I grew up in a very strict, Christian household. I never dated much, so when I met my abuser at the age of 17, (we'll call him Jack), I was really struck by the attention. He was charming with a bad boy edge.
There were things about Jack's upbringing that he didn't want to discuss. I didn't know much about him until he was arrested for theft. This was so far removed from the life I had known, but I visited him often in jail, and kept in touch. He said all the things I wanted to hear about having a future together and I felt sorry for him because he really didn't have anyone else, or so I believed.
The first time he abused me was at his grandmother's house within a few days of his release. I had never been sexually active but he kept saying this was normal when people loved each other. He said mean things about my body and made me feel guilty for not wanting to have sex with him. In the end, I was sexually assaulted.
My life was all about trying to be the person Jack wanted me to be, but it was never enough. He started hitting me, throwing things at me, and blaming me for his angry outbursts. He said he drank to put up with me. I withdrew almost completely from my family and he became so controlling that he even took me to and from work each day.
I became pregnant but didn't know it until I miscarried as a result of him punching me, throwing me on the floor and kicking me as I lied there.
Soon after that incident, I found out I was pregnant again. My daughter brought new perspective to my life. By the time she was 6 months old, I was finally fed up with the verbal and mental abuse, the financial hardship, his inability to keep a job, continuous alcohol and drug abuse, and the phsyical violence. Before I coudl get things together to move out, Jack sexually assaulted me again, this time causing some permanent injuries. I managed to avoid sexual contact with him for the most part until that incident, but became pregnant with my soon as a result of that night.
I decided there was no way I could put two children in danger with this man, so my daughter and I moved into my grandmother's house. He would visit once in a while, but did not live there. By the time my son was born, he was seeing someone else behind my back, but still trying to continue a relationship with me. When I confronted him, he became very angry and violent. Both kids were present, screaming.
It was at the hospital where I got checked out for my injuries from that night that I learned about SafeHomes. I began attending support group once a week and met people from all walks of life. I didn't have to carry the shame and guilt of getting into a relationship with Jack and staying for 4 years while I was with those ladies.
I tried to repair my relationship with my family, continued going to support group, and found a family counselor. SafeHomes also connected me with an attorney. I got a restraining order and filed for divorce. My entire family encouraged me and helped with the kids while I worked and went to school until I graduated (with honors).
There have been some very dark moments over the years where I've struggled with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and contemplation of suicide, but knowing my kids were counting on me kept me going. Today I am married to the most wonderful man, who is caring and loving. Our relationship is healthy and easy to maintain.
Leave is difficult and healing may take a lifetime.
BUT I AM A SURVIVOR.