You Never Deserve The Abuse

you never deserve the abuse

“You never deserve the abuse” is the message Andrea has for her Survivor Sisters after recounting her own abuse. As Andrea breaks her silence, she questions why she stayed and why those around her never spoke up about the abuse that they witnessed between her and her boyfriend. Thank you for your strength, Andrea.

The Beginning

I first met my abuser when I was in middle school. We didn’t meet again until my senior year of high school when we started dating. He was a liar and childish then, maybe a bit of a manipulator, but I didn’t feel he was malicious. At least not until our fifth year together. Our on and off relationship was an emotional tornado. 

He had never even threatened or seemed like he would hit me. The most he would do is get angry or yell, but I was not afraid of him. I was not perfect. I want to make that clear. He was not the typical narcissistic abuser, although I would find out he was a pathological liar. He seemed to turn on and off his emotions and sympathy for me and maybe others. He was never pleasant, charming, or affectionate in the beginning, then it became gradually worse. He was funny alright, and charming when he wanted to be. 

After the abuse, I berated myself…I knew who he was. And yet I stayed. He cheated many times. Although I never caught him physically, it was always flirting, texting, and trying to hang out with other girls behind my back. He would make remarks that suggested I should change, or I wasn’t good enough. He would accept and ask for money but then not talk to me until he needed some more. Then he was nice for a day or two. I still felt I needed his approval, affection, and attention. It was a drug. The first drug I ever had. 

You Don’t Deserve The First Hit

He didn’t hit me until August of 2016, maybe a week or two before discovering I was pregnant. He hit me on my lip, and I can only remember we were sitting on my sofa-bed, with the light barely spilling through my blinds. My neighbors lived close to us in the apartment complex and I’m surprised they never said anything during the time I stayed there when we would fight or slam doors. My head rocked, and I was stunned, not from any pain but because he hit me. It wasn’t hard, but it was the beginning of something that I never even thought would happen. 

Despite his bullshit and flaws, I never thought he would beat me. Two weeks later, I found out I’m pregnant. Not conceived out of rape or sexual assault from my abuser, but more so emotional manipulation and stupidity on my side. I thought I wanted kids with him because he desperately wanted them. I never did until I met him, and whatever he wanted, I tried to provide for him. I even took more than multiple trips to his house in another state while he went to school, paying for an Uber, a friend’s lift, then a taxi there and back to the train station. A 16+ hour trip. Paying for his friend to pick me up or a $200-300 taxi sometimes. I would buy his underwear, food for us, rent for him, a PlayStation, sports stuff, and pay for almost everything unless he had a job. Even then, he needed money sometimes. I was there in every way I could be. If a child was what he wanted even if he asked during sexual intimacy, which leads to more vulnerability, sometimes, I wanted to give that. 

After I found out, I didn’t want it. In my gut, I did not want a child. I didn’t have the means to support it anyway, and neither did he. I felt horrible, but I told him I made my decision, and I was getting an abortion. He was upset but said he supported me. He came to appointments with me before and during the surgery. He would hold me whenever I got upset and cried about it and felt I failed everyone. Later I would find out he blamed that decision on starting his resentment and abuse toward me. It had started before, but I would always wonder if that was true. 

He gradually started to choke me. Once he knocked my head back, and it hit the floor hard. He choked me at night, mainly. I would silently cry because he would tell me to shut up, and he didn’t feel bad if I cried. I did this to myself. I didn’t know how to listen. He would hit me in my face if I didn’t shut up, he said. My roommates would be home or in the same room as us. I always wondered if they could hear us too and just pretended for their sake (maybe mine too) that they couldn’t. 

Eventually, one roommate noticed I was becoming increasingly depressed. My sadness was visible even though I thought I did a decent job when I needed to act normal. I was becoming more isolated than usual (even for me) and more and more anxious. I felt I had OCD, and it was getting worse. I was focused on school and my abuser. My family and I didn’t really connect or talk for several reasons. I felt they only knew my superficial life and that I couldn’t turn to them or anyone. I barely had friends, to begin with. Now I really had no one. He started to destroy my stuff on top of choking me and yelling. He would make scenes even when I begged him to please quiet down because my manager lived right next door. The walls were thin here. He would say he didn’t care and slam the door if he left to the store or to the kitchen and/or yell at me and take my phone sometimes. Threaten to break things. 

It would get bad like this if I threatened to leave. He threatened to kill himself sometimes. Those times if it was at my apartment, he would take a knife or some weapon into the bathroom or talk, walk and say he would just off himself, and I would be better off. I’d have to rush after him and stop him. The times that I didn’t chase after him, because I felt he wasn’t serious and just wanted sympathy and attention, he would barge in and choke me or yell at me. He would make me stay up to answer his questions on why I didn’t care or finish a conversation we had earlier. If he finally let me sleep, he would threaten me quietly and tell me to go the fuck to sleep then. His threats were sometimes only implied with his facial expressions, and that was enough for me. 

I Knew His Triggers

I learned what words and actions were triggers. However, I still crossed the lines anyway because I became more reckless even though I would shut down if he tried to hurt me or damage my things or get more aggressive. I always shut down as I would when I was younger and would get yelled at. He would get angry if I was silent and refused to answer anything. I pushed when I was angry, and he was calm or pleading, then he became the one to push my buttons and hurt me. He eventually started to tell me he cheated because I wasn’t there for him, or I wasn’t woman enough; I needed to woman up. I was a bitch, I didn’t cook, I didn’t do anything, I was a baby killer. I killed his child. He would drag me sometimes or slap the back of my head. Choking was his primary ammo. 

Fast forward to my third apartment and in a new state in the spring of 2018, the state where he went to college and where I used to visit him. I followed him to attend my master’s program for a new experience, to be away from my toxic family issues at the time, and because of its cheap tuition. But mainly to be with him. At the same time, he continued to work his job at a restaurant. I was pregnant the week after I arrived and moved into my new apartment. I regretted that experience so much, even though it was consensual again, and felt worse because I wasn’t learning from my mistakes. 

One time, he started to punch my chest and stomach. He sat on me and hit my back so hard that I was temporarily paralyzed for a day. I had to go to the emergency room. No one could help me and get anything for me. He decided to leave me and go to work rather than go with me to my first trip to an E.R. I came back home at 3 am. I was better, but eventually, I got a UTI. I was in excruciating pain for a week. During my spring break, and still pregnant, I couldn’t eat much, was easily nauseous, and would discharge as if I was peeing myself. I was anxious and ready to get rid of this one too. 

Detachment

He was upset but more detached. He was angrier because he would sit on me, choke me, and yell at me. After all, I was getting rid of it, but he refused to get attached to it like he did the last pregnancy. He was reckless, and I became increasingly so. I became erratic and obsessive in my behavior, controlling because of his constant lies and sporadic cheating. I would walk at night, even more, taking off in anger, finding him, or would go to his house. He would do the same to me. He would take my phone and bend it, throw it on the ground. I had to threaten the cops and hunt him down for my property. He slammed doors still even though I had another roommate and others below me and down the hall. He would choke me and hit even with his roommate down the hall in his house. He would leave me in his room while he hung out with friends or go to the store and come back, pretending everything was fine. He wanted me to be okay after, too, and if I wasn’t, I got yelled at or dismissed. My crying sometimes warranted sympathy and apologies, sometimes he was nonchalant and forced me to cut it out.

I had my second abortion, paying for all expenses yet again and another painful experience. I had gone to the E.R. twice after my back injury. The first time because of my UTI, the second because the medication didn’t work. The last time because I had a thick blood clot, I was worried I was miscarrying. I still went to work and school but missed days to stay with him because there were still many days. I loved him and wanted to be near him all the time. He was always my drug, and I hated it. I didn’t know how to stop or if I could ever leave him. He was my confidant, best friend, boyfriend, and at one point, very briefly for almost a month, we were engaged. Looking back, I am embarrassed, but only my roommates knew. He was also the second biggest bully I ever had in my life.

Remembering the Details

I remember most of the details of the last several experiences: smell, sound, touch, the pain. I remember him becoming so bold one morning while on the way to class one day that he grabs my throat, and I have to remind him we’re outside. He didn’t care, but he soon took his hand off. He was bold to throw himself at me after I sprayed Febreeze in his face because he took my phone and wouldn’t give it back. He had a friend over to smoke and watched tv with him while I was sitting in the apartment as a small child. I begged for my phone, and when he kept dismissing me, I grabbed the spray with anger. After I sprayed him, it happened quickly, where he lunged at me after to wrestle it from me and pinned me down on the couch. His friend said, “Woah!”, backing away, nervous, and rather than help or even try, he left after my abuser, said bye, and apologized. After his friend left, I was smacked a few times. 

His friends he was staying with noticed but didn’t say anything except a warning that maybe he should stop. He was bold enough to drag me in the house, pick me up and slam me on another couch at another close friend’s house, and he choked me even if people were in the next room with no doors to give us privacy. I started to believe people had no idea what he was. Before we moved into an apartment together while I was in my master’s program, I stayed at yet another friend’s house with him. As we got into an argument, I wanted to get my stuff out, and he told me to leave. When I did what he said, he stopped me from opening the door, closed it, and grabbed the back of my head, and tried to slam me into the wall. The only way I could protect my face was by covering it and stopping the impact. I was fine, but I knew he would have smashed my face in the wall had I let him. He took me into his room and told me to get on the bed. He yelled and called me names and got his belt from his pants. He whipped me a couple times on my legs and told me to stay still, or he would do it worse. He stopped soon after, apologized like usual, and tried to amend it. But he always followed up with; he just wanted me to listen and not make it hard to fix things. Not make things difficult, period. 

He would get upset sometimes if I brought up why I wanted out or why we had issues. I yelled one day as we walked home that I was sick of wearing sweaters and long sleeves during the summer to cover my bruises on my arms. I had some on my neck sometimes too, and that’s how I knew he didn’t care what people thought or if they suspected. He was getting worse, and the abuse more frequent. 

Several days before I left, he taunted me while I lay on the couch with a small blow torch, knowing I was afraid of fire. When he hit me on my head, he brought me to my feet, and we ended up in the kitchen where he was close to my face. A usual scare tactic, his nose flared and mouth clenched. He threw his forehead on mine and hit me again. He said he knew I was checking out his friend earlier when they were talking. The irony is he was the cheater in our relationship. When I asked to use the restroom, he allowed me to and followed me. He soon choked me before I could even wipe myself and said if I ever told his sister what he did again, he’d kill me. In another instance, he tried to force my head into the toilet. It was another punishment. It was one of the worst insults he knew he could give me, given my anxiety and germaphobia.

The Last Straw

The night before I decided to go to work and not come back to stay at our apartment, he was yelling again, and I told him I’d just go. I was sick of it. It was raining, and he told me to go, even though I paid most of the bills, paid the rent, and our phone bills (for three or four years straight, I paid his phone bill). I walked out the door, and he rushed after me as I walked into the backyard, which had no fence, so I would have kept walking to the alley and had no idea where I was headed. It was raining hard, and the dirt was muddy and thick. The only thing I wore were pajama shorts, a tank top, and my house slippers. He yelled after me, and when I saw him run after me, I ran, but he caught up to me, and I slipped. He dragged me through the mud, on the concrete patio to our apartment door and in the house. He dropped me on the couch and told me to lay there with no shower. I had scratches on my legs, they were wet, muddy, and I was cold. He knew I was a germaphobe, borderline obsessed, which was my last punishment for the night. He was drunk, as he was some nights, and he sat on his favorite armchair and watched tv on his tablet for a few minutes until he fell asleep quickly. When I heard him snore, I wiped the floors clean of the water and mud, soaked my shoes to get the dirt out, and showered, crying again. 

By now, I broke down more than several times a week in the bathroom and at work when I was alone. He would get angry if I listened to my music and locked myself in there, claiming I was weak for being suicidal. I could stop being depressed if I stopped complaining all the time and had more mental strength. I let my tears run with the water coming out of the showerhead and in the drain, the mud coming off, and my scratches stung more. I made my plan to just leave in the morning with my backpack, which he would not think weird because I would bring a sweater and other things to occupy me at work. Instead, I got clothes, my laptop, and other personal items I might need for a few days until I figured out what to do next. 

Picking Up The Pieces

I ended up going to my co-worker/close friend’s house, who I just met at my summer job. Her apartment was literally down the street from our apartment, but he would not know who I was staying with. I could only hope he wouldn’t figure it out because he knew what apartment she lived in and who she was as we used to do our laundry sometimes during the summer there. After my job ended that August, I had some money to pay for a train back to my home state and ship a couple of boxes of my clothes back. I finally left. I’ll always be grateful to those who helped me pack, move, and sell the property from my apartment. My abuser was reasonable enough to leave the apartment we shared. He responded to my threats to call the police and promised to find a new place to live. 

It was a long process the rest of that summer as he damaged the apartment wall and had to fix it because I told him I wasn’t paying for more damages before I moved out. He soon left, and I went through the rest of that summer torn between staying in the state and going to school in person or leaving. My parents eventually convinced me I should leave for my safety. I reconnected with my old best friend, and she supported me along with my co-worker and two boys from our job that would play games with us at work to pass the time.

The Aftermath

At the last minute, I found support as I grew more determined to leave my abuser and leave the state and continue my program at my university online. My feelings of shame, anger, sadness at leaving the state I had come to love, and town that grew on me, letting him win, was all I could see. These feelings lasted well into even this year until one day, those feelings of anger started to lessen in frequency and intensity. Feelings of regret and what if I had just stayed with him or at least found a new place and just continued school there, subsided. I still feel the what-ifs once in a while, but I realize how far I have come. Anger, irritability, and sadness are still there, even if I can’t pinpoint the trigger or cause all the time. Anxiety is still the main barrier I face and struggle to deal with. Still, I’d rather deal with the double aftermath than having stayed with my abuser.

The girl I was then would be grateful to me now. You never deserve the abuse. You are not evil or just as bad for becoming like your abuser while you are stuck. This is a survival mode, and we do what we have to get through each day with them. You don’t deserve any of it no matter if you lie to appease them, how mean you think you were in response to them, and no matter what they tell you.

Rescue from my Prince Charming – Gaslighting, and the ‘Fog’ of Abuse

heroine over prince charming

This survivor felt completely alone in what she thought was her ‘fairy tale’ romance with Prince Charming. Without any reference and new to dating, she struggled to identify healthy habits from abusive ones. She slowly realized that she was in an abusive relationship and is working to free herself from it. She has the power to be the heroine of her story – with all the support and love from her survivor family and domestic violence shelters and organizations.

Enter Prince Charming

54 months. That’s how long I was with this guy. I met him when I had just turned 18 and he was 24. I thought he was my Prince Charming, here to rescue me from my miserable life, and strict parents. However, it was an ill-fated tale from the beginning.

The first thing he did was limit my interactions on social media – I had to remove all males and any females who were lesbians. He thought I would cheat on him, and wanted me to remove all options… even though I was straight.

Then he demanded access to all my passwords, because he was still insecure about my faithfulness. I ended up giving them to him because I though this was a normal step in a loving and caring adult relationship – in fact it was my first adult relationship, so I had nothing else to reference.

He then locked me out every social media account, preventing me any technological access to the ‘outside’ world, because he said I shouldn’t need anyone else if I truly loved him. It snowballed and I wasn’t allowed to see my friends in real life either. I lost all connections with them as time went on. 

My family time was also ruined through incessant arguments and tears. He then told me I was not allowed to play sports either, as that would prevent me from responding immediately. But he, of course, never abided by the same rules, and didn’t respond for hours or days at a time. He even chatted with women on social media; I just had to accept it because he made me believe I didn’t deserve a man like him.

My life consisted of school. I went to uni to study nursing where I had no friends, no social life, no extra-curricular activities. I would work, study, and then sit alone in my studio apartment, as I wasn’t allowed to live with other women. He told me this was because if they were single, they could influence me negatively. 

Three years. I ended up alone, with no support, no family, and no friends for three years. I struggled…

The physical abuse started to get worse after I was at uni. He would strangle me constantly until I fainted, and squeezed my wrists so hard that they would swell up and bruise. Anything triggered him. It could be as simple as asking him a question or seeing a guy smile at me in the grocery store. 

I wasn’t allowed to do anything without him. Not even to go on two weekly grocery trips with him, and that was it. 

I constantly had black eyes, bruises everywhere: on my ribs, arms, lips… I know people saw them, yet no one said a thing. 

He made me believe I had bipolar, depression, all sorts of mental illnesses. He even suggested that I admit myself for mental health problems as I was my issue in life. His tactic was to use my past against me and would constantly remind me that I should be dead right now. In between, he would call me fat and ugly, telling me that I was his last option. He was only with me because he settled for me. 

When I tried to get help, his friends, family, and work would paint me as the abuser, even though I was not. He would blackmail me, threaten to hurt my family members, ruin my career as a nurse, and destroy my home and life. It got worse as he forced me into sexual acts. He made me give him things that he believed I ‘owed’ him, and would often count down from 5 for no reason – making me fear for my safety.

I felt like everything was a trigger. Honestly, I want to die most of the time because of how he makes me feel. I struggle to cope, and I’m so upset. I feel crazy because I want someone to believe me, and help me. I want out.

I want to be free and safe.

I want to be rescued.

I Chose to Forgive Because It Was The Right Thing For Me

i chose to forgive

Ashley experienced intimate partner violence at the hands of her former boyfriend. Even after obtaining a restraining order, her abuser was intent on finding a way into her life. Ashley’s inner strength, coupled with the rare kindness from strangers, allowed her to escape, during a harrowing and violent abusive outburst. Ashley shared her vulnerable story of choosing to forgive in the hope that other survivors and friends are able to understand the power of survival, her choices, and her way of breaking the cycle.

The Only Option

I was seventeen-ish when my ex and I started going out. Shortly after, we moved in together. As time passed, we lost our house and ended up homeless. We began at ‘The Brick’ getting food; living out of his car or a tent during terrible summer storms and floods. My grandparents opened their home to me, but my ex and our dog weren’t welcome; I didn’t want to lose him, so without other options, I had to stay with him.

I was inside ‘The Brick’ getting our boxes of food when my ex came in with an officer behind him, handed me his phone and his car keys, and told me that he was getting arrested for unpaid fines. I didn’t know what to do – I’d never been in a situation like this. I had a dog in a hot car, a box full of food, and I needed to be at a job interview shortly. I drove over to one of our old roommates’ house so I could have a place to sleep until I figured out what was going on.

Two or three days later, I still hadn’t heard from him or his mom. I didn’t know what to believe at that point. Was he back on drugs? He knew how I felt about that, but it would explain a lot. At that time with so much on my mind and a broken heart, I decided I couldn’t do this anymore; I was done with him.

His Release

The next day, I got a call from him saying that he had been released, that he missed me, and that he needed to be picked up from jail. I was on my way to work so I turned around and headed towards the jail. I found him smiling on the sidewalk. He got into the car, and his first question as I started to drive towards work (I was already late) was, “Where have I been staying?” When I told him that I was staying at his friend’s house he snapped from Jekyll to Hyde. He slammed his fists into the dashboard and the window yelling as loudly as he could.

I thought he was going to hit me, I didn’t know what to do. I stopped the car and threw the keys into the passenger side floor. He slammed his door closed and headed to my side, while I went to the back door and threw my work bag and my other duffle bag across the parking lot along with my shoes. I knew if he drove off I might not get my stuff back, and that was all I had, other than one more bag of clothes at his friend’s house.

He grabbed me hard, yelling in my face “Where’s my dog?” “Where are my clothes?” He tried to rip my phone from my hands but I managed to get it back, and then he shoved me to the ground. By this time he caught the attention of a woman exiting her car, and one of my co-workers started to walk over. He got in his car and floored it in reverse. I could see in his eyes that he wanted to hit me. I jumped backward just in time, and he hit and ran over the Walgreens bag I had dropped in the fight instead.

I Wasn’t Safe

My co-workers helped me inside, and I called his friend and told him not to give him my clothes. He could have his dog, his clothes, his car, that I was just done with him. Later that night he came back to my work and asked me to marry him. When I told him he needed to leave, he tried to jump over the counter. One of my co-workers had to tell him to leave by threatening to call the cops. The next morning, he broke into his friend’s house. I left it up to his friend to decide whether or not he was going to press charges, and he chose to call the cops. We gave our statements, and shortly after I packed up my things. I knew I wasn’t safe there any longer.

After that, I got a restraining order with help from the women’s shelter. I remember my ex told me, even before he laid a hand on me, that a restraining order was only a piece of paper. He proved that by approaching me multiple times and telling me I shouldn’t be afraid. He also told me that he, “just wanted to be my friend.” He would drive by as I was walking, and ask if I wanted a ride. Each time I told him that if he didn’t leave, I would call the cops.

 About two months after all of this, I unblocked him on social media and sent him a message. I don’t know what made me think that he would have changed. He invited me over to his house, he said that it had plenty of room for a family. He told me that the dog missed me too. He said all the right things, and it just sucked me right back in. The first month I was back it was great. We made that house our home, and we went out and did fun things. However, as his court date approached, things began to get worse. 

He Always Came Back

He destroyed one room at a time; he threw me at furniture; he burnt my clothes in the closet. I still stayed and I didn’t ask for help. I was literally brainwashed. I hoped that I could help change him or that he would stop because he really did love me. It didn’t stop, and I kept getting hit. He also stopped respecting me, my wishes, and my life. He would say, “you’re mine, I do what I want with things that are mine.” He would then hold me down and force himself on me. He would then follow that by telling me that he was going to leave and “go end it all.” He always came back though.

I still remember it like it was yesterday and probably always will. I was in bed that morning, because I had just gotten home from work. He had left to go cut wood with his friend. I was suddenly jolted awake because of loud frantic bangs on the front door. As soon as I opened the door, he pinned me against the porch wall. Something pressed into my neck as he screamed, spit flying in rage, “What did you do? Tell me what you did? I Know What You Did!” He kept screaming it over and over.

By this time, my chest was starting to get wet and I screamed back that I had no idea what he was talking about. He grabbed me by my hair and dragged me into the living room, which looked like nothing had happened the night before. I always cleaned up and tried to fix what I could, but this was different, there was something in his eyes. He pushed me into the chair and told me to shut my mouth. I remember touching my neck and feeling something warm and sticky on my hand, blood. How bad was it? What was I going to do? I tried to get up to get something to stop the bleeding, but he grabbed me and threw me through our coffee table. Then, he picked me up by the collar of my shirt and threw me through the end table.

He Was Going to Kill Me

I laid on the floor. There was glass all around us; he grabbed a big shard of the broken table. I immediately grabbed his hand knowing his intentions. That’s when it really hit me. He was going to kill me, and I needed to fight or I was going to die. I finally knocked the piece of glass away from his grasp, but like a rabid dog he latched onto my jaw, biting down so hard I thought he was going to tear flesh. He stood over me with this twisted look on his face and repeatedly stomped on my chest. Then he slammed the boot (with what felt like the force of a train) and hit me right in the face. “Now maybe that’ll keep you down,” he said as he walked over to the chair and sat down. 

He sat for what felt like hours; I didn’t really know because my concept of time was gone at that point. I could feel each and every piece of glass that was underneath me, but I didn’t dare move. Then the friend he was with earlier that day came through the door and saw the utter destruction. He tried to talk to him, but even his childhood friend, a man who was like a brother to him, was not getting through to my ex. I no longer recognized him. He got back on top of me, grabbing me by the collar of my shirt slamming me against the floor into the piece of glass.

My Attempt To Escape

In a collision of bodies, his friend was on top of him yelling “you have to stop, let’s talk,” My ex just told him, “None of you are leaving today, I’ll make sure of that.” I didn’t know where the strength came from, but I somehow got up and ran through the dining room, into the kitchen, to the back door. It was locked! My hands felt like spaghetti and all I could think of was he was right behind me. I finally got it unlocked, and started running. I didn’t even stop to open the screen door. I just had to keep going as far as I could, before hiding. I ran up the alley to the second house on the street.

The back door was unlocked. I ran in so fast and crouched below the window as I slammed it shut. I started clenching my neck from behind when I heard a woman’s voice ask, “What are you doing in my house? Get out!” I turned to see the woman and saw the color drain from her face. She put her arms around me and guided me to the kitchen. “Who did this to you?” As I caught my breath, I explained that my boyfriend had just attacked me and tried to kill me. She insisted on bringing me to the ER right away. She took me into the bathroom to clean up my face and assess the situation.

Two More Centimeters 

Looking in the mirror I didn’t even recognize the person looking back at me. My hair was in gobs mangled from the sticky blood, my shirt was torn down the middle almost in half and covered in blood, on my face a dark purple bruise was already forming where he bit me. My eyes were black and blue, and a nearly perfect boot print covered the side of my face. I could see my lips were split and then, when I looked down, I really understood the gravity of the situation. There was a nike swoosh across my neck and it was still bleeding.

We held a damp paper towel to my neck, and I finally let her drive me to the ER. I was still in my fuzzy slipper socks and blue shorts when I walked into the ER. After I was done at the ER, I was taken to a safe house for the night with 12 stitches in my neck. If it had been two more centimeters, I wouldn’t be here. Just two more… 

He was taken into custody by law enforcement the same day. Initially, he was charged with attempted first-degree homicide, use of a dangerous weapon, domestic abuse, false imprisonment, mayhem, strangulation and suffocation, and bail jumping. He was found guilty of attempted first-degree intentional homicide, use of a dangerous weapon, and domestic abuse.

Don’t Give Him The Power

 It took a year to finally go to court. A year since I’ve seen the man who I thought cared about me, but then tried to take my life. Most of the things said in court are just a blur now. He made me feel pathetic, like the scum-of-the-earth. He stripped away my self-worth, layer by layer, until there was nothing left of the person I used to be.

I felt the weight of the world bearing down on me and it suffocated me to the point that I thought I’d disappear and no one would even know that I was gone. Or that they would blame me for what was happening to me. But I realized you must not hate people who have wronged us, for as soon as we begin to hate them, we become just like them; pathetic, bitter, and untrue. Now, most people know me as the girl who got her throat slit. They are always concerned with why I stayed in an abusive relationship;  rather than all the terrible things that my abuser did to me.

Leaving My Abuser and Living with PTSD

survivor left with ptsadv

This BTSADV Survivor Sister has been through some incredibly difficult abuse and hardship. She speaks about how she left her abuser and was left the PTSD. Her story is painful to read and epitomizes the dangers that survivors face during and after the escape.

An Alcoholic and a User

My abuser was an alcoholic, and an occasional heroin user. He wasn’t supposed to meet me. However, his cousin met my girlfriend, and then we all started hanging out. At that time, I had only experienced one prior relationship, which was also negative. To understand that, I think I have to explain my naivety and self-identity. I lost my father when I was fifteen and had no guidance or instruction in my life. Therefore I made all my decisions. I was also 5’2″ and 265lbs. I had three chins and no self-esteem. So as you can imagine, I fell for anyone that showed me the least bit of attention and thought I was attractive.

The Culmination of Childhood Trauma

I endured several horrific waves of abuse as a child and suffered through heartache, a lack of respect, and so much more. It all culminated in seven years of abuse at the hands of “Derek.” Derek swept me off my feet. His smile was contagious, and of course, I fell in love – or maybe it was lust at the time. About two weeks into our dating period, I got the first sign that something was amiss – all because I put my shoes in the wrong room. I dismissed it at the time, thinking it was unimportant.  

After that I dealt with so much more; it became difficult to make eye contact with others, talk to my own family, and feel anything but fear. There’s a lot of emotion behind my abuse still, so it’s easier for me to just write this as factually, and unemotionally as possible. 

Derek abandoned me with his family, who I’d only known for a day. After about two months, he surprised me by returning on his birthday and then proceeded to punch me repeatedly in the head and upper body. It felt like the attack was never-ending, but it probably finished as rapidly as it had begun. He followed this with six more years of control and abuse. He threatened me with a gun, he threw me down a flight of stairs while his family watched, he punched me in the eye while we were walking past a police station because I spilled water on his shirt, and beat me up countless times.

The First Time The World Went Black

One night, we were walking to the subway and Derek thought I let someone steal $5 from me. He pushed me up against a chain-link fence, on a secluded side street. I remember that we argued, and then I don’t remember anything else, I just saw black, and heard nothing. When I regained consciousness, I was momentarily disoriented, but then I saw him looming over me. I think he thought he killed me, and honestly, I feel like a part of me died that night. He dragged me to my feet and guided me to the subway as if nothing had happened. 

My Haunting

The worst night of my life haunts me to this day. Derek and I were watching a movie, sitting on the edge of the bed. I saw something that made me turn my head, and he immediately started accusing me of trying to meet someone else and cheating on him. I kept telling him that was not true, and he just ignored me. He picked me up and threw me from the dresser to the wall, and back again about 8 times. I kept screaming at him to stop, but he wouldn’t.

At some point, he went into the kitchen, and I tried to figure out how to get out of the small bedroom I was in and escape the apartment. I walked out of the bedroom and tried to go to the bathroom when I suddenly heard the sound of a knife being stabbed into my head. I was so confused that I literally asked him if he had just stabbed me. Instead of responding, he stabbed me twice more in the head, twice in the arms, and once in the back. I was frantic, probably in shock, and covered in blood. I began fighting back, focused on getting the knife away from him. However, he pushed me into the kitchen and cornered me by the fridge.

I remember he told me that he could kill me then, and no one would ever know.  I truly thought I was going to die. Somehow, even though my whole body was on fire, I managed to get the knife away, run to the bedroom, and call 911. It was the first time I tried to call the police. He came running towards me when he saw what I was doing, and repeatedly punched me in my knife wounds. It was all I could do to turtle up and endure it. I don’t know how long it lasted, but eventually, he made me go to bed. 

He Didn’t Remember

I woke up in the morning and was told I couldn’t go to work. I asked him to help me to the shower, and when the water ran into the drain, it was a reddish brown colour from all the dried blood. There was so much of it, he actually asked me if I had dyed my hair. I realized he didn’t even remember the previous day. 

I was rescued by my family about two weeks later – they drove me an hour and a half away without either of us knowing. However, about a month later I took him back. For another two years, I endured more abuse, this time more emotional and verbal, rather than physical. 

Then one day, he watched me talk to a co-worker on our lunch break. When I got home I immediately knew something was wrong. We got into an argument over my co-worker, because he thought I was getting his number. I tried to de-escalate things because I didn’t want a full blown argument, and was surprised when he became sweet and kind. He told me to go wash up, and come to bed. I did just that, and when I came to bed, he raped me so hard I threw up on the side of the bed. 

The next day, I kicked him out and have never seen him again. It took me eight years to share this story. I feel like I’ve only ever experienced hurt, abuse, and lies. However, I am not completely beaten yet. I know I am struggling with PTSD, depression, and anxiety, but I am working through it. There are times when I feel like everything about my life is just abject sadness, but there are other times that I’m reminded that I’m a survivor. 

I Escaped Abuse, But Am Still Working Through the Aftermath

aftermath of abuse

I’d like to share my story with everyone.

Let me start here– my name is Erikah, I’m 28 years old, and domestic violence has ruined my life. It all started when I met my children’s father, Tony*, in February of 2006. Six months into the relationship, he slapped me in the face for the first time. Tony swore that the abuse would not happen again, and he wasn’t physical for a long time. However, the relationship was still ridden with psychological abuse.

Quick Escalation

Fast forward to November 2007– I turned 17, moved out of my parents’ house, and rented an apartment with Tony. The abuse quickly escalated. Black eyes became a common occurrence. He once head-butted me in the face so hard that it broke the skin on the bridge of my nose. He seemed to have no shame, choosing the front yard of his stepfather’s house to host one of his beatings during a cold, Michigan winter day.  

A couple of years went by, I endured every form of abuse possible. I tried to stay strong as he kicked me with steel toe boots, and destroyed many items I valued. The verbal abuse was just as heinous. 

Abuse During Pregnancy

Fast forward again to 2009, I found out I was pregnant with our first son. The abuse didn’t stop during this fragile time in my life. Throughout my pregnancy, DVDs were whipped at me like frisbees and a laundry tote was pushed into my stomach.  I could not believe the complete disregard he had for me and the health of our son.

In July of 2010, our son LJ was 2 months old. Tony went to jail for the first time. He was shooting airsoft gun pellets at me, throwing objects at me, and destroying the house. In my attempt to escape his chaotic episode, he struck me in the jaw. A neighbor witnessed the act of abuse and called the police. The following day, an order of protection was ordered by the courts. However, being young and afraid with a 2-month-old child, I foolishly let him come back. 

Baby Number Two

A few years later, in 2013, we moved to Alaska and had our second child. This is when the mental, physical, and financial abuse reached its max. We purchased a house together in 2016. In the first 8 months, he pulled a gun on me 6 times, almost stabbed me in the stomach at our home, attempted to loop a rope around my neck, and threatened to throw me out of a truck. 

In December of 2016, I reached my breaking point and the final straw. I walked outside and *BANG* Tony fired a shot at me. I could take no more, so I found somewhere to stay. There wasn’t much support from my family and was forced to leave the kids with him. It felt as if I had no other choice, and he never harmed the kids. 

Tony Begins To Use

I then found out that Tony had started using meth. During a high, he became paranoid and ran off in the woods for 3 days with our 4 and 7-year-old children. OCS took custody of the kids and they went to stay with my parents– who Tony turned against me earlier in the relationship.

Tony ended up moving back to Michigan, and I had to move back into our home. For 5 months, I was stranded 20 miles from town without friends and family. I never received notifications from the court about the custody fight for my children. My parents told OCS that they would pick me up for visitation with the kids, however, they have failed to do so. In short, my right to see my children has been terminated, with the reason being that the court felt I was willingly not seeing my kids. I had no support system, especially from my family.

Continued Struggle To Live

It’s now a year later and I’m still living in the house Tony and I had started buying. No payments have been made since 2017. I have no electricity and no water. Also, I am unable to afford cell phone service, which makes it very hard to secure a job. I survive off of going to the local transfer site for everything I need, including all my food. 

It’s been almost 2 years since my parents were awarded custody of my kids, and I’ve only been allowed to see my babies 2 times. My oldest just turned 9, and my youngest turns 6 soon. Since I’ve been exiled from my family, I’ve missed many birthdays. Tony now has a new girlfriend who has 2 kids of her own, yet I am unable to see my children. 

I Feel Lost

My will to live and purpose to my life gone. I have suffered from severe depression since my oldest child was born. Most days I don’t even get out of bed. I feel lost and unsure of what to do anymore. It’s hard to preach about not going back to your abuser when I did for 11 years, but my advice to anyone who needs it is don’t put up with abuse. If I wouldn’t have left that December, I can almost guarantee that I would not be alive to type this story. And to the mothers out there – watch for signs of abuse. My parents never suspected anything. When I tried to open up to them about it last year, Tony had already made me look like the bad person for leaving and falsely accused me of using drugs. 

*Name(s) have been changed – and in some cases omitted – to protect the identity of the survivor and others affected by the abuse.

Breaking My Silence Twice

Hi, I’m Shelley and I would like to share this quote with you. It speaks to me and perfectly describes what I felt like when I lived with domestic violence.

“Domestic violence is like drowning in your own home.”

It was like water being poured over me, over and over, by the one person whom I loved and trusted the most. I could not breathe.

I was married to an abusive man for 17 years. 

Meeting Him

I was 24 years old and a teacher in a private school. I had a child in my class whose parents were divorced. The father was a very involved, very caring, and devoted parent. Throughout the school year, he would call and ask how his child was doing as he had partial custody and did not see him as often as he would like. At our tight-knit school, this was normal. As the school year continued our friendship blossomed as we worked together to help his child, who had some behavior challenges. 

When the school year ended he invited me out for a frozen yogurt, then to a party, and began calling me daily. He was attentive, charismatic, and charming.

He would tell me how his ex-wife and the mother of his child was mistreating him, and I believed him. Our relationship quickly escalated into a romantic relationship, yet he was very respectful. I thought that he was the most wonderful man. I saw no red flags towards me; yet, he did speak terribly about his ex-wife and did seem a little too angry. I chose to ignore this, believing that he was responding to his maltreatment by her. 

Marrying Him

After a year of dating, he asked me to marry him. I accepted, and the following year we were married in a beautiful ceremony. There was one incident in which he got mad at me and started screaming and throwing things in my apartment parking lot, but I did not do anything about it or really know what to do. His family all seemed to have tempers and yelled a lot, so I just accepted that he was brought up that way, and that was his way of communicating. 

I was pregnant shortly after that. There were times when months would pass by and things were great. He definitely liked to have things in his particular way. He was controlling, yet loving, and he took care of me and my son. We bought a home and lived a ‘normal’ life. I had my daughter a few years later. During these years there were times when he would scream, yell, and throw things. There were also many times when he was a caring, loving, parent and husband. However, I began noticing that I was living on eggshells waiting and wondering when he would snap. I was afraid of him. When he did snap, he would always come home from work the next day with flowers, and apologised. Yet, he also told me that if I had not said or did whatever I had done to provoke him, that he would not have had to behave that way.  

Years later, flowers are a trigger.

Escalation

His blow ups were usually about finances or things around the house that were not done to his standard or liking. If something broke in the home, that would set him off. It always ended with him berating me. He would tell me how to shop at the grocery store, what to buy, including which brands. He would tell me I had to go to different stores to buy different items. If I would buy butter and we already had butter at home, that would send him into a rage. He would tell me that I was stupid to buy things we already had and that I didn’t understand finances or money. He would go through the refrigerator throwing things out if there were duplicates to further illustrate how stupid I was. When I planned the kids’ birthday parties, I had to get it verified and approved by him before I could purchase anything. However, when the day of the party arrived, he would still blow up and scream at me for spending money. This happened for every single party. 

He would also check the thermostat constantly and if I changed it, that would enrage him. Again, he would tell me how stupid I was and berate me about expensive bills. I did my best to ignore this and keep quiet, as my children were always there and I didn’t want them to hear this.

My Family

You see, having a family, and being a mother were the most important things to me. I wanted a happy home with happy children. 

I was brought up in an upper-middle class family. We were all very close, and very loving. I grew up in a beautiful neighborhood where our neighbors were not only friends, but family as well. I wanted to replicate that for my children, and to the outside world we had that. My kids played outside with their neighborhood friends, we had many family outings, and did fun things with our neighbors. 

Sometimes our neighbors would hear him yelling and see evidence of his temper. He would follow me outside as I was leaving for the grocery store, asking me how I was going to pay for things, and he would make fun of my driving in front of our neighbors. I was so embarrassed. One time my older neighbor who was a role model to me, told me to just deal with it. Men yell, and I married him and made vows; therefore, I needed to keep the peace. He would put me down in front of people but in a way that seemed half joking and therefore harmless. So I would just cringe inside. Life continued. My children were extremely active in sports so I became a sports mom, room mom for school, and continued teaching. He was their coach. To the outside world we seemed normal, or so I thought. 

His temper seemed to get worse, he would throw things at me, barely missing my head, yelling, cussing at me constantly, putting me down, making me feel wrong and crazy, and my kids started to come crying to me. I felt afraid in my own home; yet, I told no one. He became more and more financially abusive. I overheard him telling a friend of ours that he bought a business. I had never heard him mention this before, and when I asked, he yelled at me, telling me he had told me and that I was stupid for not remembering. He then closed our joint checking account leaving me with no money except what I made as a preschool teacher working thirty hours a week. My children were crying nightly, and I was living in fear of his blow ups because they began occurring more frequently. I finally broke.

Breaking My Silence

I broke the silence and told my parents. My children were 4 and 7 at this time. My parents listened and were supportive. They had seen his temper a few times, but they obviously did not know the extent of it. 

My parents found a lawyer for me. He was removed from my home with a court order and I was given a restraining order. 

This was a terrifying time. My children were a wreck, and they were having trouble at school. He moved in with his parents and the kids would call me crying hysterically when they had to spend the night there. He started apologizing to me, telling me how much he loved me, offering to go to therapy and offering to do anything he could to have his family back. I gave in and allowed him back. I felt I had to do anything to get my family back, seeing my children so sad was killing me inside, and I was terrified about how I could continue financially. 

The honeymoon period began. He was the perfect husband and father once again, until he wasn’t, and the cycle continued. It went on like this for another ten years, with periods of bliss, followed by periods of living and walking on eggshells. These periods were as long as three months, and then became shorter, one month cycles. He was nice for about one month, which would end in an explosion of anger. I also had an internal cycle, fighting with myself. I remember thinking, maybe if I would just listen to him, do things as he wanted, not argue back; maybe then things would be okay. Then I would think – no this is wrong, I do not deserve to be treated this way. 

Around this time, the internet started to become more mainstream. I researched domestic violence. I remember reading an article to find out how to tell if someone was living with an abusive person. I checked almost every statement in that article. I was afraid and living on eggshells. I was belittled and controlled. I felt helpless. I wondered if I was going crazy. I felt numb. My partner humiliated me, he criticized me and put me down. He embarrassed me. He blamed me for his abusive behavior. He had a bad temper, was jealous, and was unpredictable. He threatened to take my kids away. He destroyed my belongings. He limited access to money. The only thing he didn’t do was hit me. For some reason, many people, including me, believed that if you are not being hit that you are not truly being abused. I did not realize at the time that verbal, emotional, sexual and financial abuse were just as damaging as physical violence. At that time I did not know that throwing things, kicking, and pushing was considered physical violence.  

Things began escalating. There were more temper flares-up, more belittling words. He once again controlled my access to money. He began controlling my interactions with friends, often screaming at me and following me into the bathroom and shower accusing me of cheating. He began telling our friends this as well. He kicked me out of our bed, saying it was the marital bed and if I did not have sex with him, I was not allowed in the bed. He broke a lamp over my hand, threw things at me, began pushing me, and kicking me – all in front of my children. At some point, something clicked for me and I just knew I could not live this way any more. I once again broke the silence, talked to my parents, my aunt- who was extremely supportive – and my grandmothers.

The Plan

This time we made a plan so I could leave. I did not want a scene in front of neighbors or a scene for my children. In retrospect, I’m not sure it was the right way to leave. I should have told him to leave, but I just wanted to get away because I was so scared of him by this point and so worried for my children. This time I would be leaving ten years after the first time, and my children were now 11 and 14.

The plan was made and I rented a home from a friend. I had financial help from my family, and emotional support from my friends. I slowly started taking my things from my old house. I purchased my own cell phone and made plans for my children to stay at a friend’s house on the day I planned to actually leave. That morning, I took my children to a park and explained the situation and then took them to my friends. It was the hardest talk I have ever had to have with my children. I will never forget the look in their eyes. I tried my best to reassure them and answer their questions.

I then went home and told him I was leaving. He went into a rage. Screaming, yelling, throwing things and he came at me with an intense look of hatred in his eyes. I ran outside to my friends who were waiting for me. He barricaded himself in the house, so I was unable to get my things or things for the children.

He started throwing my things outside as the police arrived. They only allowed me to take enough clothing for myself and my children to last three days. He was also allowed to follow me as I gathered our belongings, yelling and cussing the whole time.

After this, we decided (through our attorneys) that the children would go back and forth every two days. My daughter was worried that she would not see both of her parents, and I wanted them together, but I was worried for my children when they were with him. I was hopeful that they were old enough to call me if anything terrible happened.

I once again got a restraining order. He stalked me. He would stalk me at work, and at my house, once he found out where I was living. He made up fake emails with different names, and sent me messages about how I cheated on him. He called and emailed me multiple times a day calling me horrible names. He harassed my parents so much that they also had to get a restraining order. By this time he had told all my friends and family that I was cheating on him and had multiple abortions; which I never did. He was so unstable. I still had to see him at my kids baseball, softball, basketball and soccer games. He would intimidate me, cross over the line of his restraining order guidelines. I was still so terrified of him and he knew it. He also threatened to take my kids from me. He was leaving horrible things on my car. I had ten flat tires in this two year period. During one of the kid’s baseball games, he started screaming at me, so I walked to my car, and he chased me. He didn’t allow me to drive away, and instead hit my car, yelling, and screaming. The park was crowded with people, but not a single person helped me. During this time, he was not paying child support, for the kids health insurance or any other mutual expenses. Additionally, during the many court dates, he would arrive without the necessary paperwork and the judge would then turn us away, to return in three months. This prolonged the situation, and if I didn’t have financial help from my family, I would have been homeless.

Stock photo – WordPress

Court battle

When we finally went back to court again, his demands had increased: he wanted more time with our children, and did not want to pay spousal support. Moreover, he had moved his girlfriend into our home, but was not paying the mortgage, so the house went into foreclosure. He destroyed my credit. He also hid his money and income as he worked for himself. He got a brand new car every six months. At court, he produced documents that showed he made less money than me. Therefore, he did not have to pay spousal support and paid very low child support since the kids stayed with me for the majority of the time. He was allowed to scream at the judge when the custody did not go his way.

He tried to ban me from attending my children’s sporting events when he had them, and he tried to get a court order preventing me from driving on his street. He filed a police report saying that I hacked into his home and work computers, and ruined his business.

The harassment and abuse continued for many years. He continued incessant emails, texts, and stalking, and made my life as difficult as he could. 

I became stronger though. I learned after a while that responding to him only escalated things. There was no reason for me to explain why I left and try to make him understand what he did. He would never see it that way, never see anything as his fault or my leaving as consequences to his behavior. I began using no contact. It was a breath of fresh air. He still tried his best to intimidate and harass me but I ceased responding. I felt less afraid. I still had to see him at the kids’ events – but I was very careful to stay away and not engage with him; focussed on trying to make things as easy as possible for my kids. My life was consumed with trying to make my kids feel happy. 

This lifestyle continued until both kids turned 18 – about 9 years ago. I finally felt him backing off about this time. It was not easy but it was getting easier.

I continued teaching, working more hours, and doing my best to be the best mom I could be. Luckily my children seemingly thrived. They both went to college. My son graduated from Sonoma State University and is currently working in his chosen field. My daughter is currently attending CSUN and working a full time job. I have a boyfriend who I have been with for many years. I am also following my passion by helping other women and men who are survivors of domestic violence. I volunteer at a hotline, talking to clients and offering resources, support, and additional help for those with children. 

Aftermath 

I understand my triggers, and struggles, and have fears about my past; but, I feel strong and empowered by my choices, my decisions and where my life is now. 

One of the biggest reasons why I left was for my children. I did not want my son to believe that men can treat women the way his father treated me and I did not want my daughter to see life through archaic gender-normative stereotypes. When I sit back and observe my children and their relationships with others, I see that they are kind and respectful adults and that warms my heart. I feel very successful as a parent. I can say they are my greatest accomplishments and I will say I am so proud of my strength as well. 

I started with a quote to describe what it was like for me to live with domestic violence. I would like to end with another to describe what it felt for me to have a life after.

“She believed she could, so she did.” 

Stock photo – WordPress

I hope that I have conveyed to you that domestic violence can and does happen to anyone. It doesn’t know racial, religious, or economic boundaries. It is all about control, about power, and when dealing with an abusive person I felt I could not win. I understood that feeling invalidated, disrespected, afraid, silenced, and abused was not a healthy relationship, and needed to leave. I left for myself, for my children, and for my life.