Empower.Heal.Restore.Thrive.

 

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Survivor Stories.

Kristin Watts:

This is how the story begins as many so often do. From the moment we met we were crazed with affection and love. At the time I was a prominent salon owner, a mother of two and my free time was spent soaking up life with my friends. I was a few months out from my divorce and was enamored by this guy who seemed to not only desire my looks but also my soul. And  from that first interaction, I began to fall madly in love! We spent hours upon hours talking about life. Finally, someone I could share my inner thoughts with. He listened with intent, asking probing questions. I shared how my mother had passed away recently and I had just gone through a divorce so parts of me were very lonely and my heart felt hard. He seemed to not be shaken by that but would tell me you wont be alone from this point on and your heart is safe to be open. I would share stories of my childhood, my fears my insecurities and my desires. We spent most of our time at first talking about me. He seemed to want to know everything  and his attention to the details I would tell him made me believe he cared and I was safe. He washed me over with physical affection constantly. Because he had just moved to my city from out of state he had a lot of time to spend devoted to me. I liked the feeling of being the center of someones universe. We created a bond that made me believe it was us against the world. That we were truly becoming one. And so we went on like that for quite awhile. Every experience was lived together, every thought was shared, and together we would conquer this life. I wanted to make him as happy as I thought he was making me. I  cant recall the exact moment but a some point the winds began to shift.

With our growing love his layers began to peel back and his true intentions were starting to reveal. A much darker side than I had originally encountered. By now , I am completely in love and committed to taking on his world, just as he had with  mine. I can help him through his pain, that is what love is. I would watch him fight viciously with his family,which alarmed me. He would explain to me that due to their upbringing that was the only way they knew how to fight. And as he promised, every time they would make up and all would seem ok. He began to engage in verbal and physical fights on a consistent basis when we were out. Drinking became one of our favorite past times together. Again, the fights would be explained away by where he grew up and his desire to keep him and I safe. At first I was allowed to voice my opinions on how I felt about violence. I was dead set against it. He would assure me that it would never be a part of us. I was the only thing that mattered to him and he wouldnt hurt me. Overtime I would lose my right to voice my opinion on anything. I noticed he began to expose an aire about him that he saw himself as smarter,stronger and better than most. He loved engaging people in conversation where he could humiliate them. It created a very hostile environment when we were with other people. Holding a job was impossible for him throughout our entire relationship. But still, I saw in him the same person I fell in love with and was determined to find out why he did that and help him to be the best he could be.  He would go into great detail of all that his childhood encompassed, and it was horrific. He would tell me about all the times he had been wronged and all those that had hurt him and I felt such desire to love him and let him know I wouldnt be a person to hurt him.

I had already been the victim of his verbal assaults for some time. But as I saw it,the pain he inflicted on me is due to his pain inside so somehow I could make peace with it. I couldnt relate with what had happened to him that I thought made him that way, so who was I to judge how he handled it. I thought I could help him through his demons. I loved him. But eventually the blame shifted to me. And by that point I was in over my head. I spend every waking moment doing whatever I could to keep him peaceful, to make him happy and to feel loved. I eventually had no thoughts in my head that I owned. So by the time the physical attacks began I could hardly see how I was not completely or at least somewhat at fault for them. Due to the fact that he knew everything about me, he was able to sprinkle bits of truth into his irrational reasons as to why I was attacked every time. If I spoke when he didnt  want to hear it he would cover my mouth and nose until I couldnt breathe and would end up vomiting. If he felt at all that I wronged him throughout the day, he would strangle me till I would beg him to forgive me.  The strangling became a daily part of our routine. This is a small window into the daily physical attacks I endured. He knew I still so much desired for him to love me and see that I was more than just the mistakes he saw now. I remember one time he punished me by leaving me in another city, cold on the side of the road with no phone, or money to get home. He finally came back to get me and I begged at his feet to let me back in the car, allowing me only to sit in the back seat like a dog, blaring music so loud so I could barely  think and slapping me as many times as he felt I deserved. I remember wanting to die. I kept hoping he would  remember the woman he fell in love with as I was still trying to do with him everyday. Of course there was other women, which made my heart hurt even more. These tended to be our most vicious fights as I was unable to keep quiet about it. After everything how was I not enough? Many of bloody lips and black eyes came from these fights. One of the worst was driving home one night, I was in the drivers seat and we were arguing as we did often . He began hitting me over the head with a can, blood and liquids pouring down my face, soaking my hair and car, all while im driving 80mph down the highway. He would grab the wheel and try to yank it. I have no idea how I survived. I was so broken. I had stopped doing anything outside of work, my kids and constantly obsessing about this relationship. I didnt have the energy to maintain most of my friendships anymore. I couldnt keep up the facade that everything was ok, and I was tired of lying. I was truly alone, except for him. He had become the one who inflicted my pain and also the one who could take it away. Most fights would conclude with us cuddled up apologizing for whatever caused the fight in the first place,which 99% of the time was something I did. We would together minimize the beating. If I just hadnt done whatever it was that time to set him off, then it wouldnt have had to escalate to the beating. I was growing sicker and sicker by the day. I was living in a world that we created where love was intertwined with abuse. They somehow went hand in hand. I was losing touch with reality and didnt know how to ever get it back.

I was ashamed at who I had become. The things I, myself were doing were repulsive to me. Who was I? I refused to share any of it with anyone, what would I say? How could anyone understand or forgive me? How could I love someone who hurt me so much? How could this be my life? I couldnt make sense of any of it so I continued on everyday just to survive. By now we had broke up and got back together more times than I could count and sadly living in the abuse was more comfortable than living in the unknown if he was gone. The anxiety and fear where more than I could live with. I so many times fantasized about dying and being in heaven where I would be safe. My will to live luckily won every time.

I don't believe there was a final straw that made me decide to leave. I believe I was finally at a point that there was no other choice besides death. But how? How do you leave? I wasnt going to leave my home, it was my children and I's home. I rented it, I paid for it. I still worked every single day. And I definitely wasnt strong enough to make him leave and stick to it. Besides, how much of this is my fault anyway? I was however becoming  more obsessed with leaving then I was with making the relationship work and so I finally decided I had to do something. I reached out to my pastor and asked if he knew of a counselor or just anyone I could talk to. I at this point just wanted to see if  this relationship really is what I think it is and if there is any help out there for me. Thankfully they got me in touch with someone that I now can honestly say saved my life.

It was 2 years ago I began my journey out. I left behind the life of torture, but brought with me ruptured ear drums, numerous scars, loss of a business,ruined friendships and mental challenges that will plague me for years to come. There didnt seem to be much to look forward to. The road out at first was almost as bad as living with the abuse. It doesnt get better the minute you leave. The fear stays constant, the anxiety is your best friend.  My journey out has many of ups and downs, and I even went back to him a few times. I felt like I was a child beginning to walk. However with each step I was getting glimpses of Freedom. The tangled web of abuse takes years to unwind. It is a process, and you cannot untangle it alone. It is a much more complicated situation then just there's a guy who does something bad to you so you need leave and everything will be fine again.  Through my journey to freedom I learned that only with dedication to education, counseling, a support system and HOPE is it possible to break the chains. There is not a quick fix. There was not a structured system in place at the time for me and that is why I am dedicated to put one in place for women just like me. I thought I was alone. Through my journey I was hit with the realization there are so many women just like me, and many haven't had the chance at freedom yet. I believe domestic violence is highly misunderstood and an epidemic that society pushes under the rug because it is uncomfortable to look at. The damage reaches far beyond the four walls that it is committed in, and long after the abuse has stopped. There is a big misconception of the “type” of woman that would be in an abusive relationship. These women are not weak. They do not like the punishment. They are not too stupid to leave. They have careers of their own, families and friends. The reasons they stay are deep rooted and many of times because the road out feels unbearable. These woman usually have an incredible capacity to love and can endure intense pain while still maintaining their lives. It is in your workplace, your church, your social group. It is everywhere. Each story has its own details but every story will sound similar in the cycle the relationship took to get to the abuse and why it is so difficult to get out.  I want each woman in these stories to know that they are not alone and that there is hope! I want to bring light to where the darkness has been residing, to bring freedom to those that are being chained. These chains can be broken! I want to reach out a hand for the first step and give them courage throughout the entire journey. No matter how many bumps in the road or how long it takes, every woman deserves freedom.

 

Brittany:
 
Back in 2009 I had gotten out of a 2 year relationship. I had gotten in touch with an old friend from Junior high. We would message each other off of Facebook which led us to getting each other's phone number's. We would flirt back and fourth and eventually we went on our first date. He was such a gentleman opening doors for me, giving me presents, complimenting me all the time. I was swept off my feet by him. We dated for a couple of months. He didn't have a vehicle so I was always going to see him or pick him up and do something. During one of those times I remember him changing the station to the car stereo and I went to change it and he said no I want to listen to this. I didn't think much of it and said OK. He was so fun and we would have a lot of fun together. I remember he asked me to go to his family's Christmas Eve gathering and I was excited to go and meet his family. He always talked about how nice and wonderful they were. After the gathering he asked me to be his girlfriend, to which I was so happy and said yes. The first couple months were amazing. We hung out most of the time, going to movies, going out to dinner. He would cook for me. He got me into World of Warcraft and showed me what to do.Then after that second month he started changing. He said that things at his place with the roommates weren't working out. I said he could stay with me until he found a new place to live. He would go to his other place to shower and change but would basically be around me when I wasn't at work. I remember we went over to my parents house one day and my stepmom asked me if he had been drinking alcohol. It never appeared to me that he was drinking. He started driving me around in my car. I never thought much of it. I was starting to help him out financially. He started to use my car to look for a new job he told me. So he would drop me off and pick me up. One day I wanted to drive to work. So I got in the driver seat and was driving there. We almost were there when I pulled into a grocery store parking lot. We started arguing about driving the car. I had the keys in my hand. He grabbed my wrist and squeezed it until it hurt me so bad he could grab the keys from me. Later I ended up having bruise's from it. I started to be getting to work late, I wasn't working like how I was before. He started getting jealous of me going to work. He started accusing me I was cheating on him with the guys from work. He would try to take me away from work. I remember he would grab my arms and legs to prevent me from getting out of the car. I still see the bruise's on my thighs and arms. I remember jumping out of my own vehicle driving down College Avenue on one of his drive aways from my work during lunch. I rolled onto the curb and ran back towards work. I scraped up my knees doing it. He chased after me saying sorry and come back. I listened and got back into the car and back to work we went. I wasn't, I had no interest in them like that. I even told him that. He would check my phone every morning and every night. I started becoming isolated from family and friends. We could only see his family. We started arguing more and more. He would throw me on the bed, literally pick me up and throw me on the bed and get in my face and talk to me quietly and in a mean manner. He wasn't happy and was mad at everything and anything. He would always tell me sorry. He won't do it again every time he hurt me. It wasn't stopping. I remember one of the days at work my managers called me into the office because the noticed I wasn't working like in the past. I remember sitting there screaming in my head for them to help me. I still never came out and told them I would do better. I remember one day I just got off of work and told him I wanted my keys back. I was done with our relationship. He tried persuade me to change my mind. I wouldn't, but he wasn't going to give me my keys without a fight. One of my coworkers overheard us and she wasn't going to leave my side. I went inside because I wasn't going to go with him. He was following me around. I finally called the police and told them what was going on. I finally stepped outside to wait for them and not make a commotion in my job at the time. My friend/ coworker stayed there with me the whole time. He tried to get me in the car. He would grab at me to which I would say don't touch me and try to move in the opposite direction. Finally I saw the cop car. The officer saw what was going on and told him to turn around and put his hands on the wall. He did what he was told and arrested him. I told them everything. They took pictures. They asked to search my car and I let them. They found a big bottle of vodka in the back. Of course they asked if it was mine, to which it wasn't. He was arrested and charged with Dui, assault with domestic violence enhancer and I had a protection order put on me. For a week I had no contact with him. Went out, saw friends and did what I wanted.
     I then ended up talking to him after that for a week. He told me he was sorry. He didn't mean it. He would change. I ended up going to his house where I was not allowed to leave and he started treating me the same. He gave my phone to a roommate because he had to work. I told him he couldn't take the car I had a meeting that day. Once he left I packed up the little amount I had there and left. I sent him a text to never call or talk to me again and changed my number. 
      I went and stayed at a friend's house for three weeks after that. I remember for a week I would drink every night to just not have it sadness, the pain enter my mind. I finally decided it was time to move on and make life mine again. I decided I wanted to try to go home for a night. Not even five minutes after I walked in the door, he cam right into the house and into my room. He tried grabbing my phone to which I was able to get it in time. He then grabbed my keys and took off out the door with them. He didn't take my car though. I ended up calling the police. He was found a couple streets down with my keys. I went back to my friends house after that and really didn't stay where I lived anymore. When my roommates and I did spring cleaning, we found a whole bunch of gas station cups and vodka bottles in this broken hot tub on the property.
      For me, I got out of this relationship quicker than most. I am not going to sit there and say to get out of a relationship as fast as I did because what you are going through could be worse. What really spoke to me is the fact I was helping him, giving him my all. He told me it was my fault, making me feel guilty about everything. I finally realized It wasn't my fault, I was doing a lot. I remembered what my parents have told me in the past about relationships and the fact from other people that a real relationship his someone who doesn't make me feel guilty, hurt me, physically and emotionally. That was another reason why I decided I didn't want to be in a relationship with him anymore. I finally told my managers what happened a couple weeks after. They were glad I got out of it and we're sorry they didn't see the signs. I worked as hard as before the abuse began. My life became happy again. I could do what I wanted. I got into college and learned what patient, kind love really is who supports your dreams and doesn't control your life. I will never know the innocent side of me again before the abuse. But I am a survivor, I am stronger, and I have faced the demons thrown at me. I am FREE!!