I want to tell somebody but who will believe me? Who will believe that the man who uses me for a punching bag is one of New York’s finest? I’m just a former exotic dancer who had the misfortune of getting hooked up with the wrong man. I guess I was flattered by the attentions of a veteran cop whose face has been plastered in the newspapers numerous times for his exemplary work, cleaning up crime and cracking down on drug dealers. He has had the most arrest records and commendations than anyone else on the force. He is a hero in the communities, feared by the criminal element and admired by his colleagues.
Yeah, who would believe that this man of the law was beating me up? When we first met, I thought he was a real decent guy. He used to come and watch me dance. One night after I finished my number and was at the back of the club about to smoke a cigarette, he joined me. He lit my cigarette and asked me my name. I told him. He didn’t introduce himself. He didn’t need to. I knew who he was. To tell you the truth, I was surprised that he was talking to me. There were other dancers that I thought were more up his alley.
“What are you doing here at a strip club?” I asked him.
He lit his cigarette, took a few drags before he answered. “I’m off-duty,” he said. “So, what’s fine looking woman like you doing in a joint like this?”
I shrugged. “To make money. Besides, I like to dance.”
“Do you have a man?”
I shook my head.
“How much money do you make?”
“There’s a man who comes in every night and he pays me $2000 to dance for him and then we would spend the rest of the time talking.”
“Is that the man I saw dressed in the expensive suit and wearing a hat? He reminded me of JR Ewing.”
“Yes, that’s him.”
“He’s married, isn’t he?”
“I bet his wife doesn’t know what he’s been up to.”
I finished my cigarette. “I’d better be getting back.” I turned to leave when he caught hold of my arm.
“How about you dancing for me this time?”
“Sure. Whatever you want.”
“And afterwards, we go back to my place.”
“Sure.” We went back into the club. I danced for him and then we drove to his place.
He lived in a nice neighborhood. After his wife died and their kids moved out, he sold the house and moved into a penthouse apartment facing the Hudson River. I stood at the window looking out. He fixed the drinks and brought mine over to me. In person, he was a very attractive man. He looked younger than 55. His hair was dark with touches of grey at the sides. His brown eyes met mine. For a long time, neither of us say anything. In the background, soft jazz played. And then, he suggested, “Let’s go over to the sofa where it’s more comfortable.”
I followed him over to the sofa and we sat down. We talked for a while and then he took my glass and set it on the coffee table next to his. While he placed one hand on my thigh, he leaned over and began to kiss me. I didn’t resist. I was attracted to him. The kisses became wild and passionate and we ended up having sex on the sofa. After I got dressed, I was going to phone for a taxi but he insisted in giving me a lift home.
He dropped me home and there weren’t any plans to see each other again. I was disappointed but then I asked myself, What did you expect? He’s a cop and you’re a stripper.
I didn’t see him for a while and then one night, he showed up at the club. He saw me with the rich married man. I was sitting on his lap, talking to him. After he left, my cop friend came over to me and told me to meet him outside for a smoke. I got dressed and went outside. He was waiting for me. I walked up to him and was about to say something when he grabbed me roughly by the shoulders. “You’re quitting your job right now.”
“But I need the money,” I protested.
He struck me hard across the face. “You heard me. You’re quitting. Now, let’s go.” He gripped my wrist tightly and dragged me behind him to the parking lot where his car was parked. He opened the door and shoved me in. I cringed when he slammed the door. I sat in the passenger seat, holding my face, shocked as we drove off.
We went to my place and as I stood there, still in shock, he said, “Sherry, honey, I’m sorry I hit you. It’s just that the thought of you dancing for other men drives me crazy. I’m sorry. I promise I won’t hit you again. Forgive me?”
I nodded. “Yes, I forgive you.” He looked and sounded so sincere. I wanted to believe that he would never hit me again.
He pulled me roughly against him and began to kiss me. I kissed him back. We ended up in bed. He spent the night and left early the next morning. I went to the club and told the manager that I quit. He was understandably livid, especially since he knew that one of his best customers was the rich man who always asked for me. I had no idea what I was going to do now that I was no longer working at the club.
My cop had it all figured out. Several weeks later, he asked me to marry him. It didn’t seem to bother him what other people would think of him marrying a former stripper. We got married and I moved in with him. I wanted to find another job but he refused to let me. So, I became a housewife. I felt like a prisoner in our home. I couldn’t go anywhere without him. If I needed to go to the supermarket, he took me on Saturdays. If I needed to go to the salon, he took me. I don’t know how he managed to get away from work just so he could take me where I needed to go. I guess when you’ve been with the force as long as he has, you can pretty much do whatever you liked.
We stopped going to the policeman’s ball because he felt that I was too friendly with the younger officers. Two years ago, after we got home from the ball, he beat me because he said I was flirting with the desk sergeant, a young Nigerian man. It wasn’t true of course, but my husband was blinded by rage and jealousy. I was black and blue and had a black eye. Once when I was in really bad shape, he took me to the Emergency but never left me alone with the nurse who tended to me. And he answered all of the questions and as soon as the examination was over, we were out of there.
We went home and I was laid up in bed for a few days in bed. He took care of me. He apologized for what he had done and brought me flowers. He told me that he loved me so much it drove him crazy to think that I would leave him for another man. And as usual, he promised that he would stop hitting me and get help. I stopped believing him. I stopped hoping.
We hardly had company over and when we did, I had to wear long sleeves to cover the bruises on my arms. There were times when I could hardly move because I ached all over. During the day, it was a struggle to do the chores and I was always so exhausted. At night, I lay there in bed, long after we had sex, staring up at the ceiling, wishing I could just go to sleep and never wake up.
We didn’t have any children because he didn’t want to have any. He already had two from his previous marriage. “Besides, I want you all to myself,” he said and then, he would take me into the bedroom and have rough sex with me. Sometimes, he liked to pretend that I was under arrest so that he could hand-cuff me to the bedpost while we were having sex. There were other kinky things that he liked to do to me and wanted me to do to him. I went along with it because I loved him and he was my husband. He told me that he never wanted to do these things with his first wife but he wanted to do them with me because I was beautiful and exciting. I brought out the animal in him, he said. And he was like a wild animal in bed. Sometimes it was thrilling and other times it was terrifying.
Then he started to blame me for the abuse. “I never hit my first wife. In fact, I never hit a woman in my life until I met you. You make me do it. There’s something about you that drives me so wild with jealousy that I lose control and I hit you. Do you think I like hitting a woman? It’s your fault that I do it. I love you so much it makes me go crazy just thinking of you with another man. I swear if you ever leave me, I’ll find you and kill you.”
I began to hate him and wish that something bad would happen to him but I always felt guilty afterwards. I couldn’t go on the computer because he was afraid that I would go into those chat-rooms and pick up men. I had the Bible which my grandmother had given to me a long time ago when I was finished with the household chores, I sat down and read it. It gave me comfort. I quit smoking. I began to pray every night when he was sleeping. I asked God to help me. I claimed His promise, “For I know the plans that I have for you, says the Lord, plans for peace and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
My help came through a neighbor who was out of sugar and she came by to borrow some from me. After we exchanged pleasantries, she followed me into the kitchen. As I reached up in the cupboard for the bag of sugar, the sleeves of my shirt moved back and the bruises on my arm were exposed. As I closed the door and turned to face her, I saw her staring at me. Her expression was grave. “How did you get those bruises on your arm?” she asked.
“I bumped into stuff,” I lied.
“I’ve seen bruises like those before and I know that they are not from bumping into walls or doors or from falls. He’s beating you, isn’t he?”
“Please, I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Sherry, you need help. It will not get better. It will only get worse. Do you have family or friends you can go to?”
“I have family and friends but I’m too ashamed. And who will believe me? He’s a cop.”
“I’ve known women whose abusive husbands are cops, doctors, professors and even judges. And I’m sure someone in your family will believe you, especially when they see the bruises. If you prefer, I can take you to a shelter where they will take care of you. All you have to do is pack what you need and I will drive you there myself.”
“All right,” I said. Maybe this was God answering my prayer. I got what I needed and I walked out of the apartment. I didn’t leave a note or anything. When my husband came home that evening, he would find me gone. My neighbor and I went to different shelters but I was turned away because they were full. As I tried to figure out what to do next, I remembered Lucy. Lucy still worked as a waitress at the strip club where I used to work. She and I were good friends. I let her stay at my place when she walked out on her cheating boyfriend. She always told me that if I ever needed anything, not to hesitate to call on her.
I couldn’t remember her phone number off hand so I called the club and asked Bill, the bartender for it. He seemed happy to hear from me. It was he who got me the job at the club. I called Lucy and she told me to go right on over. My neighbor dropped me. She hugged me and said, “Take care of yourself. When you’re ready, get help.”
I thanked her and watched her drive away before I went into the apartment building. Lucy was standing at door when I showed up and she hugged me tightly. “It’s so good to see you,” she said. “Ever since you got married, you’ve been a stranger. Come in and tell me everything.”
We went over to the sofa and sat down. I told her everything and showed her the purple marks on my arms. “I had to leave him,” I said.
“Yes, you did. The brute. He thinks because he’s a cop, he’s above the law. The first thing you do is to report him. He belongs behind bars.”
“Who will believe me? I’m accusing my husband who is an exemplary cop of abuse. No, going to the police is a bad idea.”
“All right. We won’t go to the police. You don’t have to make any decisions right now. You’re welcome to stay here for a long as you need to. Whatever you decide to do, you have my support. Are you hungry? I’ll fix you something before I head off to the club. When I’m gone, please make yourself at home. Call me if you need anything.” She got up from the sofa and went into the kitchen to fix me some supper. I wasn’t hungry but I forced myself to eat.
“I should be home around 2. I have a spare room. You can put your things in there. See you later.” She hugged me and then she was gone.
It was a nice, modest apartment and quiet. It was in the heart of Soho. After I finished eating, I washed the plate and went into the living-room to watch some television. I rested my head against the back of the sofa. I must have dozed off because when I opened my eyes the room was dark. I got up and turned on the floor lamp beside the window. I stood looking out at the street below when I heard the key turn in the lock. I glanced at the clock above the fireplace. It was ten-thirty. Lucy said that she would be home by 2. Perhaps, she decided to check on me or she wasn’t feeling well.
I called out to her but there wasn’t any answer. Puzzled, I started for the foyer when I froze in horror. My husband stood there. Fear and panic gripped me. “What are you doing here?”
He came into the living-room. “To take you home, my Love.”
“How–how did you know I was here?”
“A little birdie told me.”
“You’re lying. Lucy wouldn’t have told you that I was here.” And I knew it couldn’t have been my neighbor who brought me here either.
“Who said anything about Lucy?”
Then it hit me. It was Bill who told him where I was. He was the only one beside Lucy who knew I was here and I had begged him not to tell anyone that I had called. He had promised to keep his mouth shut but somehow, my husband had gotten him to talk. “Where–where did you get the key? Did you steal it from Lucy’s bag?”
He laughed. “Of course not. I showed the landlord my badge and told her that I had a warrant to search this apartment. If she had bothered to check she would have seen that the paper I showed her was the lease for my apartment. Now, get your things, we’re going home.”
I backed away from him, shaking my head. “I’m not going anywhere with you. I want a divorce.”
His expression darkened and he grabbed me by the shoulders, shaking me. “You’re crazy if you think I’m going to let you divorce me so that you can run to another man,” he muttered through clenched teeth. “I would kill you first.”
Although this wasn’t the first time he threatened to kill me if I left him, I was really frightened because of the look in his eyes. I felt as if I were staring into the eyes of the devil himself. I wanted to run for my life. I shoved hard against his chest and managed to get free. I headed for the door but he grabbed me back the hair and dragged me back into the living room. He shoved me face down on the floor and raped me.
When he was finished, he stood up. I lay there for a while, trembling and crying. Then, I slowly got to my knees. My back was turned to him. He yanked me to my feet. “Clean yourself up and get your things because you’re coming with me.”
“I’m not going anywhere with you. You raped me.”
“How can you call it rape when I took what is lawfully and rightfully mine?” He demanded.
I was shaking so much that I could hardly stand. “You’ve beat me and raped me for the last time. I’m going to file for a divorce and get a restraining order put on you.”
“Over my dead body. You’re my wife, Sherry and the only thing that’s going to separate us is death.”
Then, I saw him pull out his gun and point it at me. I screamed and then everything went black.
When I came to I was lying in a hospital bed. I learned that the bullet caught me in the shoulder because I had moved. If I hadn’t it would have gone straight into my heart. My husband shot me and then he shot himself. The police were called to the apartment when a neighbor reported hearing two gun shots. The landlord told the police that my husband had shown up and told her that he had a search warrant for Lucy’s apartment. The landlord believed him because she knew who he was.
I told the police about the years of abuse I had suffered at the hands of a man whom they had respected. When they asked me why I hadn’t reported him, I told them that I didn’t think that they would have believed me. After I was discharged from the hospital, I stayed with Lucy and went for counseling and psychotherapy which really helped me. A couple months later, I decided that I had had enough of New York. I sold my condo, packed up and left for Lisbon, Portugal. Years ago at the strip club where I worked, I met a visitor from Lisbon. He was a very nice man who gave me $1,000 each time I danced for him during the three weeks he was there. I always promised myself that if I were to go and settle anywhere in Europe it would be Lisbon.
Lucy and I are in touch. She is dating a guy she met on the tube. I told her to bring him to Lisbon the next time she visited. I’m not dating at the moment. After being in an abusive marriage, I’m not ready for another relationship. The men in Lisbon are very attractive but I want to remain single for a while. I’m working at a boutique and love it. I have become a member of an English speaking church where the members are like family.
I love living in Lisbon. Sometimes, I wish that I had come here when I first thought about it and then I wouldn’t have met my husband or been a victim of domestic violence. Then, I tell myself to forget about the what ifs and be thankful that I’m still alive. My life could have easily ended that night in Lucy’s apartment if it had not been for the grace of God. I was a victim of domestic violence and now I’m a survivor. I have survived to tell my story. Other women have not been so lucky. I think about them often and that’s why I want to join in the fight against domestic violence.
There are times when I meet couples who are still madly in love with each other after thirty or more years of marriage and I’m filled with a heavy sadness. That could have been my husband and me. I sometimes ask myself why couldn’t he have loved me the way the Bible says a man should love his wife? And I wanted to love him the way the Bible says I should but how could I respect a man who beat and violated me? How could I submit to his violent and controlling ways? He claimed he loved me but his love was cruel, selfish, demanding, easily provoked and abusive. I believe that if he really loved me he would have gotten the help he needed and our marriage would have survived.
Today, I’m speaking fluent Portuguese and am a volunteer at a Domestic abuse treatment center here in Lisbon. God spared my life and I want to use it to help women who are going through the same thing I did. It is my earnest prayer that one day very, very soon, domestic violence will be eradicated. Marriage between a man and woman who love each other the way the Bible teaches could be a very beautiful thing. Love shouldn’t hurt. It shouldn’t kill either.
March 7, 2019 was a national day of mourning for victims of domestic violence in Lisbon. Portugal’s Cabinet went out into the street to observe a minute of silence as part of a day of national mourning it decreed for victims of domestic violence. According to police, 12 women have died this year in domestic violence incidents — the highest number over the same period in 10 years. On the eve of International Women’s Day, Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a tweet that domestic violence is “a collective challenge” for society as a whole – National Post
Sherry’s story, though it is fiction, it is the reality for many women. Some have survived domestic violence and others have not. There are resources for women who are in abusive relationships and for the abusers as well. Here is a list:
Victims of abuse often feel guilty as if they have done something to provoke their abuser or that they somehow deserve the abuse they receive. Abusers are often skillful at making their victims feel responsible. But no one deserves to be abused by another, and abusers are responsible for their own choices and actions – Bible Info
Join the fight against domestic violence. If you are a victim, please seek help as soon as possible. Your life depends on it. Be a survivor not another statistic. If you suspect that someone you know is in an abusive marriage or relationship, please reach out to that person. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Take action today for the many women who feel trapped in the vicious cycle of abuse and feel that there is no way out for them. Domestic violence affects all of us.