Editor’s note: This story was written in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness Month. This is a first-hand account from a domestic violence survivor. Please see more of our domestic violence awareness coverage on Page 12.
Many little girls dream of their happily ever after, but I was never that little girl. I had no wish for a prince charming or a white picket fence. My wish was simple; I wanted to escape. I wanted to escape the poverty and cycle of domestic violence that had plagued my family for generations. The vow I had made to myself to deviate from the life I had witnessed for several years was stored securely in my head.
At 19-years-old, with my secured vow, I fell in love with a man that shared my desires for family, stability and happiness. Our life together began with laughter and love, allowing me the ability to feel safe and content that we were on the right track. However, that track began to curve and twist in the direction I vowed to never travel. The abuse began as a slap or a shove but escalated to punches and kicks. The in-between consisted of him cursing and stealing from me, all the while isolating me from my family and friends. We filled a 13-and-a-half year time span with violence, protection orders, police reports, shelters and broken promises. The life I had vowed to escape became the reality of my four children in the blink of an eye.
I recall being confused on the simplicity of being told to “just leave.” I would often wonder how a person “just leaves.” What would I do for money? Where would I go? What about my children’s schools? When would I see my family again? What about my job? Would he find us?
Despite all the questions and uncertainty I left several times but ultimately returned or was located. I didn’t understand why I had to give up everything and everyone I knew because he didn’t know how to keep his hands to himself. I didn’t understand why the police would arrest him for him to only be released within hours or days. I didn’t understand why I loved him despite the fact that he was hurting me. I had to dig down deep and find the little girl that had once recognized her own worth and muster my strength. The strength that I had always needed my mother and grandmother to have for me was now needed for my own children.
I made the decision that enough was enough. I didn’t want my children to validate unhealthy relationships as love. This relationship was over. My children and I would no longer live this life. Unfortunately, domestic violence situations aren’t as cut and dry as that.
After violating a civil protection order three times in one week and avoiding arrest, my ex-husband felt he remained in control over our lives. I was scared; scared to continue living like this. During the night on May 15, 2009, my ex-husband broke into my home and stabbed me nine times while I slept. I recall the pain and the struggle and knowing that I had to keep moving. When the pain stopped I made my way to the end of the bed and a light suddenly flipped on. As I stood there looking into my ex-husband’s eyes, I simultaneously felt myself expecting him to help me and fearful knowing it was he who had caused the pain. At that moment I knew I had spent 13-and-a-half years preparing for this day; the day that the man I loved attempted to take me from everyone and everything. This was NOT love.
I spent so many years anticipating death would be the only outcome of my relationship that I had to teach myself how to live again. Living included recognizing my self-worth and learning how to love myself. The effects of domestic violence will be lifelong for me and the scars always present, but a generational cycle of domestic violence has come to a stop.