By Allison Crowe, See the Triumph Co-Founder
When we started the See the Triumph campaign, I had no idea how many powerful, painful, triumphant stories I would hear from survivors of intimate partner violence. When we have heard from our research participants about their experiences with leaving an abusive relationship, how they did it, what challenges they had to overcome, what messages they’d like to share with others, I am blown away by the strength and perseverance it takes to triumph over abuse.
One metaphor we have heard over and over is the notion of the uphill battle. Not just in leaving the abusive relationship but also after the person has left and begins the process of rebuilding his or her life after the abuse. Take “Barbara,” for example, who had been married for some time to her husband, “Steve,” whose abusive behavior only grew worse the longer they were married. (Note: these are not their real names.) Years into their marriage, he was diagnosed with two major mental health disorders, and soon became so paranoid that she was cheating on her that he would insist that he tangle his fingers in her hair while they slept so that she could not leave in the middle of the night without him knowing. Steve was in charge of their finances, drove Barbara to work and all other functions, started listening to her phone conversations, and checking her belongings every day before and after she came home. Any sort of refusals on Barbara’s part resulted in brutal beatings.
Ultimately, Barbara was able to leave Steve and end the marriage, but only after many months of careful planning with Steve’s mother who knew of the abuse and wanted desperately to help.
One of the biggest takeaways from Barbara’s story is not only the uphill battle she faced in order to get out of the abuse, but also the uphill battles she faced after leaving Steve and rebuilding her life. She described these uphill battles that she had to fight everyday as she established her new life, free from abuse. From negative attitudes from attorneys to unfair and dangerous custody arrangements to blame from her friends and family, to having to quit her job and find a new one when her boss was unsupportive of her needing a new schedule. Barbara faced a new challenge almost every day. And all at a time when she felt the most fragile after suffering from years of abuse.
Today, Barbara is triumphant, strong, and resourceful. She had years of therapy to repair the damage Steve had done and enjoys reaching out to other people who are still struggling in abusive relationships. Even though most days are good ones, she still has those challenging days when it might feel like an uphill battle. She recently met a man who is kind, patient, and empowering. She had this to say when we asked her what message she’d like to share with other survivors who might be struggling, “You will get there. Little by little, just keep on fighting the uphill battle – even if there is a new hill every day.”
Triumphing over abuse means not only ending the relationship, but then facing more challenges and uphill battles. Barbara is one of many of the courageous survivors whose strength and courage inspire us every day. We're thankful to Barbara and so many others who have shared these courageous stories with us.