“Five years ago, I made the biggest, most life-altering decision of my life. Not only for myself, but for my unborn child. I haven’t spoken about it publicly, but I think it’s time.
We met in September of 2013. I remember the first time I saw him. He was an Italian boy who’d grown up in Michigan. At first, I honestly wasn’t interested in anything more than being friends. I was on the cusp of being newly 21 years old and wanted to enjoy my freedom as a single girl away from home.
I visited him at work a few times. We listened to music and bonded over stupid jokes. It wasn’t until he drunk dialed me two weeks after meeting that I began to develop feelings for him. ‘I’m at a party and need someone to drive me home,’ he said. So, trying to be a good person, I went and picked him up.
That very night, he planted a huge kiss on my lips and confessed his growing feelings. He looked me in the eyes and said, ‘I just want to be with YOU and no one else but you.’ Little did I know, his interest in me was not going to be the innocent kind.
The first red flag came the very next day. While I was asleep, he took my phone and began browsing through all of my messages. I awoke to his voice. ‘Who is this guy you’ve been texting?’ He looked angry. I was confused and tried to process the situation. I was still hazy from the abrupt, split-second shift between dreaming and consciousness.
‘That’s just my friend,’ I explained. ‘Well, don’t text back. You’re flirting with him by texting back.’ I tried once more to defend myself and my relationship with my friend, but he called me all sorts of names. Slut. Whore. Attention seeker. I felt defeated, but positive he didn’t really mean any of this. Our feelings for each other were strong, so I brushed it off.
A few days later, we went to a hookah bar with two of my friends. I introduced him as my boyfriend. He didn’t say anything about it until we got back to my dorm room. The second we returned, he brought up the text messages again. ‘I won’t be your boyfriend if you continue to talk to these guys.’ I insisted they were nothing but friends, but he somehow convinced me to cut ties with them. We officially started dating.
Over the next few weeks, I began spending time with him outside of work. I was hanging out more time with his friends, while he was alienating me from mine. He did a damn good job at guilting me into spending all of my time with him. ‘I love you and need you more than anyone else,’ he told me, over and over.
Being only 20 years old, I had no clue what was happening. I thought it was love. Then came the first fight. It was something petty. He was accusing me of something that didn’t happen, though I can’t remember what. It was something very minor. We were sitting in my car and I was furious. ‘Get out,’ I told him. I didn’t want him near me. That was the moment I felt his hand strike my cheek. I felt a hot flash and burning sensation that spread across my face. Shocked, I held my hand to my cheek while he began to cry and began for my forgiveness. I looked at him in horror. He pleaded and sobbed and told me he loved me over and over – that it would never happen again. And so I forgave him.
Christmas time came about and I booked flights to go home and see my family for four days. He threw a fit and said, ‘I can’t be away from you for that long!’ He begged me to make it two days instead of four. To let him drive me to and from the airport, then to come back and spend the rest of Christmas with him because he he’d be all alone if I didn’t. So, that’s exactly what I did.
When I came back, he volunteered to house sit for his friends. By this point, the memory of him slapping me was still so heavy in my heart and I knew he was not someone I needed to be with. I planned on breaking up with him that night. It would be my first attempt out. Multiple followed.
I told him I was done and began walking to my car, only to be tackled, dragged back inside by my hair, and thrown around until I was too tired and weak to fight. He pinned me down for hours while I sobbed and begged for him to let me go. Then began his cycle of begging and crying for forgiveness. Then came the next step: showering me with love, affection, and gifts. At this point, I knew I needed to leave him. But on New Year’s Eve, four days late for my period, I found out I was pregnant.
In my mind, I thought it would lessen his abuse, but it only drove it to an all-time high. On one particular night, he kicked me out of the car and left me on the side of the road. It was pouring rain and I was in my pajamas, barefoot. The days started blurring together. He broke my things when he was mad. When he was unsatisfied with the meal I made, he threw bowls and plates. One day, my brother texted me and he ran over my phone. He saw him as a threat.
When I got two flat tires, he refused to let me get them fixed because ‘we needed to save money for the baby’. I can see now that he just didn’t want me to have any freedom. He wanted to make me dependent upon him for a ride to and from work. He often forced me to go to parties I didn’t want to go to so I could be the designated driver for him and his friends. His friends were mean to me too. They called me dumb and ugly. When I changed the music at a party once, one said, ‘I’m going to punch that stupid slut.’ When I refused to go to the next party, he said, ‘I’ll stab you in the uterus. I’ll kill you and the baby.’ I was four months pregnant. I felt trapped and afraid. I smiled through the pain, hoping it would go away.
When I was alone, I called up my mother in tears and said, ‘Mom, I think I made a mistake.’ I had been cut off from friends and family for months at this point. I told her everything. Her next words pushed me to take action. ‘If you don’t leave now, what’s going to happen when he kicks or hits your two-year-old?’ I made my next choice not just for me, but for the child in my belly. Terrified out of my damn mind, I showed up to my work office and reported the abuse I had been subjected to. It was March 10, 2014.
I told everyone. The civilian police, the military police, my entire chain of command and coworkers knew. Later that day, I was given fifteen minutes to go into the apartment I lived in with that man and get all of the belongings I could carry. My mind was utter chaos. I didn’t leave with much. Just clothes, a jewelry box, and my sonogram pictures.
For the next days, weeks, and months, I was in and out of appointments and court appearances, having to talk about everything I’d endured in front of the man, the monster, who did it to me. I never felt more anxious, depressed, or scared in my entire life. I was always on the lookout, scared I’d run into him or his friends.
The battle for justice, and to protect my child, continued on for the next year. The moment I found out I was having a boy, my world changed and I knew I would fight even harder to protect my son. I wanted to make it my duty to ensure he turned out NOTHING like this man.
Because my abuser had been in the Navy, they dropped the case without giving him any punishment. Yet, I was left with lengthy paperwork that acknowledged and proved what he had done. I still have those papers today. I’ve kept them as a physical reminder of what I’ve gone through. So one day I can show them to my son. I want him to know why I did all I’ve done.
Even though my abuser was not sentenced, I was able to get full parental rights to my son. Although we were free from him, I continued to look over my shoulder for years. After spending four years in the Air Force, I was medically retired due to my battle with PTSD, depression, and anxiety in the aftermath of his abuse. During this time, my son kept me strong. And I stayed strong for him. I knew he needed a mother who protected him from the evil in this world.
So, here I am, four years later. I have met a man who has taught me what a man should be. I am now married to that man of my dreams. He freely loves my first born, my second born, and my three beautiful bonus babies. My husband loves me deeply and honestly. He doesn’t hold me back from anything and pushes me to be independent and genuinely myself.
He loves my children as his own and loves me the way my parents love one another.
The mental battles are still a daily thing. Random things, smells, certain cars or places will trigger flashbacks. I have a long journey to heal and I’m still working on it. I am still looking over my shoulder and have issues being in large crowds. Anyone who has the slightest resemblance to that man automatically sends me into a panic attack. But I am also STRONG. I survived.
At first, I only survived for my child. But now, I survive for myself. That is the most rewarding gift I could give myself. My name is Caitlin Jarvis and I am a domestic abuse SURVIVOR.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Caitlin Jarvis of Abilene, Texas. You can follow her journey on Instagram here. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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