Abused No More
At age 26, I met my future husband while on a business trip to New York, and we were married within a year. We had mutual business interests—I in international trade and he in chemical engineering—and we felt our backgrounds (both of us grew up going to church) formed a good basis for marriage.
Soon after our first child was born, I quit my job and started my own business. When my business began to thrive, my husband quit his job and joined my company. As our financial situation improved, we invested in one new house after another and spent time doing side jobs to make more money. As such, going to church was not something we even thought about. Our social circle included talented professionals who had also come from overseas to study in America—and who were now enjoying the lifestyle of the rich. We spent weekends with these friends, eating together, singing karaoke, and dancing. Our only thought was to find pleasure in food and drink, fancy clothes, and expensive jewelry which we could show off on weekends.
Our family grew, and we eventually had a son and a daughter, and like most Chinese people, we placed a high value on our children’s education. My husband wanted them to be successful academically, and I wanted to be the best wife and mother possible. When my children reached school age, I took them to the library, inspected their homework, and made sure they did not miss practicing their musical instruments or drilling for their favorite sport.
But not long after our first child was born, the abuse began. My sister-in-law in Taiwan wrote to say that she had lost a huge amount of money by gambling and needed my husband to pay her debt. Speaking for my husband, I declined to pay her debt but agreed to pay all of her son’s educational expenses instead. After learning about my suggestion, my husband started to beat me. This was the first time he had ever treated me this way. With his strongly built body, he beat me down onto the floor, and I rolled down the stairs. While I cried uncontrollably, he paid no attention to me and just left the house. I had no relatives to turn to in America, so I called my mother in Canada, and in tears told her what had happened. She said I should not make a fuss—that would only make things worse!
From this beginning, frequent beatings as well as verbal abuse became commonplace in our home. My husband would call me vulgar names and say that no one would want to have anything to do with a fool like me. This pained me deeply in my heart, and I immediately thought that we needed to start going to church. But my husband would not agree to go and would become angry when I mentioned it. The first 10 years of our marriage were a vicious cycle of brutal beatings, followed by apologies from my husband. I would force myself not to retaliate and tried to find excuses to cover his offenses. Our young children often had to endure the sight of their dad swinging a frying pan to hit their mother, and their mother so scared that she hid under the dining room table.
With spare time on his hands, my husband began playing mahjong, first at home and then at casinos in Atlantic City. This initially was meant to be a pastime for our entire family—just another way to enjoy the weekends. But my husband soon became addicted, lost all our money, and incurred huge gambling debts, which eventually led to the bankruptcy of our family business. Following this tragic turn of events, my husband became an even more violent person. He frequently exhibited outbursts of temper and would yell at me at the top of his lungs.
The Call to 911
As our children got older, they tried to intervene to stop the abuse. Once when they were teenagers, my husband beat me like a madman. Our son was afraid I was going to be killed and called 911 in desperation. When the police arrived, the officers asked if I wanted to press charges. If I said “yes,” my husband would be handcuffed and arrested on the spot. So out of pity for him, I said “no.” After the police left, my husband became very belligerent toward our son, saying that he had shamed him. He put a knife in my hand and ordered me to kill my son. I was shaken to the extreme! I felt that my son had done wrong in calling the police. After this incident, our son was very bitter toward his father, and our daughter lived in terror. Both of them, however, chose to keep silent about what was happening at home. We all lived in fear that something terrible was going to happen.
Because we had little income (my husband had sold our expensive household items to pay his gambling debts), I returned to the business world, working in a lowly job as an assistant clerk. My husband kept close track of my travel time to and from work each day, calculating to the minute how much time I needed to get home. If I was late, he would pull my hair and not allow me to eat with the family in the dining room—but instead in the bedroom. I had to go to work every day, and I also needed to care for my children after work. Some nights, after I fell asleep in exhaustion, my husband would pinch me hard so that I would wake up. One night, I told him that I wanted to die. He opened the window and told me to jump. If it hadn’t been for my daughter crying “Mom, don’t jump!” I would have attempted to end my life.
The Second Call to 911
Once after slamming a heavy lamp on my head and beating me, my husband refused to let me go to work. My son called 911 for the second time. When the officers arrived, they asked what I wanted to do. I told them I needed to go to work because I was the one who kept the office door key. So they escorted me to my job. After arriving at the office, my coworkers saw that my clothes were torn. They knew something awful had happened. After taking care of some things at work, I applied for a one-week leave of absence. Then I headed to the police station to report what had happened. It was not my wish to divorce my husband—I just wanted him to quiet down and reflect on his wrongdoing. I didn’t think he would hurt our children, so I felt I could leave him. The police asked if I had any relatives or friends who could take me in.
Judy, a friend who knew about my family situation, offered to let me live with her during this difficult time. My legs were in such pain as I walked to her house that tears were streaming down my face, and I had to stop at every street corner to rest. The next day, my agony was so severe that Judy and her family drove me to the hospital. The doctor found that because of the abuse, two sections of my spinal cord were damaged, causing the pain in my legs. The doctors said I needed surgery, but the success rate was only 50%. If it failed, I would likely be paralyzed. I could not afford to become paralyzed! I needed to take care of my children!
Previously, I had worked for the Chinese American Federation, and the chairman knew my family situation well. He referred me to Dr. Wong, who recommended physical therapy rather than surgery. I began going to Dr. Wong’s clinic every day. Both he and his wife were very kind, and they did not charge me for the treatments. During the first few days of therapy, I couldn’t walk. Some friends came to Judy’s house to carry me on their backs to the clinic during their lunch hour. Because of needing physical therapy, I felt I had to resign from my job, but my boss convinced me to stay in order to have insurance coverage from the company. He suggested that I take advantage of my vacation leave or apply for extended leave without pay.
My Husband Arrested
Out of fear, I had not let my children know where I was staying. But as soon as I could resume driving, I risked returning home to see how they were doing. Wanting to congratulate my son on his having graduated from high school and being accepted at Cornell University, I returned home. When my husband saw me, he went crazy! He tried to run me over with the car! Falling in the yard, I started crawling to get away, and this time, a neighbor saw what happened and called the police. Because my neighbor reported the incident, my husband was prosecuted, and the judge ordered him to be taken to a mental hospital for psychiatric evaluation. The court ruled that he was not mentally ill but was an abuser. I, as the victim of domestic violence, had to stand trial before a prosecutor. Amazingly, my mother-in-law and her family put the blame on me for pressing charges against my husband! The police said I should have sued my husband a long time ago because of his abuse.
Following the warning of the police and the advice of my attorney, I finally agreed to a divorce. When our case went to court, the judge ruled that since both of our names were on our credit card accounts, I was responsible to pay half of the amount owed—when actually the debt was all my husband’s gambling debts. The divorce was a relief, but my self-confidence was completely gone. The suicide prevention center asked me to call them every day to talk, in order to ease some of the inner pain I was experiencing.
A Conversation with My Pastor
Besides my regular full-time job, I took on three part-time jobs to support our family. I needed to help pay for my son’s university education, even though he had been given a scholarship, as well as gotten funding from my company. One day after returning home from work exhausted, I sat on the floor and wept. Then I noticed the phone number of Rev. Samuel Chiang on my kitchen cupboard. Previously, Rev. Chiang had visited our home and talked with my husband, but my husband had never changed. Suddenly, I felt anger toward Rev. Chiang! I picked up the phone and called him, telling him that my now ex-husband had been arrested and was in jail. Rev. Chiang calmly said, “Please come to the church and let’s talk about it.” So, using my crutch, I walked to the church, and with an outburst of emotion told the pastor I was there to demand justice. I said that I had done what God said—I had forgiven my ex-husband many times, so why was the ending such a terrible mess?
Rev. Chiang said: “Anna, to forgive others is a virtue, but we must make it clear what to forgive. Your ex-husband was ensnared by the temptations of Satan. You are in a lot of pain right now, but you have to stand up. When you stand up, your children can stand up too. When you fall down, your children will fall down as well. Your children are not looking at anyone other than you—their mom!” Then Rev. Chiang said: “I will pray for you, but there is only one person in this world whose prayers are more effective than mine. That person is you! From this day on, I will be praying for you and your children, yet there is more need for you to pray for yourself and your family. Cry out to your Heavenly Father moment by moment and tell Him all about your suffering and pain. God will listen to your prayers!”
The True Source of Wisdom
Rev. Chiang’s wife invited me to join a Bible study class at their church. I was embarrassed to decline her invitation but had no one else to turn to. My previous friends with whom we had partied in our younger years had all left, and even Judy had moved away. In the Bible class, I quickly realized that though I had attended a Christian school when I was young, I really knew nothing about the Bible. Mrs. Chiang led me in a study of Psalm 1, and my inner pain, frustration, and helplessness began to disappear. The Bible assured me that God cared about me, and that I had no reason for despair. God could change the valley of weeping into a source of joy. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.” God’s words gave me consolation and strength.
The pastor’s wife told me to keep reading, because the Book of Ecclesiastes follows the Book of Psalms. It is a book about God’s wisdom, and we need real wisdom to discern the tricks of Satan. I realized that I had not sought God’s guidance and help in my times of need. My husband and I had walked in our own ways and gone astray. Thinking back on our 17 years of marriage, I realized that I had obeyed my husband unconditionally no matter how wrong he was. And he, like myself, did not know God. In the past, I had put all the blame on my husband. Now I knew that I, too, was sinful and needed Jesus Christ to save me. Praise God! Through the guidance of Rev. Chiang and his wife, I learned to stop feeling sorry for myself and rely on God to help me become a strong and courageous woman.
Pastor Chiang’s wife spent 4–5 years leading me in Bible study, and we became good friends. When all other friends abandoned me, they stepped into my life to lead me to Jesus. Formerly, I had only thought about my career and having everything under my control, but after experiencing the violent storms of abuse in my life, I realized that a person’s wisdom and strength are limited. We all need to humble ourselves and rely only on Jesus Christ.
Both of my children have grown up and have their own professional specialty. And I have a steady, good job of my own. Several years ago, my ex-husband died from terminal Parkinson’s disease at a hospice in California. Oftentimes pastors visit terminally ill patients to pray for their salvation. I hope that my ex-husband received Jesus Christ as his personal Savior through opportunities given him by visiting pastors. I hope he confessed his sins and repented so that his soul was able to rest in the assurance of eternal life.
This article was first published in 2016 by Chinese Christian Mission in Chinese Today magazine. It was translated into English for Challenger by Philip Yu, a violin teacher in New Jersey.