Speaking out against Domestic Violence: This is my story

domesticDomestic Violence is a sensitive subject for a lot of people. Chances are you know someone that has been or currently is a victim to abuse, whether you know it or not.

Did you know statistics show 1 in 4 women will be abused at some point in their life? ONE IN FOUR! Such a big topic that so many people want to say they are against, and yet domestic abuse is not happening less, it’s happening more. And it needs to stop. More people need to speak out against it and know it isn’t their fault.

This is fairly long, so please bare with me. 

I have been a victim of domestic violence, and I am no longer ashamed. I was abused for almost 7 years of my life. Can you believe that? 7 years. And this wasn’t as an adult. I got into a relationship at the age of 15. I never felt very highly of myself, so when I got the attention of an older guy (4 years) I was crushing on, I was excited, happy, on cloud nine. I really did think, why me? Why would he ever want to date me? And yet he did. So we dated for a few months.

At this point I can’t say the exact day it started, but I do remember and will never forget the first time it happened. I did something to upset him. Something silly, so small I can’t remember the why, just what happened after the fact. We were in his room and started arguing. Even as a younger kid I was never one to just shut up, so I stuck to my ground and back talked, we argued, and he slapped me. I was in SHOCK. I literally grabbed my face and thought, what just happened? I cried. HARD. I wanted to leave right then and go home. But I didn’t. Why? Cause he grabbed me and apologized. Said he had no idea what came over him, and he couldn’t believe he even lifted his hands to me. He just got caught up in the moment, and it wouldn’t happen again. Little did I know at the age of 15 that would be the first of many times I would hear that.

I recently read a book on domestic violence, and one of the people that read it said, “this is so fake and unbelievable, if she was being abused people would know”. This comment made me angry. So very angry because NO, just because someone is being abused doesn’t mean people will notice. It can be a kid, a teenager, a grown person. It can go on for years before people may begin to notice. Especially when the one that is being abused is in denial.

I lived with my parents until I was 18, and they didn’t learn about the abuse until after I moved out. The abuser knows exactly where to hit. All the right spots, to leave marks where no one can see. One of the favorite things for my abuser, (as with so many others) is to go after your stomach, arms, legs. You can easily wear clothes to cover these bruises up. So many times I would be curled into a ball on the floor, begging for him to stop. Meanwhile he was getting his socks off on me crying and getting kicked with his steel-toe boots. I couldn’t wear tank tops because I had to hide the marks. I would have finger marks on my arms where he grabbed me. I couldn’t wear shorts in the summer because I had bruises all over. We get creative on covering the bruises and the excuses we use. Of course it isn’t only limited to those areas. No place on your body is off limits. When there are marks on your body, broken bones, you’d be amazed at the stories we can come up with for excuses for why we are hurt if people notice and begin to question.

Abuse is a vicious cycle. I felt hopeless. I literally felt like there was no hope for me. He would hit me, apologize, I would say I wanted to leave, and he would beg me to stay. Rinse. Wash. Repeat. I would stay. Where else was I going to go? I was unlovable. Nobody would want me, I was broken. Broken beyond repair.

I took the abuse for so long, I just took it and kept quiet, never telling anyone it was happening. How could I admit I was “weak” enough to be a victim? I didn’t want to admit I couldn’t control my own life and didn’t like anyone knowing I was weak or vulnerable. I felt like it was my fault. Every time he hit me, it was my fault. Every time he cheated, it was my fault. He would call me fat, worthless, stupid. Every name in the book and every single thing that happened came back to being my fault. I didn’t learn until later in life that it WAS NOT MY FAULT. I just laid there and took the hits so many times. I would beg HIM to forgive me. It was my fault he hit me, and I deserved it. So why try to stop it?

I was scared. So scared. At times I would try to leave, which of course only made things worse. At one point he even held a loaded shot gun to my head and said if I ever tried to leave he would kill me. And he wouldn’t stop there. He would go to my house, go after my whole family. I knew I couldn’t leave. But I did grow. Something inside me sparked, and I did start to get brave.

I think I was around 18, maybe 19, before I started standing up to my abuser. I figured, he’s going to beat the shit out of me regardless, might as well try to fight for myself. My fiery self was coming back out a little. Sometimes the abuse would be worse. Other times it would be a little less, cause I would scream. I mean scream at the top of my lungs at him. If there were people around, they were going to hear me. So sometimes he would back off, others he would hit harder to shut me up. The abuse never stopped, it never slowed down any, and it was always at random. I walked on eggshells to make him happy, just so I could go one day without being hit.

At almost 20, I left him. It wasn’t easy but I did. He was put in jail for 90 days, so 5 days before his release I hid. The sad thing is, I had to hide from my family too. At this point, my parents knew of the abuse. I don’t hate my mom now, but at the time, we had problems. She had hope for us. My dad used to hit her, and he got therapy. He got help for his PTSD, and he stopped hitting her. So she always tried to help and say one day he would stop hitting me because he loved me. I knew this wasn’t true. I couldn’t keep going on being abused.

At the age of 18, I met a friend who is still to this day my best friend. Without her, I couldn’t have done what I did, and she ALWAYS supported me. No matter what. So 5 days before his release, she tells me, “I have some friends, it’s 3 guys, they have a big duplex, but they will hide you and they will protect you”. Now this was hard for me. I was just abused for 3 1/2 years, but I knew I didn’t have a choice, and I trusted her. If she trusted them, then I would try. I kept to myself at first, didn’t talk to them much, but I was safe. Nobody but my friend knew where I was.

I stayed there for about 6 months before I felt safe enough to “come out of hiding”. I then moved in with my friend. Things were good. Life was moving on, and I was starting to feel like I could move on and be okay. Of course, Somehow, me and my ex started talking again and talked for a couple months before we decided me missed each other. Things were good. Really good. Almost too good to be true. But I was happy with how he was treating me, and he is what I knew.

Think about it. All my crucial years of being a young adult, it was always him. So we tried again. Low and behold, a couple weeks after dating again and moving in with each other again, the abuse started again.

That is one thing we don’t like to admit. We like to think the abuse will stop. That they have changed, and it won’t happen again. It doesn’t stop. They will always start back up again. My parents are one of the rare instances where the abuse stops. I mean rare. So rare that I couldn’t find enough research for numbers on the amount of cases where abuse actually stops.

I was there for another year, stuck in the abuse, stuck in the situation.

Let’s recap a little. Over the years of abuse and neighbors hearing me scream, they would call the cops. The cops would always come, and I would never give him up. I could have a black eye, and I would still deny the abuse. I would say he never touched me and to leave us alone. I always said I would never, never be the one to put him in jail. I would say I just could not do that to him. After everything he did to me, I would say I couldn’t do that to him. A little fucked-up right?

At this point I’m 21. I know I can’t live my life like this. He wants to get married and have kids. I know I can’t live my life like this. I still have my friend who has taken me into her house several times after he beat the shit out of me, or when I was ready to leave. He would show up, apologize, and I would leave with him. Again. Through all of this, she was nothing but a supportive friend. Anytime I needed her, she was there. I can never repay her for what she did for me. Anyways, with her support, the support of co-workers, my mom, and God. Yes God. I prayed. A lot. I had people pray for me. I needed help. And finally I wasn’t scared to ask for it.

At first I prayed for a way out and for him to not go to jail, but to just to let me go. Then I just prayed, help me. Any way possible, I just needed out. If I wanted to live and be happy, I had to get out. Any way that needed to be, I was ready. A few weeks go by and I start to meet people, just in passing. One lady was the lady I talked to at the bank. She witnessed an incident with him and introduced me to one of her co-workers. She and her mother worked with Family Crisis Center. They started to coach me through, and things they were telling me were exactly what I was going through. Things started to make sense and click. I knew I wasn’t alone, and I could ask for help.

So one night I get off from work. He is plastered drunk, and of course something sets him off, and he hits me. I try leaving and it escalates from there. I ask to just call my mom so I can calm down. It was a miracle, because he would never give me my phone after an attack. But this time, he did. So I called my mom. She knew I was crying, asked if he hit me again. I said yes. She asked me if I wanted her to call the cops. I said yes. So she said she would call them on the house phone, to stay with her. Five minutes later – which felt like an eternity– the cops show up at my door. He answers, slams the door in the cops’ faces and comes back to me. He BEGS me not to let them in. I go to the door and know he’s going out the back, and I tell the cops he’s going out back. So yes, they arrest him.

That was one of the scariest yet most uplifting days in my life. This is where my journey begins. Things are far from over. I still worked with Family Crisis Center, they helped me get a restraining order against him, stayed with me through my testimony. Yes, I had to testify in court. Since he had gone to jail prior, he was on corrections. His corrections officer even called me and said he’s claiming it’s a “misunderstanding”. If it is, they will let him out. If it really did happen, they would keep him in because they didn’t take domestic violence lightly. And I said the TRUTH; that it did happen and he was lying.

I was so ashamed to have been a victim to domestic violence. That I let it go on for so long. I felt like it was my fault. His family blamed me, said I was lying and made up the abuse. One even went as far as to say I didn’t know what abuse felt like, so quit crying wolf. I felt so alone. But I stuck with it. I knew I had to in order to survive.

With the help of loved ones and therapy, I learned it was NOT MY FAULT. Can you believe that? The abuse was not my fault. I did nothing to deserve that, and I wasn’t worthless. Three years later, after his release, I got word he wanted to talk to me. I didn’t want to, but my current boyfriend knew my situation and said I should try. That we could both use the closure to move on. (I was angry, SO angry all the time). So I had the person give me his number so I could call him. He apologized for everything he ever did to me. He said I didn’t deserve any of it. For every shitty thing he ever did to me, he apologized. He did say one thing that made me mad, and I let him know. He said “I forgive you for putting me in there”

NO, I did NOT put him in there. He put himself in there. If he wouldn’t have hit me, he wouldn’t have gone to jail. We all have to take responsibility for our own actions, and he needed to take his.

That’s the last time I talked to him. I’ve had people tell me they would never let anyone hit them. They would never be in that kind of situation. Or, how could you be so dumb? Why didn’t you just leave? It’s not that easy, it’s not just like walking away from a boyfriend you have nothing in common with. It’s because of this type of behavior that we are ashamed to admit we are being abused in the first place. People are so closed-minded and don’t stop to think. This is why MOST domestic violence cases are NOT reported. We feel like we have no one to turn too. We feel like we are alone and don’t know who to turn too.

I, no doubt, am one of the lucky ones. I got out. I’m not stuck with my abuser and have zero ties to him. I’m not lucky to have been abused, but I’m lucky to be alive. I kept quiet about it for so long. Unless you knew me at the time I went through it, then you didn’t know I went through it. I hid my past because I was ashamed. With the help of therapy, friends, and loved ones, I know I don’t have to be quiet. I can speak out against it now. And I do. If I see someone who could possibly, remotely, be in any kind of domestic violence situation, I will speak up for them. I will talk to them and let them know it’ll be okay. That if they need help, to call me. Anytime, day or night. I will be there, and I won’t judge. You can come to me and go back as many times as you want. Because until they are ready, they won’t leave for good. People forcing their hand will only make things worse and cause them to have no one to turn to.

My advice to you; if you have a friend, co-worker, mom, kid, anyone that is a victim – and I don’t just mean physical cause emotional is just as bad – support them. Let them know you are there, no judgments what so ever. I mean that. Don’t judge them, don’t force their hand. Just support them. It’s what they are going to need the most. Hold their hand when they need it, be that shoulder to cry on. Stand beside them. You know the #1 response I get now when I tell people I was abused? It’s, “NO WAY. Not you! Your too strong. You’re a firecracker. You have attitude. I can’t ever see anyone being able to walk all over you and abuse you”.

When I say it can be anyone, it really can be anyone. Open your eyes to the signs of what is happening around you. Don’t ignore it. If you see something, speak up. Don’t just keep walking. Stop and help the person. If you are scared yourself, than call 911. Help that person, cause that might be the last step they need to be able to get away. YOU can help stop the abuse, just open your eyes and help.

This is why I’m not ashamed anymore. I’ve grown. I’ve learned there is no reason to be ashamed. Just because I went through abuse doesn’t mean the abuse defines who I am. I may have once been a victim to abuse, but I am no longer. I can speak out against it, and I can help another person that is in the situation I once was. I have nothing to be ashamed of. When I get told, “no way, you are too strong”, I can say that I wasn’t always, but I’ve learned. I can stand up for myself now and for others that need it.

This is why I’m speaking out against domestic violence. We do nothing to help each other when we keep quiet, like it isn’t happening. It will keep happening unless we all work together to make a difference and support one another rather than put someone down. It takes a lot of time and a lot of support to get past the abuse and be able to deal with it.

I’ve also learned, I don’t have to hate my abuser. I don’t anymore. I forgive him for what happened to me. That doesn’t mean I will forget. I will always remember what I went through.

It’s now 8 years after, and sometimes I still flinch if my boyfriend is playing around with me when we are wrestling. He will just hug me and kiss me, tells me he loves me and it’ll be okay. The abuse never leaves us, but we don’t have to let it stop us from being a strong person. Speaking out against it, we have the power to make a change. I survived domestic violence. And I am a survivor, NOT a Victim. Sorry this got super long. I even cut some parts out to make it shorter! But I am passionate about this topic.

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