CW: Assault, Sexual Assault
By the time my ex-wife told me she was going to kill me, I had already resigned myself to the possibility. Shortly after we’d moved in together, she had become angry, grabbed my wrist, and twisted, and I heard the cracking before I felt it. Later that night, she and her parents sat down with me to discuss the matter, with my ex crying and her parents telling me that she was sorry and would never do it again. I was desperate to have a life away from my abusive parents, and so I believed them without question.
A few months later, we were cleaning our apartment when I felt a rush of air and a loud bang. My ex had thrown a waffle iron at my head, hard enough to leave a hole in the drywall where it had impacted. It had missed me by less than an inch. She was angry, she said, but after all it had missed me so there was no harm done.
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On July 3, 2021, I received an unsolicited email from Trevor Bauer’s representatives. Attached were the medical records of the woman who has accused Bauer of sexual assault - records which Bauer’s representatives claimed were exculpatory.
To Bauer’s representatives, these records “proved” that his accuser’s injuries were not as bad as had been claimed. Bauer’s representatives evidently sent these records to a number of other media outlets, including Sports Illustrated and Fox News. And in that moment, reading their email, I felt traumatized all over again.
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Over the course of our eight-year marriage, my ex-wife choked me, shoved me into walls, punched me in the head and spine, and on one occasion broke down my locked door. One day the fire alarm in our building awakened us; that made her angry so she punched me. Most often, however, she would grab my head and squeeze until I felt my jaws pop. She wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t leave, so she set up insurance policies. I got used to explaining away the bruises.
The authorities weren’t any help; my ex was quite adept at manipulating them. One time, the police were called after my ex was hitting me particularly loudly. The police blamed her behavior on my transition, with one officer telling me that if his spouse transitioned, he’d act the same way, and telling me to see if I could detransition. And so it was that when I dropped a plate of food on the ground when serving dinner and she looked at me coldly and told me she was going to kill me, I wasn’t surprised except that it had taken so long.
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Trevor Bauer’s response to these allegations has been a textbook example of why people in abusive relationships don’t come forward — why they don’t speak their truth sooner. Bauer’s representatives saw nothing wrong with sending largely unredacted, private medical records to media outlets, with the goal of essentially saying “her injuries weren’t that bad.” That is, in a word, horrifying. Bauer has never denied punching his accuser, hitting her, penetrating her whilst she was unconscious. His sole defense thus far has been that she wanted him to do it.
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My ex-wife used to sit in couples counseling and tell our therapist that what she had done was my fault. Sometimes she’d say I provoked the attacks. Sometimes she’d say I asked for them. Sometimes she’d say that I wanted to be hit. She never, ever apologized.
On one occasion, I asked her in front of the therapist why she couldn’t just stop hitting me. She responded that she couldn’t promise it wouldn’t happen again, because after all I might provoke her. Sometimes, when she was hitting me, she would tell me that this was what I wanted. “This is what you were waiting for, right? You wanted me to hit you. You wanted me to grab you. Admit it!” When you’re scared, you say anything. Maybe if you admit you wanted to be hit, she’ll give up and stop hitting you. Power dynamics are funny things.
Without consciously realizing it, I ended up in a marriage that mirrored what I saw with my parents. I saw how my mother treated my father, and ended up in a similar relationship. It’s a hard pill to swallow that you ended up right back where you started: in an abusive relationship.
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We’re not going to provide Bauer’s accuser’s medical records here because we won’t breach his accuser’s privacy, but suffice to say they are not exculpatory, but Bauer’s reps knew this. They’re intelligent people, and they know that most people who review the records they provide won’t change their minds about what occurred. They were sending a message, not to Bauer’s accuser but to others who might come forward. We already know that the investigation into Bauer’s conduct has gone farther than authorities expected. Bauer’s camp wants potential future accusers who might come forward to know that their privacy isn’t safe, that their medical records and private information also might be released to the media. We talk about why victims and survivors of domestic abuse don’t come forward. This is a good example of why.
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There’s a certain shame that comes with being in an abusive romantic relationship. Sometimes you tell yourself it’s normal. Sometimes you tell yourself every relationship is like this. Sometimes you tell yourself that you want to be hit because it’s their way of showing you attention, and you badly need attention. But at the end of the day, none of that is true no matter how many times you tell yourself that. You’re really motivated by fear. By terror. By the idea that this person now controls your life, and no matter what this person must be placated because they hold your life in their hands. It took me eight years to escape my abusive relationship. I know firsthand how hard it is, and what you have to do to survive.
That’s why the most dangerous time for survivors of domestic abuse is when they are attempting to leave the relationship. The abuser escalates their attempts to control you. I’ve been there. I know. And receiving an email from an abuser in an attempt to control his victim was like being back in my abusive marriage again.
Sheryl Ring is a consumer rights and civil rights attorney practicing in the Chicago, Illinois area. You can reach her on Twitter @Ring_Sheryl. This post is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice, and does not create any attorney-client relationship.