By Danielle Achiaa Boachie, See the Triumph Guest Blogger
My friend Jane* is a brilliant young woman. She is a hardcore feminist, a single mother and a PhD student. She is also a survivor. Jane was in a three year relationship with an abusive man who almost killed her. She has since then triumphed through it, but her experiences played an integral role in her mental perception of self during and after the abuse. In this candid interview, Jane discusses the emotional scars her abuser left, and how she was able to ultimately see the triumph.
Danielle: Thank you Jane for wanting and being willing to share your story. What do you hope to accomplish by having your voice heard?
Jane: Thank you for talking with me. As you can probably tell with me wanting my name changed, I’m still not completely comfortable going in the street and shouting my story, but sharing my experience has definitely been a big part of my healing process. I sort of force myself to relive the scenes in order to make sense of them. My judgement was so clouded at the time, all I ever thought was that it was my fault. It never occurred to me that a power dynamic was at play that allowed him, as a man, to feel that violence was an acceptable way to display discontent and accompany his masculinity. But honestly, I just want others like me to know that they are not alone. A few weeks before I left, I read a Nicholas Sparks book about a woman who was escaping an abusive relationship. I cannot tell you how much strength it gave me to read through the struggle of this fictional woman. It really resonated with me and gave me power. I hope that someone reads this blog and this post, and experiences the same empowerment. You are not alone, and you can escape and live the life you deserve.
Danielle: Tell me a little more about your experience.
Jane: My story is no different from others. I loved him. Our relationship was great in the beginning. Slowly, over time, a power dynamic inched into play. I started to lose friends, stopped seeing my family, and then he began to “punish” me for the things he thought I did wrong. He tried to stab me several times. It all happened very quickly, but I eventually one day stopped blaming myself, realized that he was the problem, and ran away. I have not looked back since.
How did this experience affect the way you thought/think about yourself?
I had such low self esteem during the abuse and years after. Leaving an abuser is not the end of the emotional roller coaster. I thought I was worthless. I began abusing drugs to find an alternate reality because I was suffering from a lot of PTSD. I had nightmares about him. I was so afraid that he would come and kill me. The worst part was the guilt. I felt that everything was my fault and that I was a bad person. My therapist has been a wonderful support to help me divorce these feelings. Now I blame no one but him. He craved the power abusing me gave him. He was a nasty person. I’m not saying I’m perfect now, but I have come a long way.
Danielle: Do you have any advice for those going through the emotional trauma of abuse?
Jane: My recovery, especially in the beginning, was like a broken record. I was told and repeated to myself over and over that I am worthy, it was not my fault, and I DESERVE BETTER. Eventually, as I began to heal, I began to believe these words. We are special and unique beings. We have one life to live and we owe it to ourselves to have the best experience possible. Let me be one more person to tell you that you are worth it. You are wonderful. You are smart. You are independent. Don’t let anyone define you but you. Also, be patient with yourself. Allow yourself to heal as your grow mentally and emotionally. That was my mistake. I just wanted to get away from it all, I didn’t seek support. I thought talking about it would be too harsh of a reality, and so I kept it all in until that day I tried to kill myself. Since then, talking about it in increments has helped tremendously. Take it one day at a time, and don’t forget to love yourself every step of the way. You are worth it.
*Name was changed to respect privacy.
Danielle Achiaa Boachie is a first year Master’s student at UNC Greensboro and is on track to receive her M.A. in Women's and Gender Studies in May 2016. She is also working to get a Certificate in African American and African Diaspora Studies. Danielle received her B.A. in Women's Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, and plans to get her Ph.D. in Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, or African Diaspora Studies. Her work is focused on the impact of slavery on the racial and gender relations of African American women in the United States.