I need to tell my story.
I don’t necessarily want to tell my story. It’s painful to relive. It’s been 10 years since I left, but I’m still processing, still healing, still learning what it means to be a survivor and how best to curate my story. I will be doing that for the rest of my life.
It’s important to define my purpose in writing this. It isn’t simply to share lurid details. There are plenty of those, and I may share a few, but not for the sake of shock. Despite recent increased discussion about domestic violence, the voice of the survivor seems silent. The predominant question remains: “Why does she stay?”
We need to reframe the conversation. Each abusive relationship is unique. Perhaps by sharing my experience, one less person will ask, “Why did she stay” and one more person will ask, “How can I help?”
Abuse is prevalent. Approximately one in four women will experience domestic violence, yet it remains one of the most underreported crimes. My way of taking action this Domestic Violence Awareness Month is by telling my story.
This is how I got trapped, why I stayed, and how I left and began to heal.
This is what domestic violence looked like for me.
I met my abuser in July 2002. I was a temp. He came into the office where I was working. His friend was supposed to run the errand that day, but had flaked, leaving it to him. It seemed like fate at the time.
He was charming and interested in me. I was naïve, insecure, and depressed. He saw that and knew how to use it against me.
We saw a movie and went out for ice cream. He was a perfect gentleman. I was giddy.
I want to emphasize this: our relationship started like any other. Chance meeting, flirting, goofy grins, butterflies. As my counselor later told me, it’s not like he was wearing a shirt emblazoned with, “I am an abuser.” I just thought I had met a great guy. I didn’t know.
I had some misgivings early on, particularly when I found out he didn’t share my faith. I nearly called it off, but decided to give him a chance because I doubted myself and thought “he could still be a good guy.”
He kept up the “good guy” façade long enough to reel me in.