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Survivor Story: Leaving my abuser, and living with PTSD

Written by: BTSADV Survivor

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. 

This survivor has been through some incredibly difficult abuse and hardship. Her story is painful to read, and epitomizes the dangers that survivors face during and after escape. 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) for those wanting to have a confidential talk regarding resources, or wanting information regarding unhealthy aspects of their relationship.

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.

I endured a number of horrific abuses 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.

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 like nothing had happened. 

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. 

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. 

*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.

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