Submitted by: *Amber, Survivor
Survivors of domestic violence do not go into a relationship expecting to be abused. Even when they have helped others leave an abusive partner, they may not recognize the signs of abuse in time to help themselves. Over time, the effects of abuse and shame and isolation become more difficult to handle, and even when a victim starts to research about what domestic violence is, they may not be able to see a way out.
Survivor Amber shares with us about enjoying her life and helping a close friend out of an abusive relationship before revealing how she ended up in one herself. Find out how the abuse affected her, and how she felt once she started looking for answers on what was happening to her.
When Amber met her abuser, she was 19 years old. She was at a good place in her life, and her out-going and caring nature earned her good friends. There was no way for her to view life in a bad light. Her parents described Amber as headstrong, and her friends and teachers agreed. She knew what she wanted and knew how to make things happen. It was as if she did not have a doubt in the world.
After helping a close friend leave her abuser, she was introduced to the man who would become her abuser just a few months later.
It was probably not long after her 19th birthday that she found herself helping one of the most trusted people in her life out of a dangerous situation. Amber saw her first glimpse of domestic violence and knew that she had no choice but to help her friend realize what was happening and get away from it. Helping her free leave was not easy but before long, Amber and her friend were out on the town having the time of their lives. They went to parties, they laughed, and they had fun together – until her well-meaning friend gave her advice that changed Amber’s life.
Her friend’s ex had a friend that was “nothing like him.” She was told that he was sweet, loving, and handsome. That is what convinced Amber to go on a date with him. She was right; for the first three months, everything seemed to be going well. The new man in her life adored her. He did anything for her and treated her well.
Amber does not recall exactly when it started to go wrong. One minute they were laughing and trying to explain the love they felt for each other, and the next he was accusing her of seeing other men while he was at work. She fought back in the beginning and threatened to leave and even had her bags packed and ready to go many times.
Each time Amber prepared to leave her abuser, he manipulated her by threatening self-harm and begging her to stay.
They were times he would go back to the man she knew in the early months of their relationship, sweet and loving. Then he would threaten suicide when she said she wanted to leave. His threats of self-harm filled her with confusion. She thought, “How can I leave when he was begging me to stay and confessing deep love for me?” So, she stayed.
From there, Amber described the escalation of abuse and the effects of trauma as dominoes falling one by one. Each one slowly diminished how she felt about herself. After he knocked the first one over, the rest just fell freely. Her confidence went, followed by her pride and her ego and her confidence. Before long, there was not much fight left in her. Where Amber once felt self-assured, strong, and happy, she became broken, sad, frustrated, and angry. She felt so angry and disgusted with herself that she could not bear to know what anyone else thought. So, of course, she kept it to herself.
Things got worse; he became meaner, and Amber says she got weaker. Before she knew it, she was living in a caravan park, had no friends, and lost contact with her family because they thought her behavior was due to the use of drugs. She was pretty much all his, and he shamelessly took advantage of that. She dealt with his behaviors much like a mother does a screaming toddler. Amber ignored it and pretended that he knew no better and it was her place to deal with it.
She found herself researching domestic violence and trying to piece together how she ended up where she was.
Amber was 22 years old. She should have been enjoying her youth. Everyone around her had done everything so differently and were much happier. Her much-trusted friend was in a happy relationship, and she had not heard from her in several years. She truly was in a horrible situation, completely alone.
Sometimes Amber would go online and research domestic violence and wonder how she ended up in an abusive relationship. She started to think that everyone who said you can get away from it was a liar. Amber hated herself, and at one point even hated everyone who did not help her. She thought it had gone on for far too long to ever get away and feel mentally okay.
“I don’t know what lead me here, but I started reading blogs. It was then that I realized I wasn’t alone, and I wasn’t stupid. I was blinded, and I was young. I can’t offer any advice to get away, and you’re not going to take it until you’re ready. But if you’re reading this and feel like you are a victim of domestic violence, there is something I want to say to you.
“Seek space, know your worth, and don’t ever think that you’re alone. I love you just for being here and for fighting this long. You’re so great, and this will all go away if you let it. Seek time, space, and then help. The world loves you. God loves you, and you’re going to find a safe place.”
*Survivor’s name has been changed to protect their identity.
**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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