In early April, The New York Times reported that cases of domestic violence were on the rise. The recent lockdown has forced many couples to remain in confinement due to worldwide restrictions. Most people quarantined at home with nowhere to go. Distractions are eliminated forcing couples to confront a reality that isn’t always pretty, aggravated by life’s stressors and rattling the pressure cooker. Events taking place in this type of home situation turn volatile, placing these women in great danger.
On average, close to 20 people per minute suffer at the hand of an intimate partner. According to recent statistics, the majority of the victims in abusive relationships are women. The unspeakable crime leaves a trail of terror, mistrust, and despair as a loved one creates havoc in the victim’s life. Sometimes, the abuse causes victims to feel tremendous guilt as they process the tsunami of emotions including the torturous voice in your ear, whispering “You should have known better.”
During my late teens, I experienced a relationship with a controlling and troubled young man. His emotional maturity was minimal, my inexperience combined with the butterflies did not allow me to see things clearly until one fateful night. On prom night during my senior year of high school, my date’s true colors came to light. His dislike for my friends turned into an intense tug of war. My defiance during an argument won me a hard shove in an elevator. The fear and psychological toll of that moment lasted for a while but was a lesson in boundaries. It was our last date, the only time he got the chance to show his aggression. I was one of the lucky ones, recognizing the signs of abuse early in the courtship. Millions of women never get this chance, instead, they are roped into an unhealthy or perilous situation. Too often, trapped in a web of violence without knowing how to exit safely.
I met one of these women, inspiring me to write this article. Due to the sensitivity of the topic, her identity will remain confidential. She is a woman of intelligence, wit, and lives her life with gratitude. “Lovey” as I call her, carries immense strength with grace. You would never imagine the pain she’s had to endure at the hands of domestic violence. Recently, she was courageous enough to share some of what she experienced giving us a real look behind the picture of domestic violence.
1. How long were you a victim of domestic violence? Did your friends and family suspect your precarious situation at home? I was a victim for 6 years, as naive as I was, didn’t realize the abuse actually began about 3 years into the relationship. Looking back, I think I had blinders on.
Oh my! Yes, they did and begged me to leave! I was very strong-willed during that time, did not like being told what to do. Even though I knew they were right, found myself making excuses for everything. I began to distance myself from family and friends. He “convinced” me that the people I loved did not have my best interest at heart. I was so desperate to be loved, he said all the right things, so I stayed. I thought it was how love was supposed to be.
2. Are you still in the situation or have you exited the relationship? What made you leave for good – the point of no return? I walked out on Jan 31, 2011, he beat me so badly I was rushed to the emergency room. It took him to beat me, for me to finally understand this was not healthy. It was my son’s 16th birthday, my baby boy saw me broken the day after the celebration. The blue and purple bruises along with swelling he witnessed, destroyed him. The look on his face was earth-shattering, I knew that instant, the truth was out. My children were aware their stepfather was the culprit.
The last straw was being put in the hospital. I had enough after countless 911 calls resulted in a case of broken bones. Seeing my kids’ faces when they visited me in the hospital gave me the ultimate shove out the door. It was sad that it took the violent incident to finally “get it”.
3. Were there any signs at the beginning of the relationship that your partner may have had a problem. Did something ever seem off about him prior to the first time that violence took place? Yes, I chose to ignore the signs. He was a habitual drinker. I was newly divorced from the children’s father. I thought I needed to keep up, party, be wild, and carefree but things got increasingly worse. Over time, I found myself working all around the clock while he drank the money away. Each night, I’d pick him up on my way home from work. He would be intoxicated, physically sick, and the night ending with him hitting me. Lateness on my part triggered accusations of cheating which were terribly unfounded but gave him justification to get violent – in his mind. Afterward, a scene of apologies and declarations of love. His mother claimed I deserved it because I didn’t do what was asked of me. A good wife gives up friends, kids, and caters to a husband, anything to keep the family together. According to her, I should accept beatings because he loved me, my job was to put up with it. My freedom was limited, alienation from those closest left me with only him to depend on for happiness but there was none. The situation greatly affected my children. My biggest regret was losing six years of bonding time with my babies because of the abusive relationship. The threat to hurt my children if I left, hung over me. I thought I was protecting them but keeping them in that turmoil did more harm than good, causing extensive damage.
4. What do you want to say to women that are afraid or not financially ready to leave their abuser? Abuse of any form stunts growth and endangers lives. It’s never easy or safe to leave but thinking of an escape plan in advance is helpful. Build your savings quietly, put enough money away to retrieve later if needed. Have a support person to empower you with good advice. Abuse is about power and control, strategize steps as you think of how to make your departure. You know your abuser better than anyone, plan carefully. Many will feel they don’t have a choice due to financial restraints, as he (or she) may control everything. You always have a choice. As for myself, I’d rather live in the streets, on a friend’s couch indefinitely than live with the monster. An internal conversation or many will take place while deciding. The only person that can make the decision to leave is YOU. Violence is not love, you are worthy of magic, miracles, and purpose. Your abuser is a skilled manipulator and the words “I love you” are for control. You may feel so broken, thinking he is the only person that loves you. You will be convinced it is love, I call them“Love Bombers.” It is in the abuser’s deck of cards, beware of this skill set.
Refer to hotlines for support and applications such as Aspire News app. It looks like a daily news site, hidden in a stealthy way is a safety net. The “help” section is a list of resources for domestic violence victims (it was a lifesaver for me). Victim notifications of an incident are sent via the click of a button making it easier for situations requiring first responders. Also, the One Love app is an aid for safety planning while in an abusive relationship, also worth checking out. My biggest piece of advice is to be very cautious as you make sure there is a backup. Do not get discouraged because there are people willing to help, so reach out to ask for it.
5. What has been the greatest self-discovery since walking away from your domestic violence situation? Finding my self-worth. I am much stronger and speak my truths no matter what anyone thinks. I don’t wish this part of my life on anyone but it made me who I am today. I learned to love myself again, despite the guilt of not being present, the way I should have been for my children. A loved one, once said to me, “You spoke your truth, make amends, finish the apologies and remorse. Your kids know your story and everyone has healed, safely. Life is perfect, you are perfect. Sometimes we forget that we have everything we truly need. Stop to reflect on life for 15 minutes, you too will see how blessed you are.”
Lovey’s story had a good ending despite her ordeal, an opportunity to start over. Among the millions of domestic violence victims, too many are not so fortunate, as lives are lost to the despicable crime. During this time of pause let’s stay aware, empathetic, and informed. While the population suffers the consequences of a quarantined life, others are experiencing greater anguish as they live in their own silent hell.
If you or anyone you know needs help, there are resources available. To find out more about domestic violence, go to NCADV (National Coalition of Domestic Violence).
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