Vignette: Even Without His Knife, My Abuser Still Hunts Me
The most dangerous and frightening time for a victim of abuse is when she tries to escape from her abuser.
I pace the floor of my office, waiting for a security guard to arrive. It seems to be taking forever. I briefly consider walking to my car alone, but quickly decide that’s not a risk I want to take. My abuser is out there, and he is hunting me. I am not safe.
It’s been a couple of days since I told him that this is the end; that I won’t let him abuse me any longer. Despite my fear, I’d managed to follow through with the plan I’d been rehearsing for weeks: I read him my speech, told him goodbye, then did everything I could to block him from my life. That last part of my plan has failed miserably. He’s emailed, called my office, and stalked the hospital grounds where I work. He managed to leave a message on my cell by calling from someone else’s number, and what he said replays over and over again in my mind. Hidden just behind his thinly veiled threats was the clear statement that he doesn’t believe that any of this is up to me. He is in charge and he’ll make sure I pay the consequences for my betrayal.
I’ve lived in constant fear of this man for over a year, but this is truly the most scared I’ve ever been. I know his threats, anger, and violence all too well, and my mind is filled with the possibilities of what he might do if he manages to corner me. Every time my phone buzzes, I hear footsteps behind me, or there is a sudden knock at my door, I am terrified that this time it’s him.
As I wait for the security guard to show up, I start to think about the knife buried in my desk drawer. It is my abuser’s blade. I’ve kept it hidden there for months, ever since that awful night when he used it to rape me in my car. I’d made the mistake of trying to stand up to him, so he showed me who was really in charge. Then, like a sick joke, he placed the weapon that he had used against me into my care. For “safe keeping” he had said, but we both knew what he really meant. My capitulation was so complete after that night that I did what he told me to do: I kept the knife in my office as an ever-present reminder of his power. I lived in fear that he’d demand it back in order to use it against me again.
Now that I’m finally trying to escape from my abuser for real, I feel the sudden, desperate urge to get rid of his blade. I want it out of my office and out of his reach. I rush to the desk drawer, grab the knife, and shove it in my purse just before the security guard knocks on my door.
The guard is friendly and chatty, and I do my best to act normally as we walk through the hospital corridors to get to the parking garage. My purse feels heavy in my hand as I carry my abuser’s weapon, and my heart pounds with every corner we turn and each door we walk through. Will he suddenly be there? There were many days over the past year that my tormentor camped out by my car waiting for me to leave work so that he could start his sick little game where he would force me to do whatever he had dreamed up for me. Will he be there today, waiting? My escort only makes me feel a little bit safer.
But today the parking garage is quiet and the guard watches dutifully as I get in my car and drive away. My speed is slow, but my mind is frantic. I had not thought my plan through when I grabbed the knife. It’s out of my office but now it’s in my car which, considering how it was first used, is possibly worse. I need to get rid of it — immediately — but how? On a whim, I turn into the parking lot of a strip mall, find a dumpster, toss the knife in, and race back to my car.
I take a deep breath expecting to feel calm, but suddenly realize that I don’t feel any safer. I’d hoped for relief now that I’ve purged myself of that terrible symbol of violence and control, but that hope quickly disappears. My heart still pounds, I am still on edge, and as I drive my eyes scan every sidewalk to see if my abuser is there.
This is my life now. His knife may be gone, but my tormentor still h(a)unts me.