I just never thought it would happen to me. I always heard about it. But never in my life did I think I would be involved with it.
I’ve suffered from anxiety. I’ve suffered from a low self-esteem. I’m a helper. I’m a giver (often times too much). I’m a fighter. And I love very, very hard. I was the perfect candidate for this. I was the victim of a domestic violence relationship.
I fell in love with an absolute monster. A manipulative, controlling, beautifully terrifying monster.
It’s so easy for people to say, “If that were me, I would leave in a heartbeat.” or… “I wish a guy would try to put his hands on me.” and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t one of those people before.
But let’s clear this up right here. Until you’re actually in it, you have absolutely no idea whatsoever. Abusers are manipulative. They give unpredictable reactions to everything they don’t necessarily agree with, create unreasonable expectations that you will NEVER be able to satisfy, blame everyone but themselves for their problem, make excuses for their terrible behavior, force their victim to isolate themselves to become emotionally dependent on him, assume and literally make up stories in their head that eventually get them even angrier, minimize their abuse as if it is okay, clearly don’t know how to control their anger, play the victim, and unintentionally sabotage every relationship because of all of this.
Every characteristic I just listed, I have at least 2-3 prime examples for when it comes to my last relationship.
But the reason I stayed, obviously wasn’t because of all of these. It was because of a combination of manipulation, apology, and love. He manipulated me every time to think everything was going to change. He would go to counseling. He was never going to put his hands on me again. He apologized, almost to the point where he was in tears. every. single. time. He lied. And on top of all of this, I fell in love with him.
Aside from that monster, he was everything I ever dreamed of since I was a little girl up until the day I met him. When things were good, they were amazing. We were like a normal couple when that monster didn’t come out. He was my best friend. I was completely myself around him, and had no shame in my flaws. He accepted me for who I was (when he wasn’t a monster). But I fell in love with his potential. And that’s what’s the scariest part about all of this. My love for him immediately placed him on a pedestal that I honestly don’t know if he will ever be able to be on, unless he truly wants it for himself. I felt in my heart that he could change. I wanted to push him to change. I wanted him to be what I saw him to be, but he didn’t even see that. And that’s why things got ugly.
The depiction the media portrays of domestic violence relationships is very unrealistic. Typically, the storyline is that the man beats his wife, she finds a way to get out, gets revenge, and she goes on to live a happy life. That’s a lie. All of it. Domestic violence relationships are HARD for the victim to leave, because of how manipulating the abuser is. In my situation, and many others’ as well, this is the cycle… Things are great when you first meet and begin dating. Then, something happens. He might throw something at you, punch the wall, storm off and get angry, whatever. Then the next day he comes back and apologizes. So you’re good again. Then he gets angry again, does something a little more physical, then apologizes and you guys are good again. It’s good, then it gets worse. That’s the cycle.
A lot of people ask me why I stayed even after the first incident. And it’s pretty embarrassing to say I stayed through everything I did. I’ve been thrown to the concrete multiple times, had my head thrown on the ground, beaten out of my sleep until I had bruises I needed to cover up at my job, choked, kicked, burned by his hand rubbing so deep into my skin, had my face pressed into until I had black and blue covering the whole left side of my face, beaten through a pillow so my bruises wouldn’t show.. And it’s embarrassing. It’s embarrassing to have everyone at my job question me about what is going on. We were always stared at in public by strangers when he would have an episode. We’ve been kicked out of clubs because he would punch my stomach and a security guard would see it. But it was all my fault why I made him do that, or become that angry. There was something wrong with me to make him act that way. I ended up believing it myself. And it’s just embarrassing.
But I held on, because I saw something so different in him. Everyone knows when you’re in a relationship and you love someone, it isn’t easy to leave them. And even if you say it is, it isn’t. So with this situation I held on to the fact that every time he apologized, things would be really good between us. He was going to change to be the man I saw him to be. He would actually attempt to search for counseling. He would love me, compliment me, do things that he didn’t do before to keep me right where he wanted me. And that’s why I did what I did, why I stayed.
And a lot of what comes with physical abuse is extreme verbal, mental, and emotional abuse as well. He called me literally every name in the book – EVERY SINGLE NAME IN THE BOOK. He tore my spirit and little self-esteem I had down until I felt like I wasn’t even worth the dirt underneath his shoe. If I were to think of the worst thing I could say to someone, he said something 100 times worse. He made me believe I was never going to be good enough for him or anyone, because he wasn’t good with himself. He made me think the absolute worst of myself. And let me tell you, the bruises, scratches, body aches, those will go away with time. But the scars he left on my brain, thought process, and heart, those scars will remain for a long, long time. Because they were literally, that bad. And I began to believe that I was worth absolutely nothing.
I entered a state of depression. My grades slipped tremendously to the point where I wasn’t on track to graduate for my fall and winter quarter of my senior year of college. I wasn’t able to go to work because I was a hysterical mess covered in new bruises every week. I lost 40 pounds in a matter of weeks. I wasn’t able to eat, sleep, or even think straight because I had such bad anxiety and was terrified for my life at times. I didn’t see my family. I didn’t hang out with my friends. I would have to show proof of my log out from work and screen shots of people who would try to talk to me just so he would believe I wasn’t “doing anything.”
That was the thing though, I really didn’t do anything. I was faithful. I was loyal. I loved him, with every single part of my life and my heart. I loved him hard and had no shame in it. I gave him everything I had. I gave him a place to stay rent-free. I put clothes on his back, food in his mouth, shoes on his feet. I lied to police so he wouldn’t get arrested, his school so he wouldn’t get kicked out, his coach so he wouldn’t get kicked off the team, both of our parents and friends so they would think everything was okay. I didn’t even know who I was anymore, because I gave my life up for him. But it was never, ever, enough for him.
I’d be lying if I said I knew during all of this that it wasn’t right. I would try to talk to my friends about it and it would literally break them down into tears. But he would get angry if I talked to them about our problems. I began to not talk to them over text messages, and only in person. I also only mentioned things that I knew wouldn’t be bad to tell them. Sugarcoated everything so they would think we were just going through “normal couple stuff.” But they saw right through that. So, they did something.
My mom randomly asked me to meet with her one day, so I did. She began to talk to me about some family issues, but then my sister shows up and noticed the bruise on my face. Conversations quickly took a turn from family meeting to “it’s time to get out.”
With the help of my mom and sister, I was finally able to get out. And I genuinely cannot thank God enough for that miracle and blessing, because I could have ended up dead at some point.
Looking back, I think why I and many women stay in relationships like this isn’t because we don’t see what’s wrong with it, because we do. But because we are insecure with ourselves, and that makes us an easy target for abusers like them. They have someone they are able to control. But this just showed me that I have things I also need to work on myself.
I love him, of course. That won’t change. But I’m learning to love him from a distance now. I can only pray that he gets the help he needs. And studies have shown that we would not be able to be in a healthy and safe relationship while he gets that help, so I am literally left with no other choice but to part ways. My focus has severely shifted to myself now. I’m going to counseling, getting back into church (where I haven’t been for 3 years), living with my parents so I have good vibes daily, surrounding myself with people who genuinely care about my well-being and love me, and taking action in the DV community at my school and in other programs to speak out to victims of this terrible situation. And I can honestly say I am already feeling a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders. I’m finally getting my life back.
Might sound crazy, but I find beauty in all of this. I promised myself I’m going to use this to better myself as a person, and perfect the woman I am going to be for another man someday. But I also want to use this story to be an advocate for women like me. We’re unfortunately out there, and there are a HUGE number of us, sadly. But I promise you, if I can get out, you can too. You have to force yourself to pull that inner strength out and prioritize it tremendously. And I promise you will come out even stronger and greater than before. Loving yourself sometimes means letting some people you love go, so you have more room to love yourself. Don’t let anyone get in the way of this, and when you are FULLY ready to be in a relationship then be in one. But take time to perfect the woman God made you to be. Be great. You can.
“Through all of this, I love you. I’ll be here for you if you need me. But you need to determine how you are going to change your life for the better, because I can’t continue to be here making that decision for you. So, I wish you the best.”
“Don’t look for projects, look for people.”
“Jesus weeps with you. You are never alone.”
-Keilani M. Afalava