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Domestic Violence-It’s Personal

If you’ve ever heard me speak, I undoubtedly will say that it’s never a victim’s fault and we need to talk about domestic violence and remove the stigma from being a victim and place the fault with the abuser. Often times, victims are reluctant to share their stories for many, many reasons, but one is how they will be perceived by family and friends. I’ve been asked numerous times if I’m in this movement because I am a survivor and I have always, always answered no – I have not been touched by domestic violence. And my rationalization is I haven’t. I was never hit; I was never belittled or emotionally or verbally abused by a dating partner. But I was in a domestic violence relationship. For the first time, I am sharing my story openly.

Minimizing the abuse is common among victims and survivors. It’s always worse for someone else, we tell ourselves. But that doesn’t make our stories any less meaningful, powerful or impact our lives any less. Even as I write this, I am minimizing what happened to me.

He was the first guy I dated after I had my daughter. It started more as a fling, something to pass the time. My friends hated him, as did my family, really. But something drew me to him. He always brought me flowers when he picked me up for a date and always planned these over-the-top adventures for us. He had access to exclusive events and we had fun. So much fun together. We met while were were both working at a restaurant. He was a part-time supervisor, so sometimes my colleague and sometimes my manager. There was one Sunday night when we were working together. He was managing and I was serving. He became very angry, I don’t recall why, and threw everything off the back counter in the kitchen. Just took his arm and flung it all off. He stormed outside to smoke and I followed him. I could calm him down. It made me feel powerful that I could calm him after he was so mad.

We were an on-and-off again-type relationship. One night, we were at a house party for my best friend’s birthday. He got mad because I wasn’t paying enough attention to him. I didn’t care. He stormed out and I let him go. About an hour later, the party decided to move to a local bar and when we left the building, there was a smashed beer bottle in the stairwell that hadn’t been there before. When I got in my car, there was a card on the windshield. I knew it was from him. I didn’t bother to open it, I just threw it out of my car window. He later called and asked me why I had done that.

Another time, I was with friends and my phone wouldn’t stop ringing. A friend asked who kept calling. It was him. He called me 27 times in 10 minutes.

It finally ended when he left a note on my car in the middle of the night. It’s been 12 years since this relationship ended and I don’t recall what the note said, but I do know that it shook me to my core. I went to a friend’s house so our daughters could have a play date. She made me tell her what happened. I didn’t want to because I had tried to tell someone before and that person’s reply back to me was “Don’t shit where you eat.” I felt as though it was my fault for being in this relationship. But it was easier to be in the relationship than to not be. I knew when we were together that things would be good. When we weren’t together, he’d call excessively, sit outside of my apartment and follow me. So she made me tell her. And then she drove me to work and made me tell our boss. He did everything right. My boss terminated him. Someone walked me to my car at the end of my shift for several weeks. He left me alone after that. Except to show up at my door when he found out I got into grad school. I’ll never know how he knew that.

I found out after our relationship ended that he had shot his mother in the arm when he was 17. I remember asking him about it when I met her; she had no use of her arm. He told me she’d had an aneurysm. Coincidentally, my uncle had just had an aneurysm. It made me feel closer to him.

Fast forward years later, I was working in Court 21 as an advocate, assisting victims of domestic violence in filing protective orders. This particular week, it was my job to read the protective orders of the victims with whom were weren’t able to have face-to-face contact at intake and call them to follow up. He was the respondent on one of them. He tried to run her over with her car. I’m thankful that her protective order was granted.

It’s hard to tell your own story, even 12 years later. But it’s important. Domestic violence, stalking and sexual assault happen so frequently. I didn’t know what it was at the time, but I knew it scared me.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. While we spread awareness year round, have a conversation with someone about domestic violence. Listen openly and nonjudgmentally. If it hasn’t happened to you, it’s happened to someone you know.

 

For help, call 2-11.