LIM College supported Domestic Violence Awareness Month in October, so I feel compelled to share my own personal insight and experience on the topic.
As many know, domestic violence is defined as an act of abuse by one or both partners involved in a romantic relationship. In the United States, every fifteen seconds, a woman is physically abused or mentally assaulted by their significant other. Unfortunately, I once contributed to those statistics.
When I was seventeen, I was in a volatile relationship with someone that I thought was genuine and kind. It started off seemingly picture perfect—he cooked me romantic dinners, and we would go on fun dates and talk endlessly about our thoughts and ambitions. The relationship quickly became rocky, and I admit, it was one of those whirlwind romances between those couples that we all hate—we would break up a dozen times, but always ended up back together since I was always so naïve and forgiving to his wavering moods and emotional instability.
What I have learned with time is that it is especially difficult to see alarming signals that someone is giving off if you do not want to accept their demons—it is much easier to push the warning signs to in the back of your mind, than to deal with them head on.
We met when I was seventeen years old, towards the end of my junior year of high school. I was a young woman, in the midst of defining myself as an individual, yet I was longing to be loved and adored. We dated on and off for five months, and it wasn’t until that mid-August day that everything changed—or, at least it was the first time that his twisted mind and uncontrollable rage personally affected me. His physical and mental abuse fully hit the surface, and I became his prey.
It was just days before I was going on a Caribbean getaway with a friend and her family, and he was unable to accept that I refused to spend all of my free time devoted to him. He ultimately locked and restrained me in his bedroom, taking away my phones, car keys, shoes and dignity. It escalated from there. After three hours, I was able to convince him that I was going to be sick; he unlocked the door, and I bolted. Thankfully, I was one of the lucky ones.
Following the violent attack, I was incredibly lucky to have a proactive and supportive family, who pushed me to obtain a permanent restraining order. I was unable to make any rational decisions at the time and getting an order of protection against that monster was the only option to keep me safe. The restraining order helped protect me from him various times over the years, and it has allowed me to gain control over the situation, which eventually proved to be extremely empowering.
Learning to cope with the trauma was very challenging, and depression and anxiety quickly became constants in my life. Therapy eventually became my safe haven, and after years of counseling, I was able to understand why the abuse that I experienced remained such a significant presence in my life. I was eventually diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and after many years of searching long and hard for the perfect psychiatrist for me, I was able to accept my past and learn to live in the present. I was finally able to come to terms with the fact that my abusive ex-boyfriend was a predator, always on the prowl for vulnerable girls to capture, and it truly was not my fault.
The older that I get, the more and more I learn that I am not alone. In fact one in four women in the United States has experienced domestic violence. Hearing those staggering statistics, I can’t help but wonder: why is there still such a stigma and fear around discussing the topic of domestic violence? Why are we, the victims, often shunned from sharing our experiences and strength in the hopes of helping others in similar situations?
It took me seven years to muster up the courage and self-confidence to share my personal experience on the topic. After I obtained the restraining order, I would hear a lot of, “just get over it,” and “move on,” and eventually those narcissistic comments constantly made me wary of verbalizing my traumatic experience, simply due to the fear of being judged. But now, I am empowered to share my story with the hope that maybe, just maybe, I will help someone realize that we, the victims, are not at fault. We are still the powerful, strong, ambitious individuals that we have always been. We cannot put our fate and future in the hands of a monster, and we must continue to take back control of our own lives.
If you or anyone else you know is currently in an abusive partnership, I hope that you find the strength and courage to find help. If you are a student at LIM College, you can seek help at the schools Counsel and Wellness office, through domestic violence advocacy organizations such as The Joyful Heart Foundation or local law enforcement to help ensure safety and protection, and to help end the pattern of domestic abuse today and for the future.