The abuse I endured spanned 10 years. It was primarily mental, emotional and financial, but it was abuse nonetheless. I've repressed a lot of memories from that time. But there are still a lot of instances that I remember vividly, particularly in the last couple of years leading up to my escape.
Everything Was in My Name
I met my abuser when I was 19 and he was 24. I had just gotten out of another relationship with an abusive boyfriend a few months prior, and this new person was very supportive and understanding. He swore up and down that he would never treat me that way and that I would be safe with him.
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Things were amazing at first and after just a few months, we rented a house and moved in together. I was the happiest I had ever been. When we decided to buy a house a year later, he said we had to keep it a secret until after we closed on it. At the time, I thought it was a fun way to surprise our families, but looking back I realize that it was to prevent my parents from trying to talk me out of it.
The house was solely in my name, because his credit was shot. He told me his debt was from charging his ex-girlfriend’s college to his credit cards. We ended up putting all the bills in my name because he said he wanted to build his credit back up. In reality, it was to prevent me from leaving by ensuring that I was entirely wrapped up in the house.
Verbal Abuse Begins
After that, he started putting me down, saying degrading things to me, and gaslighting me by claiming he was "just joking.” It went from an occasional thing to happening every day. If he got mad at me for something, he would either give me the silent treatment for hours or start yelling at me. When I would start yelling back in defense of myself, he would lower his voice and tell me that I was the one who was yelling.
According to him, I never did anything right so it was best if I didn't do anything to help. But then he would turn around and berate me for being lazy and not helping. The house was never clean enough, even though one could practically eat off the floor.
We split all the bills 50/50 despite the fact that he easily made double what I made. I was fired from at least three or four jobs while we were together because he would constantly break up with me and I would be so distraught that I would miss work, or I would be so distracted all the time that my performance suffered. Every time I lost a job, he would go off on me and then give me a timeframe in which I needed to find another job, usually a week or two, or else he would threaten to move out and leave me.
A Surprise Daughter
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We found out that his ex's 3-year-old daughter was actually his biological daughter, and that brought a whole new level of stress in to my life. Because she was biologically his child, he decided that his family should start building a relationship with her first. She was never allowed to call my parents Grandma and Grandpa, but they were expected to treat her as a grandchild. They were never allowed to spend quality time with her to try and form a relationship, but then he called them terrible grandparents because they never did anything with her.
At one point, he broke up with me because he wanted to see if he could make things work again with his ex. I think this was just another way to mess with me because he continued to live in my house. Eventually, we were sort of just back together. I was confused and hurt by the whole situation—I had dreams of getting married and starting a family, but he kept stringing me along.
Desperate for a Family
I am in no way proud of this next part, but in 2012 I was desperate. I wanted to have a baby, not to trap him into staying with me, but because I thought this would be the thing that would finally bring us together and be a happy family. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I pretended to be taking my birth control pills even though I was flushing them down the toilet. Within a couple of months, I was pregnant. He took the news of my pregnancy pretty much how I expected—he got incredibly drunk.
My first trimester was miserable. I was tired all the time and all I wanted to do when I wasn't at work was sleep. He yelled at me constantly and called me lazy for not being more active. Eventually I gave in and despite my utter exhaustion, continued to clean and cook and do everything he asked. I was physically and mentally exhausted.
In my second trimester, I started experiencing complications. I ended up in the hospital with kidney stones and preterm labor due to dehydration. His mental and emotional abuse continued to get worse and was really starting to take a toll on me.
It all came to a head at the end of my second trimester. I was 6 months pregnant and we were celebrating Christmas a little early with my family. A series of events caused him to explode and start screaming and yelling at my grandma of all people. The whole situation escalated quickly, resulting in me sobbing in a bedroom while he took his daughter and stormed out, leaving me there. My parents were livid, and told me that I was staying the night at their house in order to give him time to cool down.
My parents brought me home so I could pack some clothes while they waited in the car, but the second I walked in the door he started on me. He followed me around every room I went in to, right up in my face screaming at me. His 7-year-old daughter was just feet away in her bedroom. I was screaming back at him between sobs.
All of a sudden, I was struck with horrible pains in my stomach that caused me to double over in agony. My parents took me to the hospital and I was admitted for preterm labor and fetal distress. Luckily, doctors were able to stop the labor. I didn't know it at the time, but that was the last Christmas we had with my grandpa still alive and my abuser completely ruined it for everyone.
Three months later, I went into labor with my son. I was sitting in a rocking chair moaning through a contraction while my abuser was yelling at me to be quiet because he was trying to sleep.
My son's birth had complications which resulted in me needing surgery. I ended up staying a couple nights in the hospital, which was nice because I was away from my abuser and was able to bond with my newborn son. It was a luxury that was extremely short-lived.
How the Abuse Affected My Son
My son started getting night terrors around 2 years old. He would wake up at around midnight and scream unconsolably until 3 or 4 in the morning. I was always the one to wake up with him, desperately trying to shush and console him for fear of the wrath his father would show should he wake up. And he always did.
He would start by yelling from the bedroom to me downstairs that he was trying to sleep. When that didn't work, he would come downstairs and start screaming at me for not being able to console our son which in turn would terrify my son even more causing him to cry even harder. This went on for months, almost every single night.
There were nights he would physically rip our son out of my arms and scream at him to stop crying. At one point, I had had enough and told him I was leaving. I took my son and moved in with my parents. This only lasted a couple of months because he sucked me right back in with promises that he would change and he was so sorry.
I Was Just Done
Finally, I knew I needed to leave for good. My abuser had crippled me financially, ruined my credit and let my house go back to the bank. He had strained my relationship with my parents so much I was worried that they wouldn't be willing to help me if I left.
The day I decided to leave, my parents luckily had our son when my abuser began being mean toward me again. I just lost it. I started yelling and screaming at him and told him that I was done putting up with all of this. I started grabbing clothes, toys, books and other essentials and putting them in a large duffel bag. He went from screaming at me in anger to following me to every single room in the house begging me not to leave. He would try to block me in a room so he could try and get me to talk to him, but I had had enough. I pushed past him; I broke his grip when he would try to grab my arm. I told him that I was done and I was leaving. I packed what I could in the duffel bag, packed a bag for my son and walked out the door.
When I got in my car and locked the door, I had never felt such freedom. I drove the couple blocks to my parent’s house and remember very vividly the next events: I walked in the door, duffel bags in tow. My mom came in the kitchen just in time to see me drop the bags, as well as all the emotional baggage I had been carrying the past 10 years right there in the doorway. I told her I was leaving him for good, and then I just collapsed in her arms. I remember my dad coming in the kitchen and we all just sat there on the kitchen floor embracing one another as I sobbed until long after my tears dried up.
The Trauma Doesn’t Stop
I’m 33 now and my recovery is still far from over. I have been in a relationship with an amazing man for 2 ½ years, but I still find myself reverting back to my old habits like asking permission to do anything, like eat something from our kitchen. My PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] kicks in and I get triggered at times, but he understands and is there for me. There are some days I feel fine, and there are others where it’s tougher.
My abusive ex and I still share 50/50 custody of our 6-year-old son. It’s gotten really difficult. He married a woman and they make my son call her “mom.” He’s only allowed to refer to me by my first name. If he’s not perfect, he goes in what’s called “home jail”—they take away all his things and he has to sit on his bed for hours at a time. He’s not allowed to eat with the family.
The abuser’s sister-in-law works in a juvenile detention center. They tell him, “You know where aunty works—you can find yourself in a facility like that if you misbehave.” Needless to say, he gets really anxious when he has to go back to his dad’s house. He begs and pleads not to go. It’s heart-wrenching.
How I’m Finding Support
I started going for counseling before I even left my local domestic violence shelter. They helped me get a plan in place. I also joined a closed Facebook group for domestic violence victims—that’s where I read about DomesticShelters.org and started thinking about sharing my story.
At first, because I was so brainwashed, I wondered if I had really been abused. He never put his hands on me. It was all verbal, mental and financial. Do I want to tell people I was being abused if I’m unsure? I’ve found that a lot of people are very critical of victims of verbal and mental abuse. But I want to be able to educate people that abuse isn’t just bruises and broken bones and black eyes. The mental scars are sometimes the ones that take the longest to heal. I’m still battling with my mental scars.
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