“I have a friend that is currently in an abusive relationship. I knew I wanted to help her but didn’t know how to. I had attended your fundraiser and got her in touch with your organization. You are truly amazing, so glad I got to know you and your organization, so proud to be part of it all!”
And so we went on like that for quite awhile. Every experience was lived together, every thought was shared, and together we would conquer this life. I wanted to make him as happy as I thought he was making me. I cant recall the exact moment but a some point the winds began to shift.
With our growing love his layers began to peel back and his true intentions were starting to reveal. A much darker side than I had originally encountered. By now , I am completely in love and committed to taking on his world, just as he had with mine. I can help him through his pain, that is what love is. I would watch him fight viciously with his family,which alarmed me. He would explain to me that due to their upbringing that was the only way they knew how to fight. And as he promised, every time they would make up and all would seem ok. He began to engage in verbal and physical fights on a consistent basis when we were out. Drinking became one of our favorite past times together. Again, the fights would be explained away by where he grew up and his desire to keep him and I safe. At first I was allowed to voice my opinions on how I felt about violence. I was dead set against it. He would assure me that it would never be a part of us. I was the only thing that mattered to him and he wouldnt hurt me. Overtime I would lose my right to voice my opinion on anything. I noticed he began to expose an aire about him that he saw himself as smarter,stronger and better than most. He loved engaging people in conversation where he could humiliate them. It created a very hostile environment when we were with other people. Holding a job was impossible for him throughout our entire relationship. But still, I saw in him the same person I fell in love with and was determined to find out why he did that and help him to be the best he could be. He would go into great detail of all that his childhood encompassed, and it was horrific. He would tell me about all the times he had been wronged and all those that had hurt him and I felt such desire to love him and let him know I wouldnt be a person to hurt him.
I had already been the victim of his verbal assaults for some time. But as I saw it,the pain he inflicted on me is due to his pain inside so somehow I could make peace with it. I couldnt relate with what had happened to him that I thought made him that way, so who was I to judge how he handled it. I thought I could help him through his demons. I loved him. But eventually the blame shifted to me. And by that point I was in over my head. I spend every waking moment doing whatever I could to keep him peaceful, to make him happy and to feel loved. I eventually had no thoughts in my head that I owned. So by the time the physical attacks began I could hardly see how I was not completely or at least somewhat at fault for them. Due to the fact that he knew everything about me, he was able to sprinkle bits of truth into his irrational reasons as to why I was attacked every time. If I spoke when he didnt want to hear it he would cover my mouth and nose until I couldnt breathe and would end up vomiting. If he felt at all that I wronged him throughout the day, he would strangle me till I would beg him to forgive me. The strangling became a daily part of our routine. This is a small window into the daily physical attacks I endured. He knew I still so much desired for him to love me and see that I was more than just the mistakes he saw now. I remember one time he punished me by leaving me in another city, cold on the side of the road with no phone, or money to get home. He finally came back to get me and I begged at his feet to let me back in the car, allowing me only to sit in the back seat like a dog, blaring music so loud so I could barely think and slapping me as many times as he felt I deserved. I remember wanting to die. I kept hoping he would remember the woman he fell in love with as I was still trying to do with him everyday. Of course there was other women, which made my heart hurt even more. These tended to be our most vicious fights as I was unable to keep quiet about it. After everything how was I not enough? Many of bloody lips and black eyes came from these fights. One of the worst was driving home one night, I was in the drivers seat and we were arguing as we did often . He began hitting me over the head with a can, blood and liquids pouring down my face, soaking my hair and car, all while im driving 80mph down the highway. He would grab the wheel and try to yank it. I have no idea how I survived. I was so broken. I had stopped doing anything outside of work, my kids and constantly obsessing about this relationship. I didnt have the energy to maintain most of my friendships anymore. I couldnt keep up the facade that everything was ok, and I was tired of lying. I was truly alone, except for him. He had become the one who inflicted my pain and also the one who could take it away. Most fights would conclude with us cuddled up apologizing for whatever caused the fight in the first place,which 99% of the time was something I did. We would together minimize the beating. If I just hadnt done whatever it was that time to set him off, then it wouldnt have had to escalate to the beating. I was growing sicker and sicker by the day. I was living in a world that we created where love was intertwined with abuse. They somehow went hand in hand. I was losing touch with reality and didnt know how to ever get it back.
I was ashamed at who I had become. The things I, myself were doing were repulsive to me. Who was I? I refused to share any of it with anyone, what would I say? How could anyone understand or forgive me? How could I love someone who hurt me so much? How could this be my life? I couldnt make sense of any of it so I continued on everyday just to survive. By now we had broke up and got back together more times than I could count and sadly living in the abuse was more comfortable than living in the unknown if he was gone. The anxiety and fear where more than I could live with. I so many times fantasized about dying and being in heaven where I would be safe. My will to live luckily won every time.
I don’t believe there was a final straw that made me decide to leave. I believe I was finally at a point that there was no other choice besides death. But how? How do you leave? I wasnt going to leave my home, it was my children and I’s home. I rented it, I paid for it. I still worked every single day. And I definitely wasnt strong enough to make him leave and stick to it. Besides, how much of this is my fault anyway? I was however becoming more obsessed with leaving then I was with making the relationship work and so I finally decided I had to do something. I reached out to my pastor and asked if he knew of a counselor or just anyone I could talk to. I at this point just wanted to see if this relationship really is what I think it is and if there is any help out there for me. Thankfully they got me in touch with someone that I now can honestly say saved my life.
It was 2 years ago I began my journey out. I left behind the life of torture, but brought with me ruptured ear drums, numerous scars, loss of a business,ruined friendships and mental challenges that will plague me for years to come. There didnt seem to be much to look forward to. The road out at first was almost as bad as living with the abuse. It doesnt get better the minute you leave. The fear stays constant, the anxiety is your best friend. My journey out has many of ups and downs, and I even went back to him a few times. I felt like I was a child beginning to walk. However with each step I was getting glimpses of Freedom. The tangled web of abuse takes years to unwind. It is a process, and you cannot untangle it alone. It is a much more complicated situation then just there’s a guy who does something bad to you so you need leave and everything will be fine again. Through my journey to freedom I learned that only with dedication to education, counseling, a support system and HOPE is it possible to break the chains. There is not a quick fix. There was not a structured system in place at the time for me and that is why I am dedicated to put one in place for women just like me. I thought I was alone. Through my journey I was hit with the realization there are so many women just like me, and many haven’t had the chance at freedom yet. I believe domestic violence is highly misunderstood and an epidemic that society pushes under the rug because it is uncomfortable to look at. The damage reaches far beyond the four walls that it is committed in, and long after the abuse has stopped. There is a big misconception of the “type” of woman that would be in an abusive relationship. These women are not weak. They do not like the punishment. They are not too stupid to leave. They have careers of their own, families and friends. The reasons they stay are deep rooted and many of times because the road out feels unbearable. These woman usually have an incredible capacity to love and can endure intense pain while still maintaining their lives. It is in your workplace, your church, your social group. It is everywhere. Each story has its own details but every story will sound similar in the cycle the relationship took to get to the abuse and why it is so difficult to get out. I want each woman in these stories to know that they are not alone and that there is hope! I want to bring light to where the darkness has been residing, to bring freedom to those that are being chained. These chains can be broken! I want to reach out a hand for the first step and give them courage throughout the entire journey. No matter how many bumps in the road or how long it takes, every woman deserves freedom.