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Survivor Story: I Chose to Forgive, Because It Was The Right Thing For Me

Written by: Ashley 

Edited by: Monita

Trigger Warning: This story contains descriptions of physical and sexual violence that some survivors may find particularly upsetting. Please consider your triggers and well-being before reading past this point.

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 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.

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.

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 friends 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 backwards just in time, and he hit and ran over the Walgreens bag I had dropped in the fight instead.

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 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 with 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.

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. 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.

 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.

 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.

If you know someone who is struggling with PTSD, depression, or other issues please consider calling SAMHSA’s National Hotline at 1800-622-HELP; the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1800-273-8255, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-787-3224. BTSADV also has advocates available 7 days a week from 5am-2pm (EST) at www.breakthesilencedv.org, 855-287-1777, or through a private message on our Facebook page. Please reach out for a confidential talk regarding resources, or information regarding unhealthy aspects of their relationship.

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