Survivor Story: She Didn’t Know There Were Advocates Who Could Help Her Leave Her Abuser
Written by: *Brenda, Survivor
Growing up, Brenda was not taught about red flags that could alert her to an abusive or toxic relationship. She interpreted some things that happened early in the relationship as normal; in reality, they were subtle indications of control. Survivor Brenda shares with us how the control escalated over time into verbal and emotional abuse, followed later by physical violence. Find out how she left and where she is now.
Brenda remembers what it was like to be 18, wild, careless, and free. For her, that time in her life was short-lived once she met her abuser. At barely 19, she thought she had everything going for her. She was getting out of her parents’ house and moving in with a man she believed loved her. No one could tell Brenda otherwise. If only she had known that day would change her life forever, she says, living with her parents would not have seemed that bad. Instead, Brenda spent five life-altering years with an abusive man.
Little by little, Brenda’s abuser began to take control of her life, starting with her finances.
The control started slowly, and, because no one taught her the red flags, Brenda had no idea what was happening. He convinced her to get a joint bank account and later added her to his cellphone plan. Eventually, he convinced Brenda to sign her car over to him as well. At the time, she believed this was normal, that this was just what couples did. What she did know was that it was warning of the abuse to follow.
Soon it was her fault that he did not have money for cigarettes because he had to spend $50 a month on Brenda’s asthma inhaler. Or, if she was not up and did not have the house cleaned by the time he thought she should, he would take her phone. Brenda lost count of how many phones he took from her and broke during the five years they were together.
The physical abuse came about a year into their relationship. After assaulting her, he always told Brenda that he was sorry. She swore she could fix him, reasoned that his childhood was the reason for the way he treated her, and vowed to herself that she would help him heal. Then the sexual abuse followed, and she completely lost who she was. Brenda said that she no longer felt like a person. Instead, she was a bank and a toy for him to use in multiple ways.
After their third year together, he started limited the time she was allowed to use her phone and monitored her conversations. The emotional abuse had been going on the entire time, but being so young compared to him, Brenda says that she brushed it off as inexperience. She believed that if she tried harder, he would love her.
He abuser had no issues with making it impossible for Brenda to maintain friendships, and they moved frequently.
During the five years they were together, they moved thirteen times. Anytime Brenda got comfortable or close with people in the community, he would move them again. It was her fault that they never had enough money, even though he always made Brenda quit her jobs for one reason or another.
She could not convince anyone he was doing these things to her. Everyone saw this picture-perfect man, and it only made her feel more crazy. Brenda said that, at the time, she had no idea some advocates and groups could help her leave. If she did, Brenda believes she would have left by the second year of the relationship.
One day, he knocked Brenda unconscious. When she asked about it a few days later, he laughed it off. She knew then that she was going to die if she stayed. So, for a year and a half, Brenda began putting different exit plans together. However, it was when her great-grandmother passed that she knew she needed to get then.
Two weeks later, Brenda paid all the bills to buy a month, and she told him to leave. She did not get out of that unscathed; she had bruises for weeks afterward. A week after he was gone, he hacked Brenda’s social media and damaged her reputation by posting photos she did not know he had. It was not until she went to the police over that he finally stopped all communication.
At first, Brenda said that she felt so strong and happy – she was free. She had no food in her refrigerator, but her bills were paid, and she was in her own home. Eventually, she was able to land a good job, and she believed things were finally turning around for her. Then she lost that job when the business closed, and it felt like she was a prisoner all over again. She lost her house and moved out of state to have housing – it was included with the job offer. Again, she felt completely alone and isolated.
“Nothing was the same when I moved home. I had two friends who were still there for me, and even that’s pushing it. My therapist was the only person constant throughout all this. I’m absolutely terrified of men, and I refuse to try dating again because now I see red flags in every man I meet.
“Most days I’m stronger than hell, and I know I’ll get back on my feet and have my own place again. Other days, I’m almost certain that my depression will defeat me. One thing is for sure, though. I refuse to sink!
“Love yourself. You’re worth so very much! It’s not your job to fix the abuser; it’s only your job to work on yourself. There are so many resources available to help victims and survivors with a range of circumstances. You’ve got this!”
*Survivor name has been changed to protect her identity.
**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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