It began like a movie…
We sat beside one another in Art Class in our Senior Year of High School. He was funny. He was smart. Oh, how he made me laugh, and complimented my artistic style. Over a short period of time I began to develop feelings for him, but I never let him know.
One day after class, he handed me a cassette tape and a note. The note told me he’d been wanting to talk to me and ask me out for weeks. It spoke of my beauty and wit; how charming and sweet I was. It spoke of wanting to make me happy and that pursuit of an exclusive relationship with me was his highest priority. I injected the cassette tape into my best friends player and U2’s ‘With or Without You’ began to seep from the stereo speakers and into my heart as rapidly as she drove out of the school parking lot.
I was officially smitten
Our relationship was a whirlwind. We played and laughed, we sang and danced. We joked and loved hard. Until the day he slapped me right across the face. We were in his bedroom watching television. His mom was preparing their family dinner and his father was in the living room. We had a slight argument and mid-sentence he raised his large hand and whacked it straight across my cheek.
He fell to his knees, wrapped his arms around my legs, and sobbed. His body shook and his voice trembled. He begged for my forgiveness and promised it would never happen again. I felt compassion for his remorse.
I forgave him.
As the weeks passed, I eased back into trust in our relationship. It seemed he meant what he said. He kept true to his word; he never slapped me again. Instead, he kicked me – hard – in the stomach. He bit my top lip and drew blood. Sure, he didn’t slap me, he pulled me across concrete, scraping me up. He choked me. He held a knife to my throat. Instead, he whipped me with keys on a long key chain. He raped me. I weighed 98 pounds; he called me fat.
He broke my spirit, sucked all the life from me, threatened to kill my family if I left, and then to make it all better… he would buy me expensive jewelry and clothes. Then, he would take me to dinners and give me flowers. He sang our song as he danced me across the room, stroking my face lightly and promising to never hurt me again.
The old me, was gone.
I could not live with him and I could not live without him. I was being held in a relationship against my own will, through coercion and manipulation. Truly believing everything was my fault. My body was no longer my own, but his.
Domestic violence is an epidemic.
On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men. Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner. 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon. (National Coalition Against Domestic Violence (NCADV))
Visible bruising was rare, he knew how to attack me in a way no one would know. I kept silent about the abuse. When friends noticed he may be a “little” controlling or jealous, I defended him. I dare not let on that their concerns were valid. Doing so would risk not only my life, but possibly theirs.
The beginning of the end came, when I began to gain a little independence
We began our Freshman Year in College. No longer were we surrounded by the walls of our small High School. Gone were the summer days of endless time together. We were pursuing different degrees which meant we would not attend the same classes nor hold the same hours. He joined a fraternity. He had to pass an initiation involving an entire week of having no contact with the outside world, including me. During this time, I rested.
The first day out of initiation he asked me to visit him at his home. His mother was there. The three of us were talking in the living room and his mother began to pick lightly with him. I eased into comfort and joined her. I knew the repercussions, but somehow, I no longer cared.
He was so angry with me, his rage so intense.
As I left to go home, he waited but a second to begin attacking me. He grabbed me by my hair and pulled me across the driveway. He slung me in the dirt and started kicking me in the stomach, with steel toed boots. As he started to throw rocks at me his mother ran out of the house and grabbed him. Yelling in his face, threatening him, and challenging him to hit her, she turned to me and gave me my way out. She ordered me never to come back again.
Finally free, I slept for days. I gathered my girlfriends around me and told them about the past two years. We spoke with his Fraternity brothers and made them aware of the situation. I surrounded myself with people who knew and were committed to making sure I was safe. I stayed with different friends over the course of a few weeks so he would never know where I was. At school I made sure I was never alone.
I thought it was over. But, I was wrong.
I was afraid of my family’s disappointment in me, so I never told them of the abuse or the breakup. This was a choice that would lead to a life or death situation.
One morning while home sleeping, my ex stopped by my house. My Grandmother let him in as she had numerous times before. He walked right in my room and sat on my bed. I awoke. He pulled out a gun, cocked it, and held it to my head. He said:
I’ve been driving around all morning wanting to end my life and I thought to myself, why ruin your life when you can eliminate the problem? The problem is you.
My story ends, thankfully, in a way many do not.
The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%. Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime. Women between the ages of 18-24 are most commonly abused by an intimate partner. (Statistics – NCADV)
I lay in bed, frozen. Silently, I prayed to God, asking repeatedly that He spare my life. I became so strong over the past few weeks, I earned freedom. I did not want to lose it now that I was unshackled.
My ex stood up, put the gun in his pocket, and walked out of my room. Just…like…that.
I realize that every situation is different. Some of you reading this may be in an abusive relationship or marriage. Some, even with children. Your situation looks dark and scary. You are sure that lives are at stake should you plan to leave. While that may be true; while nothing is ever guaranteed safe, this remains true:
No one deserves to be abused; you can FLEE!!
F – Follow…
a specific plan. Determine where you are going, how you are getting there, and set a date and time to leave. Do not stray from this plan unless an emergency arises.
L – Leave…
with money, clothes, medication, a few personal keepsakes. If you have children, pack one or two items they love that makes them feel safe. Document evidence. Seeing is believing. Unfortunately, there are times when words are not enough. Document with photographs, notes, calls to friends, etc… and take this with you to authorities.
E – Explain…
your situation to the people you trust the most in your life. Break your silence. I know it feels shameful and it may even feel like a betrayal to your attacker. You may be afraid of judgment for staying as long as you did. However, if you have trusted individuals in your life telling them gives you accountability and enhances safety.
E – Evacuate…
On the day you plan to leave make sure there is help present. Professionals are best. If there are none available, please get a trusted friend, Pastor, or Law Enforcement Officer to help you. You can contact your local Law Enforcement Agency or The National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233.
My story, unfortunately, does not end here. I did have several years of freedom from physical abuse. However, I later found myself in an 11 year marriage where there was emotional and mental abuse, as well as neglect on many levels. But, this is another story.
Today, I am free. I have been free for 4 beautiful years. I am now in a loving and safe environment with a wonderful husband and a beautiful son. And, I am proof that leaving is possible and there is life outside for you to live in freedom.
October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Please strongly evaluate your current situation. You know in your heart where you need to be. You can leave. The benefits far outweigh the risk. You are worth it and your children are as well. Break the silence, break the cycle, and break free; FLEE!
Be sure to join us in our social media accounts and be up to date with the progress of our project!
And… Don’t forget to share your brelfies using our hashtag