but was spent working full time to support myself was when I met a guy who would end up breaking my nose. The man changed my life forever and has never apologized for it to this day. And I was just 17.
He was home for his break from the Airforce visiting his friends and family who lived in the same town that I lived in. We met through mutual friends. I had never been in a relationship before meeting him. I lost my virginity only six months before meeting my ex-husband. I was 18 the first time and only had sex once. He was my second time, and it was only a few days after meeting that I gave him my virginity in the back seat of my car in a park. I thought it was magic. I later found out from our mutual friends he said he thought it would have been better.
Upon hearing that I made it my life’s mission to be great at sex. I did everything I could to impress him if I ever got a chance to sleep with that tall, nice guy I met when he was visiting for his two- week break from the Airforce. That I did. We ended up flirting long distance, which then led to a full-blown relationship. He’d visit on weekends, or I’d drive to Virginia where he was stationed, and we’d have sex in his one-bed dorm room. I thought my life was forever going to be amazing after this. When I was younger, I’d stare out my window and fantasize about one day having a husband who was also my best friend; we’d do everything together. I always wanted my husband to be my best friend and travel life partner. No one would have expected – especially me – that he wasn’t that guy for me.
After saying “I love you” over the phone, experiencing relationship milestones and intimacy, he told me his deepest secrets. He shared that he was molested when he was a small boy by his babysitter, and his mother tried to sell him and both of his sisters to a woman so she could live childfree with her boyfriend. We were both fucked up, and that’s what I loved about us.
Growing up where I did, I only ever knew tough gang members. I never thought that I’d actually get to date a guy with a job who wasn’t in a gang. My parents told me I wasn’t good enough, and my mother begged me to never have children because they’d “ruin my life. He said he wanted kids with me. He asked me to marry him six months into dating, and I said yes.
Our marriage at city hall was quick and expedited by the courts because he was going to be stationed in Japan. I was going to live with him. However, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind me staying and getting my high school diploma. It was always my dream to one day have a good job and be able to leave the “hood.” He said it was okay but that I was a bad wife for wanting to be alone, even if it was only for a few months. I didn’t understand why he wasn’t okay with that. He was controlling. I see that now and years ago I realize the things I thought were normal at 18 weren’t so normal after all.
I wasn’t allowed to look another man in the eyes, or God forbid talk to one. According to him, only whores had male friends. At the time, this mentality was normal where I’m from, so I didn’t mind. If I wanted to go out by myself, it had to be with a certain friend of his. They were best friends. My abuser’s friend was also allowed to tell me what to do. They were both in charge of my thoughts, my whereabouts, and my wardrobe. I think the first time my abuser slapped me across the face, his friend was present. I remember a silent pride when he saw my first black eye.
Yes, he was abusive. He was emotionally and physically abusive, which I thought was just a part of life. You have to understand that growing up in extreme poverty, we didn’t meet many people. My mother had social phobias, so we stayed inside much of our lives. My dad worked two waiter jobs for 16 hours a day, so I would go weeks without ever even seeing him.
Perhaps this is why the long distance relationship never bothered me. During my abuser’s time in Virginia – prior to us marrying – he slept with a co-worker. According to him, got HPV from her. He then gave me HPV, which back then wasn’t so normal. Now, we know that over 85% of all women have HPV. Back then I had my cervix cryo-therapied two times.
I took him back several more times after his infidelity. We married in a courtroom with my one friend as a witness. Shortly afterward, he deployed to Japan. The infidelity continued for one year. He didn’t consider it cheating because he was overseas.
After completing my education, I was set to be with him in Japan. My mother told me I was ruining her life because she was scared of my father, and if I left, she would die. I was raised with guilt. My mother would often tell my brother and me that we ruined her life. It was clever because it would get us to stop running around like kids and instead sit in front of the TV. I ended up staying out of guilt for another few months.
This enraged my ex-husband. He said he was single and cut off my supply of money. See, if you’re married in the military, you get a doubled paycheck. This is why so many young people in the military get married. This was illegal, of course, and he had no choice but to leave the joint checking account we had open.
During our marriage, his friend Courtney molested me in a car. He choked me and told me not to say anything. I confided in my then-husband, which only lead to an hour of being beaten up by him.
I flew to Japan on a whim. I wanted to beg him to take me back after he telephone divorced and ignored me for weeks. He told me over the phone he was going to sleep with every woman he met. I only begged him to use condoms out of fear. I knew that if he got another STD, it could be worse. I arrived in Japan, and I called him.
Things were actually okay for about three weeks. We got used to being around each other again, and we’d go grocery shopping together. He let me meet his friends and life was pretty darn good. At the time I thought to myself, “Wow! I could lead a great little life just being a military wife and mom!”
He wanted kids early, and I had to do whatever he said. I also wasn’t allowed to wear makeup. I find that funny because when he would emotionally abuse me, he made fun of the way I looked a lot. He called me “big nose” or names of characters from movies like Pinocchio, etc. Sometimes, he showed me texts from his guy friends where there would make fun of me. That broke my heart. I just felt like, “Oh, another person making fun of me, just like my parents and everyone else that bullied me did.” I never really had friends, and I always felt ugly. He only reiterated that to me over and over and over again.
While living in Japan, things got bad with cheating again. I’d find him talking to women online through MySpace, and I read the messages. I found out they were women here in Japan he’d actually slept with. I also read through his messages and found out that the cheating never stopped.
One day, when I was ironing his clothes for him, I accidentally spilled water on his military clothes. He grabbed me by the back of my head and slammed my face against the ground over and over again until my nose was shattered internally. I called 911 after he threatened me not to. He went to work and warned me not to go out until my face healed.
I didn’t listen. I knew if I didn’t seek medical attention I could die of internal bleeding. I told the medical staff what happened. I made the mistake of saying, “I’m going to be honest; I hit him back.” We were physically fighting, and I was saving my life. I was sure they would know it was self-defense.
They arrested me. Handcuffed, I was shoved and thrown in the back of a black SUV and escorted to a holding cell by the military police. I was interrogated for over four hours, and so was he. They grabbed him from his job and arrested him also. I later found out this wasn’t even real, and these weren’t actual charges. It’s still unfair to me that they can essentially run on their own system of laws. I had no reason to be arrested, interrogated, and handcuffed! I even knew back then that this was wrong. Even me – the woman who was told her entire childhood she was useless, ugly, stupid, and worthless – knew this wasn’t right.
He never faced charges, and the entire thing was a blip on their radar. I returned home, and the violence only worsened after that. To this day, I’m still unsure of how long I lived in Japan. It’s as though my mind isn’t willing to keep forcing me to go back to that scary place. Still, flashbacks often still happen especially in the middle of the night. I’m 32 now. This was 12 years ago. I still remember his hands on my throat and his cruel words making fun of how ugly I was and telling me no one would ever love me.
The only reason I left the country was because I was forced to.
One day, after being up for 24 hours straight, my cries were loud enough for someone to call the military police. The night before, he was trying to make me swallow a bottle of alcohol meant to treat cuts. He kept telling me he wanted to fuck whoever he wanted, and the only way was to try to get me to kill myself. I assume it was a neighbor who called the police. They came in and deprecated to us for what happened.
I was assigned a personal counselor who was a woman. She was nice enough. I remember her telling me it was unfair of me to ask my ex-husband to be nice to me, because “he’s married to the military first and you second.” Her job was to train me to realize that my ex-husband’s duty was to be in the Airforce, and mine was to make him happy.
We went to court several times and once stood in front of what seemed like 100 people in uniforms after another violent outburst by my ex. They said the charges were dismissed and asked me if I was all right with that. In front of everyone, I blurted out “That’s it? You’re not even going to take a stripe away?!” Gasps ensued. My counselor told me that I was wrong to say what I said. I was proud for standing up for myself.
After more months of violence and humiliation, this was it: the turning point. The head of Airforce actually told me I had to leave the country. My ex-husband, however, was allowed to stay and serve. Nothing ever happened to him. After breaking my nose and physically and emotionally abusing me for months, and after all my pleas for my counselor to help me, what finally got me to leave was an older man who said I had to leave the base and Japan. He said I was not allowed to return to the island ever again. My abuser never faced any justice for his crimes against me.
This is my story. Every single word of it is accurate and true. If I could change anything about my life back then, I would wish I that could have been strong enough to press charges. I hope my story gives someone out there the strength to do so if a man ever puts their hands on you. If someone ever rapes, threatens, or abuses you, say something.
**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page.
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