By Olivia J. Scott, Senior Writer, Woman to Woman Blog Talk
Meet Aspiring actor Mary Aguilar Battafuoco. She defied the odds of spousal violence, protected her children, and escaped what could have become the jaws of death! Her strength, resilience, boldness and newfound confidence bring a refreshing inspiration to women like herself, in fact, for every woman.
Mary is a woman of talent and one with a special story which every woman needs to know. In a past season of her life, her beautiful face bore the vivid evidence of domestic violence. Although it is not a label any woman wishes to be attached to her name or face, like millions of women across the world, Mary, who once appeared in the television series, The Sopranos, is a battered woman—a survivor of domestic battery. But to not use the “battered woman” label would be to diminish the reality and effects of the horrors battered women go through, some on a daily basis. It is often literally a battle for survival!
Back in the late 1970’s, and living in Westminster, California at the time, Mary found herself trapped in an unstable, unhappy, and abusive marriage. Having children with her then husband, and due to lack of financial resources, amongst other important factors, she realized she was in nothing short of a dilemma. She wanted to leave her abusive husband and marriage, as you would imagine every battered woman will want to do, but constrained by her circumstances, Mary was forced to stay with her husband.
Mary knew the abuse was wrong but hoped and believed, naturally, that the abuse would stop. It got worse! This is the normal pattern of abuse. An abusive relationship doesn’t start out with abuse; it gradually becomes one, and the unsuspecting victims feel the blunt of it. Mary’s relationship was no different. Her and her husband’s relationship began on a high and led to marriage, a marriage which would turn violent.
Her ex-husband’s alcohol addiction, added to his tendencies to abuse, served up a dangerous mixture which would eventually lead to Mary eventually fleeing for her life!
Those Mary trusted to help stop the abuse and, more specifically, the Jehovah Witness congregation of which her and her husband were a part, turned a blind eye. They made her feel as if she was at fault, and encouraged her to be a ‘better’ wife, and to ‘pray’ more.
“I spoke several times about the violence and the excuse was that I wasn’t doing enough. I wasn’t a good wife, I didn’t pray enough. I wondered how they knew how much I prayed. After several attempts to talk to the elders, nothing was done, and I had nowhere to turn.”
This latter testimony is not one unheard of. Many victims of abuse have complained of being told by their religious leaders that they might be doing something bad or wrong and must work on themselves to become ‘better’ and ‘submissive’ wives, and to pray more. Blinded by rigid adherence to scriptures, some religious leaders may be as culpable as the batterers themselves, when they take an absolute position that whatever the man is doing must be justified, and that it must be that the woman is a bad, unsubmissive, disrespectful, or unfaithful wife…, whatever lies their partner may concoct and present to these leaders to cover up the truth of their sins.
Everything in life is relative to the circumstances, and in no way should battered women, whose lives and the lives of their children are endangered, be asked or forced to remain in the marriage or relationship which is destroying them and children. But no one wants to be blamed for the destruction of any marriage, so to save face, they, we, encourage women to stay in the face of present dangers.
Nevertheless, and though she knew she was doing her utmost, Mary took the advice of the church and worked on becoming a ‘better’ wife and mother.
Mary’s beatings and injuries inflicted by her husband ranged from a battered and unrecognizable face, belt beatings, and being left stranded on the road, about 60 miles away from their home.
Being left stranded on the road was a part of the emotional and psychological abuse Mary suffered at the hands of her ex. She was told she was a bad mother and wife, and her husband turned the church congregation against her by telling them that she didn’t like them.
“He was always saying I had a problem with the headship and the brothers would go along with what he was telling them, placing all the blame on me. I tried repeatedly to please Jehovah, but the more I did the worse he became. He turned my children against me, telling them that I was a bad mother because I was disfellowshipped and I don’t love Jehovah. I was in a helpless position. Before leaving for field service, He would beat me. I could never please him or the organization. I almost lost my little baby boy that ran in the street and I screamed as he said, “Daddy told me, I don’t have to listen to you”. It was as if I was being tortured by my own family.”
Despite she had relatives in New York she could travel to, the headship of the church forbade Mary from leaving her marriage.
“I felt as if the entire world didn’t understand and I couldn’t go to my family in NY as they weren’t Jehovah Witnesses, so I didn’t want to disgrace Jehovah’s organization. My ex-husband told me that he wanted me to get a job, so I found a job in a French Restaurant as a hostess. While working, I spilt a drink on myself. When I returned home, he accused me of letting someone kiss me. He beat me so bad with belts, and I thought to myself, ” This is one of Jehovah Witnesses?” Something is wrong here. I couldn’t understand how a loving organization could put up with this evil person. I was disfellowshiped for smoking, but wife beating and turning children against their parent is tolerated. I could never do enough and I felt like I was a whipping post for everyone.”
Mary’s children were not spared of the drama and spinoffs of the abuse and unstable marriage.
“When I came out of the shelter, trying to put my life together, he kidnapped my children. Different brothers and sisters from the church were hiding my children, even a local elder. I didn’t drive, so I took buses going from town to town to find them. I finally told the police and then they returned them.”
Mary’s ex husband eventually divorced her and married a sister from the church, leaving Mary and her kids to carry on with the physical and emotional scars. However, she refuses to let her experiences define her. She challenged herself to move on and thrive and to break the silence on what was happening between the walls of her apparently ‘happy’ home.
“My heart was broken, and that terrified me. I had to go through life being disfellowshipped, wearing a label that I didn’t create and being cast aside like a piece of dirt, but I am back now and I want others to know, you are not alone. We don’t have to suffer in silence anymore. I don’t care now, and I won’t be what others want me to be, because I am me. Either accept me for who I am or don’t, but I will not change! I love life, and as long as I am alive, I will speak out for others in distress. I want to thank everyone who gave me a voice and also God for not allowing me to lose my mind over all this stress and heartbreak.”
- In 2002, Mary played a cousin on the hit HBO series “The Sopranos.”
- She currently hosts her own show on Blog Talk Radio, http://www.blogtalkradio.com/ called “Victims Speak Out”.
You’ve just gotta love Mary Aguilar Buttafuoco. She is one of the women who dared to break the silence kept about domestic abuse. She spoke out and lived! And so can you. No longer is domestic violence something victims must keep hush, hush. It never was, but society made them feel as if they would be outcasts if they came out and told the horrific stories of violence, physical, emotional, psychological, and the most dreaded sexual violence they suffered at the hands of the men who were their partners or spouses and who claimed to love them. Society and sometimes, unfortunately, the legal and justice systems, and popular public opinions force women to stay, and then turn around and ask them, “Why did you stay? Why didn’t you leave him?” And when they leave, society may contribute to the violent experiences and re-victimization by casting blame and shame on victims. The dilemma never ends until victims stand up and say STOP!
You do not have to suffer in silence. There are people, groups, and organizations which care. Get help and get it now!
Mary has moved on from surviving to thriving. She’s no longer a victim; she’s a survivor. Her story is tangible proof that your abuser does not have to control you for the rest of your life. Though no one wishes abuse on his or her self, when you move onto thriving, you defeat the plan of your abuser, which is to defeat you by violating you in all possible ways, even through skillful use of the legal and criminal justice systems.
Mary assures us that, “If anyone needs to speak out, I WILL LISTEN!” And we here at Woman to Woman Blog Talk will listen too. You no longer have to suffer in silence….
If you have a similar story to share, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us so we can share your story too, if you so request. You can do so anonymously. Also you can comment below in the comment section.
You no longer have to suffer in silence….