“I am a survivor of abuse, not a victim. I have gone through hell and come back. I am strong, I am beautiful, I am worthy of true love no matter what you said to me. Anger is weakness and patience is strength. There is a reason for everything. Being patient and allowing time to unfold to tell the story is usually where the lesson is. So I pray this prayer everyday: Dear God, Thank you for giving me my inner strength to be able to handle so much. When I am lost, you come and find me; you comfort me and reassure me with your love. Today I pray for the grace to forgive. Amen.”
These words have been greeting me every morning since I wrote them on August 12, 2013 and they give me great comfort each time I read them.
June 27th, 2013 I had an overwhelming feeling that I had to get out of my current situation and it would take me until July 12th to finally be done. This thought had crossed my mind many times before but on this day, it was almost unbearable. I had tried to end it nine times before but this time, the tenth time, I followed through. This day was the day that would change my life forever and empower me to climb back from the hell in which I was living.
I had been living with a man for more than a year who was physically, verbally, emotionally, financially, and mentally abusive. He always threatened if I reported any of the abuse to the police that I would pay, that he would “take care of me”.
I was always choked and restrained by him during the physical incidents. So much so that on the evening of December 3rd, 2012 (which was not the first time he was physically abusive nor would it be the last) I knew my time had come which is why this particular incident would change my perspective on so many things. I can remember the argument, him climbing on top of me and putting his hands around my neck and throat choking me. I can remember beginning to lose consciousness and in my head saying “this is it, God please watch over my son and let me pass peacefully.” I closed my eyes, let go and let God take over.
I began to see darkness and my body began to tingle, my hands beginning to go numb. Then, as if there was another person in the room, I heard a voice say to not be afraid, and just like that I opened my eyes and I could breathe. He had released my neck and had rolled over onto the bed and I immediately got up to run only to be grabbed again around the neck and thrown into the wall. I fought to get away and he fell on the floor and passed out due to being drunk. There he lay for the next 5 hours and there I sat for what seemed like an eternity looking at my cell phone, shaking – too terrified to call 911 and thanking God that I had oxygen in my lungs. The next day was December 4th, and as always happened after an abusive incident, he treated it as if it was like any other day except I had been and was living with a very dark secret, feeling alone, hopeless, and scared.
18 months earlier, when we started dating, he was charming, attractive, funny, and made me feel so special. He would do all the things a “good guy” does – tell me how beautiful and special I was, what a great mother I was, wanted to spend all of his time with me, wanted me to meet his family – especially his kids, and friends, and tell me how successful I had become – he just made me feel awesome.
However, as my therapist told me, abusers don’t punch or berate you on the first date. No – they seduce you with kindness, sweet nothings, and anything else to lure you in. Of course I knew there were red flags, and when I am honest with myself I saw them and chose not to acknowledge them at times for many reasons. I was afraid it would reflect poorly on my decision making ability, it was too hard to go through a break up, he is going to change, and certainly he is not going to treat me the way he said he had been “accused” of treating the other women because THEY were the crazy liars, not him. I was totally in, hook, line, and sinker. I was duped and in love.
Over the last year I had many moments when I had a very strong feeling God was with me and watching over me, but I just couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have enough strength to leave him. My reality was altered to the point I couldn’t decipher what I needed to do to get out. I can recount and recall every abusive incident (physical and verbal) from beginning to end and I have relived them time and time again.
On the average, as I have now learned, it takes an abused woman seven times before she leaves her abusive partner – I tried to leave over ten times before I finally did it for good. While the physical times were awful, the verbal and emotional times cut so much deeper. I was a perfect target for him because I am a “fixer”. I like to make the problems of those I love and care about go away and I don’t want them to want or need for anything. He saw this and manipulated it for his benefit and in the end used it against me many times.
His verbal abuse which happened regularly – often daily – created overwhelming feelings of worthlessness, having no value, feeling ashamed and demeaned to the point that I couldn’t even make decisions for myself. I did all the typical covering up of his behavior, isolating myself from my family and friends, doing anything and everything to try to “keep the peace” so that he wouldn’t get angry, defending and protecting him from anyone that tried to “talk” to me about him, accounting for my time and always being available to him, making sure his kids were taken care of, and making sure he was taken care of as well be it financial, emotional, etc. The question I have asked myself over and over again is: At what point did my value become so non-existent that I actually thought the abuse was ok? I swept it under the rug every time and it was never discussed after it happened. There were never apologies that he had “abused” me – only apologies that he had “hurt” me, but never holding himself accountable for his actions. Ever. His above average intelligence, manipulative, calculating, and charming ways all at the same time are a recipe for disaster.
The question I get asked most is; why did you stay? Why didn’t you call the police? My answer to that is I was in love and I was living with an undeniable fear. I was terrified of him and what he had done and was capable of doing if I left. I now know that the “love” I had for him was more with the idealization of how it should be and how that “love” appeared to me during the honeymoon phase of the abuse.
No – I never contacted the police. Not once. If I had to do it all again, which will not happen in this lifetime, I would call the police in a minute. There is not a person on this planet; man, woman, or child that should endure any kind of abuse and allow another person to control or harm them in the manner that I was. No – I am not the only one this has happened to, and my situation may not be as worse as others, but it is mine nonetheless. Through this horrible nightmare, I have found my calling and my purpose to make a difference.
So – today, 52 weeks, 367 days, and 8,808 hours later from the most traumatic and violent day of my life, I hold my head high, push my shoulders back and put one foot in front of the other and know that I am a survivor and refuse to be called a victim and know joy truly does come in the morning.