Amy’s story

Why my heart thinks OJ did it

My ex-husband hit me one time. Still I know, just from the look he gets in his eyes sometimes, that he is capable of killing me.

The parallels between Rex and O.J. Simpson have been chilling. So, while my head tries to believe in the justice of the verdict in the criminal case, my heart is pretty sure that Simpson murdered his ex-wife.

Why do I want to tell the story of the time Rex came after physically? Because the two people in the world I’ve told so far have been likewise chilled by the way the story gives them insight into O.J. (Also, the telling may be healing for me.)

Control is the key

Rex is a control freak, in just the way that prosecuting attorney Chris Darden described Simpson in his opening statement at the trial. Rex thought he owned me. He worked at eroding my opinion of myself.

When he felt hurt or rejected, he chose whatever verbal weapon would do the most damage to my soul. Remember when Denise Brown offered testimony that O.J. had called Nicole a fat blob and a fat pig when she was pregnant? That’s the sort of thing I’m talking about. O.J. He knew his wife felt big and ugly — that her faith in her own attractiveness was at a low ebb. So, he zapped her. Rex/O.J. types have a radar for fingering the one thing that will wound their objects of obsession in the most emotiona lly devastating way possible.

It’s emotional violence. In fact, that’s what I called my particular form of abuse even before the time Rex slugged me and started to strangle me. I searched for a term for months. The abuse books call it verbal abuse, or closer, emotional abuse. But I felt it as emotional violence before Rex ever raised his hand.

The odd thing — maybe even the characteristic thing — about this kind of control is that the abuse escalates when the object tries to pull away from the controller. (Susan Forward talks about this in her book, Obsessive Love.) Whenever Rex feared I wasn’t under his thumb anymore, he tried to scare me back into his power. And he usually succeeded. In fact, I don’t like admitting it, but he probably still can.

The attack

On the night he hit me, in January 1995, we had been divorced for about three months. We were still in the same house, trying to get along to save on expenses while the house was up for sale. Money was tight and I had not been contributing much.

My income had been a sore point for the last three-quarters of the 14-year marriage. Ironically, when we met, I earned more than he did. Over the years though, I sold myself short so he could feel superior. I ended up a self-employed, depressed shrinking violet, afraid to pick up the phone most days to ask for work. I know, I know, I know. Don’t say it. I claim at least half the blame for the place I came to be in.

That night Rex was worrying about money and brought up an opportunity for a lucrative temporary project that I had not followed up on. I wanted the job, but it was a full-time deal in an office instead of in my cave at home. I was afraid of venturing o ut after five years of working at home.

“You’re a slob,” he said, meaning I was lazy, and knowing he was saying the single most debilitating and cruel thing one can say to someone who is depressed.

I thought about it for maybe a half-second, then slapped him. I guess it was my way of saying, “I won’t let you do this to me this time.”

Rex got my meaning and slugged me in the jaw, his fist closed and his whole arm in full motion. I guess it was his way of saying, “Get back in your place.”

(Plea: please don’t do what I did. Don’t hit. Not ever. Even if it’s not your fault that you end up cut or dead, you’ll still be cut or dead. It’s kind of analogous to defensive driving.)

Some words were exchanged after he hit me. I don’t really remember what was said; it’s the tactile memory that stays with me. I think I must have spoken some sort of translation of what my slap meant: “You don’t get to do this anymore. I’m just scared to death to go into the world. I’m not lazy. Stop trying to make me feel terrible about myself.”

That all happened over a span of only six or seven minutes, but at some point within that bracket, Rex dared me to call the police. I suppose he reasoned I would make a fool of myself if I did make the call, since I took the first swing. (O.J. told the detective investigating his 1989 battering arrest that he thought Nicole’s punches mitigated his own behavior.)

I still stood my ground, something I didn’t often do, and dared him back. “Go ahead and hit me again,” I said. “I bet you don’t have the guts.”

My juvenile, “you’re a chicken” taunt caused Rex to come after me again, but not for the exact reason you might imagine. Mostly, he seemed enraged that I was actually attempting to loose myself from his power.

We had been standing about 15 feet from each other in our kitchen. About two seconds after I issued that second dare, his face transformed from mere anger to animal rage. I’d seen it happen before and I’ve seen it since. It terrified me every time. His color goes dark red, his jaw muscles tighten, and veins on his forehead literally throb. Just thinking about it makes me shiver.

He charged me. He hit my face again, then put his hands around my throat, pressing and twisting.

I slumped down to the floor and called for our oldest son, only 10 at the time, who was upstairs. Rex stopped. I stayed on the floor. I can still feel the exact position: in a ball: shins flat on the floor, hands and forearms clamped around my head. (And in an almost tragi-comedy irony, the cat food bowl was right by my mouth.

When I looked up Rex was pointing at he. He was still in that wild animal mode, because when he pointed and said, “You! You did this,” His voice was not human. I can hardly describe how it sounded: kind of a piercing throaty howl or croak.

And you know what I said? “I know. I did it.”

He won. He had beat me back down again.

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