Domestic Violence and Conditional Friendships
We moved to North Carolina right after my first daughter was born. We attended a local church and liked it immediately. There were many couples our age with young children and we bonded quickly with them, especially after I suggested starting a playgroup.
We had a solid group of stay-home moms that attended playgroup every Thursday morning. The group took off quickly and evolved into holiday and weekend family events and vacationing together. We were happy in our new home with our new social circle.
Time went by and we had a second child. My marriage had never been great and I knew before my second daughter was born that I would get divorced. My husband was verbally abusive and on a couple of occasions had punched me. He was angry and critical every day.
The kids and I began to dread when he came home at night. Although they did not articulate this, I could see and feel the tension build as 5:30 neared. They would stop playing in the living room and move into their bedroom. He would walk in the door scowling, walk up behind me in the kitchen and start yelling about what I was cooking or how I was cooking it. When he started physically abusing our daughter that was the end for me. He would scream at her, shake her, cover her mouth when she cried, and, throw her on the bed when he was angry. She was three years old when this started.
I asked for a divorce and he refused. We went to counseling which was simply an opportunity for him to hear himself talk and try to convince the therapist he was a great guy. Nothing changed. His hostility got worse, especially with the kids.
One particularly volatile night he screamed at our not yet four-year-old daughter and picked her up so suddenly and violently she lost her breath and began shuddering in a seizure-like way. I tried desperately to intervene. I calmly suggested that he go relax and let me bathe the girls and put them to bed. Marching towards the bathroom with our child under his arm crying hysterically, he turned around and slammed me against the wall. He closed and locked the bathroom door. I felt a cold terror and thought I might vomit as I banged on the door and yelled at him to stop. I heard her crying “mama!” over and over. Something…