Note: The following piece was written by one of the anonymous participants in our most recent research study. We’ve changed a few of the details that we thought might give clues to her identity, but otherwise, the words are hers, and we are so grateful that she shared her story with us. Her story reflects so many of the themes we’ve heard from many others who have shared their stories with us through our research, too. We were so moved by what she wrote, and we hope her words will offer inspiration, encouragement, and hope to others as well. Please note: Some of the details in this story are graphic, so please use discretion in deciding whether to read further.
“Oh yes, it is a journey. It is a journey where you discover that you have been charmed, he rewards you for doing it his way, he takes over more and more until you literally lose yourself. You live in a cycle of fear, anticipation, and violence if you disobey.
Others are brought into the picture to support the abuse rather than the love that is supposed to be present. You learn to keep quiet and obey. You slowly decline while he increases and at the same time finds new ways to destroy you.
You will look like a crazy woman, a mental patient, all worn out, a shell of a person. People will believe him, not you, simply because of how you look. He will take everything that means anything to you. One day, he will consider you so used up that you become secondary to whoever he has chosen as a new victim(s).
He will want a harem of victims. “Look at you, why don't you go fix yourself up, I don't even know if I like you anymore, I have someone new, I want to leave, but I am taking your children with me, I am trading you in on two twenty-somethings, why won't you take the rap on bad deals like her, here's a list of what I want, do I have to retrain you to do what you are told?”
Eventually the abuse becomes bolder and bolder and very obvious, but he is a charming prince and people describe him as a faithful husband in public. You see him choke your son, choke your dog, lie about you to others. You see no food, no water, no heat, you are left to freeze in a blizzard with no way out with no oil for the furnace.
You have no phone, no gas for the car. He controls the money. Sometimes, he does not even come home for days. You find drugs, guns, strange bills, strange calls. He even goes on vacation out of state without telling you he is leaving.
Every morning that he is home, you get raped and forced to watch porn and act out. You know that this is not an act of love. You worry about STDs. Sometimes he spits on you during sex or ejaculates into your face and eyes.
You think no one will care, no one will believe you, that there is no place to go. If you complain about no heat, he holds a gun on you and the kids. It is down to the bare bones of who and what you are, having kids, and you know you would be better off on the streets. He comes home and injures you to the point where you think I can't run away and he will hurt the kids.
The cops come, the people come to talk to me. I make the DECISION to leave it all. Three months of seeing other women, some addicted, some abusive, some abusive counselors and professionals, some who have lost it mentally. I struggle to be up at 5 AM to get kids to school, to get to appointments to get food benefits, housing, medical. I've never been in the system before.
I have to seek a job. Legal matters, court dates, attorneys, counselors, journaling, children's counseling. My head swims. He is out there when I leave everyday threatening from afar. Each day I fear the bullet waiting for me.
I get a job, I get a car, I get housing, my kids have issues. We treat and sooth the problems. I rediscover myself - I cry because I don't know what I like. I realize how bad I look and fix that.
I give hope to my children. I win the client of the year at the domestic violence agency for outstanding accomplishments. I cry some more. I go to school and work. I get a [work credential]!! It's my passion. I am looking for a job in my field.
I help others along the way to give them hope and direction to get out of their abuse. I have part of my credit rating back, I bought a better car. I have my little garden to play in. My kids are thriving.
I have a 5 year [protective order]. He violated it along the way, but I kept fighting and say thank goodness for court advocates to hold my hand and help me breathe when I have to see him in court dates. He tries to get visitation...He is in violation of [the protective order], has other charges, and tried to talk to my children. I go to the police, I go to the prosecutor. I think here I am, it's [been years] and he is still at it! He will not see my children, he will not corrupt them.
I go back to [the agency], where they welcome me with open arms to talk for hours. I come armed with evidence - court dockets on him to the ceiling. We get an attorney, I sign papers to let them represent me to the court. This time he will not succeed in domestic violence.
I am free, I know what I like, what I believe in, I recognize abuse when I see it. I see it plenty too in the real world, not just from him. It is an ugly thing that is out there that everyone needs to be educated about.
I am still fighting. But today, I know that I like the scent of [flowers], I like coffee with cream, I like to have my bills paid, I love my children, I like to read, I love [my work] and I can help others, I don't have to have sex with anyone, I do not like porn, I know that I am not stupid or ugly, I can walk with my head up high. I am a survivor not a victim.”
~ Written by an anonymous research participant, See the Triumph