By MIKE CHAIKEN
Jennifer Hill is finding it easier and easier to talk about something that she never spoke of.
Each time the singer from Bristol explains what she went through at the hands of an ex-lover, the tale flows with fewer tears.
But for years, Jennifer explained she was silent about the emotional abuse inflicted upon her by an ex-lover. She was too embarrassed to talk to anyone about it.
She said it ate away at her body. The stress of worrying about what her lover would say she was doing wrong turned into knots in her stomach. These knots eventually erupted into bleeding that finally had to be corrected by surgery.
She said the abuse ate away at her family and friends, who slowly drifted away from her as they became frustrated with Jennifer’s inability to extricate herself from a destructive relationship.
However, these days, thanks to therapy, Jennifer is now able to recognize the hell she went through for seven years. And she’s talking about it because she wants to help other women—and men—avoid this kind of emotional abuse
Looking at Jennifer in the years she was abused, you’d be hard-pressed to figure out what was going on behind the scenes.
She was a popular singer in Connecticut, racking up oodles of awards for her music. She was the organizer of SWAN (Support Women Artists Now) Day, which is now celebrating its 10th anniversary. She was an active music instructor in the community, teaching children how to sing. She was a role model.
Those close to her saw glimpses of the turmoil. Casual acquaintances were in the dark.
Even though Jennifer appeared a success, at home, her ex-lover called her stupid, inept, a whore. She couldn’t do anything right in his eyes, including cook dinner.
If she spoke to male friends, Jennifer said, her ex would accuse her of cheating on him or intending to cheat on him.
In therapy, said Jennifer, she realized that she had been brainwashed by her abuser to believe things that weren’t true.
“I know I’m not all those things that person used to say to me,” said Jennifer.
“I know that a person who says these things isn’t a person who loves you,” said Jennifer.
It’s not as easy to leave as others might think, said Jennifer.
“I really, really loved that person,’ said Jennifer of her abuser. “I loved that person more than I loved myself.”
And when you’re abused, she said, “You’re afraid to tell anybody because they’ve told people all these horrible things about you, most of which have been exaggerated… Most of the time, (abusers) possess charm and they’re able to people think, ‘Oh maybe that person really is that bad.’”
“It took me a long time (to recover after I left) because I thought if I didn’t talk about it, it would go away and I would just on to the next chapter of my life,” said Jennifer, “and it didn’t.”
After the relationship with her abuser was over, there were still reverberations from the emotional abuse, said Jennifer. “When you’re in a normal relationship, you’re constantly questioning the situation because you don’t want to be controlled or abused ever again.”
“I have a hard time deciphering if someone is trying to mentally abuse me, put me down… Because of that, I can be very harsh,” said Jennifer, “and I try not to be.”
It took her time to realize that her husband, Bob Schwecherl, “who doesn’t control me, loves me more than the person who tried to control me and that was a hard thing to realize.”
Jennifer’s situation finally began to change when her ex-lover proposed to her.
“I got scared,” said Jennifer. She began to imagine her future and what it would be like. She was young and her lover kept her from hanging out with her friends. Her parents did not want him in their house.
If this was the situation now, Jennifer said, “What’s going to happen with me later?”
“I tried to be the strong person and broke off the engagement,” said Jennifer.
However, she said, her ex-lover did not give up that easily.
He showed up at her house with a loaded gun and pointed it at her. Jennifer’s daughter was sleeping in the next room.
Jennifer explained she had been shot by a classmate when she was 12-years-old. This left her with post-traumatic stress disorder. Her lover knew she had an issue with guns.
When he pointed the gun at Jennifer, she was terrified.
“I peed in my pants while I was sitting on the couch because I didn’t know what he was going to do,” said Jennifer.
Despite pulling a gun on her, Jennifer said she returned to her lover. “That’s what happens when you’re controlled.”
Jennifer said she spent another three years with that person. During that time, family, and friends made it clear they didn’t want her lover around.
“They didn’t want to worry about me any more so they washed their hands of me,” said Jennifer.
That’s when she met Bob. She had advertised for a new drummer for Jennifer Hill and Company. And Bob was asked to join the group.
Jennifer said Bob saw what her ex-lover did to her. He saw the acts of control, her crying, and he “saw me always in trouble.”
Bob told her she needed to get away from the situation.
“And I did,” said Jennifer.
The straw that broke the camel’s back arrived at the hospital.
Jennifer said she had forgotten something at her friend’s house and she returned to retrieve it. She rushed around the house because she was worried that her lover would be upset because she was taking too long.
In the process of scurrying around, she fell and broke her foot.
He told her the broken foot was her fault, Jennifer said. If she didn’t forget something at her friend’s house, if she didn’t rush around trying to retrieve it, she wouldn’t have broken her foot.
“He just dropped me off at the hospital,” said Jennifer, and he left.
When she realized she was in the hospital by herself for a broken foot that he blamed her for, Jennifer had a revelation.
She had to leave.
“I didn’t look back,” said Jennifer.
Although she left her ex-lover behind, the abuse didn’t just end.
Jennifer said her ex broke into Bob’s house one night when she was there. He knocked out Bob and punched her.
Jennifer said her ex still goes around Bristol, trying to ruin her reputation—telling his friends all the band things she did—which is typical for an abuser.
But Jennifer is trying to rise above the turmoil. She’s writing and recording new music. She is preparing for the next SWAN Day in 2017.
And she is trying to help other women avoid the turmoil she has finally begun to rise above by sharing her story.
Are you emotionally abused?
You may be experiencing emotional abuse if someone:
- Monitors what you’re doing all the time
- Unfairly accuses you of being unfaithful all the time
- Prevents or discourages you from seeing friends or family
- Tries to stop you from going to work or school
- Gets angry in a way that is frightening to you
- Controls how you spend your money
- Humiliates you in front of others
- Threatens to hurt you or people you care about
- Threatens to harm himself or herself when upset with you
- Says things like, “If I can’t have you then no one can.”
- Decides things for you that you should decide (like what to wear or eat)
— Federal Office on Women’s Health (WomensHealth.gov)