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Why We Need to Talk About Domestic Abuse

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October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

On the 22nd of this month, it will be four months since I escaped an abusive relationship. As a 31-year-old woman, that’s a hard pill to swallow. Admitting out loud that the person I deeply loved for a period of time hurt me in one of the worst ways possible. The abuse I endured at his hands was so horrific I thought I was going to die, and he is now facing some serious charges from law enforcement. Over the past few months, I’ve been on a journey of self-discovery and healing. What I’ve learned is that domestic violence is something everyone knows happens, but nobody talks about. I’ve often heard and been told that as sorry as everyone is that it happened to me, I should really keep it to myself. Domestic abuse is a private matter and should be dealt with as such. That statement is really counterproductive, isn’t it? Victims are often silenced by their abusers, and people want to know why they don’t leave or say something. It’s because of fear. Fear of retaliation from our abusers and fear that if we do say something, we won’t be believed.

The truth of the matter is 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men aged 18 or older in the U.S. have been victim to “serious physical abuse” from an intimate partner at least once in their lifetime, according to The National Domestic Violence Hotline. Take a look at your inner circle and think of those numbers. There is a great possibility that someone you love is currently being abused. I was ashamed of what was happening to me and didn’t know how to ask for help. My friends and family ask me why I didn’t come to them or tell them what was happening to me, but how do you even talk about it? That’s what I want to change. I want to talk about my story in hopes that it will help another person.

I met my ex-boyfriend after he sent me a friend request on Facebook. I accepted because I had known him in passing and thought he was extremely attractive and outgoing. As a divorced woman, I was finally ready to get back into the dating game. We hit it off immediately, and the relationship moved quickly. Looking back now, it moved so quickly I missed some glaringly obvious red flags. He told me he loved me after three weeks, asked me to move in after a month and proposed to me seven times by the third month. By the end of the third month, I remember Googling “signs of an abusive relationship.” Nobody told me abuse isn’t always textbook. They didn’t tell me about all of the good times you can share with your abuser; the picture of abuse is often painted in shades of black. But honestly, abusive relationships wouldn’t happen if they all started out that way. We would run fast if our significant other was hurting us from day one. Abusers are masters of manipulation. They know how to isolate you to the point where you’re questioning your own sanity.

Months in, my ex-boyfriend put his hands on me for the first time. After that, he told me he’s been known to get violent in his sleep. He apologized profusely, stating it wouldn’t happen again. It did happen again, multiple times. Each time it got progressively worse, and he was always so sorry. It didn’t happen every day; there were often multiple weeks in between. He wouldn’t raise his voice at me or call me any names. He would go from being gentle and loving to me fearing for my life all in a matter of moments.

Domestic violence needs to be talked about so we can put an end to abusive intimate relationships. That starts with spreading awareness on the issue and emphasizing that the more people who know, the better.

There is hope for anyone who is currently in an abusive relationship and trying to get out. I lost everything when I left, but I gained so much more. There are many services available to help victims, and I wouldn’t be where I am currently if I didn’t reach out. I am worth more than what my ex-boyfriend put me through. I deserve to be loved and cherished without fear. As I continue healing, I’m only going to get stronger each day.

Photo by PredragImages via Getty Images.

Originally published: October 18, 2018
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