He seemed like a dream come true: a grade-school teacher, a jazz flugelhorn player, an outdoorsman, a photographer, a writer of love poems; a real Renaissance man. He promised abundant sunshine, endless adventure and a lifetime of love. In the end, I managed to escape with my personal belongings and the slim hope that a restraining order would save me.
Four years of increasingly dark despair, living with the constant fear that his next explosion of rage would end with a gun to my temple. The guns were ever-present. The rage as unpredictable as a summer storm. I never knew what would set him off. It was never me or anything I’d done. It didn’t take long for me to realize his demons were internal, and I was only a soft, convenient target.
Abuse doesn’t have to leave marks, bruises or broken bones to be damaging. Words hurled in rage can leave bruises that the eye can’t detect. Outwardly, I appeared fine. Inwardly, I was broken and convinced that only my death could release me from this life of endless torment. I would have welcomed the gentle blackness of eternity.
It was only when I became involved with Moms Demand Action that I realized domestic violence with guns is an especially insidious form of gun violence. While he never overtly threatened me with the gun, I have been damaged just as surely as if he had pulled the trigger. The gun was always just there … waiting. Waiting for that next inexplicable explosion of rage directed at me, his only target.
That was 25 years ago. While I was never physically harmed by him or his guns, the scars remain. I still have nightmares. I still scan crowds for anyone who looks like him. I still sit with my back to walls, mindful of who is coming and going from a room. Guns don’t have to be deadly to have an impact.