Submitted by: *Reina, Survivor
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.
Many victims of domestic violence experience sexual violence as part of their abuse in the relationship. Although an increasing volume of information about sexual abuse in relationships is becoming more widely available, it is not uncommon for a victim of abuse to not know the sexual violence they are being subjected to constitutes abuse. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, about 10% of women reported being raped by an intimate partner, with 20% of survivors reporting that they experienced dating violence before the age of 17.
Reina met her abuser when she was just 14 years old. After talking for a year, he gave her a ride home and raped her. As the violence escalated, Reina learned she was pregnant and faced a heartbreaking decision to abort the pregnancy. Reina shares with us how the abuse she experienced affected her both during the abuse and after leaving the relationship and how important it is for victims and survivors to know that sexual violence occurring in the context of a relationship is still abuse.
As a 21-year-old, I never thought I’d spend time early in 2020 telling my story on domestic and sexual violence. My story started when I was 14, and he was much older than me – already in his 20’s. We had spent a year talking and getting to know each other before getting involved.
After being raped, sexual violence abuse became a normal dynamic in the relationship.
Because we had known each other for a while, I felt comfortable accepting when he offered me a ride home from a party one Friday night in June 2014. It was the first time I ever had sex and the first time I was ever raped. I could hardly walk for days afterward, and what followed was six years of routine sexual violence. A few times, I was hospitalized because he would use objects that caused severe internal injuries, and as a result, I have been left with long-term medical issues.
After a while, it escalated to include general physical violence, like holding bags and pillows over my head, trying to break my wrists, and smashing my head on things when he got frustrated. He regularly called me names and had even secretly recorded our intimate moments to show all his friends. I quickly learned that he had a fixation for things that triggered fear and panic, including suffocating me until I couldn’t breathe. He often told me how he fantasized about killing me, the various ways he would carry it out, and what he would do to cover it up.
When Reina shared that she was pregnant, the man who abused her threatened her to abort their unborn child.
In 2017, I became pregnant. He threatened my life and made menacing threats about using a coat hanger If I did not abort the baby. During the same week we discovered that I was carrying his child, the abuse escalated to a new level of violence. When I asked him if he would ever do those things to me in front of our baby, he could not answer the question.
Because of the danger I faced, I knew what I had to do. My abortion was to save me, and most importantly, my little baby from him. Afterward, he only gave me 48 hours before he sexually assaulted me again, leading to an infection. I was beyond miserable. Once I reached the age of 20, I noticed he was more interested in younger girls around 15 or 16 years old. I had enough and broke off the relationship, but that did not stop him from trying to get to me. He would stalk my house and continue to make death threats against me.
Reina wants to use her experiences to help others who may not know that sexual abuse and violence can happen in a relationship.
I feel that I was completely let down by the police, so I am trying to help myself feel more empowered and use my story to help empower others. Rarely do I see much information on sexual violence in relationships. I think that is why it had taken so long for me to realize how abusive my relationship truly was.
Sharing my story has a purpose. I hope what I went through can help others who have similar experiences, because I needed someone to enlighten me on the reality of what I was going through. As a result of the abuse, I now have to deal with long-term physical injuries, and every time it impacts my daily life, it triggers memories that take me straight back to the man that caused them.
I am determined to make something of myself despite this. I am more than just a victim. I am a survivor, and I will shine as a young woman.
*Name(s) have been changed – and in some cases omitted – to protect the identity of the survivor and others affected by the abuse.
**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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