Penelope van Buskirk knows what it’s like to run for her life. She suffered both verbal and physical abuse at the hands of her husband for nearly eighteen years. For Worse Never Better is an appropriate read for October, Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Penny* is one of the lucky survivors as many women who try to escape are murdered, sometimes along with their children, by their enraged husbands. As Penny says of her ex-husband, “He is now deceased. I am alive. I always thought it would be the other way around.”
For Worse Never Better helps readers understand some of the reasons women put up with spousal violence. Penny is not the stereotypical abused wife beaten to a mere shadow. She is feisty and headstrong; she says that was her defense against a domineering father. That feistiness also makes it seem odd that she would stay with a violent man, until we see the rest of the story. It is painful to read how he beat her, and how—ever loyal, ever hopeful—she covered up for him, lying about the bruises, “I didn’t hold on to the stair rail,” “Mommy got hit by a ball.” It is infuriating to read how he spoke to her, “Where the hell’s my dinner”—accusing, dominating, belittling—while she tried to salvage her self esteem.
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, the web sticky and complex. Penny does well at creating setting and expressing her thoughts. Her sharp sense of humor, which helped keep her going those eighteen years, shines through. The end is satisfying, with a twist of smile. During the years of abuse, Penny kept a diary on which her book is based.
Penny now works with victims of domestic violence and hopes her book will give abused women “a mirror of hope, understanding and strength. The book is also a must-read for anyone who knows an abused woman. For Worse Never Better is available on Amazon in print or e-book, but Penny will receive more dollars from a print copy sale if it’s through Authorhouse, and 50% of proceeds will benefit a services 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).
There are a number of shelters and resources for domestic violence victims in the St. Louis area, many found on the Alive website. Raven is an intervention and prevention program founded by men that works with men, including teens, to promote and teach non-aggressive relationship skills. Woman’s Place in Maplewood offers free workshops, counseling and support (314-645-4848). Safe Connections offers resources and a 24-hour hotline for abused women at 314-531-2003. The National Domestic Abuse hotline number is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
*Due to the public nature of online articles, the author’s nickname has been altered to a common spelling to help maintain her privacy. Her current last name is unknown to most who knew her during the abusive years.