Rita Perry


Abused for 15 years
Age: 66


I was in high school when I met my ex, and he was in the U.S. Navy. He was a very sweet and caring young man at the time. We were just two nuts that thought they were in love. Two individuals that thought they had found something, somebody. None of the violent characteristics were displayed during the dating phase of our relationship. When I met him at the military club, it was like a love song. “There’s something bout your love, that makes me weak and knocks me off my feet.” That’s how he made me feel in the beginning. I was totally taken off guard when things changed. Had I known then, what I know now. it was a whole different story. But I am always reminded of Jeremiah 29:11, that God and only God knows the plans for my life.

It was a different time back in 1979, when I was going through domestic violence. There wasn’t a lot of talk about it, or information going out about it. People really didn’t even look at it as domestic violence. It was never labeled as such. You were simply fighting. So, when the fighting started, I stayed. I grew up in a time when people believed in the sanctity of marriage. I believed in marriage, and I wanted my marriage to work at any cost, not realizing that the cost could have been either one of us losing our lives. I had that dream of being in a house with the picket fence and a dog running around in the yard and two kids playing with the dog and the husband coming home from work and me being the wife that greets him at the door. So, I stayed. Besides, I was 800 miles away from home and did not have anywhere else to go. And I didn’t want my mother to know what I was going through.

There are things about my ex that I missed while we were dating, or perhaps I overlooked because things had been so great. When he started raising his voice and his temper got out of hand, I didn’t recognize them as signs of abuse. But it got to the point that I never knew what to expect from him when he came home from work. I never knew which side of him would meet me at the door. Was I going to be knocked across the bed again. Or was I going to be yelled at for no reason? I never knew what mood he was going to be in. When he got home, the house was clean, and food was cooking on the stove. I tried to do everything right. I remember that when it was good, it was good. But when it was bad, it was real bad!

We were married two and a half years before he actually put his hands on me. The first time my ex hit me, I called one of his family members for help. Their response to me was, “What did you do to him?” Those words clammed me up. That individual made me feel like it was my fault. And like I said, I was so far away from home, I didn’t want to worry my mom but eventually I did confide in her. His mother didn’t care for me because she thought I had deliberately trapped her son by getting pregnant which was the farthest thing on my mind.

I don’t know what triggered him to hit me. To this day, I am still trying to figure that out. I remember, I had the car that day. I came in the house and he said something to me. I don’t remember the words of the conversation but I must not have answered the way he thought I should have. And he just hit me. He always said I had a smart mouth. I didn’t think I had one. I didn’t even have a voice in the marriage. The only decisions I was allowed to make were in reference to caring for our children.

The worst of it wasn’t the physical abuse. It was being forced to reside in old house that needed much repairs. We took up residency in an old church that was so rat infested, I believe the rats thought we were invading their privacy. He moved us in because the rent was only $50 per month. I couldn’t keep cereal, and bread out because the pests would get under the cabinets and even on top of the refrigerator, and stove. He showed me in this instance just how much he didn’t love me. To have me in a house like that, just to try to save money. Holes were all through the place. It made me wonder if he even cared about the safety of his own children, with those creatures being in the house. By his actions, he had gotten me to believe that I didn’t deserve anything. I was a wife who was never celebrated for her birthday, anniversaries, holidays or anything. I didn’t think I was worthy. He made me feel like I was nobody and nothing but a bed partner. No matter how hard I tried, nothing was ever good enough. We didn’t do things as a family. I never knew what it was like to go on vacation with him. We didn’t do anything with the kids. No date nights. Nothing! I never knew what those things were. If I ever get married again, it will take some getting used to being celebrated and being put first. I don’t know what that is like.

Though the marriage hadn’t turned out the way I had hoped, my ex was the one who filed for divorce. He did so because he was cheating on me. But he was my husband, and we continued to fool around with each other. The court date was approaching, and we were still intimate with each other. On New Year’s Eve in 1983, we spent the weekend together. And that Tuesday, we were in divorce court. Before entering, he was still telling me how much he loved me and didn’t want to do it.

In the years following, my ex and I saw each other often in passing and at social events at our son’s house. He would try to find me to speak. But I did my best to avoid him as much as possible because being in his presence changed my environment. When I would see him and his wife pull up, I’d either go into the house or hide in a room where they couldn’t find me. I wouldn’t even speak to him if I could help it. I But I believe it was January 2010 or 2012, He came to our son’s home and I used that moment to talk in private to let him know that I had forgiven him. Which we sealed with a hug. I needed to do that for myself more than for him. Up until then I was satisfied with… Well, like people say, “Be satisfied with the apology you may never get.” I was, but as a Christian woman, I knew I needed to apologize for me. So, I did. I don’t know if he has truly changed but I hope so. All I know is that I had to move on and heal.

Looking back, my mom knew something. She kept telling me, even the week of the wedding, “You do not have to marry him. It will be tight, but we will take care of this baby, together.” And she kept repeating that to me. As I got older, and as I began to go through the process of allowing God to heal me, my mind always goes back to that. I wondered, “What did my mama know? What did my mama see that I couldn’t see?” Later I found out that my mother had been abused as well. She saw what I didn’t see because she had been through it before. While I was blinded by so-called love, she saw straight through him. I wish I had listened to her back then, but hindsight is twenty twenty.

Thinking about my whole experience of domestic violence, I recognize that, concerning my ex, it was a learned behavior. I don’t think anybody wakes up and decides, today I’m going to become an abuser. Today, I’m going to go beat somebody. I believe these are behaviors that men and women were introduced to as children. And because people may not have known that their son or daughter was going through these domestic violence situations, they become generational curses, flowing from one generation to the next. Partially to blame is society creating environments where no one is wanting to talk about these things or face them. Instead, we push these topics under the rug and remain in a state of denial.

When I think of domestic violence as a whole and what it means to me, I realize it’s such a loaded question. But I could only aptly compare domestic violence to cancer. To me, domestic violence is another form of cancer because victims are just like patients, both are fighting to survive and at any given opportunity they can both succumb to their deceivers. Victims and patients sometimes want to say to death, “Go ahead and do what you have to do.” And they may stop fighting and give in and that can cause them both to lose their life. DV victims can lose their life just as well as a cancer patient can give up on life. However, even during the four stages of cancer, as a patient and a victim we have to realize, “I can beat this!” DV victims have an opportunity to realize that first, I’ve got to come out of denial. Second, that somebody needs to know that I’m in this. Because we have the tendency as victims of domestic abuse to not want anybody to know what we are going through, whether it’s because of our standing in society, status, or whatever the reason. We’ve got to let somebody know so that we can have someone fighting with us and for us. Because sometimes we are not fighting for ourselves, we need somebody to step in and fight for us. Even in the face of the deadliest stage four cancers, people give up on us. Professionals give up on us. Our family members give up on us. When everybody gives up on us, we just can’t give up on ourselves. Most cancer patients now, who are able to beat the odds, just like with domestic violence victims, you know you can’t give up. When you don’t give up on yourself and you look into the eyes of your beautiful children, you know you can’t give up on them. So, you begin to fight! And when I say fight, I don’t mean you fight them back. You call the police. You let that joker know, “Hey, I ain’t taking this. Enough is enough! One of us got to go and it ain’t gone be me!!”

You get yourself a support group and you get them involved in what’s going on. Because if not, he will isolate you from everything and everybody. Without educating your support group, no one will know what was going on with you until you’re stretched out in a casket. Make everybody aware of what’s going on. Every time that joker looks at you, he needs to see your brother’s face. He needs to see your father’s and your mother’s faces. But most of all, he needs to see the face of Jesus. That abuser needs to see the support of your family members and the only way for him to know that you have support is for you to tell your story.

I would like to thank Visible Hope and Dell Mitchell for creating this platform which allows me to continue to walk in victory on my path of healing. Healing does not happen overnight. There are different steps in the process. You have to forgive yourself and you have to forgive the individual. This platform allows me to share my story in hopes that someone else will be encouraged to say, “Hear me. Here am I! You shared yours. Can I share mine? Because I need you. I need somebody to hear me. I need somebody to walk me through the same process because I’m tired. I’m getting out of this and I’m getting out of it with my life!” Healing is painful but at the end of it all, you’ll look back knowing it was all worth it.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top