He had a very stressful job (a mail carrier) and I understood that. My goal was to make sure dinner was ready for him when he came home and the kids were quiet. He came home extremely irate one evening so I tried to give him the space that he needed….nothing I did was good enough that night. I tried to leave with the children to try to diffuse the situation. He was not ok with that. Not only was I accused of cheating but I was every name in the book. That night he dragged me from one room to another, smashed my face into broken glass from a mirror that he broke and I guess that was not enough for him because he proceeded to choke me until I passed out. I remember my oldest son, who was 5 at the time tried to help me by pushing his dad off of me but he was hurt in the process. My son called the police; he went to jail that night. My self-esteem was so low, I spent so much time crying; I was ashamed and I did not understand how I chose this path for my life. You would think after all that that I would have left him but he promised he would change, he said he would get help, he said no man would want a woman with 2 kids and that if I left him then I would pay and I was scared. During the course of my marriage, the police came to our home 15 times; it was so bad that the police in our community were able to address me and my children by name if they saw us in public.

Things improved a bit, the police we not coming to our home and we were getting along. The last week of first grade for my oldest son really changed my life. I was working and going to school so some evenings I would not get home until the kids were in bed. I was at my mother’s house because she was keeping the kids overnight and I sent Cameron to take a shower. I went to wash him up and I noticed bruises on his back and marks around his neck. I asked him what happened. His response at 6 years old was, “I was waiting on the right time to tell you.” His dad choked him, punched him in the stomach and then proceeded to spank him with a belt all because he had a juice and was not honest about it. That broke me down. It was an eye opener for me, I could handle the abuse but once it was directed towards my children that changed things. I held my son and cried and apologized for not protecting him. I did not find out about this until 2 days after it happened and their dad was walking around as if nothing happened. We stayed with my mother and I told him that I wanted a divorce. I got my son into therapy and CPS was contacted. Their dad cried and promised that it would not happen again, I didn’t believe him and my mind was made up, I wanted out of the marriage. He moved out and stayed with his parents but they were evicted from their home about 3 weeks later and he gave me a story about him being homeless and that he was living in his car. The boys wanted their dad and Cameron blamed himself for “getting his dad in trouble.” I allowed him to return to the home in January because I felt sorry for him. I made it very clear that I was still going through with the divorce process and while he stayed there I would give him our bedroom and I would sleep in the room with the boys. That worked for a good month until one night he came home and said that if I’m not sleeping with him then I must be cheating and although that was not the case he forced me to have sex with him that night even with me fighting him off of me. He refused to leave and told me that he would not leave until the divorce was final. I served him the divorce papers on his birthday, July 2013. When he said he would not leave until it was final he meant every word. I would come home when I knew he was sleep just to avoid him. We did not communicate unless it was about the children. In October, he wanted to talk about saving the marriage and my mind was made up, he cussed me out, threatened me and broke my hand. He went to jail for the weekend, his parents bailed him out again but he could not return to the house because I changed the locks.

I lived in fear. I changed my routine and when it was time for him to get the boys he had to pick them up from the police station. It took all of 2 years to finalize the divorce because he fought me for the kids just so he would not have to pay child support. I did not care about the money; I wanted to give my children a peaceful environment after all that we went through. It was not easy going through the divorce because the entire time, his attorney would say, “if you were so afraid of him why did you allow him to come back, why didn’t you press charges against him?” I questioned that as well but the answer is because he was my children’s father and I didn’t want him to be punished, I wanted him to change because I loved him. I thought if I stayed things would eventually get better but they got worse. I should be dead but God protected me during the course of that dysfunctional relationship. You see, I associated pain with love. I just wanted to be loved and I wanted to make it work no matter if that meant I was his punching bag. I’ve come such a long way, I lost everything but at the end of the day, I have found peace. Can you imagine coming home and sitting in your driveway and crying because you don’t want to go in the house with your significant other? I thought I was healed but I have my moments and crying spells because I still live in fear and it hurts to watch my children in pain from not seeing or hearing from their dad in months. I just pray that as they get older they will understand and respect me for getting out of that.

The constant fear consumed me. It’s being quiet to see what will come out of his mouth before I could share anything that I was feeling, certainly not joy. Its texting instead of talking on the phone so I’m not bombarded with questions of who I was talking to, what we were talking about or why did I talk that long; a constant suspicion of what I was doing. It’s never doing anything right. It’s deflecting cruel comments. It’s seeing your children being made fun of, belittled. It’s the worry that he will go crazy again; that he will lose it in front of the kids. It’s knowing that once I speak my mind his anger is unleashed. It’s being completely discounted and disrespected. It’s being kept captive/ held hostage in your own life. It’s a feeling of futility and helplessness and his repetitive attempts to make you dependent solely on him. It’s a constant denial of his actions and his useless statements of “I’m trying. “It eats you away from the inside out until all that’s left is a hallow shell. It’s thoughts of, “it would be better to be dead because I can never really escape this.”

Then the awakening occurs. The realization I don’t have to live like this. It hits and life feels different, a new vision is instilled. But, the reality of getting out and providing for myself and understanding the legalities hit like a wave. All of my energy is expended on daily survival; there is nothing left to fight the fight. It is all about the kids and maintaining the job. It’s overwhelming. It’s continually taking one step forward just to take two back. It’s being ashamed to ask for help or accepting help, or feeling like a fool. It’s pretending everything is fine, as I lost every bit of myself. It takes getting pissed, it takes some crazy, and it takes some asking for help. It takes some supportive people. It takes a fight for your lives. It’s entering the ring over and over again, even when you feel that you are about to get knocked out. It takes one person who totally understands exactly what you are going through. It takes perseverance. It takes an inner flame he can’t blow out because you won’t allow it. It takes longing for peace; longing to feel loved, longing for safety, longing to just be treated nice. It takes wanting to feel loved correctly before you die.

Even after the divorce, I have tried and tried to be the parent I should be according to society, let him see his kids, be the bigger person and let things slide. For two years I have given him access to the children and every time against my better judgement. I have followed court orders, he has not! I have done what I have been instructed to do, he has not. He is dangerous, unstable and wants to severely hurt me or kill me if he can’t have me. I refuse to be a statistic! I have two beautiful children to raise and I have the right to do that! And I have the right to do that without living in fear. My children have the right to have a mother who can raise them to the best of her ability! They are suffering because of all of this.

I am now going to advocate for my children. The children are better off without this person in their life. I grew up without a father, I wanted more than anything to raise my boys in a family setting and that’s why I stayed in that relationship longer than I should have. People ask me all the time why I didn’t leave sooner… because I wanted my family together and because I was TERRIFIED TO LEAVE. I tried to get him to go to counseling; he went but never took responsibility for his actions. I stayed, begged, pleaded, cried, bruised, ashamed, hurt, broken… nothing got better, nothing changed, and it only got worse. Please hear me when I say, It’s a manipulation that cannot be explained. I am here to say that it is not only possible to survive, but it is possible to thrive with the right support and commitment. My hope is that you will feel empowered to love yourself. Take a break from relationships for a while. Taking the time to heal is so important. If you have children, they need time to recuperate from the trauma of witnessing abuse. It is normal for you to feel angry and sad, as well as regret that you left the abuser. Don’t wait until you don’t feel anything to leave. As dysfunctional as it was, you cared about him or her. Surround yourself with support; those who can assist you in rebuilding your self-esteem, and start rebuilding your life.

Educate yourself. It’s all you’ve got. Tell people. I would love to tell you to call the police, but chances are whoever is reading this, fears that if they do, they will be killed. Yep, me too! If you can’t tell them, at least tell a cop from an area that does not know you to please hear your story and remember your name. This way, it’s at least known by someone that abuse is happening. You’re NOT worthless. You are in this situation because you ARE a good, loving, person that has been taken advantage of. He KNOWS you are a good person. Cowards like him have to beat you in order to keep you, otherwise you would leave him, because you ARE better than him and he knows it!

I forgive him but I will never forget what he put me through. When it comes to domestic violence, I am a survivor.