Long road to the horizon free image[November 23, 2020] When I met the person who abused me, I was learning how to be my own person and overcoming traumatic experiences I had during my adolescent years. During this time, I fought through many bouts of severe depression, suicide attempts and eating disorders. He knew about the previous traumas I had been through, and was the first person who was ever really there for me. At the same time, he wanted me to just move on from what I experienced, and put all of my focus on him. He tried to control almost everything I did, yet when confronted about his behavior, acted as though I had the utmost freedom in the relationship.

While dating, I got my first full-time job, enrolled in school and bought my first car. However, the more independence I had, the worse his abuse became.

No one saw all the fights we had behind closed doors, such as the ones that happened simply because I was trying to leave for class. He'd restrain me in the apartment, begging me not to go, accuse me that I was trying to leave him for good. He would get violent and after every attack, he'd justify it, telling me if I hadn’t tried to leave, he wouldn't have pushed me and held me against my will. After every attack, I was convinced he was right and it was my fault. In those moments, I truly believed that it didn't matter that his actions may have been wrong, because he had me beyond fixated on blaming myself that all I could do was work to gain his trust and love back. I believed I had to show him I was worthy of his love again. I felt I couldn't be mad at him for something that was my fault.

On November 30, 2015, it was my youngest niece's 9th birthday. She was thrilled I was going to be there for her party that night. That afternoon, I was preparing to leave to complete my clinical hours for CNA training. My abuser freaked out because we needed to talk about something “more important” than my training. He told me I was being disrespectful for thinking of leaving to go to my training, and things quickly escalated into a physical altercation. As I opened the door to leave, he grabbed me by the arm, crying and begging me not to go. When I wouldn’t give in, he released his grip on my arm and pushed me throwing me down a flight of stairs.

The cops arrived to the scene, and I tried to tell them what had happened. They asked me, “If he was trying to stop you from leaving, why would he push you down the stairs?” His side of the story was that I had fallen. Since I was too scared to give a statement at the time, the cop took his word for it.  

My abuser was then transported for a psychiatric evaluation at the hospital, after saying he wanted to kill himself, and I was transported to Rhode Island Hospital for my injuries.  I cried so many tears and was afraid my niece would hate me for missing her birthday party. I felt this was my fault too.

When I realized how upset my family was with him and not me, I knew I had to push through for them. By hurting me, now my abuser had hurt the people I loved and cared for more than anything. Family has always meant everything to me. Seeing how he hurt me also hurt my family, and shined the light I needed to see it wasn't my fault he was abusing me.

There is so much ignorance around abuse and the ways it grins its ugly teeth. Often times, victims already feel they are responsible for the abuse they're enduring. The systems in place further reinforce this feeling. We live in a world that shames those who are abused, and questions their honesty. Questions asked place the blame on the victim, not the abuser: "Why did you stay?" "Why didn't you fight back?" “Why didn't you call for help?"

It was a long road, I've gone through the legal proceedings. And I'm still facing effects of the abuse. I’m still suffering from the memories of his abuse, the gas lighting, being pushed around the apartment, trapped in a corner, being held down. I’ve asked myself how I could get an innocent man in so much legal trouble, because that’s what he’d scream at me daily, that he was innocent. He told me it was all my fault. This is the invisible aftershock.

Very few people stick around long enough to help you through the healing process. In my experiences, no one asked me if I was okay once I left the relationship. No one thought of the after effects of trauma, and how those may impact me. No one asked if I needed someone to come with me to court. I can remember many of my family members telling me I should be happier than I was, that I was safe and that I needed to just forget what happened and move on. 

Fast-forward to today, and I've survived through the cycle of abuse despite him. The worst of it seems to be over, but out of nowhere comes another trigger causing just enough damage it can deter my whole day. No one talks about how difficult it is to pick up all of the pieces after leaving an abuser.

Putting my story out there helps, because maybe someone will hear it and realize the strength is in them, too. Maybe someone will realize what they are doing IS abusive and seek help for themselves. It took me a while to realize even just in writing about some of my experiences I could help someone else, I never imagined writing about it would bring so many emotions to the forefront of my mind. While it isn't the easiest thing to do, knowing it can help someone else makes it worth the effort. Every word I write comes out with some pain, a tear, a trigger, but with each word I free myself and that makes all the difference.

- Savanna, SOAR Member

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