The following post was submitted by a reader and has been edited for clarity. Names and locations have been changed. It may be triggering to those who have been affected by domestic violence. If you need help, please call the Domestic Violence Hotline on 1 800 799 7233 or visit the website.
Raising three children on my own was never my idea. When my husband of thirteen years died suddenly, I thought that I would sink under the weight of the pain. When the bills suddenly started to roll in, I felt like my children and I were never going to recover.
I had been a happy stay at home mom since I was pregnant with my daughter nine years before. My husband was the breadwinner, and I sold cute crafts on Etsy for spending money. We had a small savings account, but yearly vacations and our upscale home in a gated community kept us from really building it up. We were happy. The kids were happy. It was a good life.
But it all changed when my husband died in a car accident on his way home from work one foggy winter evening. Our savings went to his funeral, and within six months we had to sell the house and move in with my parents two states away. It was a huge adjustment for all of us, but my focus was on finding stable work and making sure my kids were okay.
It was a year and a half later that I met Bobby. He was tall and handsome, and he worked with children as a social worker. He came into the tire shop where I worked part time and immediately we clicked. His office was only a block away, and for weeks, he found ways to come by the shop and chat me up. When he finally asked me out, I was flattered, but I told him that I wasn’t really looking for a boyfriend. In truth, I felt terrible – like I was being unfaithful to my husband even to be talking to him.
Bobby was sweet and kind. He took my refusal in stride and said he was happy just to go out as friends if I was ever interested in a night out. My parents were supportive. They encouraged me to go out with him, reminding me that I couldn’t just stay alone forever. My kids, too, were reassuring and supportive. They wanted me to be happy. The next time I saw Bobby, I agreed to go for a drink.
Our first date was fun. We met up with some friends that I’d gone to high school with, and everyone seemed to like him. My girlfriend, Kelly, told me that I should totally go for it with him. “You deserve to be happy,” she said.
For several months, Bobby and I went out, and he was always a perfect gentleman. He had a smile for everyone, and he loved to talk about the kids he worked with. One day, though, he picked me up for a date, and I could see that something was different. There was a strange set to his jaw that I took for anger. I asked him if there was something bothering him, and he exploded in anger. He was furious because one of the kids he worked with was being given back to a parent that had abused him. He began swearing loudly, his face purple with rage. One of his female co-workers had apparently approved it, and he was sure it was a bad idea. “The dumb bitch deserves a bullet in her stupid brain,” he swore.
I had never seen him so angry, and I was shocked at how violent his thoughts were. I told myself it didn’t mean anything. He was upset about the child’s welfare, and his anger had made him say it. I spent most of the evening listening to him rant, and I calmed him as best as I could. By the end of the night, he was mollified, and we parted ways with a kiss.
A few days later he was in a more jovial mood than usual. I asked him what had made him so happy, and he brushed it off, claiming he had just had a good day at work. Later, he casually dropped into conversation that his co-worker had been burglarized the previous night. I wasn’t too interested, but I conveyed how hard that must have been for her. He laughed. He said that the burglar had smashed in nearly everything she owned and had left her kitchen filled with dog poop. “Serves the bitch right,” he laughed.
Something about his gleeful demeanor set off my radar. His enthusiasm for this story, as well as the details he was providing didn’t seem normal. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up. At the same time as I was wondering to myself if he’d had anything to do with it, my inner voice told me to disregard my instincts. Bobby wasn’t like that. He was one of the good guys.
Still, I found myself avoiding his calls. For the next week or so, I made excuses why I couldn’t meet up with him. At first he was understanding, but after a few days, he was getting angry. He showed up at my parents house one evening and demanded to know why I was avoiding him. I tried to reassure him, but he had that set in his jaw that told me he was on the verge of an outburst. His hands were clenched in fists, and I tried again to calm him down, telling him that I had my period and was just feeling a bit under the weather. It seemed to mollify him a little. At least enough for him to leave. But that night, as I lay in bed, I saw a light flicker outside. I got up and went to the window, and I saw him standing by his car, staring at me from across the street. I quickly got back into bed, my heart racing. I knew this wasn’t normal.
At work the next day, I was left alone to monitor the shop while my two male colleagues went to lunch. They’d been gone for less than five minutes when Bobby suddenly appeared at the door. As he came inside, I saw him lock the door behind him.
“Hey baby,” he smiled at me. “I couldn’t stop thinking about you today. I had to come and see you.” He was on me in seconds, pressing me against the wall behind my desk. In all of our time together, we had never slept together. I still hadn’t got over the passing of my husband, and because I lived with my parents and my children, I hadn’t felt like the time was right. But as he held me there, he ran his hands along my body, feeling under my skirt and trying to yank down my underwear.
“Stop it!” I said it forcefully, asserting my independence. I was terrified because I knew what I was dealing with. This was not the nice guy I had been going out with. This was a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and I could finally see the sharp teeth that had been hidden for so long. “Stop it!” I said it again, pushing him as hard as I could. He stumbled back a step, and I saw his face go dark. His hand pulled back as if it hit me, and at that exact second one of my male colleagues appeared at the door, jiggling the locked handle and yelling for me to let him in.
Bobby composed himself quickly, plastering on a big friendly smile and turning around to let him in. He left quickly, and I slumped down and cried, as my colleague asked if I wanted him to call the police. I declined. He suggested I go home for the day, and I did.
I texted Bobby an hour later. I’d calmed down, and I realized that there was no way I could see him anymore. I told him as much, and within seconds he had texted back: “You will regret this, bitch.”
My heart hammered. My children were due home from school soon, and for once I was going to be there to meet them. I didn’t want them to think anything was wrong, so I went to the bathroom and cleaned up my face a bit and then went to the kitchen to start fixing snacks. I was surprised when I looked at the clock and saw that the kids were late. Usually they were home just before 3:30, and it was already a quarter to four. Suddenly my phone beeped.
I opened up the texts to find one from Bobby. There was a picture of my kids. They were smiling and holding up ice cream cones. My heart froze. I contemplated what to do. Should I respond? Should I call the police? What do I do?
A few seconds later I heard laughter. I ran to the front door, and my kids were running forward laughing and smiling. Brief hugs as they ran past me to go to their rooms. My youngest son smiled up at me. “Bobby took us for ice cream,” he said happily!
Bobby looked at me, a huge smile on his face. “Just wanted your mom to see that you guys will be taken care of if she’s ever not around,” he said. I stared in horror at him. When my kids were all inside, I tried to stifle the panic inside of me. “Thank you, Bobby. That was nice of you. But I think you should probably stay away from my kids for a while,” I said.
He continued to smile, and his head came near mine. He whispered, “Oh I think I may just stick around. A woman should never be alone. Anything could happen to her.” He stepped back, winked at me and then left.
I closed and locked the door. When my parents returned home, I went to my room and called a friend. I told her what had happened, and she immediately told me to call the police. She said that she’d heard a story a while back about Bobby, but having met him with me, she hadn’t believed it. But a friend had told her that Bobby had stalked his last girlfriend and threatened her until she moved away. Now, after what I’d told her, she suddenly realized it could be true. She reiterated that I needed to call the police, if only to get some peace of mind. I told her I’d think about it.
Later that evening, after the kids were in bed, I worked up the courage to talk to my parents. I told them all that had happened and asked their advice. Immediately my dad encouraged me to call the police, as well. “Get it on the record,” he said.
So I did. I called and gave them a brief synopsis about what had happened. They asked for Bobby’s name, but I hesitated. “Why? If I give you his name, are you going to go and talk to him? I think that might set him off,” I said. I was scared. I was still hoping he’d go away. The policewoman told me that without his name, she couldn’t do much. But she offered to send a patrol through our neighborhood more often. I accepted and thanked her.
The next morning, my friend called me. “Bobby followed me today. He was outside my house this morning, just watching me. He followed me to work. He creeped me out!” I shuddered. I told her to be safe and keep an eye out and let me know if he showed up anymore.
After I hung up, my phone went off again. It was Bobby. “Beautiful morning,” he had written. Then followed three photos – one of each of my kids as they walked to school. My heart hammered. I ran out the door and went as fast as I could to the school. I went straight to the office to check and see if my kids were checked in. The staff confirmed that they were present at morning roll call. I sighed in relief. I went out and began walking slowly back home.
As I neared my house, I noticed Bobby’s car creeping slowly along the road near me. I turned toward it, and I saw him smiling. He raised his fingers in the sign of a gun and pointed it at me, pretending to shoot. He laughed and then he sped off.
I ran the rest of the way home, and I called the police. This time, I gave them his name.
A few hours later, I got a call from a police sergeant. He told me that they had spoken to Bobby and he’d denied any wrong doing. He said that we had just broken up and that he had come to my house to see if we could talk, but I’d told him to leave and he had done so. The sergeant made it clear that he wasn’t going to get involved in a lover’s quarrel. I tried to explain that that wasn’t what happened. I told him that he had indirectly threatened me and my children, but he explained that what he’d done wasn’t against the law. He again said that they’d send a patrol by our house, but unless he did something illegal, there wasn’t much he could do.
I spent the rest of the day watching the clock, waiting for the time when I could go to the school to pick up the kids. No way I was going to let them walk home. Just as I was heading out the door, my phone rang. It was my father. He said that he’d seen Bobby outside his office building, watching him through a window. It looked like he had something in his waistband, and he couldn’t be sure it wasn’t a gun. He told me to stay where I was because he was coming home, and we would go to the police station together. I told him that I needed to get the kids from school, but that I would meet him back at the house.
The kids were surprised when I picked them up. They were embarrassed and couldn’t understand why their mother would show up out of the blue. But I hustled them along, encouraging them to walk faster. We were a block away when Bobby appeared, standing by a tree ten feet in front of us. I saw him before the kids did, and I immediately held my arms out and told them to stop. Bobby swaggered toward me, and I shielded my kids as best as I could. I offered up a big smile. “Hey, Bobby! We’re in a hurry at the moment, but why don’t we talk once I get the kids home?”
I sensed my daughter tensing up behind me. She could hear in my voice that something wasn’t right. I straightened myself up and tried to appear normal. Bobby, for his part, was smirking at us, one hand hidden behind him, holding on to something I couldn’t see. I knew what it was, though.
I turned my back on him in an instant. I huddled my children close to me and said, “I need you guys to listen to me right now. Turn around and go as fast as you can back to the school. Go. Right now.”
My daughter’s eyes were wide with shock, and my two sons were staring blankly at me. “But mom…”
I looked at them, begging them with my eyes to listen and do what I said. “I love you. Now run.”
Thankfully they didn’t hesitate. They whirled around and ran back toward the school, and I turned back toward Bobby.
“It’s a shame…” he started. His hand was coming forward now, the gun he held twinkling in the sunlight.
I shut my eyes tight, thinking of my kids. My parents. My husband. I knew I was about to orphan my children.
I will never forget the sound that broke the silence. I had expected a huge bang, but what I got instead was a loud, piercing claxon – a split second of siren. “Put down the gun!” I opened my eyes and saw two policemen pointing their weapons at Bobby. He looked shocked. I looked quickly around, and I saw my father standing on the sidewalk a few feet away. A police car was beside me, two more coming down the road.
Bobby had his hands in the air, but the gun was still in his hand. I didn’t dare move. He was staring at me, hatred all over his face. The police called again for him to put the gun down. I saw him drop it, and the policemen ran forward and wrestled him to the ground. I finally was able to breathe.
I ran toward my dad. He had been the one to bring the police. Somehow they had taken him more seriously than me. If they’d been even a few seconds later…
My kids and I are okay. Bobby is in the state prison, and we have been able to put this all behind us. It took a while, but I was finally able to save enough money to move out on my own, and the kids and I are back in the town we lived in before my husband died. My parents are planning on moving here in the next year. They want to be closer to us. None of us takes life for granted anymore.
I’m dating someone. It took a while, but I knew I couldn’t spend the rest of my life refusing to trust. He is a policeman. One of the good ones.
My children still don’t know exactly what happened between me and Bobby. In all honesty, I can’t really claim that a lot really did happen. He never actually hurt me. He scared me, but I came out of it without any bruises or scrapes. Just a lot of nightmares.
My message to women everywhere is to follow your gut. My story ended well, but so many others do not. Just recently there was a woman whose story was just like mine. But she didn’t make it out. Neither did her children.
I hope that the police learn how to help women who reach out to them. Like rape, domestic violence is often under reported because of the fear that a victim will not be believed. Or that nothing will be done. Our society protects men, and it is time we stopped.