‘Nobody cares until something happens’
Lisa relies on her mobile phone to keep a record of the beatings but the verbal abuse ... that's on a constant loop inside her head. Like the past seven years of her life, shelter in place was a nightmare.
In her late thirties, unemployed and with those closest to her living in the US, her thoughts wavered between suicide and “grabbing a kitchen knife and shoving it into” her husband.
“There's only so much a woman can take before they react,” she said. “I've been very patient, very tolerant but he's an alcoholic and his alcohol, it's like a bomb sets off when he gets to a certain point.
“I always press my recorder. For the last year and a half, everything he does I try to record and take pictures, so that if something was to majorly happen, the police have a track record of the abuse that's been going on in the household.”
With nowhere else to go, she got through shelter in place by “playing smart”: avoiding her husband to the degree that she could, locking herself in another room when his drinking got out of hand and, on a couple of occasions, getting a friend to break curfew to give her support.
Apart from her two children — who are in school abroad — and her best friend she kept the abuse to herself, confiding in her parents only last year.
Locally, she receives help from a women's group, a police liaison officer and Tina Laws, a domestic violence counsellor who arranged for her to talk with The Royal Gazette.
Lisa agreed, only because she wanted anyone who was being abused to know that they were not alone. She's aware that readers will judge her, that many will not understand why she doesn't just pack her bags and walk away.
“Like I tell people, it's so easy for people to say that. Walk away and go where?
“I've been to the Centre Against Abuse, about two years ago, about the situation I was in and the only advice they gave me was to register myself for financial assistance and try to help to pay for a place.
“My whole family lives in the US. If I put myself on financial assistance, I'm not able to travel to see my children. They just told me that and left me.
“That's all I heard from them and that's why I don't like to tell my story out to this island, because nobody really cares until something happens. Either a woman commits suicide or vice versa in respect to people being murdered. I feel if you open your mouth and speak about it you can only get so far.”
The end of shelter in place gave her the ability to leave home at the first sign of trouble. She knows what lies ahead whenever the drinks start flowing first thing.
“Now I can get in my car and just drive when he starts drinking. I can leave and come back when he falls asleep, normally by 9 or 10 o'clock.”
Lisa, who asked that we not use her real name, met her husband through mutual friends seven years ago.
They hit it off immediately but she was worried by several “red flags”, one of which was his heavy drinking.
A stint in rehab seemed to fix most of those issues and so she agreed to marry him. The verbal abuse started two months after their wedding and gradually moved on to “any abuse you can think of”.
On a good day they pass the time like any other couple. She becomes fearful when he drinks.
“He'll look right through me; he'll say stuff and I don't think he even understands what he's doing. It's almost like a demonic [spirit] has come over him. And it's those times when people do the most damage.
“When he acts up at all hours in the night I don't sleep. I'm too afraid. He goes mental. Crazy.”
The verbal abuse has had a tremendous impact on her self-esteem and led to thoughts of suicide.
“He earns a decent wage,” Lisa said. “And he has the attitude, you do what I say because I give you money.”
Although “one or two” friends in Bermuda will pick up the phone to see how she's doing most people seem happy to just ignore the situation.
“For me, more than the physical side it's the mental side of what he's doing. I know everybody's got their lives, but I figure you should be checking up on people.
“That's how it goes on this island. Funny how everybody hears, but I've yet to have one of my neighbours call the police because they've heard fighting and stuff going on. I've never had them call and say, ‘Something's going on in that household. Maybe you should come and make sure everything's OK.' I've never had that happen. This is where I come to the conclusion sometimes that I should just kill myself. This can't be right. I wasn't supposed to end up in a life like this.”
Her plan is to get a job and “separate myself from the marriage”.
“I want to know what my future holds for me going forward.
“For a long time I kept thinking it would change, it would change, it would change, he just needs to seek help. I've come to the conclusion that even if he did change, even if he did clean up, the things you have done to me as a woman they're so detrimental I just can't see myself trusting him again ever — with anything.”