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What People Don't See

The mind behind the bruises

By Tina D'AngeloPublished about a month ago 4 min read
What People Don't See
Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

I recently submitted a rather distasteful story to the manuscripts section of a writer’s site, similar to Medium, planning to expand the story to book length. A memoir of pain and other mistakes. Various responses were received; some puzzled, some troubled, and others understood the message behind the story, which was authentic and recalled vividly in the harshest of terms.

Don’t let my grandmotherly smile fool you. My memory is a stinker. It recalls all the dirty details of my life in living color, and I, as the truth-teller of my family, must share every bit of minutiae. I have always been like this. It’s a sickness, according to my mother, who prefers to keep pain and embarrassing family history moldering in the basement. For me, the act of writing is not a soul-cleansing exercise. It is when my words connect with another abused soul and they tell me they do not feel alone anymore. That is the magic.

This absurd story describes being dragged to an orgy by an abusive boyfriend. I was twenty and he was thirty-three at the time. He had total control over me. Over my body, my travel, my money, and my contact with friends and family. I remained steadfastly snarky and belligerent because that was the only freedom I had. I could quietly go along with him or I could argue and go along with blackened eyes. I always chose the latter.

The irony of this story was that my abuser warned me not to embarrass him at the orgy because he knew the people who would be there. This would have been hysterical if it was fictional. We were going to an orgy to have unprotected sex and do drugs with perverts, but he was in fear of me saying something to embarrass him. What? How bad does someone have to be to embarrass you at an orgy?

I was not a drug taker, so, when urged to take a puff of marijuana, it hit me hard. I remember standing in the bathroom of the home we were at, thinking it was the next day, and it was all over. The rest of the evening was a blur of being passed around, like that joint, and finally, coming to with my boyfriend dragging me off the husband of his girlfriend, who accidentally ended up at the same orgy. What a coincidence.

He wanted to humiliate me by showing me who he was cheating with. I was horrified by my first sight of female genitalia in action and repulsed when he tried to force me to join him with her. He did nothing to me at the time. But for months afterward, I was frequently reminded that I had let him down, and that was why he had to have other women.

Every time he wanted to have other women, he would first beat me so that I’d run out of the apartment to escape his fists. Then, he would be free to bring these women into our bed. I had asked for refuge from so many people in our apartment complex that, eventually, they stopped allowing me to stay with them. I was on my own with whatever I was wearing when he began hitting me — usually in the dead of Winter.

People could see the bruises and cuts. What they could not see was the constant state of anxiety I lived in. Would I have to run away tonight? Tomorrow? The night after? If I ran to a neighbor and banged on their door, would they ignore me or let me in? Not only do abused partners live with constant fight-or-flight anxiety. They live with shame. A deep, intense, burning shame that only abuse survivors understand. I spent years being ashamed of what someone else had done to me.

Friends, family, bystanders, and strangers always commented, “Why don’t you just leave?” They could never understand how completely he owned my life. I had no vehicle. I had no money, as he would scoop up my pay every night I worked. I had no friends who would take me in. No access to help, except when police were called. Then, even the police would tell me I probably wouldn’t stay away, so all they did was postpone another beating. No one ever referred me to a women’s shelter or any other kind of help.

When I attempted suicide to escape, the hospital would send me home with my abuser and enough drugs to kill a herd of elephants, which he would steal and sell. If I ever managed to escape, he promised to find me and kill me or kill my pets. He made good on that promise by running over my dog, Gus, to repay me for running for my life once when I was certain he was going to kill me.

When someone beats you regularly and saps the life out of you, you do what you’re told. If they threaten to kill you when you escape, you believe them. I’m seventy years old and still find myself getting hostile when my actions are questioned, or someone tries to prevent me from going where I’d like to go or doing what I want. Not just a little hostile, but angry, furious. Which is funny to watch, I suppose, because I’m about 4'10" tall. It's sort of like watching an angry munchkin on steroids. And, God help you if you laugh at me.

The anxiety never really goes away completely. The shame, lack of trust, and fury remain with us forever as well. These are the unseen bruises of abuse.

Oh, and just in case, I warn you not to invite me to an orgy, unless you want to be embarrassed.

SecretsTabooEmbarrassmentDatingCONTENT WARNING

About the Creator

Tina D'Angelo

G-Is for String is now available in Ebook, paperback and audiobook by Audible!

G-Is for String: Oh, Canada! and Save One Bullet are also available on Amazon in Ebook and Paperback.

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  • L.C. Schäfer24 days ago

    It is our duty to be uncomfortable. Comfortable people don't effect change ♥️ I'm ashamed for all the people who could have helped you and failed. How many opportunities like that have I missed? I hope he died painfully.

  • Tina, please keep making people uncomfortable. Those are the type of people who look the other way when something awful is happening. They have autonomy, but don’t use it. And as you said, reading this type of thing makes those of us who’ve survived unimaginable trauma feel we are not alone. I think the most lonely feeling is when I talk about my experiences, and I’m met with pity. Some people cannot even fathom what my life has been, and that makes me feel disconnected from them.

  • Jazmine Ambrosiaabout a month ago

    Thank you for sharing. It must've taken a lot of strength and courage to relive those moments and write about it. If no one has told you today, you are strong and beautiful. May you only experience joyful moments and wonderful experiences from this day forward. That is my wish for you :)

  • Lizz Chambersabout a month ago

    Oh my goodness. You poor thing.

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    HE RAN OVER YOUR DOG???!!!!! May he suffer a long, slow, painful death and may he rot in hell after that!!! I too get so furious when people try to tell me what I can and cannot do. Now I understand that it's a trauma response. I was in an abusive relationship too but it wasn't as bad as yours. I'm just so glad it's in your past now. Sending you lots of love and hugs ❤️

  • Lizz Chambersabout a month ago

    The trauma you have experienced is horrible. I do hope you have sought help in dealing with this. Being able to write about my experiences is cathartic, but I have never had to deal with what you have. I admire you for surviving and sharing your story.

  • Mark Gagnonabout a month ago

    Tina, I guess this is called, "telling it like it is." I would imagine your abuser is long dead which has to be somewhat of a relief. I'll never understand why some people feel the need to treat others in such a despicable manner. Glad you can write about it now.

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