Domestic Violence Awareness Month was launched nationwide in October 1987 as a way to connect and untie individuals and organizations working on domestic violence issues while raising awareness for those issues. Over the past 30 plus years, progress has been made to support domestic violence victims and survivors, to hold abusers accountable, and to create and update legislation to further those goals. Below, is one survivor’s story:
The people in my life who know me best, describe me as loyal, selfless, reliable, passionate, and strong. I was raised in a loving home, was taught to respect myself and stand up for what was right. I did not show any signs that would have caused my family or friends to be concerned. The abuse that I endured was easy to hide as he rarely left visible marks. I never called the police because I had no way to prove that my husband was slowly killing me with manipulation and emotional warfare. For five years of my life, my smiles and laughter hid that I was being abused and sexually exploited by my husband.
I will never forget the night we met. It was like a scene from a badly written romance novel. I was swept off my feet by his southern accent and charm. Our relationship progressed quickly and after only weeks of dating I allowed him to move into my apartment. In the days that followed I began to see that he was not the person I thought he was.
He was a master of manipulation and practiced it on me daily using my insecurities and fear of abandonment to his advantage. It took very little time for him to convince me that I was not worthy of respect and that obedience was love. To my family and friends, we appeared to be a perfect couple it was behind closed doors that I was treated as his property and forced into the role of “an obedient wife”. During the day I worked, kept the apartment presentable, and walked on eggshells to keep from upsetting him. My nights were spent doing as I was told and performing my “wifely duties” which included physical violence, degradation, and submission to his control. Each night would leave me in physical pain, humiliated, and ashamed of who I was. When I objected, fought, or did not meet his expectations I was beaten.
The physical abuse that my body endured caused permanent damage ruining any chance for me to conceive a child. I had been emotionally broken and rebuilt into the submissive wife that he had always dreamed of. He was proud of his obedient wife. However, I felt only shame and hatred for the person he had created. Throughout the duration of our relationship I endured each day with the determination to live just one more. For five years I lived in my nightmare. I did not call the police out of shame and fear of retaliation. I did not tell my friends or family because I was ashamed of who I had become. I carried the pain and suffering alone and woke up each morning telling myself “today is the day you will leave him.”
It was Oct. 10, 2012. I woke up and felt as if a switch had been flipped inside me. I knew that I had to leave, or I would not survive the night. I packed a single bag of clothes, and my photo albums and walked out of my house leaving everything else behind. It was years before I was able to tell my story for the first time. As a survivor who still struggles to not see herself as a victim, I am still putting my life back into perspective. Although the nightmares continue, they are less frequent. Although I am still triggered by smells, or a song, I can recognize them as triggers and not fear them. Through many years of therapy and endless family support I have moved forward in life without suffocating in fear, guilt, and shame. I share my story with the hope that it will bring awareness to families and friends of someone who needs support and to possibly give hope to those who have not yet escaped their nightmares.
If you or someone you know is living with domestic violence, call Advocates to End Domestic Violence crisis line at 775-883-7654, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.