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    Hiding behind a smile



    Story by Debra Thompson 

    General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital

    October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a topic many don’t like to talk about. For many it carries shame and guilt but it’s time more people share their story and this is mine.
    After college I moved to Hawaii with my boyfriend. That decision changed my life forever. My once loving boyfriend began to call me fat. He began to monitor my phone calls. He forced me to cut off all communication with one of the most important people in my life. He began to berate me on a daily basis.
    I was isolated on a beautiful island. He broke my spirit down and convinced me he was the only one who cared about me. He asked me to marry him, I said yes. I was afraid if I said no the verbal abuse would escalate to physical.
    In December I made the decision to join the Army because it was my only way off the island and away from him. I left for basic training in February. He packed all our belongings and moved to Maryland while I was still in training. He threw every picture away that I had from college and high school. He watched my every move from afar. He convinced me to see him when I was able to and even convinced me to get married. I think he thought if we were married he could dictate what I did.
    He wanted to control me and I let him. He had me completely brainwashed into thinking I was nothing without him. That I needed him. That no one else would ever want me. He hadn’t laid a hand on me, yet.
    We moved to Kentucky and that’s when it went from verbal to physical. He didn’t like that I was working with men, let alone covering stories about infantry units. Because as we all know, women in the military are only in the military to “screw around.” Those were his words.
    He began hitting me shortly after I started doing the air assault obstacle course. See the obstacle course caused a lot of bruising so the ones he left didn’t seem out of the ordinary. He never hit my face. He focused on my arms, legs, back and stomach where I had bruising already from the different obstacles.
    One day I blew dried my hair to go car shopping with one of my girlfriends. That was a big no-no. What I experienced that day was one of the worst of my life. The yelling, throwing the blow dryer across the bathroom, pulling my hair so hard my scalp hurt for days. Needless to say I didn’t go car shopping.
    Another time I was going out front to talk on the phone. Again that was a big no-no. Next thing I hear and see is a beer bottle hitting the wall a few inches from my head. I was sure this was going to be the day I didn’t see tomorrow. But something stopped him. I don’t know if it was a noise outside or the tears running down my face, or the way I was couched in the corner with my hands over my head.
    No one knew. I smiled and didn’t say anything to anyone.
    This went on for about a year until he went to basic training and then to Officer Candidate School. He had to one-up me I guess. While he was gone I made the decision that I wasn’t going to become a statistic. I was better than this.
    He came home and I attempted to leave. I got in my car as fast as I could but it wasn’t fast enough. He reached into the car with his right hand and grabbed the passenger side headrest. His arm was pressed against my neck. I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t breathe. He didn’t let go of the headrest.
    I don’t remember how long he held me down. I don’t remember what he was saying to me while he held me down. I remember the warmth of my tears. I remember closing my eyes.
    I don’t remember how the cops got to the house. I remember being questioned and made to feel as if I were to blame. I remember showing them the bruises. I remember them telling me to get my stuff and leave.
    They told me to leave. They let him stay. Nothing ever happened to him.
    A few people knew what was going on after that day. It took me a while to find the courage to tell my parents bits and pieces of the hell I went through. I was embarrassed. Ashamed.
    To this day I react when someone puts their hands near my neck. He changed who I was as a person. He took something from me that I will never get back. He ruined me. He is the reason I don’t trust easily or why I don’t let people get too close to me.
    I still fear him. 16 years later I still fear him.
    Hiding behind a smile is what I do best. Maybe someday I’ll be whole again.



    Date Taken: 10.18.2018
    Date Posted: 12.18.2018 11:13
    Story ID: 296884
    Location: FORT LEONARD WOOD, MO, US 

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