by Christina Enevoldsen
Fourteen years ago this month, I left my abusive marriage. I didn’t have any vision for a life apart from David, but I also couldn’t imagine staying. I wasn’t looking for freedom from abuse. Abuse wasn’t even on my radar. I wasn’t “taking a stand.” I didn’t feel powerful or brave; I simply knew I wouldn’t have a life if I continued there.
I was afraid everyday. When I wanted to leave him three years before, he followed me with a gun. Even when I went back to him, I told close friends if anything happened to me, it was David. Still, I hadn’t thought it was that bad.
I thought his close “involvement” in all my activities and decisions were a sign of his love. He monitored how far from the house I could drive and who I had for friends—wasn’t he attentive?
He kept the finances to himself and when I asked him to include me, he told me it was too complicated. He insisted we weren’t doing very well and I needed to limit my spending yet he came home with a new truck. But maybe he was protecting me from worry. Maybe I should be glad he was shouldering all that responsibility.
What did I know? When I shared my concerns with my dad, he assured me David loved me. Yes, David loved me. And I needed to stop focusing on the negative things and be more appreciative. No relationship is perfect.
My mom wanted me to be more patient. David made promises to try to improve, hadn’t he? Yes, he had. He was an expert promise-maker. He had me convinced every time. Nothing had changed.
When I finally left, I felt a mountain of guilt for failing David and quitting our marriage. I still can’t explain my resolve or how amicable David was. This time, there weren’t any violent threats from him, only tears. He even helped me move out.
It was as though an angel ushered me away. That was my first taste of freedom from abuse. I’d never felt so light and unrestrained.
My Next Step of Freedom From Abuse
Ten years ago this month (four years after leaving my abusive marriage) was the end of my relationship with my parents. I hadn’t meant to end it. I only objected to a lie my mother told my (new and wonderful) husband and me. Her lie was an effort to manipulate us into silence. My husband, Don, started blogging about spiritual abuse and my parents didn’t like that one bit. Neither did our former pastors and they pressured my mom to put a stop to it.
It was one thing to control me. I was used to my parents escorting me back in line through disapproving tones and lectures. But telling my husband what he could and couldn’t do was clearly out of bounds.
Over several phone calls, email and letters, I invited my parents into a healthier relationship. I naively thought they wanted a truly loving relationship too. My mother responded with more manipulation, guilt and bribes. Finally, my dad called me in one last effort to get me to yield. When I wouldn’t, he told me they weren’t allowed to talk to us or know us.
I’d worked so hard all my life to try to please my parents and in one act of asserting my will, I was out.
And YAY!!! More than anything, I felt relief. I hadn’t realized what I was giving up to be a part of them. I never knew how I was contorting myself to earn their approval or how much energy it took. They divorced me as a punishment but it was a great gift. I was free to live life on my terms.
Another Step of Freedom
Nine years ago this month (one year after my parents and I “divorced”), my daughter, Bethany, and I started this site, Overcoming Sexual Abuse. We’d started sharing our sexual abuse stories privately and in small groups. It broke our hearts that sexual abuse survivors felt alone and didn’t see beyond the abuse or see any real path for healing. And we knew disclosure was only one step in the journey. So we started Overcoming Sexual Abuse to share hope and inspiration. The vision and reach has grown and grown since then.
That freedom I won fourteen years ago was the beginning of the life I have now–joyfully married to a man who stands for freedom with me, boldly using my voice and getting to do what I love: sharing the healing journey with brave abuse survivors.
And it was all one step of freedom at a time.
The Me I was all those years ago wouldn’t recognize the Me of today. I didn’t see any boldness, strength or courage then. But those qualities were there waiting to be revealed and developed.
We don’t see our boldness, strength and courage because of the invalidating words and actions of others. Injustice tries to snuff out our light.
Yet inside there is a quiet but powerful voice that whispers, “You were made for something more.”
Freedom doesn’t come all at once. With every freedom step, we shine brighter and our voice becomes clearer. We shine. We rise. We roar.
What is the voice saying to you? What is the more you were made for? What is freedom calling you to do? What has your journey looked like? Please share with us below and remember to subscribe to the comments so you don’t miss any of the discussion. You can post anonymously and emails are never shared publicly.
I’m Christina Enevoldsen and I’m the cofounder of Overcoming Sexual Abuse and the author of The Rescued Soul: The Writing Journey for the Healing of Incest and Family Betrayal. I’m a Strategic Interventionist and Certified Professional Life Coach with a specialty Life Story Certification. As a survivor of incest, sex trafficking and a 21-year long abusive marriage (now remarried to an emotionally healthy, loving and supportive man), I bring personal experience, empathy, and insight as well as professional training to help childhood sexual abuse survivors thrive.