He didn’t deserve our respect

Several victims of domestic abuse have shared their stories with me, and with our readers here at This is LaVergne. But what about from the point of view of someone who sees it happening, but unable to do anything to stop it. Jacqueline’s mom shared her story as the parent of a woman who faced verbal, emotional and physical abuse.

How could you first tell that something wasn’t right in your daughter’s relationship?

Early on he started isolating Jacqueline from her family and friends. My husband and I started noticing that she no longer drove her own car. We would question her about it and she would get angry and cry. We paid for her insurance and knew that he was an unlicensed driver. If he was driving and wrecked, our insurance would not cover it and we were concerned that we could be held personally liable for injury or damage. We told her we were going to cancel her insurance if he continued to drive the car. Many months later, he finally got his driver’s license, but by then she had already been ticketed for not having auto insurance.

He was homeless when they first started dating. We heard his mother had kicked him out of her house the minute he turned 18 – just a few months shy of high school graduation. We thought that just wasn’t normal, but as his abusive behavior began to show itself and to escalate, we realized it was because he was quite likely a danger to her and her other children.

Unfortunately because he was homeless, we had already allowed him to move in with us while he looked for a job and another place to live. Evidently his job was to live off our daughter.

They did move out and find another place together?

Yes, they rented an awful trailer in Murfreesboro and he quickly turned it into a flop house. That is, he let many of his other homeless friends came to stay (or flop overnight). It was after this that we started seeing the bumps and bruises on her. When we questioned her, the answers we got were typical of a victim. She hit her head on a cabinet door or bumped into a wall.  But we knew abuse was going on.

They had a child together. What was that like?

We didn’t get to see a lot of Jacqueline during the pregnancy. Usually we only saw her when she asked for money or food, which we gave so she and the unborn baby could be healthy. But the boyfriend was a complete jerk throughout her pregnancy. He actually told us that he wouldn’t let us take care of his daughter after she was born because we had already spoiled our grandson too much and he didn’t want his child to be spoiled like that. That completely pissed me off because there was nothing wrong with my grandson other than he was a baby and a toddler. But I later learned he had told Jacqueline that he didn’t want his child near us because he didn’t want the baby to grow up to be like our daughter – as if she was bad or damaged. I hated him beyond words.

When she went into labor, I went to the hospital and brought him food because I knew he didn’t have money to eat. Right after the baby was born, I got to see her in the nursery. Unfortunately I had to leave before I could hold her because my grandson – her first child – was sick, throwing up all over the house, and crying for his grandma. They were angry at me for leaving, but I tried to return early the next morning to see Jacqueline and the baby.  My daughter’s boyfriend refused to allow me to visit her. When I told my daughter I was coming anyway, she cried and said it would be easier if I just didn’t. I waited an hour and went anyway. He was definitely controlling her, but also trying to control her entire family. He was a dreadful person.

What’s completely ironic is that while we really didn’t get to see our granddaughter a lot during the first few months of her life, after some time he figured out how much work it was to raise an infant. When my daughter went to work, he slowly but steadily refused to watch his own child. We ended up babysitting her nearly every day my daughter worked while he stayed home to smoke and drink. We were okay with it because with us at least we knew the grand-baby was not in harm’s way.  Both our grandchildren have always been safe with us.

How did he also try to control her family?

When he came to our house, he would never sit down at the table and eat with us. Never. Not even at Thanksgiving. He’d sit sullenly in the other room. One time he started screaming at my husband and called him an ugly old fat bitch. He’s lucky I wasn’t home at the time because I would have probably shoved my foot up his ass so far that my toes would have come out his ear. My husband told him to leave the house and get off our property.

He often had Jacqueline ask us for money. He refused to work. The handful of times he did have a job, it would last three to four days, tops. He always had an excuse as to why he was fired. The most memorable one is he parked his car in the wrong spot and they fired him for that. Everyone was out to get him and everyone owed him something.

I drove Jacqueline and him to an appointment once. On the way home, he started ranting and raging about how my husband and I didn’t show him any respect. He didn’t deserve our respect and if that’s what he craved from us, I guarantee that wish of his will never be granted.

One time he was screaming at our daughter in our front yard. I was at work and my husband called and told me to get ready to call the police if he texted me. Five minutes later, he texted “Call.”  The police showed up and escorted him off our property. As it turned out he was right in my daughter’s face screaming at her while also screaming at my husband … for videotaping him while he was verbally assaulting my daughter. Then the loser spit in Jacqueline’s face. He spit in my daughter’s face. The police said because he didn’t actually touch her, they couldn’t arrest him – even though they saw video of him spitting. Personally I’d like to know if the police would have arrested him if he had spit in THEIR face.

What else did you see?

Besides our grandson always telling us that he hated him, we also saw bruises on our daughter. We saw a black eye. I saw hand-print and finger pressure bruises on her arms. I saw bruises on her chest. I saw so much that it made me sick to my stomach. I was enraged. I called my police friends and they gave me advice on how she could get help and how to get an order of protection. There was a safety net in place, but it had to be my daughter to make the decision to leave. It always had to be her decision.

Why do you think she didn’t break up with him with all that going on?

I don’t know. I’ve never walked in her shoes, so I can’t answer that.  And because Jacqueline was over 18 years old, all we could do was to be there for her. We told her she could always come back home. Just she and the kids could come and that he was not welcome. We told her she had an army of family and friends who would be there to protect her. One time, my daughter’s husband (they were separated at the time and are now divorced) skidded into our driveway, got out of his car, and knocked the abuser to the ground. Evidently the creep had also been sending hate messages to my grandson’s father telling him he was more of a father to his son than he was. I have to say I quite enjoyed witnessing that because both my husband and I are nonviolent, but we knew – WE KNEW – the abuser deserved to get some back of what he was dishing out to a woman.

What’s next?

My daughter made a dramatic escape from him on May 25th this year. She had returned home from work on Friday night and went to bed instead of coming to my house to pick up the children. I am so grateful for that now because the babies were safe. She asked me to bring the kids to her the next morning. Unknown to me as I was driving over with the kids, she had quickly put her escape plan in place after he threatened to smash in her head with a huge television set.  She planned to hop in the car with me when I got there in order to get away from him, and then tell him she was done.  Fortunately, though, in his own anger he had stormed out of the house without the car keys so she was able to grab her essentials and drove away in her own car. As she got into her car, she mouthed, “Follow me!”  Since I can’t read lips, she called my cell and in a louder-than-normal voice said, “I left him! Drive away!”  The children were still safely buckled in their car seats, so I followed her. It was glorious.

Since that day and that moment, my daughter’s transformation has been remarkable. Within minutes of leaving him, her entire persona changed. She was suddenly laughing again. She suddenly had a future again. She is returning to college and starts classes this week. She jokes with us. She spends time with us and spends even more time with her children. I really felt we had the kids so much because she didn’t want them around him, but now she spends nearly every free moment she has with them. And they have returned her love tenfold. They play with her and giggle. It’s so heart-warming to me.

My daughter is also so much more cautious with men. She shares a lot with me now and it looks like she has taken my advice in that the next time she is interested in someone, do not walk away from a man who shows the first sign of an abusive personality – RUN.  She has blossomed from a sad, angry person to a confident, smart, take-no-shit woman.  I have no doubt that there will always be ups and downs for her, but her life can now be one of boundless joy.

What would you say to other parents who suspect their children are in a domestic violence relationship?

Be there for them and make sure they know you are there. Shout it from the mountaintop if you must. Talk to your local law enforcement officials and let them know what’s going on so they can keep their eyes on the situation. Don’t get pushed out of your child’s life no matter how abhorrently you are treated. You may be the only trail of crumbs they can follow when they are lost that will lead them back to safety. You may be the string they are holding onto for survival.

You just feel so helpless, but you have to show your child that you are strong for them. Make sure they know that you are always an advocate on their behalf.  They should know that they will always have a safe place in your home and in your life. Speak words of encouragement. Always try to bolster their self-esteem. I often told my daughter that she deserved to be happy and that she deserved someone who loved her no matter what.

Our goal to find that happy ending for her is finally within reach. And it will be hers.

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