It wasn’t long ago that I stood in a courtroom struggling to find my voice. I had taken out a restraining order against an ex-boyfriend and the state got involved when they learned that he had broken into my home, in the middle of the night, and stole a bunch of my stuff after dragging me naked out of my own bed and threatening to throw me down my stairs. We stood side by side in the courtroom and he hissed at me “I will never forget what you’ve done.” But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning.
Finding Yourself In An Abusive Relationship
I didn’t start dating in anything that looked like an abusive relationship. Come on, I was smarter than that. I was divorced and independent and confident, and he was charming. It was fun and care free and we challenged each other. He was full of life and adventure and I was hooked. I remember the first time I felt his rage, he was drunk and I was trying to help him. He shoved me so hard that I fell and hit my head and he screamed in my face that I should just let him die. I was shocked, but I hid it. I chalked it up to excessive drinking and kind of let it go.
A few months later, it happened again, only this time, he beat the inside of his car while I was sitting in the passenger seat. His fists pounding on the dash, the console, the roof, everywhere around me, but never hitting me. I was terrified. But we’re talking two isolated incidents in a year. Everyone has bad days, right? I mean, I’ve lost my temper with my kids and blown up and regretted it.
Let’s be clear here, never once did he hit me. He never laid a hand on me because he said that if he hit me, I could call it abuse. Instead, he would catch my hair in the car window and swerve until my head hit the window over and over again. Or he’d punch doors and walls inches from my head and leave holes. He was the ultimate bully and he spent two years isolating me and telling me how worthless I was. Just a little at a time. Chipping away at me and making me weaker inside. In between these times of anger and abuse, he would tell me how much he loved me. He spoke about how much he needed me and how I made him want to be a better person. He was grooming me.
I Wasn’t In Charge of His Change
I thought that if I loved him enough, he could get better. But he didn’t. And I was terrified to leave. I spent hours composing my break up speech in my head, only to be too scared and weak to actually deliver it.
Then he left me. HE left ME!! I was off the hook. Or so I thought. For weeks, he kept calling and begging me to take him back, but I was strong and didn’t answer. And I completely underestimated him. He broke into my house one night shortly after 4 am. I went to the police and the court system took over from there. He was ordered not to contact me for two years or he was going to jail for breaking and entering plus four other felony counts.
It’s been five years now, and the thing I learned that has stuck with me is that it’s so easy to get into an abusive relationship. It’s so easy to miss the signs if you’ve never been there, and once you’re in, it’s hard to get out. I’m a victim of domestic violence. That is one of my truths. But my bigger truth is that I’m brave even when I’m scared. I’m strong even when I am weak and I am deserving of love and respect.