A battered wife tells her story

NOT all women are completely passive in the face of violence. Karen (not her real name) was a battered wife. She grew up in New York housing projects with her mother and three sisters.

``New York is a very fast paced life. You have to know how to protect yourself,'' she says.

Her husband was violent, and she defended herself: ``I had weapons all over my house. If this were my kitchen, I'd have a weapon under the stove and in the fridge. In the living room I'd have a weapon behind the chair and under the cushions.''

Most of their fights took place at 3, 4, or 5 a.m.

``Before I left, I apologized to all the neighbors. I had holes in the wall from his punching the wall, throwing me against the wall and stuff. Particularly the way they build houses nowadays - the walls are paper-thin!

``I'm not a fighter. Being with him, I changed. I became a violent person.... I picked up a pipe. I picked up some scissors. I was going to stab him.

``To know I was capable of hurting someone - that really scared me. I said, `It's time for me to leave.' One of us was going to die, and he's not worth going to jail for.''

Her advice to other women in her situation:

``Get out before it's too late. He'll kill you and get five to 10 years, and be out two years on good behavior. You're six feet under, and he'll get the children.''

Karen got up the courage to leave and go to Boston - with $30, her small daughter, and possessions in plastic bags.

``Material things you can always buy. The emotion and respect is free, and that's what you need,'' she comments with conviction.

Karen is grateful to her husband for the times he was good to her, and says that she stayed with him for four years because she thought she was in love with him.

``I realize now, being here, that I wasn't. I'm a very loving person. I love a lot of people.

``But as far as a relationship, and somebody loving me back, I guess I don't know what love is.''

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