Penelope vanBuskirk knows what it’s like to run for her life. She suffered both verbal andphysical abuse at the hands of her husband for nearly eighteen years. I justfinished reading her memoir, For Worse Never Better, appropriate for Octoberwhich is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Penny* is one of the luckysurvivors as many women who try to escape are murdered, sometimes along withtheir children, by their enraged husbands. As Penny says of her ex-husband, “Heis now deceased. I am alive. I always thought it would be the other wayaround.”
For Worse NeverBetter: Diary of an Abused Woman and Escape to Freedom helps readers understand some of the reasons women put up with spousalviolence. Penny is not the stereotypical abused wife, beaten to a mere shadow.She is feisty and headstrong; she says that was her defense against adomineering father. That feistiness also makes it seem odd that she would staywith a violent man, until we see the rest of the story. Penny was neitherperfect nor always wise, sometimes pushing her husband’s hot buttons on purposein response to her frustrations with his cheating, his bossiness, his refusalto let her have any choice in what should have been family decisions. It ispainful to read how he beat her, and how—ever loyal, ever hopeful—she coveredup for him, lying about the bruises, “I didn’t hold on to the stair rail,” “Mommygot hit by a ball.” It is infuriating to read how he spoke to her, “Where thehell’s my dinner”—accusing, dominating, belittling—while she tried to salvageher self esteem.
Penny’s bookgrabbed me by the collar and pushed me to the end. My forgotten tea grew cold.I had to see how she escaped to write the book. At what cost, and what happenedto her little girls, the friends who tried to help? Wasn’t she afraid to writeher story? The book is not all doom. There are many happy moments mixed in,many times when love is strong and beautiful. They make the spider sweet, theweb sticky and complex. Penny does well at creating setting and expressing her thoughts. Her sharp sense of humor, which helped her keep going during the abuse, shines through. A number of typos didslip by, like small stones in a whitewater river. The end is satisfying, with atwist of smile.
Penny kept a diarythroughout the abuse. It is the basis for this cathartic book which she dared to write onlyafter her husband died. Of course, all names have been changed to protect theinnocent as well as the guilty. While Penny feels emotionally healed for the most part, she suffers permanent physical damage that worsens with age.
Penny now works with a shelter for women and hopes her book will give abused women “a mirrorof hope, understanding and strength. The book is also a must-read for anyonewho knows an abused woman. For Worse Never Better is available on Amazon inprint or e-book, but Penny will receive more dollars from a print copy sale ifit is through Authorhouse, and 50% of proceeds will benefit Chrysalis, aservices organization for victims of domestic violence. Visit Penny’s Live Free website to find articles, resources, and a link to her blog(Surviving Domestic Violence). Thank goodness there is help now for abused women (and men), unlike during the years when Penny was suffering.
*Due to the publicnature of online articles, the author’s nickname has been altered to a commonspelling to help maintain her privacy. Her current last name is unknown to most of those who knew her during the abusive years.