Normally I blog about current crimes in the home. But today is a little different. Today is about hope. Today is about escape.
Polly Mitchell’s story is one of the more extreme cases of domestic violence. Polly met her husband David in 1993, when she was 17 years old. She thought he was attractive and charming. David was her first boyfriend. Three months after their first date, he hit her. But they continued to date, married, and had 4 children together. Polly says she was beaten daily. Beaten in front of her children. Raped. And imprisoned.
The home was locked from the outside. The windows were covered with tin foil. Polly didn’t tell anyone, not even her mother. David had told her that he would kill her if she told anyone, and Polly believed him. Polly says that when she was beaten, her children would hide or try to get between the couple. Then one child started acting like her husband. That scared her.
In 2003, Polly called a domestic violence agency and told her story to them. They helped her escape through a window in her home, and took her to safety.
In 2004, David pled no contest to charges of false imprisonment, terroristic threats, and two counts of child abuse for beating their mother in front of the children. He was sentenced to 14 to 20 years and will be eligible for parole in 2011.
The prosecutor says that she believes that David really had no sense that he was doing anything wrong. She believes that in his mind, they were his family and he had the right to do what he did. That somehow he could justify it to himself.
Polly says she still loves David. A psychologist explains that like this: “”It’s part of her having been so focused on him for so long and having her whole sense of who she is and what the world is organized around him. … And when you leave that situation physically, that doesn’t mean that you’ve left it psychologically and emotionally.”
And Polly says that she is different now. She says that she has more self confidence, she is stronger. She is in counseling to overcome the years of abuse. Polly is in her final year of nursing school. She has a boyfriend. And she feels she needs to tell her story, in the hope that it may help others. In her words: “I feel there’s a lot of people out there who are in the same spot I was in and who feel helpless, and they don’t know the way out. And I guess I’ve been given the voice to tell those people.” About herself, Polly says: “I’m at the stage where I’m really angry when I see my kids acting out or doing something that he may have done. It really, really makes me mad. I’m through the sad stage I think. And I’m at mad, and I haven’t forgiven.”
Polly’s children are also in counseling. Her oldest daughter was hospitalized briefly for severe depression. Her youngest son is struggling to learn to control his temper. Polly wants things to be better for them, and she is hoping that they will escape the horror of what happening without any long lasting effects. Because Polly feels that what happened with David may have had roots in his past. Polly says that David’s father treated his mother in similar ways. Until finally, his mother fought back and killed his father with a shotgun blast.
The future is still not certain for Polly. David will possibly be getting out of prison in 2011. Polly thinks she wants to face him. She is stronger now, and changed. “I don’t feel like he has the mental hold over me like he used to. There’s nothing that he could do or say that could hurt me because in my mind he’s nothing.”
But her mother fears for the time that he gets out. And so does the prosecutor. They feel she could still be in danger from David.
How could she continue to love him? That is the part that so many don’t understand about domestic violence victims. And the psychologist had an answer. If you think about it, a domestic violence victim spends a large portion of his/her life focused on the abuser. Their every desire, request, even every expression on their face could mean something major in their life. If the abuser is unhappy, they will be beaten. If the abuser doesn’t get what he/she wants, they will beaten. Even if they had a bad day at work, they could be beaten.
Yet the abuser is also the one who gives the rewards. When the abuser is happy, life is much easier. The abuser may be nicer. The abuser may “allow” certain “privileges”. The privileges don’t have to be big ones, as a matter of fact, those privileges are often things that most of us take for granted. Talking to relatives or going to the store are examples. But without the abusers “goodwill”, they wouldn’t be possible.
Many identify it with Stockholm Syndrome. Stockholm syndrome
NOUN: A phenomenon in which a hostage begins to identify with and grow sympathetic to his or her captor.
For more reading on Stockhom Syndrome and relationships:
More or less, during the relationship- the well being of the abuser takes precedence over the well being of the victim. That gets mixed in and confused with the love the victim initially felt for the abuser. And it becomes a habit. A very hard habit to break.
Polly Mitchell is out and safe now. And going on with a life. But what will happen when David is released from prison? What will his response be when he finds Polly is no longer under his control?