Survivor Story: Anyone Can Be Abused

Submitted by: Barbara, Survivor

Many people have an image of what a “typical” victim of domestic violence looks like in their mind. This mental picture does not look the same for everyone. Still, many often assume that the person grew up in an abusive home, lives in poor living conditions, has low self-esteem, and might have mental health issues or drug and alcohol addictions. While all of these factors increase the risk for a person to be victimized in intimate relationships as teens or adults, not everyone who is abused has those life experiences.

Many victims grew up in loving homes, led successful lives, and faced no struggles with mental health or substance abuse before entering an abusive relationship. They, like many survivors, often face added stigma for “failing” to see the abuser for who they truly were, when the abusive partner bears responsibility for gaining their trust and love under false pretenses. The reality is that abusers let their victims see what they want to them to see until they are sure it is safe to escalate to abuse.

Barbara grew up in a home with a mother who raised her to be strong and stand up for her rights. Her education provided a foundation of leadership skills, and during college, she found herself surrounded and supported by successful women. Many would assume that she was set up to lead a charmed life, but, as Barbara shares with us, that is not what happened. Her story is not only a powerful reminder that anyone can be abused, but also any of us, with the right support system, can rebuild our lives.   

For the longest time, it was hard to even admit that I was a victim of domestic violence. Now that I am a survivor, I want to tell the world. I may not have everything a mom could want, but I do have my son, the means to support him, and my life.

I married my teenage summer romance. When we met, I was 15 years old, and he was a year older than I. We were married for almost five years, together for nearly eleven, and had known each other for almost twenty years. Because I was blinded by the idea of summer love immortalized in the movie Grease – still one of my favorite movies – I missed all the red flags and warning signs I should have seen. There were so many good times, but the bad times outweighed them.

My mother, a self-proclaimed feminist, raised me to be a strong, independent woman, and I went to my first women’s march in Washington, DC, around the age of 12 years old. Although I don’t recall what cause the march was for, I remember getting up early in the morning, the bus ride to the city, the crowds of women, the energy, and the time spent with my mom. I am a lifetime member of Girl Scouts and attended an all-girls private school that prides itself on helping women become leaders.

While I was a college student, I joined the only local sorority at my college, an organization with over a century of history and female members that went on to become engineers, nurses, businesswomen, and the like. These women are not just my friends but my family. I work in sales and make enough money to live a nice life. I had everything I could possibly need to become a strong independent woman, yet I still became a victim.

My ex-mother-in-law told me about three weeks after my son was born that having a child was no way to save a marriage. She told me that her son and I were toxic for each other two days after my emergency domestic violence injunction was granted.

I ask myself, “What did I do to deserve the life I had?” I know now that I did absolutely nothing wrong, but, at the time, I did what so many other women did and hid from embarrassment and shame. I covered the bruises and went about my life as if there was nothing wrong. A friend told me that my life looked so perfect on social media that she would have never guessed I was a victim. It turns out she was – and still is – a victim, too.

I may not “have it all” because I do not have the perfect relationship, job, son, or life. But I do have an amazing support system for myself and my son. I have a son who loves pink and purple, trucks and dolls, nail polish and flowers. The county I live in has services to help survivors, and, in turn, we can help others become survivors.

My friends rally around me, and as one often says, “it takes a village.” If I need help, all I need to do is ask, and someone will be there. My family has been beyond supportive, while my ex’s family has essentially disappeared from my son’s life beyond what they have to do. However, I know my family and friends, my network, will help fill those missing pieces.

I may not have it all, at least not what the world typically defines as “having it all,” but I have all I need to be an amazing mom and a strong woman. I am taking my experience and using it to help others. I am a survivor!

**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. For crisis services, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233.

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