I Love Life: Domestic Violence Survivor Reveals Dark Secret
To outsiders, Dianne Schwartz lived a charmed life. She had won the title of Mrs. Arizona, acted in nationally televised commercials, performed as a professional singer and operated her own business. But these aspects of her life were simply a facade hiding a dark secret: Dianne’s home life was poisoned by the physical and emotional abuse perpetrated upon her by her husband.
“The good part of the marriage lasted only a month. During this time, he was pretending to be the man I had fallen in love with. Then, without warning, the mask fell away. After 4 weeks in this marriage, he beat me to the point where I needed medical help. But, out of embarrassment and shame, I didn’t go to the hospital.”
As the days passed, the abuse worsened.
“I’m very open about what was happening behind our closed doors in my book Whose Face Is in the Mirror? The abuse was extremely violent and quickly escalated. For me, it even became sexual and perverted. If you refuse to give in, which I did, you stay in the tension building stage. It’s really worse on the victim than the actual explosion stage. It’s like holding your breath, sometimes for weeks at a time.”
Dianne did whatever she could to keep the marriage alive. She blamed herself for the physical attacks.
“I really thought I was a woman who just couldn’t get it right: a woman who made her husband so angry he could only use violence to retaliate. I have since learned domestic violence isn’t about the beatings. It’s all about control and is similar to rape---used as a means of putting the victim into submission. I have learned the beatings are not the victim’s fault. There is never an excuse for domestic violence no matter what the abuser tells the victim.”
After weeks of being beaten, Dianne decided it was time to get help.
“I can remember an instance of standing in my house, looking at myself in the mirror and realizing I was no longer living my life. I was asking myself, ‘how did I ever get myself into this situation?’ When I began therapy, I understood this man would eventually kill me. I made a decision to get out while I could. I just couldn’t remain in the marriage. I was standing up and realizing I was living someone else’s life. I knew the relationship was going to get any better. I got into the marriage because I didn’t know who I really was.”
That’s when Dianne got help that probably saved her life.
“I lived in absolute fear and called a therapist. I was terrified and didn’t know what else to do. I felt I was being guided in life when I found the perfect therapist who helped me understand I was involved in a very destructive marriage.”
Now that she’s moved on with her life, Dianne no longer fears for her life. She loves life---a life that includes a husband who is not abusive.
It’s a different world for me now. I’m married to a partner who doesn’t have thoughts of violence. If there’s a problem, we sit down together and discuss what’s going on. We make decisions as a couple. I never worry that he’ll come home and be in a tension building stage. I always know what I can expect when he walks through that door. It’s really a totally new life for me!”
If you’re involved in an abusive relationship or know someone who is, Dianne Schwartz urges you to reach out.
“There are local shelters you can call. There’s the National Domestic Violence Hotline which is 1 800 799 SAFE. You have to ask for help! It’s really hard to tell someone you’re being abused. Yet it is the first step a victim has to take. You have nothing to lose. Seeking help leads to freedom.”