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Survivor Story: My Abuser Repeatedly Raped and Sexually Abused Me

Written by: BTSADV Survivor

When I first met him, I was a short, small-town, fourteen-year-old girl who was swept off my feet by his charm and sweet words. I felt like the princess he would tell me I was. After being interested in him for a year, he took me to a movie and asked me out.

He had placed me upon a pedestal and given me the acceptance that I wasn’t receiving from my parents. I had grown up with depression and anxiety as a result of my parents’ divorce, but because of his blended family, I didn’t feel so alone. We had many similar interests and being wanted by someone a year older boosted my confidence. I believed the happy ending would last forever. After a year into our relationship, the fairytale soured.

It began with his relentless cheating and blaming me for it. I was barely fifteen at the time when he had slept with his best friend. He said that it was my fault because I wasn’t satisfying him, and I didn’t understand his needs. I believed every word he said, almost clinging to it as if it was the gospel truth. He would build me up and then tear me back down. I felt so ugly and stopped eating, yet I felt that I was beautiful to only him.

He made sure he was my only friend because none of my girlfriends could stand his arrogance or his outbursts. They grew tired of my crying about him and decided it was best not to include me in plans. Eventually, I was isolated and felt that my abuser was the sole light and savior of my life, despite his habit of yelling at me constantly and sleeping with other people, including my friends. I was so mistaken and naive.

In the summer after I turned sixteen, I gave in to his demands, and he took my virginity. I have almost no idea what happened that night, but I also had no idea that because I was coerced, it was rape. After the initial rape, violence escalated in our relationship. It was known to everyone in our small-town high school that he had a temper. You weren’t a classmate if you hadn’t seen one of his outbursts of screaming and crying.

The first hit was a result of him beating on his steering wheel before turning to me to hit me as well. I excused it as an accident. It escalated to the point he had pushed me down the stairs in front of his stepmother and younger sister because he didn’t receive the lead role in our school’s musical.

After this, his demands in our sexual relationship began making me very uncomfortable. He loved to degrade and humiliate me until I cried. One of the most prominent memories from this time is having a belt around my neck while he forced my head into the grass near the lake recreation area fifteen miles from my house.

Another time, he cut my legs with a small knife from the kitchen, leaving thin cuts that bled only a little, and he told me that if I moved or struggled, he’d cut more. His only ritual that continued was setting a timer afterward where he demanded I held him. When the timer went off, he pushed me to the floor.

As much as I wanted to get out, we were just an “on and off” couple to my classmates and friends; even my teachers were aware that if I was crying, it was probably just because of him. He continued to throw things at me, yell at me, cheat on me, and rape me during and after school in the music room and auditorium. My first escape came because I had shouted a refusal at him. We were in the lunchroom with other students and faculty when he began yelling at me, ordering me to sit by him. I didn’t even mean to, but I shouted no.

After realizing what I had done, I ran down the hall to our band rehearsal room. He chased after me, screaming my name. When he caught up with me, he threw our phones and cornered me by the area where I kept my instrument, wrapped his hands around my throat, and held me there while he screamed into my face. I don’t remember what he said or what happened afterward, but his friends found me curled up on the ground and walked me to class. After school, they walked me to my car and agreed to keep him away from me during and after school.

I wish it ended simply there, but as his graduation approached, the more I realized I would miss him and the familiarity of our chaos. We slept together again after his graduation party. It was after this that I realized how bad everything was. Before he could push me on the floor when the timer rang, I got up and ran out the door to my car with my clothes in my hands. I drove home, sobbing.

I wanted so badly to have the fairytale, high school sweetheart of forever, but not everyone’s high school sweetheart is so sweet. It’s taken me over four years to fully grasp the severity of my first relationship and the aftermath of it all. To this day, I still wake up in sweats from nightmares, and I have irrational fears that will send me cowering in a corner.

However, finding my voice as an advocate in my area for other survivors has helped me find my own voice. I am exploring a healthy relationship for the first time, writing again, and enjoying my life authentically without fear.

I want other young girls to know that they are never alone and that their age does not make them insignificant. I want to end the romanticization of abusive, controlling behavior in young relationships. The poems and songs about love being painful are wrong. Love doesn’t hurt; abuse does.

**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page.

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What’s YOUR Raw Truth?

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, complete the form below. You can choose to remain anonymous.

Angel Story: My Cousin Was Murdered By Her Estranged Husband

Written By: A cousin, in memory of Chloe

Domestic violence is not selective to race, gender, or cultural ethnicity. It is not discerning to the rich or poor. Domestic violence became a nightmare turned reality for our family in March in a Kentucky town.  

The evening before her death, my 20-year-old cousin was frantically searching for her son after her estranged husband threatened to kidnap him and leave the country. He provoked her with several text messages, phone calls, and live streams on social media telling her she would never see him again. 

On the morning of March 23rd, he sent her a message telling her she could come to pick up her son. Her ex told her not to bring any family, or he would not give their son to her. She went to his apartment not knowing that she would never leave alive. Her last text message was to her father letting him know where she was headed and to text, but not call if he needed anything.

Hours went by, and my uncle had not heard from her. Something was not right; no one else had seen or heard from her either. Our worst fears were confirmed later that evening when her estranged husband was found with their son several states away, and rumors were spreading that he had told his family members he had killed his wife. My uncle, aunt, and cousin’s brother waited outside the apartment for hours praying they were wrong.  

My cousin was found stuffed in the closet of an air-conditioning unit. She thought she was picking her son up to bring him to safety and was brutally murdered instead. He hit her head with a hammer when she wasn’t looking and continued beating her as she fought him. When the hammer didn’t kill her, he took her final breath with a knife to her throat. 

March 23rd is the day my cousin became a statistic of domestic violence. It is a day that will haunt her family and friends for the rest of our lives. Twenty years old is too young to die. Her dad will never talk to his baby girl again. Her stepmother and three brothers will not see her walk through the door or hear her laugh.

She won’t get to see her son take his first steps, graduate from high school, get married, or ever hold her grandbabies. She was robbed of her life and so many memories. Her son will grow up without either of his parents and will one day ask questions about what happened.

This is a reality no family should have to face, a beautiful life extinguished at the hands of an abuser. Domestic violence is real, and it exists behind the walls of homes across the world. Physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, and financial control are all considered abuse. According to domesticviolencestatistics.org, “A woman is assaulted or beaten in the US every nine seconds” and “Every day in the US, more than three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends.”

Our family wants society to know that it should not and does not have to be this way. There is a way out, and, although the road may seem impossible, it is not. The grief and heartache we face each day are preventable, and we do not want to see anyone else go through this pain. 

We hope that by sharing my cousin’s story, we can shine a light on domestic violence prevention.  We are working to provide a safe place for those who are affected by abuse. Please help us get the word out that every life matters and understand you are not alone in this.  

**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page.

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What’s YOUR Raw Truth?

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, complete the form below. You can choose to remain anonymous.

Survivor Story: The First Time My Abuser Assaulted Me, It Caused a Concussion and Brain Hemorrhage

Written By: Kara, Survivor

My ex and I were together for a short period – only three months. In the beginning, the relationship was great – almost like a fairy tale. I ignored the warning signs and even dismissed my own friends telling me to stay away from this man. He had a charm to him (a true narcissist) that had me head over heels for him. However, I would later learn that after his relentless promises of reform and charming words, after giving this man every chance and, regrettably, second chances that I would be forced to admit to myself that I had been fooled.

There was a repeated pattern with my ex, and every time he had an “episode,” he made me feel like there was no help for me. I lost friends because of him, and I couldn’t run to the people who warned me about him for help. Early on, he planned for me to start living in his world where he would have all the power and control.

My ex met me during a time in my life when I was vulnerable. He would tell me exactly what I wanted to hear and made me feel just how I wanted to feel. He made me believe that abuse was normal, that people have issues in their relationships, and they work through them. Somehow, he managed to overpower my intellect and rationale. He was so persuasive, he made me believe it wouldn’t happen again – time and time again. Those are the reasons why I stayed; I believed in him. I believed he was changing until the next “episode” would happen.

It wasn’t until his out-of-control behaviors became a more regular occurrence that I would eventually learn I wasn’t getting out of this relationship without getting hurt physically or emotionally. One night he slammed the hotel door so hard that it broke, and it escalated to him spitting in my face. I knew I had to walk on eggshells and talk to him calmly to avoid getting seriously hurt.

I was trying to plan a way to leave him, and I feel like he caught onto this because I noticed a pattern of drinking and abusing drugs on a regular basis. Whenever I questioned his behaviors, he got defensive, angry, violent, and abusive. He put fear in me to make me stay with him. Anytime he would get into these rages I would beg for him to stop because my then seven-year-old son was with me. As a mother raising a young boy, I didn’t want him to see my ex’s aggressive and violent behavior.

I would lie to my family and friends and tell them that my ex and I had a great relationship. I was embarrassed that I didn’t listen to the people that told me my ex had hurt his prior girlfriends.

On the night of July 21, 2016, I would be physically assaulted by a man for the first time in my life. Later, I learned from MRI imaging that my ex had caused me to suffer a concussion and four brain hemorrhages. I was suffering from headaches and sensitivity to light, among other neurological symptoms. I had no idea that not only did I have a concussion but bleeding in my brain as well. The impact that my ex made in my life is one that I will never forget but thank God I will live on to tell my story.

Some domestic violence cases may be seen as more serious than others due to the trauma or length of time the victim suffered the abuse from their abuser, but domestic violence of any kind simply cannot be tolerated. This wasn’t my ex’s first, second, or third time hurting a woman. I spoke to three former girlfriends of my ex, and they all shared their stories with me.

My ex has been abusing women for the past decade, and he is not going to stop without serious intervention. I genuinely feared for all his girlfriends after me. I even contacted them to warn them of what he had done to me. I didn’t have a voice in 2016 because he told everyone I was a liar and that he never hurt me.

A court hearing was held March 9, 2016 (the day after International Women’s Day), and I wanted far more than retribution. I wanted to make sure I was the last woman that was terrorized and assaulted by my ex. The judge read my witness impact statement aloud in court and ordered him 30 days in jail with deferred sentencing. It wasn’t enough if you ask me.

My ex called all of his ex-girlfriends as well as me liars, or he claimed they were exaggerating the story. He would give the next girl the same story he gave every girlfriend before her. He would tell the new girl that all of his exes took him for a full ride and that he was the one to leave. Also, he would say that all he has ever done was love the girls he’s dated. He uses beautiful women for their money and good looks and abuses them. He always had excuses and could never own up to his behaviors or admit fault.

The physical and emotional effects of my short time with him will be with me for the rest of my life. I’m not the first, second, or even third woman that can say the same about my ex. I am now good friends with three of his ex-girlfriends. I believe God wanted us all to meet one another, and, sadly, through almost the same story. 

This experience affected me in the following ways:

1. I lost my job in real estate because my co-workers and boss read articles online about my ex and knew of him through mutual people. My employer feared that if I was staying in a relationship with him, he was capable of coming to my workplace and possibly harming me.

2. I feared living alone with my son in my apartment, the same apartment he tried breaking into after I told him I was completely done with the relationship. He was hiding behind a dumpster and later found by K9 dogs. I couldn’t sleep at night. I was filled with fear and anxiety. I couldn’t live like this, and, as his release date grew nearer, I panicked and moved out of the state.

3. I’ve never had to get a stalking order on someone, and having an order granted for two years took an emotional toll on me. I feared that he would retaliate in some way or have someone hurt me. He did end up violating the order. He contacted me by phone, calling me numerous times every day.

4. My slate is no longer clean when it comes to a head injury. If I ever have a severe head injury, my risk is higher due to suffering a concussion and four hemorrhages from this incident. This damage is irreparable.

5. I had to see a therapist to gain my self-confidence, sense of security, and identity back. It’s been three years, and I am still suffering. My PTSD has been through the roof since learning of a recent tragic incident that occurred in March. My ex’s girlfriend was shot and killed by accident after my ex had an altercation with someone in a bar. 

On March 8, 2019, my ex appeared in court for his deferred sentencing hearing in my case. I would learn that day, three years after leaving, that I would have the voice I had been praying to have one day. My ex was arrested that day in court due to a suspended license and cocaine he had on him the night of his girlfriend’s murder. 

My ex’s hearing was postponed due to the murder investigation. However, I went on to tell my story to a news outlet after they had obtained court records of my case from 2016. I have done all that I can to expose the monster that my ex is.

I was invited to his girlfriend’s services by her family. The funeral was held on March 9, 2019 – International Women’s Day. I will never forget all that has happened and how it all tied into my story three years earlier. I wish I could have had the chance to meet his girlfriend before she was senselessly murdered. I would have shared my story with her and maybe given her encouragement to leave him.

My ex’s hearing for the deferred sentencing in my case was postponed until May 2019. After this day, I will be able to close these chapters in my life once and for all. I will continue to speak out about domestic violence, not only for myself but for the multiple other women my ex has hurt, and hopefully to prevent him from having future victims.

Despite the toll this has taken on me, I hope by breaking my silence that I’ll be able to empower other victims of domestic violence to break theirs. I have taken this experience and turned it into a positive one for my own well-being. I started a petition for legislation that men and women who have been convicted of domestic violence should have to register, just like sex offenders. 

I have 526 signatures today on the petition, and I will not stop working on this. I believe a registry would help women and men greatly when dating someone. Men like my ex prey on beautiful, career-driven women on dating sites and social media. I think something needs to be done to try and prevent abusive men and women from hurting innocent people and ruining their lives. 

Today, I am happily engaged to the love of my life. My fiancé is the most supportive and loving man I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. He is my rock through everything. 

**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page.

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What’s YOUR Raw Truth?

Sharing our stories can be incredibly empowering while also helping others connect with survivors who have similar experiences. If you are inspired to share your story with us, complete the form below. You can choose to remain anonymous.

Paddling to End Domestic Violence: Donor Spotlight

By Sunny Lim

Opportunities to give back and serve others are all around us. Everyone has the potential to give back to the community. As the founder of the Bow South Expedition, James Hermes uses his passion for kayaking to raise donations and awareness for BTSADV. Volunteers such as James contribute to the success of BTSADV. We are grateful for James’ commitment to BTSADV and his generosity.

From 2014 to 2017, the Bow South Expedition started at the Hoover Dam and traveled 340 miles throughout the Colorado River all the way down to the Morelos Dam near the United States-Mexico border. The extensive journey began as a charity kayak paddle.

“When I first started, I was looking for a charity to paddle for,” he said.

James wrote a Facebook post asking for suggestions. “I let the charity find me,” he said.

In the past, James paddled for breast cancer research and other causes. When a friend messaged him about BTSADV, he saw our organization had high ratings. After he messaged Kristen, James felt touched.

“The level of personal attention shown to me from Kristen, the executive director…spoke volumes,” he said. “It shows how much attention and support they give to survivors.”

Although James would paddle for different charities each year, he decided to continue paddling for BTSADV.

“I’m paddling for the future of BTS,” he said.

During his expedition, he meets survivors and people who have lost loved ones to domestic violence. When he tells people about BTSADV and our mission, people start sharing their own personal stories with him.

In addition to raising funds and awareness for BTSADV through the Bow South Expedition, James has been paddling for more than six years in races and solo trips across sections of the Colorado River and other areas. He has also taught at kayaking and canoeing workshops along with speaking at kayak club meetings and paddlefests. Currently, he also hosts a monthly podcast called “Wherever There’s Water” about paddlesports.

When he isn’t kayaking, James volunteers with Boy Scouts of America and raises awareness about the environmental danger surrounding the Colorado River.

“The Colorado River is one of the most overused rivers,” he said. “It’s important to know.”

James’ dedication to making a difference is evident in his service toward others. We’re thankful for James and his expedition crew for paddling hundreds of miles to raise awareness for BTSADV.

If you’re interested in volunteering with Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence, visit: https://breakthesilencedv.org/volunteer/

Helping Your Child Heal After Domestic Violence

By Jenn Rockefeller

One of the hardest things as a parent is knowing your child endured something painful. If you watched it happen, it’s that much more excruciating. What if that something was domestic violence? How do you help your child heal after something like that?

Whether your child witnessed domestic violence or experienced it first-hand, it will be a long road to helping your child heal.

The road to healing
As parents, we want to do what it takes to take away our child’s pain. We hug them, kiss them, and tell them that they are safe. But healing from domestic violence is a tough road to tackle. Children process things much differently than adults. Many adults think that because they are not in the same room as the child, the child doesn’t know what’s going on. Children are very astute – they may hear things and pick up on vibes that we adults don’t realize they are picking up. It is for these reasons that children need special care and tenderness when healing from trauma like domestic violence.

Below are some ways you can help your child heal, whether they witnessed it or experienced it first-hand.

  • Listen to them – Above all, children want to feel like they are being heard. If they feel comfortable, let them talk it out with you.
  • Let them lead – As you are sitting there listening, let them lead the conversation. Let the conversation go where it needs to. Let them ask questions, express their emotions or fears and allow them to vent how they need to.
  • Be together – Sometimes, children don’t want to broach the subject of what they witnessed or experienced at all. In this case, just being together with them can give them the unspoken sense of safety that they need. Sometimes, they just need to be with you.
  • Cultivate the things they love – Encourage them to nourish the things they love to do, whether that is art, writing, sports or other activity. Let them build up their confidence and realize their own unique qualities.
  • Friendships – Having friends is vital to a child’s growth. During a time of stress or trauma, those friendships can bring a sense of normalcy and safety. Encourage your child to nourish their friendships. Let them talk about their friends and spend time with them.
  • Be honest – If your children ask you any questions, be honest with them. Answer them on an age-appropriate level. This will help the child build trust and will let them know that they can come to you any time they need to talk.
  • Validate – Children need to know that their feelings and emotions count and that they matter. Let them know that it’s okay to feel angry, scared, etc.

What else can parents do?
Aside from the above, you’ll also want to ensure your child is receiving additional support via the way of therapy. You can check the following resources to find a child therapist in your area.

How to help them process
Children process things differently than adults. By their very nature, children can be very inquisitive. They may ask questions. They may sit and ponder a situation to sort it out in their minds. They may want to write it out in a diary or journal. Encourage them to sort things out the way they need to in order to understand.

How to teach about healthy relationships
The best way to teach your child about healthy relationships is to model healthy behaviors when you are with them. They need to see these healthy behaviors modeled for them daily. This past BTSADV article explains how modeling healthy behaviors for children is vital to them learning what healthy relationships look like.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

Supporting Survivor Mothers: How to Honor Survivor Moms Year-Round

By Rebecca Lynn

In May, many people scramble to find the perfect gift to show their appreciation to their moms. Sadly, not all Mother’s Days include breakfasts in bed and flowers. For those mom’s who have survived domestic violence, their Mother’s Day may look very different. Some are in shelters, displaced from their homes, or suffering from the effects of the abuse. They may be missing their family, and feel anything but appreciated.

For survivors, holidays are often stressful, a letdown, and can be a trigger to returning to their abusive relationships. Survivors with children have even more to worry about as they continue the difficult task of self-recovery while raising their family with minimal resources. Thankfully, many national and local organizations recognize the strength, determination, and love that survivor moms have for their children. Below are a handful of organizations that acknowledge the difficulties and resilience of survivor moms. Some have campaigns and fundraisers for specific holidays, while others provide year-round opportunities to support survivors with children.

Valentines Day

  • The volunteers from the  H.E.R Shelter and the GROW Foundation picked up and distributed over 100 donated boxes of chocolate to survivor moms in shelters, this year. Many other organizations collected flowers and delivered handmade Mothers Day cards to survivors.
  • Check your local non-profit organizations for yearly Valentines Day fundraisers and campaigns to honor the mom’s who have survived domestic violence.

Mother’s Day

  • The moving company, Two Men and a Truck have gone purple to show their appreciation to mothers. For Mother’s Day, the nation-wide organization offers a program called ‘Movers for Mom’s,” specifically for mother’s who are in need and living in shelters. The company has made an incredible difference by collecting in-kind donations from local schools and organizations and personally delivering them to crisis shelters. To get more information on participating locations, donation sites, or how to become involved, visit the Movers for Mom’s website.

Father’s Day

  • The Pennsylvania branch of NO MORE organization created a Father’s Day Pledge to End Gender Violence. The pledge gives men an opportunity to prevent domestic abuse. The pledge is signed online, or at a local event.  Check your local non-profit organizations to see if there is a Father’s Day Pledge event near you, or you can consider organizing your own.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month

  • The month of October focuses on raising awareness, breaking the silence, preventing and showing support for domestic violence survivors. Most domestic violence organizations, shelters, and agencies hold fundraisers, campaigns and community events to educate and provide resources for those impacted by domestic violence. October is a great time to research local or online organizations to see what you can do to help raise awareness.

Thanksgiving

  • Suzy’s Place- Hope Empowering Women host an annual Thanksgiving Turkey Drive. They accept donations all year, and if you are in the area, would love volunteers to help distribute food to survivors. Most local shelters and non-profits have similar drives that collect food and donations to help survivors of domestic violence.

The Holiday Season

  • Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence organizes a yearly program called Holidays of Hope. Holidays of Hope provides gifts to children all over the country. Participants are often experiencing financial hardship and displacement caused by domestic violence or substance abuse. BTSADV volunteers have surprised hundreds of families in crisis with gifts and support during the holidays.
  • Local charities, schools, stores, churches, and individual sponsors tend to give the most to nonprofits during the holidays. There are many ways to give, providing presents, volunteer hours, or monetary donations. Checking online resources will give you a good idea of the organizations participating in making the holidays for survivors a little merrier.

Anytime

  • Walk a Mile in Her Shoes is an international men’s walk to stop rape, sexual assault, and gender violence. This unique fundraiser raises money for domestic violence and sexual assault shelters, as well as prevention and recovery programs. The men walk a mile in women’s shoes, high-heels to be exact. To register for upcoming walk’s, or learn how to organize one within your community, visit the calendar page located on the organization’s website.  

You don’t need a holiday to support survivor moms. A little online research, or visiting local websites can provide you with a variety of ways to help. You can visit DVAM Events to see the upcoming domestic violence events in your area. In addition, Domesticshelters.org provides future event and fundraising information for both survivors and advocates. You can post and advertise an event you are organizing on the site, as well as gather resources to help you host a successful fundraiser. Donating, whether monetary, in-kind items or giving your time, allows you to honor and show appreciation to survivor moms–at times when they need it most.

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.

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