The Face of Domestic Violence
Pain and Denial
When I was eight months pregnant we finally got married -- in a judge's office. Then, after our son was born, Dietrich's business tanked and we had to move in with my mom. After she left for work one morning he said he had overheard us talking about my high school boyfriend and accused me of planning to see him. When I denied it he called me a liar and punched me several times in the face. I fell and the baby started screaming. I had never seen Dietrich this enraged. "Please stop!" I begged hysterically as I tried to reach the baby. He'd calm down and let me nurse the baby, but then he'd explode and come at me again.
At first I had white flashes in front of my eyes and a pounding pressure in my head, but my adrenaline kicked in and I felt dazed and couldn't tell where I'd been hit. Seven long hours later he told me to wash the blood off my face. I thought the nightmare was over, but as soon as I climbed into the tub he came into the bathroom and started choking me under the water until I passed out. I was sure I was going to die. He must have pulled my head out of the water in time because I came to, stumbled out of the bathroom and discovered that he'd taken the baby. By the time I called my sister-in-law to come get me, Dietrich had returned. He had calmed down, told me the baby was at his mother's house and took me to the hospital.
My mom found me in the ER, where they examined my black eyes and bruises. When the doctor asked what happened, I said I fell down a flight of stairs. He didn't ask any more questions and I was released. When we got home, Dietrich had brought back the baby, but my mom made him leave. She called the police the next day, but they said you have to call within four hours of a domestic-violence incident in order for them to make an arrest (the state law has since been changed to 12 hours). That evening Dietrich came over to apologize. He said he'd been drunk the night before. He swore he'd go to Alcoholics Anonymous. He promised we'd go to couples counseling. Three days later I let him back in.
My mom was furious. It's hard to explain how anyone could stay with someone after being hurt like that, but I had convinced myself it was because of the alcohol and that this one incident had gotten out of control. I knew that Dietrich loved me. I wanted to believe he was truly sorry and would never harm me again.