Survivor Story: My Children and I Deserve Love and Safety

Submitted by: Danielle, Survivor

As part of the conditioning and manipulation abusers use to keep their victims trapped in an abusive relationship, the destruction of self-esteem and self-worth are effective tools. Abusers slowly convince their partners that the abuse is their fault and that they do not deserve any better than their current circumstances. They will often also reinforce this by conditioning their victims to believe that they cannot survive with their abusers and are unworthy of being genuinely loved by others.

The man who abused Danielle conditioned her to believe that she was at fault for and deserving of the abuse she endured. After she left, the manipulation and abuse she experienced caused her to second-guess herself and made moving forward difficult. Learn about some of the challenges she has faced and how she is doing now.

Two years ago, my abuser told me, “No one will ever love you like I do.” According to him, this was true because I lived in poverty and had three children. I was broken, physically, spiritually, and mentally, and he said I was crazy. Because I was unhealthy and lived in chronic pain, no one would want to tolerate me. In his words, I was undeserving of love, and he was doing me a favor by putting up with me. Every ill action towards me was my own fault.

That’s when it clicked. I understood that I can never allow anyone to “love” me in the way that he did ever again. Then I started over, with absolutely nothing but my vehicle, my kids, all the wrong clothes – because I packed in a hurry – and a little bit of money.

Leaving was not easy, and it was not a dignified event. The entire process was ugly, messy, scary, and heartbreaking. It was a sacrifice that was filled with constant uncertainty. In the end, it was also a defining moment that changed everything about who I am and what I will tolerate.

I moved in with my dad, and I carried the guilt for the stress I had put on him and his wife. Each time my abuser contacted old friends and family members, and especially when he harassed my mother, I was burdened with shame. I was under intense pressure as I started a new job and immediately found myself taking so much time off to attend court hearings and therapy appointments for my children who were also processing trauma.

As a mother, I placed so much blame on myself for the hurt and confusion that my children felt. I questioned every decision that I made, and I constantly debated whether or not I was overreacting and if I did the right thing in running away. It felt like I would never get through it.

But I did. I made it through, and now I have this story to carry with me about survival. More than just merely making it out, it is about instinct, despite several years of conditioning to suppress my intuition. It is about fighting – and continuing to fight – after leaving, and healing and recovery. The most important thing to remember is that I was never alone. When I was too tired to fight for myself or my children, someone would always stand up and fight for me.

January 20th was the anniversary of my survival. It has been a long and exhausting journey, but it has also been worth every challenge. I am in a much better place now. I am still recovering, but I now know that I am deserving of love and safety, and my children and I finally have both.

After a stress-filled day – calling 911, filling out police reports, and facing rejection from the few people that I had asked for a safe place to stay – I knew that my final option was to leave everything behind and never look back.

I have survived.

**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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