I knew something was wrong. My parents never behaved like this. I didn’t see other men denying their partner touch, calling them derogatory names, or closely monitoring every social situation where another male is present. It didn’t seem right that I would be punished for hugging my friend or giving a high-five to his coworker. I knew I should be allowed to go to the grocery store of my choosing, alone, without opening the gates of Hell. It didn’t feel right being pinned up against the wall or being woken up by an angry drunken rage, chased out of my bed, out of my home. Something felt off about his obsession and control over birth control. It felt wrong that he hid my first pregnancy until it was impossible to hide, I didn’t understand why he wanted nothing to do with our growing family. I knew I shouldn’t feel scared to ask my partner for help paying our family bills. Alarm bells went off in my mind frequently, I acted on them multiple times, only to wind up feeling foolish for leaving and trying it again. My first born moved 10 times in the first 8 years of her life.
This was all domestic violence. I didn’t know. I spent 7 years in a DV relationship and had 2 children who were not products of love, but products of reproductive coercion. My gut was always right, but society was louder. The fear of judgment and struggle, being a single mother of 2, and the belief that its best to stay for the kids, on top of the manipulation and abuse from my partner, made it impossible to escape for a long time, but we did.
It has been 4 years, and the journey of healing is long but going well. There is so much that I wish I had known about before this, like what unhealthy relationship signs are, what consent truly is and how it works, or how to trust myself. I can’t go back, but I can prepare my daughters for the world and give them the best chance of not experiencing the same abuse I did.