Jessica’s Story…

Once upon a time, I believed that my worth could only be measured by another’s words, that one man held me in the palm of his hand by choice, and that the only way to flee his grasp was suicide.  After trying everything else and still finding that I was worthless without him, I set out on my mission of desperation: I married him.  I committed emotional suicide, I decided it was (WE were) do or die, I decided that his words owned me, his words that screamed in my ears everyday that no one else could ever love me were either right, or I was dead meat.  I didn’t want to die alone, and by logic, I was not allowed to die without him.

The Universe bound us doubly by blessing us with our only son, my true love, my sun, moon, and stars.  He is the reason I awoke from the deathly slumber which I had sworn my mortal life to never awake from.  I loved him as he swelled in my womb.  He was the love poem I always wished I could write (I named him Lord Byron, but don’t tell him that).  But how could I?  There was no love but mine for him, as his father merely destroyed everyone around him.  I was his whipping girl, his property, his prize of war.  Trying only to love and for once, not to be rejected.

I will never forget the moment when my son watched on with tear-filled eyes as daddy pinned mommy against the door, hand to the throat, for trying to leave him.  “I will destroy you,” daddy said.  It was far from the first, but I was bound to make it his last.  It was the turning point in our lives.  It was the way Byron and I locked eyes in a stare that spoke of what is to come if we stayed; it was suicide.  It was then that the weight of my choice came crashing down hard upon us.

In hindsight, I wished I had scooped my son up at the first sign of quiet and headed for the shelter, but again I chose the hard way.  I fought my jobless husband to keep the apartment as we discussed divorce, but he would not budge.  We lived together still for months after the split, but whether or not we were “trying to work it out” depended directly on his mood, who he was sleeping with at the time, and how many hours straight I had worked while our son was elsewhere and he did nothing but eat, sleep, make messes, and watch TV.  I lived in the bedroom and he lived on the couch (unless he demanded sex) until he took a trip out of state, funded by Unemployment.

That’s when we moved out of town, got our own apartment, and got our routine and lives back to normal.  But as all good things come to an end, daddy came home after two months away, and ruined everything.  I filed for divorce, I petitioned the courts for emergency custody, and I begged my lawyer to understand.  Nothing worked.  No one listened.  He took my son and kept him for days against my wishes, touting himself for it, and only returning him when he saw fit.  He tortured my heart, he embittered my son, and he almost won.

Joint custody sounded like the inner ring of hell, but it’s all this empty justice system had to offer us at the time.  Forced down my throat and told to swallow like a good girl, more like it.  Nothing new here, patriarchy. Even with piles of evidence of abuse, I was silenced and forced to live in fear for myself, and especially for my son who had to spend time with a monster who I could not control and could not predict and could not protect him from.  I was told to wait and watch for sure signs of abuse.  Solid evidence.  Never mind my son’s deteriorating behavior and self-worth and obvious signs of mental and emotional torment, fear and anger.  I needed proof.

It came to me less than a year and a half later.  I will spare the details, but know that in time the courts failed us again.  I was forced into mediation with a narcissistic, abusive man facing criminal battery and child endangerment charges.  I was bullied into dropping my order of protection.  I was forced to sit back and take it as they recuperated his visitation rights.  I was shattered when they offered a plea bargain that let him off the hook with a slap on the wrist and a promise not to do it again.

He did it again.  This time much worse.  But finally, this time the right professionals caught on.  The worst part of trying to escape him was not escaping him.  For years we have fought to keep him away.  His fate for now still rests in the ever-lethargic criminal court system and his parental rights hang by a thread. I have an order of protection that will last beyond his last day of freedom before he serves his sentence.  I have a child distraught and torn by what his father has done, and a lifetime of hurt for where we’ve been and what we’ve suffered through.  But I have my son, and we are finally free together.  We fear less, we love more, and we count our blessings and make the most of every day.

— Jessica

Follow Jessica’s story here: In Potentia.

If you are interested in sharing your story here…please email me at bwseekingbl@mail.com

Kendra’s Story…



Our wedding day was more like a funeral. I wore a gray dress & a black shawl. No romance or fanfare. We stood in front of the justice of the peace for a matter of 5 minutes, exchanged prewritten, heartless vows, & a cold kiss to seal the deal. I remember feeling like crying. I felt numb. So why did I go through with it? I felt sorry for him. Oddly enough, I thought I could save him. Even he claimed my presence in his life made him a better person. And I naively stumbled full throttle into a life I knew would not be completely fulfilling. All for the sake of keeping him happy. Sounds strange…even stranger to write it. But it’s true. We moved into a 1-bedroom house we rented. It did not take long after the unceremonious ceremony for me to see the real side of him; his core personality.

It started out seemingly innocent. The name-calling. Nothing crude…at first. Just enough to make me stop & wonder. He would shrug it off like a joke. The patronizing tone, though, would continue to escalate. He would chastise me like a child. And like a child, I would skulk & ponder what I could do to be better. That made him happy. So, a cycle very quickly started. Then life would get somewhat comfortable because I would learn his new rhythm & dance to a new tune. This went on for quite some time. Berating, chastising, patronizing and then acting as though everything was normal. My emotional confusion was his first target. My money was his next. He did it very casually. Hid a couple of bills until they were past due. Then his anger would escalate almost…and I repeat “almost”…to a violent crescendo. He would lash out verbally & then go silent. “I need to do the bills. From now on, you’ll give me your check. I’ll pay the bills & give you the rest of your money.”  I fought that very hard, at first. When another bill went missing, I simply decided to pay it without the formal bill stub. He lashed out even harder at that. Calling me distrustful. It’s so hard to portray now the exact feelings & emotional turmoil he instilled. It’s been 4 years now since I decided to leave. Let me just say, he argued & lashed out until I finally gave in. My check was his. At that time, I decided giving him my money was so much better than listening to “his mouth.”  I say it like that because I still refused to call it what it was…verbal & emotional abuse. I now know. Hindsight is 20/20.

So he had my money. He knew how to make me a placid wife. He knew how to make me go silent. He was happy, for a while, anyway.

This next part is still hard for me to talk about. The sexual abuse. It started when he would leave on a Friday night & not come back until Sunday morning. He told me I wasn’t doing anything to “keep him home.”  My mind reeled. One can imagine the verbal argument that ensued. He would laugh. Patronizing tone always to follow. He stated I wasn’t satisfying him sexually. So…I gave everything at that point. My mind, my money, my body. He didn’t care if he physically hurt me. And I refused to see it as rape back then. But believe me. He raped me. More than once.

I shut down. I got so depressed, I literally didn’t talk. I hid inside myself. Then the day came that I found out I was pregnant. I actually thought that would wake him, so to speak. He did immediately start to treat me differently. He did everything for me. Everything. It was stifling, but he was staying home more.

Even during my pregnancy, though, he could not stop verbally attacking me. I had all ready decided at that point, that our marriage would not last. I planned. The thought of leaving liberated me. I chose not to leave while I was still pregnant so as not to cause any harm to this child I was carrying. I stayed calm through all the verbal onslaughts but my voice was starting to come back. I would calmly warn him that he could not keep treating me abusively.

Fast forward to the day when my son decided he was ready to be born. My husband unceremoniously dropped me off at the hospital where I labored by myself. I went into the hospital at 2 pm. My husband came back for the last 30 minutes of my labor. My son was born at 3:45 am July 23, 2010. My husband held him 10 minutes & then left again. Only this time, he didn’t return until the day I was discharged from the hospital.

The ride home was strange. He was erratic & very disjointed in his speech. Once home, my son began crying uncontrollably. Every effort I made to soothe him, made my husband lash out in a verbal tirade. He went outside to mow the lawn & I thought everything would be fine. My son immediately quieted down. He came back in & started yelling which woke my son up & his crying ensued all over again. I remember him standing over me. Threatening me. My son was in his bouncy seat screaming at the top of his little brand new lungs. I couldn’t get to him. I panicked. I screamed for my husband to just shut up. He swung his arm back & punched me in the chin. A smile on his face. I’ll never forget that. He then took the keys to my car & told me I wouldn’t be leaving.

It was like a bad dream. Everything was slow motion. I told him if just take myself & the baby to my Mom’s “Only for a little bit. Just a couple of days. I’m not leaving.”  By some strange miracle, he believed me. I was getting the heck out of there and making sure my son was safe. I never had any intentions on coming back. And I never did.

I’ve blocked out the worst parts. My mind just won’t allow me to relive that hell. And that’s what it was. Hell. I contacted the states attorney’s office the day after leaving. I learned this was nothing new for my soon-to-be ex husband. I was the 3rd woman he had abused. The 3-strike rule is very much alive in my state. He was arrested & I had a good month to find the best attorney.

My ex husband is a narcissistic sociopathic abuser. He will do anything to win. Until he gets bored or finds a new & willing victim. We’re still fighting visitation rights. Ever since I left, my main priority has been to keep my son safe. I won full custody. My ex was restricted to supervised visits for 1 hour 1 day per week, which went on for almost 2 years. Now the visits are slowly going to my son spending the night with my ex in the near future. My ex is also a drug addict now & I’m doing everything I can to ensure the proper safety measures…mandatory drug tests once a month being the highest priority.

It’s been a long and arduous 4 years. I doubt my ex thought I would take it this far. The other 2 women before me didn’t take it anywhere near this level of security. Then again, they aren’t mothers, either.

People still ask me “How do you stay so strong.”  To which I answer, “I have to. I’m not giving myself any other choice.”

— Kendra

Follow Kendra’s story here:  Domestic Survivor

Or on Twitter @divorcequeen

If you are interested in sharing your story here…please email me at bwseekingbl@mail.com

Juliet’s Story…

I was recently asked to be part of a collection of stories that talk about leaving a secret life of abuse/control. I am honored to be asked, and to be able to share what life on the other side looks like. It may be cliché to say, but if I can help one person make the life-changing choice to leave, I would be happy.

So, how did I get to this place from the everyday quiet hell? It started by making the decision. I had thought about it many times before, but the logistics paralyzed me. It is a decision that has to have commitment behind it. If you go into it halfheartedly, he will be able to tell. If there is one thought that needs to stay in the front of your mind, it is “it’s going to get worse before it gets better (much better)”. I will not be able to tell my story in bullet points, but I will include the short list (as it was for me, a general guideline). The last thing I would like to say before I begin my story, it is not over. I still have to interact with him, but I would go through the entire process of leaving, to get where I am now.

I can’t really remember a period of time where I was happy in my relationship. Yes, I have some happy memories, but they are mere slivers in half on my lifetime. Things really became unbearable when my youngest was born. My ex was very comfortable in the roles that we were playing. I stayed home with the kids, home schooling and starting a new business. This business was supposed to be a way for me to support the family in case something happened to him, as a result of his bad decisions. However, it turned into a new source of stress…I was in charge, unless he didn’t like something, which was often. We got to a comfortable place where we would go for a few days without speaking. He would have his anger episodes, but I could tell something was changing, because I didn’t care anymore. Once you have been told you can’t do anything right for so long, you get to the point where you think ‘why even try?’.  He used to be able to manipulate me into whatever he wanted…if he wanted me to do a  better job helping him with his business (I tried to help manage his paperwork, bills, phone calls, etc.), he would tell me he would have so and so’s girlfriend or wife help him. I’m type A…always trying to do everything, and trying to do my best. The thought of being told I wasn’t doing something well enough didn’t work for me. I tried harder to do better. He figured out this tactic when I was still a teenager. I knew I was being manipulated/guilt-tripped/intimidated, but at the same time I was trying so hard to keep it all together…the moments of clarity came and went before I had a chance to focus on them. I also got to the point where I didn’t care when he didn’t come home, in fact, I looked forward to it. This is when I knew I had no more to give.

I was given an opportunity that most women do not get. He told me that I needed to move the kids, and myself, out of the house. I started packing to move in with my sister and her kids. This was about 4 years ago…I don’t remember the details. I know he had a plan, he was making the decisions…it was an act, but it was an opportunity. The prior year, due to his bad decisions, we had sold off most of our joint assets. I didn’t ask for a dime, even though there were gifts of cash and land from my family that he had used/sold, I just wanted my name off of anything and everything. He took the opportunity to live his life, I’m assuming with less guilt, knowing we were somewhere else. There are situations that occurred during this time that I cannot mention, ever. He didn’t do anything directly to me or the kids, but he showed his true character. He showed what I now recognize as narcissistic behavior. Almost a year after moving out, we sold my business. At any other time, I would have been heart-broken…like I was losing a part of me, but I knew this is how it had to be. At this point, he had moved in with us again. After being away from him for so long, this was a new level of hell. He came back in thinking he would pick up where he left off, but I now knew I could not go on like this. I was slowly dying. The stress was wearing me down, physically, mentally, emotionally. One day, I saw the front of the local newspaper, it had a small list of the daily obituaries. I recognized a name. We weren’t friends, more like ironic acquaintances, thanks to my ex. She was his age…3 years older than me. I knew enough about her that she was not happy when she died. Over the next few days, the thought of her misery and sadness prompted me to tell my husband that I wasn’t happy. I have written the details in other stories, so in short, things got ugly. The next few months were kind of a blur. There were days he would call the house 20+ times to beg for another chance, blame me, insult me, call me names, apologize, etc. There was no rhyme or reason, but there were patterns I had noticed while we were together…a few calm days and then a few crazy days. The first time I made a police report against him was empowering. I was terrified to press charges, but I went to the police station so they could take pictures of my driver side mirror that he shattered with his fist. If I could go back, I would make a report each time he did something that was against the law. I wish I kept better records of the harassing phone calls, the harassing statements, all of the crazy things that didn’t really surprise me, but would have been helpful to show what kind of person he is.

My dad offered to help me with the divorce by paying for my retaining fee. I felt like I was smuggling drugs or hiding a concealed weapon when I went to the lawyer’s office, or the police station to file a report or pick up more ‘Incident Report’ forms. At the time, he drove a diesel truck and each time I would hear an engine rev, I looked over my shoulder and walked a little faster. I was even afraid to go to the grocery store once I started the divorce papers. One day he would say he would sign, if we just changed a few things, then he would go ballistic and refuse to sign them. He proved that he would not behave any better if I had the kids with me. After one meeting at our ‘drop-off’ point (a local convenience store/restaurant), he threw me up against my truck (with my kids and my sister’s kids inside), then told me to call the police on him, then he called the police on himself…the local policemen talked him down and had him leave, then advised me to get a ex parte. Another place I did not want to be seen, by him or any of his friends…the county courthouse. Throughout this entire ordeal, he went to all of his friends and family, and some of my family, to tell them the entire spectrum…from how the separation was all my fault to how much he loved me. He told his side of the story to anyone who would listen; the kids, people at the bank or front desk at a hotel, police that had been called on him. Back to the courthouse, I met with the court advocate who also works at the local women’s shelter. Another thing that did not surprise me, how many people who knew him. One of the downsides of a small town. The court advocate was friends with one of his relatives, she had met him and had a conversation with him. She told me she had been doing this for along time, but his thought process concerned her, this concerned me. As I sat in her office, writing down as many of the crazy things I could think of, my hands shaking thinking of each incident, I tried not to think of his reaction when he found out what I was doing. This was still my mindset…what I was doing, or had done, to him. Inside her office, I felt safe. The county jail was next door, county cops and city police could be seen inside the building, throughout the day. She had to enter a code to go down the hall to her room. Inside her room, in black and white, a 12″x 18″ poster on the wall told the 12 signs of an abusive relationship. I sat there and read through each ‘sign’ while my brain spun in circles. He did 9 of the 12, on a regular basis…I had no idea until now that there were similar characteristics that were common enough to have them on a poster! I was so deeply in the craziness, which was synonymous with ‘normal’, that I did not even realize how wrong this whole relationship was, and had been, for years.

I filed the ex parte, and the courthouse failed to notify me when he was going to be served the papers, so I would have a ‘heads up’ in case he freaked out. Instead, I get a phone call from his little brother (whom he was working with, at the time) and his brother told me that I should drop it because that could hurt his (my ex) chances of becoming a law enforcement agent…which he claimed he was thinking of doing.  Ironic. A little later in the day I get a phone call from his mother saying, ‘Why are you doing this? The things in these papers are horrible, just horrible things to say’. I wish I had the voice then that I do now. I would have told her ‘Yes! That’s exactly right, they are horrible things…but they are 100% true! That was my life with your son when he ‘just gets mad’. Yes, he was enabled by his parents and most of his family…’Oh, he just gets mad sometimes, he doesn’t mean it’, or ‘Oh, he really shouldn’t ___________(fill in the blank)’. No accountability. He was never the one who flat out made a bad choice. Yes, I knew where he found his justification for being such a jerk. If anyone called him out, he cut ties or kept a safe distance from them. This was my first attempt at an ex parte. I was in a desperate place since he would still not sign the divorce papers. He asked me to drop the ex parte, I told him I would if he signed the papers. Done. Five months later, he had given me more reason to file them. I showed up at the courthouse, not knowing if I would have to see him face to face in the courtroom. If he were there, would he be calm and apologetic? Would he have his crazy, checked-out eyes? Should I have brought someone with me? What was the judge going to say? As it turned out, he didn’t even bother to show up to defend himself. I had to go in front of the judge, and everyone else in the courtroom and talk about why I should be granted an ex parte. This being the small town it is, I had to do this in front of one of his family members who was in court for his own reasons. I was granted an ex parte and walked out of the courthouse with a new sense of safety. I carried the papers with me in my truck, safely tucked in the visor. My own small victory in standing up for myself and minimizing his affect on my life. A deep sigh…

Our divorce was final in spring, ex parte granted in the early summer, he violated the ex parte twice (enough for me to call the police), he had to go to court for those violations in the fall. I was afraid to go to the courthouse because I knew he would be there. He called me repeatedly the week before his court date to ask me to drop the charges against him because of how much that would cost him and what it would take away from the kids. Again, if I had my voice then, I would have said ‘It might make a difference if you paid child support, but since you don’t…it doesn’t really make a difference to me!’. I didn’t say anything except, ‘I didn’t do this to you. You made the choices you made. All I want is for you to leave me alone.’ He went to court and was given anger management classes, fines and two years probation. I am afraid to try to get child support from him. He has told me about men who have their ex’s killed so they don’t have to pay child support. I feel a little more independent without relying on him, but I know it’s not right. They are his kids and he has said he just wants to make it hard on me so maybe I’ll come back to him. I am afraid to fight for full custody, because he has told me it would be a ‘bad idea’ for someone to try to take his kids away from him. Some people say ‘he wouldn’t really do anything…he would go to prison’. He has said he wouldn’t be the one who did it so he wouldn’t go to jail. Besides, if I was gone…it doesn’t matter to me if he did it or not, my kids would be without me.

He still gets obsessive. He will call and start the conversation that we’ve been having for years…the one where he is a clueless idiot as to ‘where did it go wrong’, or ‘why can’t you find it in your heart to give me another chance?’ etc., etc. I hang up now. Before I thought there might be something I could say that would hit him like a 2×4 to the head and he would say ‘Oh, it was me! I did this. I’m sorry, I’ll leave you in peace’. I woke up from that daydream to face the reality – I am stuck dealing with him until one of us die. I pray I outlive him so I can help educate my kids as far as boundaries, self-respect, accountability, and so many other things I have learned over the last few years. The older kids are starting to see things he does or says and they ask me why he does it. I explain that he doesn’t really know any better, but that doesn’t make it right. I know somewhere in his demented brain he knows right from wrong, because he was always careful how he talked to me in front of certain people, but behind closed doors, he was someone else. I have no love for him, and only as much caring as I would a stranger on the street…actually less than that. I often told him he was the only person in my life to treat me disrespectfully, as he did. I would feel bad for my kids, but if I never had to see him or speak to him again…I would actually know what peace feels like. I had to call the police on him, just a few months ago. He hasn’t had his court date, but he’s already asking me to drop the charges and how he won’t be able to help with the kids…this time I said ‘Considering you don’t pay child support anyway, it doesn’t really matter’.

My life is not perfect, but I am only striving for better than yesterday. I left my marriage so my kids would not see that as a model relationship. I tell them that they are free to make whatever choices they want, as long as they are not hurting anyone, including themselves, in the process. I tell them it’s okay to get angry, but there is a positive and negative way to handle it. I tell my kids they can talk to me about anything, anytime and I will do my best to help them work through it. I want to be everything for them I couldn’t be in my previous life.

Like I said, here are my short answers to what I did right and what I wish I did differently.

– Start planning ahead. Don’t write things out or make to-do lists…privacy is usually not an option. Confide in someone you KNOW you can trust, figure out a place to go.

– Be honest with your kids, but don’t give them too much information. He is still their dad and they don’t want to feel like they have to choose sides. I tell my kids stories in relation to the bully on the playground. Do not talk bad about him to your kids. Try not to talk bad about him to anyone other than the facts, when necessary. Bullies like to keep their behavior hidden and get angry when they are brought out into the open.

– Once you are out of the house, keep a notebook with everything he says or does that is threatening/illegal. Call the police when he breaks the law. Let the police know you are not going to get back with him…it makes you easy to dismiss. Get an ex parte and keep it with you.

– Utilize available resources to help you during transition, but do not become reliant…this will just take away from your sense of independence. Except help when you have to, be willing to offer help when you are on your own feet.

– Set your boundaries. He will not like it, he’s always been the one calling the shots and now you will be telling him what you will no longer allow. Be consistent. DO NOT fall for ‘I’ve changed’. Unfortunately, most people do not change very much, but it’s easy to say it to get what you want. If it helps, write down all of the horrible things he has said/done and refer to it if you are ever thinking of giving him another chance.

– Never meet him alone or in a secluded area. Always choose a very public location to pick up/drop off kids. Follow any divorce papers or court papers, or else you are breaking the law and that can come back to cause you problems.

– If he is harassing you with phone calls/texts, keep records in your notes, but it is very important to keep it brief and basic if you have to respond regarding the kids. Otherwise, do not text back, do not call back and if the conversation turns from the kids to anything else, say ‘Is there anything else we need to talk about, concerning the kids?’ if not, say goodbye and hang up. He won’t believe you or get the hint if you talk for a long time sometimes and then not other. Be consistent.

– Be honest with a select few people who are in a ‘need to know’ position. I have talked briefly with my kids’ teachers, office secretaries, principal and a few others so they can look for signs with the kids and they have a better understanding of the personal situation your family is going through.

– Learn about abusive relationships and the path back to a life that you control. Be aware of what your children my think is ‘normal’. Talk to a counselor or therapist if you feel like you need help getting out of the victim mindset. It took me 2 years to get his voice out of my head…each time I made a mistake or didn’t make the best choice, I could hear him saying everything he said to me when we were together.

– Celebrate your steps! It is not easy to get out, recognize the strength you have to make a better choice for yourself and your children (if you have kids).

– Know that you have value and you do not, nor did you ever, deserve to be treated with anything other than respect and care. He was the one who had problems, even if it is the way his brain is wired, there is no excuse to treat someone in a way that causes fear and pain.

– Do not get caught up in the thoughts/feelings/opinions of others. If you have people giving you advice that does not fall in place with what you know is best for you and your family, do not take it on as what you should do. Chances are, they do not know what it’s like to be in your situation, and even if they do, this is your choice and your life. You do what you need to do.

— Juliet

Follow Juliet’s story here: Falling Into Place 9

If you are interested in sharing your story here…please email me at bwseekingbl@mail.com

LeAnna’s Story…

My reason for creating Your Path to Peace was specifically to focus in on that one moment in time when someone who has been abused takes those scary fateful steps and leaves their abuser.  Although reading the survival stories are tremendously inspirational, I think knowing what exactly it was that drove them to muster up their very last ounce of courage and make that decision to go is equally as important.  It’s important to me and for those of us that are still behind enemy lines, waiting to use up our last ounce.

I came across this video today, and although it is not regarding “escaping the abuser” per se, it is amazing to see how far one of our own has come and the fact that she decided to use her voice on a national level means a lot.  Please take 3 minutes of your time and watch this video clip.

Watch Here: State Senator LeAnna Washington

Follow the Senator on Twitter @Sen_Washington

If you are interested in sharing your story here…please email me at bwseekingbl@mail.com

Amy’s Story…

YP2P3

Unlike many survivors of domestic violence, it didn’t take me multiple attempts to get away from the man who abused me.  The difference with me is that it took over four years for me to seize an uncommon window of opportunity to make my exit.  Simply because after four years and three months, I think he grew arrogant and overly confident that he had me permanently trapped.

Like most of us, the beginning of the relationship was good.  For some, maybe it was spectacular.  The abuser always starts out caring, attentive, kind, gentle.  Little by little, they slowly shape-shift and move fluidly back and forth between Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde so adeptly that we do not see the monster sneaking up behind us in plain sight.  This is what happened to me, and once he changed and became physically violent, often sadistically so, all peace was gone.

What began with being thrown against the bathroom wall and choked until I began to lose consciousness (deemed appropriate punishment for wearing makeup to work), turned into regular beatings, sleep deprivation, threats, and verbal assaults.  The first time I truly felt an urgent sense of my own mortality was when he dragged me out of the car in the middle of the night during the month of March, with no coat, no phones.  It was 20 degrees and snowing, but he sped down country roads into a wooded area where he pulled off the road, turned off the car, and forced me out.  The last thing I remember before losing a thirty six hour chunk of my memory was him walking up to me in the cold, stiff air with a tire iron in his right hand.

After this, he regularly beat me and stole my money for drugs to get high with other women.  Eventually, after three evictions and nowhere to go, he began working as an informant for a drug agency in the next town over, just across the county line.  He became their pet, as he netted over two dozen crack dealers for them in one weekend.  All agencies involved got a lot of good press and a few got some promotions.  They guarded him like a naïve, exposed child.  Further, after a few years of harassing me to buy a firearm almost weekly, he suddenly stopped.  It was no coincidence that he was working with the ATF doing weapons sales at the time.  Not long after this, he shoved a handful of bullets in my face as a warning.  I have the three that are missing the casings as my one souvenir to remind myself how dangerously close to death I was a year ago.

It was a lengthy game of cat and mouse that lasted for about ten hours.  Of all things, it began over an argument he started over a piece of pork that he was eating and abandoned when his dealer came to pick him up.  I was asked to put it in the fridge for later, and even though there wasn’t much left I complied.  This is the ridiculous thing that started the last night of my life with him.  The short version of this includes being threatened with a hammer, punched repeatedly in the head, hit with a knife sharpener, more blows to the head, him telling me to take a shower which ended abruptly as the neighbors called the police (who stood in the hall and didn’t seem to think anything of the fact that he was standing in front of me).  Once they left, he started right back up, backing me against the wall and repeatedly hitting my head with a can he had grabbed from the kitchen.  I was also hit in the face with a shoe, dragged around, threatened with a 2 x 4, and finally, after ten hours, it ended with a knife at my throat and a punch to the head.  (I discuss this in some detail in The Great Pork Rib Caper on my blog).

I made a split-second decision to sneak my pay card out of his wallet while he was barricaded in the bedroom.  When he came back out, he threw old food in my face, threatened to commit a graphic sexual assault (that I refuse to repeat), and punched my head hard enough it bounced off the wall.  I knew it was time to leave, and I walked out the door as calmly as I could so he wouldn’t suspect that I wasn’t planning on coming back home after work.  He called me several dozen times at work that morning, threatening me to come home so he could “handle” me; when I asked what he was going to do he simply said I would find out when I got there.  I spent several hours with the advocate at work calling shelters and getting things in some kind of order.  During this entire time, I later found out that he was harassing the girls in my department in addition to repeatedly calling the security desk.  I spent the afternoon of December 14, 2012 filing paperwork for an emergency order and letting a female family member take pictures of the bruises.  He was served just before 5 p.m. that night, because the woman who filed my paperwork pushed the clerk to put it through so I wouldn’t have to go through the whole weekend worrying about him showing up anywhere.

For the weeks leading up to the hearing for the regular order, he repeatedly harassed my mother by texting her.  Instead of him having the nerve to call my dad on his own, he had his nephews call, saying they were friends of mine and they were concerned.  He also had his friends and nephews calling me at work, which is why I requested the judge add a clause stipulating no third party contact in the regular order.

Like I said in the beginning, it only took me one try to leave.  The key is that it took so long to find a way out.  He made it impossible in so many ways: working from home (when he actually DID work), having people watch the house when he was gone, having people watching me when I was out, monitoring the texts and calls on the house phone and cells by comparing the numbers in the phone with the online account listings, reading my emails, opening my mail.  He knew where every financial document was, and once, when I converted my pay stubs from paper to electronic format, I was interrogated for several days about my intentions.

This and more made it impossible for me to plan to leave. He was always there, watching me like a hawk.  He had cut me off completely from my family and friends so I had no one to reach out to for help.  I eventually learned that they blamed me for this, and the few times I was able to get a second alone with a phone to try to call them, they would not answer and they would not call me back.

When I left I did not feel safe enough to call the police and have him arrested.  The agencies in the next county over became his buddies, and every time he got into trouble in our county, they reached their fingers across the county lines, manipulated a few things, and got him out of trouble.  They even did this when he was brought in for an AUO charge on top of an assault charge for hitting my stepmother when he tried to rip the car keys out of her pocket.  The female snitch they always let out of jail because she was so conscientious about her work with them… the one I had a protective order issued on her in my behalf (and extended twice) without me having to show up at court to even sign one piece of paper, because she tried to back over me with her car after arguing with him about money he owed her for drugs.  The same one who was allowed to repeatedly violate the order I had against her.  I also remembered his friends in the ATF and so felt forced into silence, because I knew they wouldn’t protect me.

I regret not trying to plan to at least somehow smuggle financial documents and family photos out of the apartment before I left.  In reality, I know I really had no opportunity to do so, but it has made things so difficult on me in the year following my departure.  In order for me to get away, I had to leave my entire life, property, financial documents, clothing…everything, in the apartment with him.  I have started over with destroyed credit, no car, no place of my own, no furniture, had to replace all my clothes, debt collectors screaming for their money.  This said, I would not change anything about the way I left, even if I was able to.  I have learned how strong and perseverant I can be under the most difficult of circumstances, I have learned I can rely on myself, but most of all, I have come away with a deeper appreciation for life and the little things.

In eight days, my order is due to expire.  The laws in my state do not allow for a family order to be extended, and if you do not have serious enough violations (he left a box for me at my dad’s old job in October), they also dissuade you from filing for a new order.  I am becoming nervous about the fact that he will be able to walk around free to do as he pleases.  The clerk at the court was kind enough to tell me that I pretty much had to wait for him to come after me before I could do anything.  We shall see soon enough if he is back to his old games or if he fades away.  I am never naïve enough to give him the benefit of the doubt, and my safety isn’t worth it.

— Amy

Follow Amy’s story here: Picking Up The Pieces

Or on Twitter @AMarie9619

If you are interested in sharing your story here…please email me at bwseekingbl@mail.com

Abby’s Story…

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It took me 3 times. I left. I came back. I left. I came back and then I left and tried never to look back. It did not start bad. I knew he was bad, but I thought I could keep it all under control. I never realized that he was the puppeteer the entire time. My story unfortunately is like so many others. We all have our reasons for starting a relationship with someone who we know may not be the best for us, and we all knew we had to get out but just could not. We all have our reasons for staying, and they are all our own and should never have to be justified. My reason for staying was pure fear. I was more afraid to leave then I was to stay. He threatened my family. He threatened me. He was a drug dealer (cocaine and crack) and I was his mule. He forced me to drive him around with my infant son in the car. He forced me to keep all the drugs and associated items in my house. In my car. In my pockets. In my purse. He forced me to keep a gun in the house and made sure that my fingerprints were on it.  He forced me to have a child with him so that we would be bound for life.

I had my own escape plans. I stashed keys to the car and the house all over. There was always a key to the car in my bra and panties.  I had a key to the car in the dresser, in the bushes outside and in the car itself. I had a duplicate of my license in my bra at all times.

I never had a spare key to my house because I never wanted to go back there. I had a secret bank account. There was no ATM card. I had the statements delivered to my mom’s house. I told her that it was an error and I would change it. I never did.

Five days before my second child was born we were arrested. Five days before my son was born I spent 7 hours between the police department and my apartment where they turned my house upside down looking for the drugs and gun. I told them where the drugs were and in return the police handcuffed me in the front of my bulging belly and allowed me to sit down. I was booked on 7 various charges. I was giving birth and he was in jail. I believed his promises and used my dad’s house as collateral and bailed him out on a 300k bail.

He spent the next 2 months terrorizing me, my children, and above all the beatings did not stop. Twice I pleaded to strangers for help. Twice I was turned away. Black eyes, bruises and all.  My neighbors finally called the cops when they witnessed him drag me into the house by my hair. He locked me in the house and it was not until the police threatened to knock the door down did he allow them inside the house. And still I protected him. I got a temporary restraining order that night, and as I was filing, he was bailing out once again. In fear, I fled to Florida and did not get a permanent restraining order. I figured since he was in jail I would be safe. I was wrong.

He was still controlling me. I visited him in the county jail. I visited him in the State Prison. He took those visits to let me know how much of an idiot he thought I was. He was still abusive to me even while he was in prison. I never went back. I have not spoken to him in 3 years. He will possibly get parole soon.

Yet I am stronger than I was. I went to therapy. I went to group. I read the books. I FORGAVE myself. I learned that it was NOT my fault. I learned that I did not CAUSE the abuse. I was able to escape. It was not normal, but when dealing with domestic violence what IS normal? I still hurt. I still cry. I still mourn. I still remember. But I say every day that no matter how hard it is for me, a day without abuse is a GOOD day.

My story is my own, but it is shared by so many others. I am thankful that I was blessed to be able to share my experiences with anyone who wishes to read them. My friends; be strong, be safe, and remember If our voices are loud enough, they can not ignore us forever. Love does not hurt. Stop Domestic Violence.

— Abby

Follow Abby’s story here: The Left Side

If you are interested in sharing your story here…please email me at bwseekingbl@mail.com

Emma’s Story…

Emma's Story

I have a MS degree, had a career, married a CEO of a well-known company, lived in a gorgeous home in an affluent neighborhood, drove a nice car and was living the American dream…it seemed. For 10 of my 13 years of marriage I was also being physically, emotionally and financially abused. After 3 years of marriage my husband made me stop working and stay at home “where women are meant to be.” Everyday I was either beaten, slapped, pushed, kicked, cursed at, belittled or locked in a storage room above our second floor that had a toilet, sink and a mattress on the floor. He installed one of those deadbolt locks on the door that could only be opened from the outside with a key.

The day I left was not planned. I tried leaving him a few times before but he would find me either at my mom’s, my sister’s or a friend’s house and woo me back with his apologies, which always included tears, roses and a gift from Tiffany & Co. I made myself believe that this time would be different and I’d go back. The beatings usually resumed after about 3 or 4 months of ‘honeymoon.’ After about 6 years he made me cut off all contact with family and friends.

Although my husband was a prominent businessman, he was also a functioning drug addict. He used to limit his drinking and use of cocaine to weekend parties with friends but had begun using everyday for about 3 months, forcing me to join him. I refused at first and would be beaten until I gave in. After daily use of this powerful drug even I succumbed to its seductive charm and stopped refusing. This particular day, while we were using, he grabbed my arm and I jerked away, knocking the drugs onto the floor. He beat and kicked me so severely I passed out and as I was coming to, he kicked me in the head and said he was leaving out to replenish his drug supply. He grabbed me by the neck with both hands, choking me as he lifted me up from the floor with a rage in his eyes I’d never seen before and said, “When I return, this will be your last day living” slammed me against the wall and then dragged me upstairs by my hair and pushed me into the storage room.

Normally, whenever he left he would lock me in, double checking the door because sometimes it wouldn’t lock. This time, however, he forgot to check it. Quietly, I listened until I heard him leave and then waited another 10 minutes to make sure he wasn’t coming back. I checked the door, saw that it didn’t lock and at that moment I decided to leave.

Running down the stairs I stopped briefly to wipe the blood from my face, ran to grab a small bag that contained my identification, credit cards and money. I checked to see if he left the keys to my car… He didn’t, so I peeked out the window to make sure he wasn’t, coming, opened the front door and I ran with nothing but the clothes I had on, leaving behind everything that I used to think was important.

I ran for about 6 blocks, staying away from major streets, thinking he might drive down them. Running down side streets and alleys, I made it to a small church. The door was open and I went inside were a lady sat, praying. Crying, hysterically, I told her what happened and she took me in her arms and held me close, like a mother comforting her child. I was in a lot of pain so she drove me to the hospital where they treated me for two broken ribs, a fractured hand, a gash in my head that required 21 stitches, my lip required 6 stitches, cuts and bruises on my face legs and back. When I was released the lady took me back to the church and let me stay there, sleep there for about 2 weeks until a domestic violence advocate came for me.

Was leaving hard? Yes, it was very hard. I moved away from family, friends, where I’d lived all my life and I’ve lived in 4 different states since then off money I had in my savings account until he cancelled my cards and removed my name from the account. I still struggle financially and emotionally but I have counselors and friends who help me get through the rough parts. I now live in an apartment for transitional housing and receive government assistance…Something I never thought I’d have to depend on.

Its been 10 months since I left and it gets easier with each day that passes. I was in Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) for 6 months due to Major Depressive Episodes (MDE) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which helped me deal with fear and anxiety. I’m currently in physical therapy due to the damage done to my hand, which has recovered about 90% of normal use, and I go to Cocaine Anonymous (CA) meetings to help me with those urges that present themselves every now and then. I’m also working part-time helping families in crisis and plan to go full-time after I’m released from doctor’s care.

If I could change anything it would’ve been to leave him years ago and never look back. In hindsight, I wish I’d asked someone for help, made plans, saved money, been more prepared. I wish my family and friends would have come for me despite his demand that they stay away. I could go on and on in the ‘if only I’d done this’ but what good would it do? The important thing is that I left him and I now live an abuse free life.

— Emma

Follow Emma’s story on Twitter @emmachanged

If you are interested in sharing your story here…please email me at bwseekingbl@mail.com