Posted on Medium – Escaping in my PJ’s:


Photo by cottonbro studio on

It was my responsibility to take the garbage out.

It was my responsibility to do a lot of things, but I liked taking the garbage out because it was the one time of day he didn’t ‘escort’ me. It was the only time of the day he didn’t watch me with wary eyes.

I liked the breeze across my face and in my hair as I walked to the dumpster at the end of our block of flats. I liked being able to exhale the breath I’d held in for so long in the previous hours.

Because around him, I couldn’t breathe.

I couldn’t speak unless he gave me permission.

I couldn’t eat until Gavin said it was okay.

I was no longer able to see my family or text friends — my phone was in his control, and he would read everything that was received and run a judgmental eye over every text I composed to send out in response. Gavin would make the final judgement before pressing ‘send’. So much was deleted before it had his approval.

So many short texts that said nothing that I’d originally wanted. So much pretense that no one was aware of. So many lies.

I remember that night — my first attempt to escape, because I was in my satin pink pajamas. Quietly, I walked the 200 yards to the communal dumpster at the end of the long driveway in the apartment complex we lived in.

Lived”. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d done that.

Something about that night was different, though.

There was a charged atmosphere in the air. I could almost feel the electricity running through me. A gentle current, not painful or scary.

The sky was clear. The air was still. I remember that the moon was so full that night. It shone so brightly that everything — even in the dark — was detailed and beautiful.

Because the night held its breath, I was able to hear the music. It was my favourite Church song and there were people’s voices rising in worship and harmony.

Was someone having a Bible study at their house?

I stopped still in my tracks and just listened.

A leader’s voice, encouraging “Lift your voices, guys — let’s praise Him! Amen!”.

I closed my eyes, imagining I was with the Church group — pretending I was one of them; cherishing the moments I used to have in fellowship with other Christians and how free I felt.


I’d not felt freedom in so long.

I’d not been to Church for over a year, and it was a bittersweet moment hearing the familiar songs and knowing Christians were nearby.

God is amongst us when we are together.

Unbidden, that Bible verse returned to me.

I still hadn’t moved from that spot on the driveway in the dark.

The music. That song. It called to me: “come”.

I didn’t stop to think, I just went.

My feet took me past the barriers Gavin had assigned, past the front gates of our apartments, up the street and to the next block of apartments — these ones in more disrepair than ours. Smaller, boxier apartments, with peeling paint and doors barely hanging onto their frames.

Still, I followed.

I followed along corridors, up flights of stairs and down narrow pathways until I reached the music.

In my imagination, there was a gathering inside.

There might be help.

I banished that thought. If I didn’t hope, then I couldn’t be let down.

Inside, there would be about 6–8 fellow Christians.

Maybe they’d let me have a cup of tea with them?

I so longed for fellowship that my chest ached at the prospect of it.

Hope rose again. Maybe one of them would take me home?

It had been so long since I’d been home. Mom asked every week if I was going to come to family dinner. Gavin would read the text, shake his head ‘no’ and in tears, I’d delete it.

Bolstered by the thought of my Mom’s happy face, I knocked on the door, timidly at first.

Now I’m intruding.

I heard shuffling about inside.

Then nothing.

The music and singing went on.

I had to try again.

I knocked again on the door — loudly this time. The door of the shabby apartment rattled as my knuckles connected to the fragile wood “bang, bang, bang!”

The door opened.

A small, surprised Spanish-looking man peered out.

“Hello?” he asked.

“Um, hi” I shifted my weight from foot to foot. I was still carrying the black garbage bag.

“Are you having…um…Bible study in there?” I tried to peek around the door; anxious for engagement with a Christian community.

“No” the man smiled. His smile lit up his face. He had kind eyes. “It’s a cd from Church I have, and I play it when I start to feel a little down”.

I liked his accent as he spoke. “A little down” in his accent, it sounded like “a leet-el dowen”. This guy looked to be in his early 30’s, maybe. He had warm brown eyes and dark hair. Spanish/Italian looks.


“Oh. Okay” I heard my voice say as my heart broke.

There would be no rescue. Not tonight.

As if he sensed it, the man opened his door wider. The warm glow of his room spilled out into the dark corridor.

“Do you want to come in and listen to the rest of the cd?” he invited; “There are 3 songs left — and maybe we can pray together? I’m new to all this being a Christian (“Christian” sounded like “Krees-tee-ahn” which made me smile) but I’d love to share God’s word with you — you look like a fellow believer”.

“I’d love that” I whispered, surprising myself as I stepped inside.

As suspected, it was a tiny apartment. Everything was in the one room — a tiny sofa, a worn armchair, a small table, a small bookcase with a portable cd player resting on the top. There was a tiny, tidy kitchen with dishes drying on a dishrack and a double bed in the corner of the room with a small bathroom in the other.

“I’m Andreas” as he said his name, he held a hand to his heart.

Something about that gesture touched mine.

“I’m Janet” I mirrored his actions.

Gavin will be losing his mind.

Shaking, I sat on Andreas’ couch. I placed the garbage bag carefully next to me, forgotten as I looked around and took in my surroundings. Everything was very simple, but neat. There was a ‘homeliness’ to Andreas’ flat. I felt comfortable there.

“Can I make you a cup of tea?” Andreas asked, holding up the kettle.

“Yes please”. I could hardly get the words past the lump in my throat. I’d not had anything without Gavin watching over me for a long time.

Andreas sang along to the song playing and busied himself in the kitchen, getting out teabags, spoons, and a small jar of sugar.

Once the kettle boiled, Andreas poured two cups of tea “Do you have milk?” he asked “No thanks” I answered. He carefully carried cups of tea over to where I was sitting and settled mine in front of me. “Did you want any…err…how you say — biscuits?”

beez-kits?” Bless.

“No thank you” I smiled. Andreas smiled back and leaned back into the armchair he was in — relaxed and at peace. Something about it was contagious and I found myself doing the same from the sofa.

I like that Andreas didn’t try to sit next to me. He seemed to sense I needed the space and he sat comfortably across from me instead. I appreciated the thoughtfulness of it.

I sipped at my tea and fought the rising tears at how wonderful it felt to be away from Gavin and in the presence of someone kind. Someone who didn’t yell. I felt…welcome. I hadn’t felt this in so long, it brought tears to my eyes.

We listened to 3 more songs.

As the minutes ticked by, I warred within myself — swinging from elated to sing along (I love to sing) to my favourite worship songs and terrified at what Gavin would be up to.

Would he be driving through the streets looking for me? How long had I been gone? What waited for me when I was to return? Whatever it was…it wasn’t going to be good.

When the last song ended, Andreas prayed for me. He prayed God’s protection over me. Something I desperately needed but had not been able to voice. That’s how I knew God was with us in that small gathering.

Where two or more are gathered in his name, there God is…” that Bible verse kept repeating itself this evening.

I prayed for blessing and success for Andreas. He smiled and said that was just right because he was about to start a new job as a waiter in a nearby restaurant.

“Thank you so much, Gringo!” He beamed.

I couldn’t help but grin back.

“I’d better go” I sighed. My heart was heavy with having to leave.

I picked up my garbage bag.

Gavin was going to kill me.

“Thank you so much, Janet — you’re welcome any time” Andreas walked me to the door and gave a Christian, brotherly ‘side hug’ to me before he quietly closed the door.

Again I appreciated his…respect. Andreas showed affection with his hug; but in a gentle, non-sexual, non-threatening way. I really liked that.

I felt God’s peace envelop me.

I felt His spirit cover me like a thin veil.

I walked back to the flat and faced what I had to.

But now, I was starting to form an escape plan.

4 responses to “Posted on Medium – Escaping in my PJ’s:”

  1. New here, I assume you’ve escaped. Your story is so compelling and also so common. I worked (as an accountant) at a domestic violence NGO. We told first person stories of peoples’ experiences to help folks understand how people get trapped in DV situations. Your story would have been one of our highlights. Important to keep telling these stories because so many people place blame in the wrong place (the victim). You help people see the prison some are living in. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hiya Jeff!!! Welcome! I hope you grow to love being on WordPress and I’m looking forward to reading and supporting your posts. I’m so thankful people in DV situations were able to find help and support with a dedicated NGO. It’s a painful, confusing situation for the person embroiled in it. Everyone asks “Why didn’t you just leave?”. A lot of people who read this particular part of my life asked, “Why didn’t you go on that night? You were obviously free to walk off – Why did you go back?”. They don’t understand the complexity of such relationships and how broken and empty the abused person feels 💔 anyway! Before I start an essay, thank you for reading my blogs and leaving powerful comments. I’m sooo glad to have met you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Not new to wordpress, just new to your blog. Unfortunately that DV NGO closed due to mismanagement. An organization in the next town fills the void but it’s pretty far away. Not the best situation for someone who is trying to hold onto something familiar as they uproot their life.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ahahahaha I clicked on your blog and realised my misunderstanding right away, Mr almost-5K-followers! You’re not new, you’re a rock star ☆ you have sooo many followers and your writing is awesome!

        Oh that’s sad news about the DV NGO closing down and people not having access nearby when they need it 😦 so much of the problem whenever I left my abuser was that he’d cut me off from everyone so there was nowhere to go and I’d end up back with him in a few days. Breaks my heart for others in that place with the same problem of nowhere to go 😞

        Liked by 1 person

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