Survivor Story: Leaving Was The Best Thing I Could Do
Written by: Nynaeve, Survivor
Trigger Warning: This story contains descriptions of physical violence that some survivors may find particularly upsetting. Please consider your triggers and well-being before reading past this point.
Nynaeve grew up in an abusive home and ran from that into the arms of yet another abuser. Like most abusive relationships, it all started as a fairy tale but didn’t stay that way for long. Eventually, she was able to flee, but leaving was not easy for her. There were plenty of obstacles and struggles along the way but leaving saved her life.
I started my romantic relationship with a man who I believed was, and would always be my one and only, in 2017. He was a well built, charming character who drew me in instantly. I was only 17, and he was 28. Although he had not been obvious in these advances before this, looking back, I can see he had set his eyes on me when I first met him at 14.
He had feelings that lingered, and eventually, he decided it was appropriate to advance those feelings into actions. I had grown up in a broken home, with the mindset that my self-worth was all but none. He was quite aware of this, so when he approached me with the option to become “his,” I felt the world had done me a favor.
In the beginning, it was the cliche story you always hear about, the romantic beginning, the honeymoon phase. He was nice in every way, and for once, I saw myself as beautiful. I accepted his laughs, endearing smiles, and his voice that told me I meant everything. He sucked me in with his devotion to my self-esteem.
Looking back, I see the red flags. I notice how I quickly wore those rose-colored lenses and ignored all that could go wrong.
To start with, the man I loved was an alcoholic. He drank his days away with a pint of vodka and an 18 pack. He gave his life to the bottle, and it was something I thought I could fix. I believed that with love and acceptance, I could show him another way to cope, but my efforts wasted, a realization that would take me months to recognize.
This man struggled with drugs too. He blamed his usage on this ex-girlfriend, who had left his children. He said he needed something to take away the pain, to distract him from his loss. Instead of seeing the signs of a story gone wrong, I believed every word he said. I believed she had wronged him, and that his drug usage was justified. I believed he was just lost and needed someone to guide him back to the path of recovery and sobriety. I believed I would not become her. I would not be the woman that ran.
In all actuality, I was pretty naive, even when the violence started. It began like a joke. A push and a shove here, a name-call there, it felt innocent. I thought he was acting out from the pain he felt inside. I remained nothing but nice despite the fact I was uncomfortable with the behavior until the joke stopped being laughable.
Just a few months into our relationship, I experienced the first outburst, one that started with ordering food. He felt a rage I could not understand, but he made sure that I felt it. I took a blow to the head because I could not complete his directions right; it quickly ended when I screamed. He was embarrassed by his behavior and the way he made me scream, and was worried that somebody may have heard. The apology felt so sincere, and with those little words, “I’m sorry,” I forgave him, I thought he meant it.
What I did not realize was that this gave him proof that I would let go of his “mistakes.” I proved I would tolerate his behavior, I was head over heels, and that I was too afraid of losing him to resist.
It was not long until the violence became more frequent and obvious. Every move I made, I had to wonder if it was best for him, or if I was doing something that would bring on frustration, anger, or hurt. I became the one who was devoted to building his self-esteem. I built him up while sacrificing my happiness, hoping I could bring him to reality.
Reality never came for him, and it faded from me. He became my everything, and I obeyed everything I was told. I ran from my family’s home to be with him in May 2018. In the beginning, we made our own home, a place just for us with no rules or complaints from others. It was supposed to be paradise, but it was the worst decision I had ever made in my life.
This “home” became a hell I could not escape. There was no paradise in sight. Only closed doors I wish would open to free me from the pain I could not run from. I spent my days trying to free him from his demons. I became his enemy and felt his brute force to a degree I could not have imagined before.
I watched as my self-worth was torn down to satisfy his needs. He tried to make himself a god, someone who had all power over his possessions, including me – his possession. In his eyes, I had no meaning, I was simply something he could play with and put away, or use to his advantage.
July 13th, he showed me just how much I did not mean to him when he trapped me in our apartment with the threat of ending my life. I was brutalized for hours, tormented, and taunted. I was kicked, hit, and bit. He threw me down and made me beg to make it end. He told me to run if I wanted to live, but then dragged me back into what I thought would be the end of me. I was forced to reduce myself and please his internal anger to survive an event that, to this day, refuses to leave me.
I suffer from head trauma and memory issues because of that night, and I continue to have a cartilage condition in my chest.
I stayed after this event, but I knew I needed to leave. I started to believe there was nothing I could do to help whatever was eating at him inside.
Many more events occurred after July 13th. Most resulting in bite marks, bloody knees/arms, and a broken heart.
I left on September 16th when my sister opened my eyes to realize what I was going through, and how quickly I would end up dead. She put forth incredible strength and effort to make sure I was safe, and I will never be able to thank her enough.
Leaving was not easy. I was homeless, fearing for my life, and fearing for his ex. I contacted her, hoping she would believe me despite not believing her in the past. I was met with uncertainty, but that quickly turned into concern for my well-being. She helped me with receiving a restraining order and has continued to fill me with encouragement as the trial quickly approaches.
I cannot say things went smoothly. I spent weeks crying over my safety and my loss of a man I still loved. I had so many questions I was unable to answer, and it caused severe anxiety and depression.
I can easily say leaving was the best decision of my life. I am happily in a new relationship and have received a tremendous amount of aid from the DV shelter I resided in. I am on the path to returning to a normal life, one with happiness.
I cannot leave out that I am still fearful, and I have yet to let go of what happened to me. I still look over my shoulder and feel his presence looming over me, but I no longer fear that I will not be able to escape. Healing takes time, and I have already come so far.
I hope that anyone reading this understands that they can find happiness too. I know the fear and the uncertainty of the DV environment, but the best thing you can do is leave. It saved my life.
**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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