By Nancy Salamone
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 19. That was the beginning of my marriage. The abuse—-physical, sexual, emotional, and financial—-would continue for 20 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 mantras I heard as a kid repeated any time 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 15, this 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 that 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 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 were married. 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 three years later I was relieved--not in love, just 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 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.
Throughout the years of my marriage I continued to prepare meals and 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 all of my marriage my husband completely controled our finances. Although I was a successful executive on Wall Street, every payday I turned over my entire paycheck to him. He told me how much money I could have and made me account for how much I spent. 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 my husband would do would be to yell at me for about an hour and then go out. Other times, he would stay home and yell, scream, hit, and terrorize me. 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 walked out but I am truly thankful for the Nancy that summoned the courage. 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 always will be grateful.
Editor's note: Any Joplin area woman recognizing herself in this scenario and needing support should contact Lafayette House by clicking here. Nancy Salamone is the author of Victory Over Violence: Nancy’s Story and the Business of Me.