October 4, 2005.
I will never forget that date. It is a date permanently engraved in my mind, forever to haunt future days of possible happiness. Although it has been almost ten years, I still wake up each October 4th and remember the events from 2005 as if they have just passed.
Fresh out of my senior year of high school, I met J (whose full name I will spare you for privacy purposes). At the time, I was an 18-year-old college freshman with high hopes and soaring dreams.
I wanted to be a writer. More specifically, I wanted to be a fashion writer for Vogue. I can remember having long conversations about my fantasy apartment in New York City with my dad, who was one of my biggest supporters (next to my mom). He believed in me, which helped me to believe in myself. I had dreams and I *knew* those dreams would come to fruition.
I’m not blaming J for why my life didn’t turn out like I expected, but I am definitely saying I feel like I was destined for great things until I allowed myself to let him encompass every aspect of my life.
You see, J made me feel like I was the center of his universe. At first I was flattered by the hourly calls and texts, the jealousy, and the endless amount of time together. All he wanted was me. I learned to ignore the red flags when he would shower me with compliments, buy me chocolates for no reason, open my car door, introduce me to his family and friends, etc.
But, I was young and very dumb, and I didn’t see that those actions I thought I adored would eventually become actions that were, well, dangerous.
Hourly calls and texts became mandatory. If I didn’t answer my phone within a very short amount of that that he determined to be acceptable (no matter what I was doing), an argument would ensue. At first I would fight with him, but he would always turn the argument around on me and even threaten to commit suicide unless I forgave him for his actions. Soon enough he became so unhappy with my texting response time that he took me to my college classes and waited in the hallway until my classes were over just to make sure I wasn’t doing anything I wasn’t supposed to do.
A few months into our relationship he began to alienate me from my family and friends. In the beginning, he would convince me not to call my mom or my dad because “we were spending time together” and he “just wanted us to be alone”. The juvenile in me didn’t see him putting his plan in motion.
I didn’t realize I was the victim of an emotional abuser.
I finally opened my eyes when J tried to keep me away from my cell phone as I tried to call my mom about a year after we had started dating. It was the middle of the day in our little one bedroom apartment, so not many of our neighbors were home. Even if they were, I doubt they would have helped (but that’s for a whole different post…). As I took my cell phone off of the night stand in the bedroom, J came in and grabbed it from me as I started to dial the area code. He said to me, “There’s no need to call your mom.” I asked him why and he responded, “You don’t need her. You have me.” A rage came over me like I had never felt before. In the back of my mind, I think I knew he felt that way, but I never thought he would actually come out and say it.
I tried to grab the phone back from him, but he held it over his head and pushed me away. “Give me my phone!” I screamed at him.
That was the first time he ever hit me.
I never considered myself a push over; I’ve always thought of myself as a fighter. My first instinct was to fight back, so I did. Unfortunately, he was a lot stronger than I was and easily overpowered me. He threw me on to the bed and straddled me, holding my hands down so that I couldn’t grab him. I don’t know how I expected this to end, but I definitely didn’t expect him to grab a pillow by the headboard and attempt to suffocate me.
While my face was in the pillow, I regretted every decision as it pertained to him. Why did I start dating him? Why had I stayed with him so long? Why did I agree to marry him? Why did I move in with him?
Most of all, I thought of my mother. I worried about how disappointed she would be in me that I had chosen to stay with such an awful human being- someone who was obviously so miserable in his own life and so unloved throughout his childhood that he chose to take out his anger and pain on me.
I thought I was going to die, so I was surprised when he removed the pillow from my face. The sense of relief I felt simply cannot be described. The moment was so intense that I could only cry and thank God that I was still alive. I remember crying out for my mom and him telling me, “Shut up you stupid bitch.”
A few hours later, he pulled the “if you don’t forgive me I will kill myself” routine. Looking back on it now, I can say that I should probably have let him do it, especially after finding out almost 8 years later that he had found himself another victim after me.
The abuse continued for our entire relationship from both a very manipulative and controlling emotional standpoint to a physical standpoint. He took every opportunity to slap me in the face or squeeze my arm until visible bruises were enough for me to have to cover myself up with makeup before going out in public.
During all this time, I never told a single person what I was going through. To this day I don’t have a definitive reason for why I kept silent, except for maybe the fact that I was too embarrassed to ask for help. I felt like no matter who I ran to for help, I would never be able to get out of his grasp. He had slowly made sure to take over everything that I was so that I had no outside contact with anyone. By the time I came to realize what I had gotten myself in to, all of my friends had disappeared. I truly felt like I was alone in the world.
I now know that not to be the case, but I can tell you as a victim of domestic violence that victims do not always see a way out and it is never easy to call for help.
Luckily for me, I found a way out. On October 4, 2005, J was arrested and charged with Harassment III- Domestic Violence when he attacked me in front of his parents during a University of Alabama football game at their home. It was the first time anyone had ever witnessed his abuse towards me. Although I was terrified during the time of the event, I am thankful that it happened so that I was able to get out.
J spent 3 days in jail for the harassment charge. I was able to file a protection order against him and moved back in with my parents. Because I knew he would look for me, I moved several counties away and moved in with my grandparents so that he could not find me. I was able to find a job and gather enough money to support myself before moving out on my own and leaving every thought of J behind. Almost 10 years later and I have a new life with a wonderful husband and daughter. Although I still have nightmares of the abuse I suffered at J’s hands, I know I will never have to experience that again, and for that I am beyond thankful.
If you are in an abusive relationship or know someone who is, know that there is a way out. The National Domestic Violence Hotline offers a Path to Safety with safety planning, regardless of your situation. You can call the hotline 24 hours a day 7 days a week at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). If you don’t feel it is safe to call, check out this story of a woman who called 911 and pretended to order a pizza to alert them of domestic abuse.
Make sure to visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline website to get help or search resources.
Common Signs of an Abuser:
1. Overly jealous
2. Very insecure; poor self image
3. Jumps into new relationships quickly
4. Maintains rigid stereotypes of gender roles
5. Has a family history of violence or abuse
7. Alienates you from your loved ones
8. Keeps constant track of your activities and whereabouts
9. Makes verbal threats
10. Uses physical force
Do you have advice on how to leave an abusive relationship? Is there another reason you stayed in an abusive relationship that differs from mine? Please post in the comments below.