“I used to scream. I don’t know what came out of my mouth, but I know I used to scream as loud as I could. Whether it was the apartment, outside, in a hotel room etc. I remember realizing that was my only choice. Screaming at the top of my lungs for help was the only way to stop him. To stop him from hitting me, from choking me, from charging at me from across the room. Sometimes it worked, most of the time it didn’t. Most of all I remember the silence after. The silence that made me feel completely isolated in a time when all I wanted was for someone to help me. Laying on the floor in my blood, not being able to swallow, coughing, with my body aching. I remember the vulnerability in that exact moment. I felt dumb and empty. Like a child. What just came out of my mouth? How could I let someone do this to me? I’m a grown woman lying on the floor, crying and screaming for help in the apartment I worked my ass off to earn, with a job I love, in a new state, defending MY life from the man who I did nothing but trust with it.
As a survivor, we often feel compelled to be silent over our experience. Whenever it be feelings of shame, embarrassment, fear, or guilt, we often feel that talking about our experience is wrong. After keeping my silence, I finally found courage to share my story. To share my story from a place of empowerment and strength. To encourage others to speak out about a topic that has become so common, it is now the #1 killer of women worldwide. In the US alone, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men will experience domestic violence, meaning some of you reading this can relate yourself.
The thing about Domestic Violences is that it is not as black and white as people believe it to be, and it typically follows a cycle that does not begin right away. Often an abusive relationship involves a story that is ‘too good to be true’ at first, and I fell victim to this. In fact, my abuse did not fully begin until about a year into the relationship after we had moved 8 hours away from friends and family to a new state. The first night in our new apartment, he put his hands on me. I was excited to move and to start fresh in a new state, and this was what I was welcomed with. From there it progressively got worse. If there were any way to get physical with me, he did it. Throughout our relationship I had been choked, punched, slapped, drug across the floor, pulled by my hair, held down, had a knife held to my flesh, and kicked. Aside from the physical abuse, I had my phone broken, credit cards and ID ripped in half, houseplants dumped on the floor, clothes and shoes thrown all over, items of value broken, been locked out of my own home, and had my car thrown in park while driving. Many of the things that happened to me were blocked out of my memory. It took me weeks of journaling to remember much of what I had experienced, some of which still comes back in waves from time to time. I never thought I would experience the amount of abuse and manipulation in a lifetime that the man who said ‘I love you’ put me through.
As absurd as it sounds, it look me a long time to realize I was even a victim of abuse, regardless of the extreme physical and emotional pain I had experienced, which is not uncommon among survivors. Over time, I learned to black out the physical and emotional abuse, the manipulation, the control, and the CONSTANT humiliation that was carried with me from the person who was supposed to love and protect me. I believed that living in a permanent protective shell was normal, because I thought I was the only person who could protect me. I was stuck. I learned to lie to my friends, my family, and myself. I believed it when he said ‘I’ll never do it again’, ‘you pushed me to this point’, or ‘I didn’t even hurt you that bad.’ I believed him when he would cry in my arms, begging me for forgiveness. Leaving didn’t even seem like an option. When I did try to leave, extreme suicide threats, blame, and fear of consequence would keep me stuck. On top of that, I was in a new state with no friends or family nearby, I was afraid to be alone. I was afraid to admit I needed help.
The day I found the courage to leave is a day that will stick with me forever. I pulled myself off the floor after I was beat, choked, and held down with a knife shoved into my face and neck. I finally found the courage to dial those three numbers. I had my phone taken from me, which created a fight in itself to even get the help I needed. I was lucky enough to be wearing my Apple Watch that morning which allowed me to call. Once help came, I was locked inside my apartment until the police were finally able to find their way in to get me out. I spent my day in the back of an ambulance with a police jacket covering me up, no shoes, a busted face, and broken glasses, crying as an EMT tried to comfort me. It was a messy, scary, and life changing day, and I do not regret it for a single second. I remember the EMT looking me in the eyes and telling me ‘any man that puts his hands on you doesn’t love you.’ His words helped me more than he will ever know. It was a messy, scary, and life changing day, and I do not regret it for a second.
I finally reached out to my friends and family after over a year of hiding and lying. No more secrets. No more back up stories explaining my scars, scabs and bruises. No more waking up early before work to cover up black eyes with the makeup HE bought me just to cover it. No more waking up to my belongings and houseplants dumped all over my apartment. No more bumps all over, pulled out hair, or misplaced ribs. No more bloody scabs on my head, rug burns, or broken items that had value to me. No more fighting a man twice my size off me with a knife held to my face and neck. No more being pinned down while being asked reasons WHY I should live. No more being told to crash my car and kill myself. No more having my credit card and ID ripped into pieces while out in public. No more hiding between cars at 12 am when it was 30 degrees out. No more being pulled to the floor by my hair and being choked until barely conscious. No more losing my hearing for 2 weeks at a time due to getting slapped so hard. No more laying on the floor, bruised, bleeding, empty, and alone, hoping that it was the last time. No more letting a ‘man’ play God to my life. NO MORE excuses.
I had not realized how difficult it was for a survivor to seek justice until it was my turn to do so. Between almost being evicted from my apartment for calling the police, testifying on the stand & being called a liar, constant rescheduling of court dates, hours at police stations, visits from police who had no idea how to help, and an intense University Title IX investigation, it felt like a never ending battle. On top of that I battled feelings of shame, guilt, embarrassment, anger, and sadness like never before. I questioned myself, who I was, and how I had let myself get to the point that I did. I was not that person that I let myself become, and I was embarrassed to talk about it. I always prided myself on being a strong and independent woman, and I thought what I went through would discredit that. It made sense to me why people hesitated to seek help and report abuse. I had nightmares every night of being murdered. I was paranoid and had experienced anxiety attacks for the first time in my life. At times, it felt like it was impossible to focus on my job, my personal life, and moving forward.
I thought I would never get through it all, but I did. I started seeing a therapist who helped me sort out my thoughts. I began writing and talking about my experiences through creative writing and poems. My mother listened to me talk for hours on end. I read books, blogs and survivor stories. I educated myself on the subject. I stayed active and never missed a day of exercise. It was a long road of learning and growing but I can honestly say it was one of the best years in my life. I met new people, had some hilarious and fun experiences, and learned more about who I am and what I want like I never had before. I could not have made it to this point without the support from my more than amazing family, friends and co-workers. I cannot thank them enough for their endless support and for getting me back to me. I discovered strengths and parts of myself I never knew existed, and I am thankful each and every day to be alive and breathing!
This is a lot to share and may be hard to read, but this IS the reality of domestic violence. More times than not it is hidden from the public eye. I see stories on TV of people murdered with no one having any clue that something was even wrong and it hits home. I am sharing my story to prove this point. To shed a light on the subject and its reality as well as its commonality. To possibly help another victim find their voice who has been in my shoes or currently is. To hope others will follow suit and share their stories to spread awareness. To let someone know it’s OKAY to get help and finally call. Or if you aren’t ready or in a place to get help, that someone understands what that means. Please never ask someone why they didn’t just leave. Contrary to what is believed, leaving is not always the safest, most economical, or easiest thing to do.
As uncomfortable as it may be, conversations around domestic need to be had, individuals need to be exposed, and voices need to be heard. Educate yourself and others on the signs and patterns. Listen to your intuition when something doesn’t seem right, whether that’s in your own relationship or for a friend or family member. Don’t ignore the red flags. Do your research on someone if something seems off. It really could save you or someone you love. This culture of violence that still exists in this world has to end. Awareness is the ability to speak up! Love isn’t hurting, lying, or manipulating. Love isn’t abuse in ANY form, whether it’s physical, mental, sexual or emotional. Regardless of what people say, survivors AREN’T weak because we stayed, but we ARE strong because we left, and I hope and pray more people have the courage.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Lexi, 25, of Tennessee. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
Read more empowering stories of overcoming domestic abuse:
‘I want to live!,’ I was screaming. The cops were on their way. I was trying to get out of the bathroom, trying to get my boyfriend off me, trying to hide in the tub.’: Single mom’s empowering story of surviving domestic abuse with infant daughter
‘He forced me to the gym because he didn’t want me to get fat. I assumed it was normal. I was sure I could change him.’ Survivor’s eye-opening recount of abusive relationship with ‘older, amazing’ man
Provide hope for someone struggling. SHARE this story on Facebook with family and friends.