Mandy Rose is a writer, mother, and survivor. I have long admired her for her honesty and integrity. Here, she writes compellingly about her ex-husband’s brutal abuse and his new wife’s denial in the face of it. I wrote recently about The Next Woman in my own life. What I’ve learned from women like Mandy is that The Next Woman is rarely exempt from the abuses the perpetrator inflicted on the previous woman. My wish is that, when women like Mandy speak out, they might not be able to save The Next Woman in their own lives, but maybe, they can make a difference for someone else’s Next Woman.
On Car Accidents and Second Wives
One recent afternoon, my son was in the backseat, playing with a key ring tape measure, when the tape retracted just-so and launched into the front of our car, hitting my window. We were at a red light, so there was no danger of swerving, no accident caused as a result, but I immediately screamed and started crying. It took over an hour to stop shaking. Call it PTSD. Call it a trigger. Call it a complication of the fact my ex-husband assaulted me multiple times in a moving vehicle, usually while I was driving. Call it what happened after I learned just over a month ago that my ex-husband assaulted his wife in the same manner he used to hurt me. Abusers repeat the patterns that work for them.
In each instance, Tim had been drinking, I was sober, and he tried to start a fight. First, he would criticize something he thought I had done wrong—I looked at the wrong man and that meant I wanted to sleep with him. I didn’t know how to signal properly or change lanes. My car was too messy. I didn’t shift properly. When I failed to take the bait, he would attack me personally.
I was fat.
I was ugly.
I was a “stupid, lazy, motherfucking, dumb bitch.”
It never mattered whether I ignored him or tried to calm him down; his face would get closer and closer to mine, until I was pressed against the door, trying to maintain control of the vehicle. As I tried to get us safely home, he would push me, punch me, shake the steering wheel, and sometimes try to shift the car out of gear or remove the key from the ignition.
The first time he broke my nose, we were on Interstate 70, almost two hours away from home, going 65 miles an hour. We hit a guardrail just after his punch connected and he made me lie to the insurance company. Under duress, I corroborated his story that he swerved to avoid hitting a deer.
Another time, we were on an overpass, preparing to exit onto Interstate 25. After he punched me several times, I told him I was afraid he was going to cause an accident. He said that was good, before jerking the wheel and punching me again, saying, “I hope you die.”
By the time I left him, threats to kill me came several times a day. He would call me from work before lunch and before the end of the day to tell me what was going to happen when he got home. He told me exactly how I was going to die, and regularly demonstrated with choking motions or by squeezing my neck until I was close to losing consciousness.
The day I knew I had to leave, I asked him not to hurt me in front of our soon to be four-year-old daughter and he hit me anyway. Then he turned to her and said, “Mommy fucked up. She’s going to go away forever and you and your brother are going to live here with me.”
When he told me I was lucky he didn’t kill me, I believed him. I still believe I am lucky.
He didn’t know I planned to leave him, but that day he also told me he was never going to marry again. Despite the fact he broke every marriage vow, I held onto the hope Tim meant it when he said he would stay single. When our kids told me he was engaged, I cried, but not for the reasons most might think. I was worried that he would hurt her, too, proving as incapable of change as I had feared. After all, his threats to kill me came after alcohol evaluations, domestic violence classes, and court ordered “anger management” which all seemed to teach him how to become a more savvy abuser. I also worried about what it would mean if he didn’t hurt her—that there was some sort of truth in the statements from him and his family that I had driven him to hurt me.
His abuse of me was quickly transferred to our children, despite my best efforts to structure his parenting time to limit exposure when he was drinking or likely to become angry. His then-fiancée swore to the Child and Family Investigator that Tim had never hurt the children, would never hurt the children, and if he tried to hurt her she would leave immediately. She didn’t believe he had ever hurt me.
I sent her one message of warning about him, shortly before they married, with photos of my daughter’s bruises and information on where to find the public records related to my abuse including the application for a protection order which referenced the assaults in the vehicle. She blocked me and attended his child-abuse hearings, holding his hand in the courtroom. He lost the right to see our children without supervision, and they married the day he cancelled one of his supervised visits, claiming to be sick.
He has not seen the kids in almost four years and this is part of the reason that I don’t know exactly when he started assaulting his new wife, though I have my suspicions.
What I do know is that the police report I read a month ago says they weren’t even fighting. It says the police have been called to their home numerous times, with no results. It says they left dinner early and he’d been drinking. She was driving and he started yelling at her for the way she shifted gears.
He called her a “stupid, lazy, motherfucking, dumb bitch.”
He punched her in the face more than once, spattering blood in all four corners of the car, and she sustained multiple facial fractures. He made her hit a speed limit sign when she tried to pull over.
According to the report, he showed no signs of remorse and showed no concern for her when they advised him she was bleeding profusely from her face, claiming not to have hit her or have any idea what happened. As he never once apologized to me for hurting me, refused to acknowledge abuse of the children and offered only an indirect apology when ordered to give one to the children. I wouldn’t be surprised if he failed to apologize to her.
I know that he was held less than 48 hours in jail, despite being arrested for 2nd degree assault with serious bodily injury. I know a few days after his release, she recanted her original version of how things happened—claiming the steering wheel injured her face, despite the doctor’s report that the injuries were consistent with the same thing she originally said, that he punched her multiple times in the face with a closed fist before she crashed.
I know despite his plea deal for lesser charges and a reduced sentence, the judge believed her original version of events. I know she wasn’t in the courtroom, because I was.
I want her to know I was there as her witness.
I want to tell her I’m sorry this happened and I believe her original version.
I want to tell her I understand how and why she believed the lies he and his family told about me. I understand the pressure and manipulation he and his family exert with master skill. I understand the desire to grant second chances—to hope it can be different.
I want her to know that you can love the easy giggle and soft touch of a man, to understand his childhood and how he got this way, while still recognizing that it is not okay for him to hurt you. That nothing you did would make his abuse acceptable.
I want to tell her I forgive her for the things she said about me and what she had to believe about me in order to believe he was who she fell in love with.
I want to remind her she isn’t the first. I wasn’t the first, but maybe she can be the last.
I want to tell her she is the opposite of all the hurtful things he has ever said to her.
I want to tell her safety is worth fighting for—that love can’t live in the same room as fear.
I want to tell her to run far, far away, while she can.
I want to tell her he isn’t sorry and it isn’t her fault.
Mandy L. Rose studied creative writing at Colorado State University and lives near the Rocky Mountains with her two children. Her poetry and creative nonfiction have appeared in Pithead Chapel, A Poetic Inventory of Rocky Mountain National Park, and Alyss. Her chapbook, Letters to Pluto, is forthcoming from Gesture Press in spring 2016.