I don’t think there was a defining moment when I realized I was caught in a bad marriage.
It was a slow build, starting from the moment he first saw me. I later learned that he’d spotted me playing volleyball and said to his friends, “She’s a little fat but I can fix that.” Interestingly, at the time I was 5’6”, a muscular 140, and a size 6 in jeans. He was jealous about time I spent with friends, but I blew it off thinking in my silly teenage mind that it was a sign of his love for me.
Over time I grew accustomed to the arrogant Dominican’s demeaning statements and began to believe them. I was a constant embarrassment to him since in spite of being a missionary kid I am vocal and opinionated. Slowly I emotionally withdrew from society. I continued to make friends; it was important to his business that I did. But if anyone got too close to me—men or women—it was only because they were after his money or wanted me for sex.
When the first blow landed and broke my nose, I was angry for a while but accepted it. The blows kept coming: broken ribs, bruised spleen, and plastic surgery to repair a thrice-fractured nose. Through 13 years and five children this was my life. Still, it paled in comparison to the verbal abuse. In fact, I discovered a strange power in being able to push him to the point where he hit me. If he struck, we both knew I won. I won often.
The kids and I finally left him in 2004. It was all very cloak and dagger. Had to be, otherwise we would never have escaped. We ran to my heart friends’ home and settled in for the battle of wills. I was determined to win. I filed for a restraining order and got it. He managed to contact me before it went through and used the time to harass me.
During the four years it took to obtain a divorce, he kidnapped my children (which moved the fight from the U.S. to the Dominican Republic); had my parents, me, and my oldest child wrongfully jailed; drugged my oldest son; emotionally sexually abused my oldest daughter, and fought to get my parental rights suspended. His efforts, thankfully, were unsuccessful and I now have sole custody of my children in both countries.
The question I have been asked repeatedly is how I survived it all. The answer is simple: No matter how angry I was with God, I knew he was in control. Everything happens for a reason, right? Otherwise there was no point in going on.
Now my story, my life, can be used as warning or a blessing as the circumstance requires, a witness for the non-believer and a testament to those who believe but are losing, or have lost, their faith.
[Stay tuned next week for the words that poured from my heart to my journal during this time.]
Kelly Heuer resides in Idaho and asserts that she is foremost a wife to her best friend and hero. Five children (plus a few extras) call her Mami, and she considers being a wife and mother to be her most important job and ministry. She is her church’s Music/AV Coordinator and serves as a song leader among other roles as needed. A missionary kid, Kelly lived in the Dominican Republic for 14 years learning to read and translate legal documents in both Spanish and English. She says one of the most important revelations of her time there was learning the value of writing in alleviating the pain of both internal and external struggles. She says while others might describe her as a survivor, she calls herself a fighter, a thriver, a winner. Kelly’s heart is to help women worldwide to go beyond survival and be freed to never again fear enslavement.
Read more encouraging stories from brave-hearted women here. Be sure to grab your free copy of inspirational quotes and writing prompts while you’re there. (Look over on the right hand side!)