- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I’m so concerned and very sorry to hear about what happened to Rihanna. I’m sure you heard her boyfriend, Chris Brown, has been charged for allegedly assaulting her. This happens all too often, and it’s happening to me.

My husband came from a bad background and practically raised himself. He was in and out of foster homes. He and his sisters were all placed in foster care because of neglect. To this day, he does not know his father and barely speaks to his mother.

We started dating off and on when we were in high school. Now for the first time, he has some stability in the Air Force. He enlisted almost three years ago.

I know how Rihanna must feel because I want to help my husband with his anger, but I don’t seem to be getting through to him. Don’t misunderstand me, he’s not beating me unmercifully or anything, but he becomes very verbally abusive and he grabs and pushes me.

One time when he pushed me down, I fell and hit my side on our coffee table. He goes off about anything: a bad day at work, if it’s raining outside, if he didn’t detail the car just right. I try to make him calm down and then he takes it out on me.

I don’t know whether I should just keep my mouth closed and not say anything or what to do. I hate to leave him because I want my daughter to know her father. I would be repeating the same tragedy.

I love my husband very much and I only want him to know he can trust me and together we can conquer anything, separately we can do nothing. I know why Rihanna went back to Chris Brown, it’s because he needs her and she knows it. It’s the same situation I’m in.

If you were in my shoes what would you do Ms. Vicki? I’m sure there are many women in the same situation. — I’m Staying

Dear Staying,

The tragedy in your situation is that you are staying in a relationship with a man who is abusing you verbally and physically. Believe me when I say it will continue to get worse. You are making yourself feel better by comparing your life to two major hip-hop stars and you have inappropriately joined with Rihanna.

Listen, you are not Rihanna and your husband is not Chris Brown. What your daughter deserves is two emotionally healthy parents. You can’t heal your husband. You are trying to be his counselor, and his shield. This is not your role and it will cost you big time in the long term.

Even more, you have become his punching bag. Your husband needs help from professionals who understand and know how to treat people with abusive behaviors. You also must seek professional help because you are minimizing what your husband is doing and blaming yourself and his parents for his behavior. You must stop doing this; his behavior is not your fault.

I’ve worked in child welfare, and I know it’s not easy being placed in foster care. Your husband had a difficult start, but many people have difficult and rocky starts, and they don’t become abusers.

You must get help. You should leave your home before something even more serious happens. Every Air Force base has a Family Advocacy Department that handles domestic violence issues. I recommend that you contact them by phone or visit their office and ask to speak with a victims advocate first. They can give you some guidance about your reporting options, what will happen when you make a report and also support you.

You also can contact Military OneSource — 800/342-9647 — and speak to a counselor who can consult with you by phone and discuss options with you.

I know you are afraid to report what is happening to you because you don’t want to get your husband in trouble or cause problems for him. You are afraid to make waves. Trust me, you need to take care of yourself and your daughter first. Please stay in touch with me and let me know how you are doing.

Vicki Johnson is a licensed clinical social worker, military spouse and mother of three. Her Dear Ms. Vicki column runs in The Washington Times on Thursdays and Sundays. Contact her at [email protected]

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