An Open Letter From a Survivor to Those Still In an Abusive Relationship
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and I have been trying to decide if it was time for me to share my story. So here I am, alone in the radio studio and I think it is time.
When we talk about things like domestic violence, it brings light to a subject that is all too often not spoken about. Keeping it in the dark allows it to continue. See, it was other women who were talking about the abuse that they had survived that gave a name to what I was experiencing - things that felt wrong in my core but I that I kept making excuses for why it was ok. I kept justifying that it wasn't abuse because it wasn't "that bad." You know because it wasn't physical... yet.
Yet. That's an important word. Yet. Because I had been justifying the relationship that I was in. I kept telling myself that he wasn't physical so it wasn't abuse. Then when it did get physical, I justified it as being ok because he "only grabbed my arm."
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline,
On average, more than 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men in the US will experience rape, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner.
I am the one in three
First, I want to say that I will not name my abuser. I refuse to give power to him or his name by using it publicly. I will also say that I am no longer in any kind of contact with this person.
This person convinced me that he saw me as "special" and that he only reacted to situations or things I said because he "loved me." And I am sure there are some who are reading this thinking to themselves, "Come on, Kat. You're smarter than that. How could you fall for that?"
That's a great question because you're right. I like to think that I am fairly intelligent but intelligence has nothing to do with falling victim to an abuser. They are insidious, oftentimes building you up in the beginning of the relationship, making you feel secure and safe. They will love-bomb you while learning everything that they can about you to use later to beat you down emotionally and mentally. Then when you are hooked into the relationship and they have you back down to a 'manageable size' for them to feel powerful and superior, they will do something called 'bread crumbing' where they give you just enough of what you experienced in the beginning of the relationship to keep you under their thumb.
Intelligence has nothing to do with falling victim to an abuser
My abuser would gas-light me, telling me that what I experienced wasn't as bad as I believed it to be. Oftentimes, he would flip things around to make it seem as though what had happened was my own fault. "If you hadn't done...I wouldn't have gotten mad enough to grab you." When you are in a situation like this, it starts to make you question your own ability to view reality. It is a tactic that they use to confuse their victims making them less likely to leave. I have been told "No one else will..." want me/love me/believe me. And I stayed.
***TRIGGER WARNING: I am going to share details about what I experienced and it may triggering***
I stayed through being yelled at. I stayed through being humiliated. I stayed far longer than I ever should have. I stayed until it did get "that bad." I stayed until a grown man head-butted me multiple times, hit me with a left hook, and threw me down into the mud before proceeding to kick me repeatedly... and then I still stayed. I. Stayed. I believed the "I'm sorry" and the "please come back." I believed it because I didn't want to believe that this person didn't actually love me. I stayed...
It wasn't until several months later that I was having a conversation with a very dear friend who was listening to me vent. She looked me straight in the eye and reminded me of what he had done. She reminded me that at no point, did I ever deserve what happened to me. She reminded me that I am loved and that I am deserving of that love for no other reason than that I exist in this world and that my worth was not dependent upon anyone else's ability to see it. She also helped me formulate an exit plan and I will admit it - I was embarrassed. I felt shame. The reality is the shame I was feeling wasn't even mine. I was feeling shame for something that I did not do but for something that was done to me.
You do not deserve it and there is help
Once I was out of the relationship, it took a lot of self-reflection, a lot of therapy, and the love of some truly amazing women who had been through similar experiences to help me sort it all out and shed that shame that I felt. I also realized that there is no doubt that the physical and emotional abuse would have continued. I was never going to be safe in the relationship that I was in and there was always going to be that chance that it would happen again and the next time might be the last time, meaning that domestic violence can and does turn deadly.
So why share this years later? To give hope to anyone who is experiencing anything like what I went through. To let you know that you do not deserve this, no matter what your abuser says and to let you know that there is help available. You do not have to go through this alone. There are people and organizations that can help you escape the abuse. I got out and you can too. You are braver and stronger than you realize. You are loved and you are worthy of that love for no other reason than that you exist and you do not deserve to be abused.
I got out and you can too.
The National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE
Locally, Albion Fellows Bacon Center offers support and resources for those facing abuse. You can reach them by phone: 1-800-339-7752
You are not alone and you can get out. If you are experiencing abuse, please do not wait to ask for help.