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I have hesitated to write this as in doing so I thought I would have to label myself a “survivor” or a “victim”…neither of which I can concede to being. Survivor smacks of somebody just getting by, and I plain old refuse to be a victim. So, I am writing this as a champion of my circumstance.
How does a person fall into the insidious snare of Domestic Violence? You don’t fall…it’s more like a slow and gradual march into a pit…you don’t realize how deep you are until you look back; and then it takes some effort to climb back out.
I was 19, had completed my sophomore year of college and was planning on moving to another far-off state to be with my high school boyfriend who was in the air force. I had visited, and was enrolled in my new college; I had a good start to a great life. I started a summer job and met “Him”. “He” was one of my supervisors, an older man who “took me under his wing”. “He” said all the right things, “He” was getting a divorce, “He” had prayed for and waited for me his entire life”, “He” would love me life no other. “He” would always be there for me; “He” thought I was the most beautiful creature to ever grace this planet”.
By age 20 I was pregnant and he was ecstatic. Against recommendation of EVERYBODY I knew I married “him” and took his two kids into our home. So…there I was; 20 years old with 3 kids; no college degree, no job, no friends…life was just how “He” wanted it to be. At first the control felt like unmitigated devotion and unconditional love…just what every girl longs for. I thought I would be happy.
The next ten years don’t even deserve to be explained in detail, as it was a blur of screaming, yelling, humiliation, public embarrassment, dinners thrown on floor, strip searches, interrogations, curfews, rape, threats, and tears…lots and lots of tears. I didn’t go to the grocery store with black eyes…the pain was invisible; my soul was wounded and bleeding, my spirit decaying within. The world saw my pretty smiling face, my adorable child, my nice house and brand new car.
Throughout the years I would set benchmarks for my escape; when I graduate from college I’ll leave…when my daughter is in school full-time I can leave…maybe when I get a full time job I can leave…when I make more money I will be ready to leave…if he hurts me like that ONE more time I have to go…and …before I could blink – my ten-year anniversary loomed, I was near my 30th birthday, and I was suffocating.
I was determined to leave and I told him. He begged, bargained and sobbed, then; strangely enough, seemed to accept the fact that we were over. We had the first calm and adult conversation of our marriage about dividing assets and child custody. Relieved, I went to bed. I awoke with a belt around my neck, a knee in my back, struggling for breath. I rolled over to see my husband throwing his fist at my face while strangling me with the other hand. In a panic I fought, begged, screamed, cried and prayed out loud. He paused to catch his breath and I asked to call my daughter at my mother’s house, so I could say goodbye to her. He agreed but first demanded I take off my pajamas. He dialed my mom’s house, she answered, he handed me the phone; I threw it and ran for my life. He caught me in the neighbor’s yard and continued to strangle, punch and kick me until the neighbor intervened. I called 911; he was arrested and charged with attempted murder which was pled down to a felonious assault. I really haven’t seen or spoken to him since, except for court proceedings. He went to jail for 2 years and is back in the community and married twice more.
I am now on the other side. I am 46 and feel fabulous! I am married to a handsome man with a wonderful and kind soul. I completed my college degree and have a professional job. I am active and involved in the community. My daughter is grown and out of the house but has not escaped without emotional issues of her own. She remembers much more about the violence than I thought.
I have supportive family that helped me through this…my family was ALWAYS there for me, yet it took me 10 years to free myself. The Alliance* is vital to all those in this community who suffer in silence without a support system to aid their escape from the pit of Domestic Violence.
What I want people to know most about domestic violence is that it isn’t a single event; it’s not something more people can see from the outside. Domestic violence is a culmination of behaviors. Domestic violence often happens to “The nicest people you know”…because you see only what they want you to. The abuser is the master of deception, the abused; keepers of the secret. I subjected myself and sacrificed my goals, dreams, and self-esteem to keep some order in the family I had created.
As you read this…somebody; somewhere; is being abused.
If you find yourself in a destructive relationship…please call for help. It doesn’t matter how much your partner says they love you, talk is cheap. If you are being harmed there is a way out, you can join me on the other side.
*Alliance* - Tri-County Safe Harbor Inc. was known as Alliance Against Violence and Abuse until January 2013.