According to a 2005 national study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men in the U.S. are victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives. Because emotional and physical abuse is too often a reality for many spouses, any forum dedicated to discussing sex and love related topics has a responsibility to also address what happens when relationships go bad.
What follows is a short excerpt from Nancy Salamone's new book about surviving domestic violence, titled, Victory Over Violence: Nancy’s Story and The Business of Me.
It was the very day we got home from our honeymoon. There I was, lying on the bathroom floor, naked and bleeding. He didn’t like the way I hung the towels in the bathroom. When he was done, I had been beaten and sodomized and he was telling me that women should like that, and he asked what was the matter with me.
I was nineteen. That was the beginning of
my marriage. The abuse—physical, sexual, emotional, and financial—would continue for twenty years.”
I was born, the oldest of three girls, into a Sicilian, Roman Catholic family in the Bronx, New York. I was told from a very young age that children should be seen and not heard. And I listened.
“Carry your cross,” “You make your bed, you lie in it,” and, “Don’t hang out your dirty laundry,” are the idioms I heard as a kid, over and over again, anytime I had a problem.
When I was a teenager, I spent my summers at Orchard Beach in the Bronx. Standing on the beach boardwalk one day when I was fifteen, this gorgeous guy walked by with a girl on each arm. He was tall, dark, and handsome and I was infatuated. Later that same day he left the two girls behind and approached me. He was in college, and I was a sophomore in high school. I thought that it was really cool a college guy was interested in me.
After that meeting, we met again in my neighborhood and started dating. He was my first and only boyfriend. He was a gorgeous guy. Moody and complex, but I was really attracted to him. He would lose his temper and scream and yell and he always wanted to know where I was. But I was a naïve teenager and I had no idea what abuse was.
After dating for about a year we had sex for the first time and I felt like a marked woman. Being a good Catholic girl from a good Catholic family I was taught that it was wrong to have sex until you are married. After we had sex I had so much guilt that I couldn’t imagine any other man would want me because I was tainted goods. So when he asked me to marry him 3 years later I was relieved; not in love - relieved.
About a month after we were married, I invited my youngest sister over for dinner one night. I had spent the day cooking. I thought I did a really good job and was feeling good about the meal that I made. I felt good, that is, until my ex-husband tasted the meal and promptly declared it “disgusting” and threw everything that I’d cooked into the garbage. Yes, to my little sister’s shock and my horror, he threw it all out. I was told that I was the worst cook ever, and the next time I cooked, I needed to be sure it was a meal worth eating.
I did cook over the years of my marriage. In fact, I also worked full time, while most of the time he was unemployed. I cooked, I cleaned, I worked, and he gambled.
As a kid, money was never discussed in our house, and for the twenty years of my marriage, my ex-husband completely dominated control of our finances. Although I was a successful executive on Wall Street and our household’s major wage earner, every payday I turned over my entire paycheck to my ex-husband. He told me how much money I could have and made me account for how much I spent from our account. I could never go shopping unless I had his permission and told him what I was going to purchase before I bought it.
Most people liked it when the workday ended. Not me. I hated going home. I was afraid of how I would be greeted when I came through the door. If I were lucky, all he would do was yell at me for about an hour and then go out. Other times, he would stay home and yell, scream, hit, and terrorize me.
I couldn’t cook or clean according to my ex-husband, but I could dazzle my co-workers. I was the can-do person in the office. The office was the only place where I was respected, received praise, and felt rewarded.
December 28, 1991, was my “new day,” because that was the day I left him. To this day, I don’t know who the Nancy was that left but I am truly thankful for the Nancy that summoned the courage to leave that day.
My dark days are long behind me, and I have not just survived, but indeed, I have thrived.
The path to happiness was sometimes a rocky road, but one that was filled with the support of friends and loved ones to whom I will always be grateful.
For more information or to purchase Victory Over Violence: Nancy’s Story and the Business of Me, visit nancysstory.com.