1:4 #10, the Student

1:4 # 10

Please share what happened to you:

My story started when I was just a baby. Around the time I was six months old and I was very sick. No one could figure out what was wrong with me, and I almost died. My mom took me to the hospital, where all these different doctors looked at me and couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Until one, finally figured out that I had an abscess in my throat. He saved my life. That’s when I started going to him. I don’t remember much from the earlier years of going to him because I was to little, but I do remember that every time I went for a visit, he would pick me up and give me a huge hug, shake my mouth up and down and then I would get to pick out a toy.
I loved going because I knew that I would be able to get to pick out a toy. Little did I know that was the beginning of the abuse. That was the grooming process. At the young age of 5, I understood what good touch and bad touch was, but that meant from strangers. This was someone we were taught to trust and that other then mom and dad was allowed to touch us. I didn’t realize at the time what was going on. The next couple of visits are blank holes in my memory. I remember the rooms and can describe in detail what they looked like but I don’t remember what happened in them. My mind has blocked them from my memory. But as I got older it got worse. I remember the main abuse, or at least what I think is the main abuse but your mind has a funny way of protecting you and that’s to cut out the bad memories so you don’t have to relive them. I remember every time I would go for a visit, I was molested. Every time he would do it, he gave the excuse of trying to figure out when my period was coming. Mind you, this started when I was 7 or 8. My period did not come any where close to that. I remember being that little girl wanted to scream and yell because I knew something was not right. But I couldn’t because this was someone we are taught to trust from a young age and I thought no one would believe me. This was someone who saved my life. It was something that happened every single time I went to him. Even if I went for a cold. He would always end it with that hug and moving my mouth up and down. I began to cringe and hated going. The molestation went on until the time I was 13. When I was 13 I stopped going because I went to high school and it was easier to just go to the wellness center. I was thrilled that I didn’t have to go there any more but I still didn’t fully understand what happened until the day he got arrested and the day I broke down in class. I showed signs through out the years that I was being molested but no one ever thought anything of them. When I was in elementary school, I used to wear my belt so tight that it would dig in to my skin. I was sent to the counselor but I refused to loosen it. But no one knew what was going on and so it got brushed off. I finally told someone when I was sitting in my high school Spanish class and my teacher was talking about the news story and his arrest. I had a panic attack and my teacher pulled me out of class. I told her what had happened and she took me to the counselor. Finally my torture was over.

(ed note: The perpetrator is serving 14 life terms, plus 165 years, without parole,  for the 529 charges he was convicted of.)

1:4 # 10 2

How are you doing now?

I’m doing a lot better then that junior in high school who had a panic attack in the middle of class. But its been a process. I have had more panic attacks than I can count. The biggest issue I face is with change. When something changes I don’t feel in control and all I want to do is feel in control. When my routine is different I feel as though something bad is going to happen. It throws me of for the day and it could be the littlest thing. But I have gotten a lot better with change and routines in the past year. I started counseling and Ive become a much stronger person. I also have a hard problem with trust and opening up to people which has affected my relationships. I am terrified to tell potential boyfriends about the abuse because I’m afraid that they will think I come with to much baggage, and they wont see me they will just see the abuse. It takes a while for me to trust them and this puts a strain on the relationship. I need to be reminded that they do love me even when I am not being lovable. If they do take the chance, I learn to trust them and I give them my all but it hurts 10x’s worse when they eventually leave, and they do because the attacks become to much for them. But if you look at me now compared to where I was a year ago, I am a much better person. Thanks to counseling and listening to survivors I realize I am more then my abuse and that I’m not going to let it affect my whole life.Ive worked through the memories and have processed them. Now I know how to turn them off or move on from them when they do appear. I don’t get stuck in this cycle of remembering the memories. I am now a junior at Delaware State where I major in Communications. I plan on working in radio but I eventually want to become a spokesperson for sexual abuse. I am also competing in Miss Delaware this year which I have competed in for multiple years. But this year is different. I have changed my platform to “Victims to Victor, Helping Sexual Abuse Victims Find Their Voice” I am helping others find their voices by sharing my story. I also want to make sure that victims know that they can survive the abuse and not let it affect their whole lives. I have also partnered with Senator Lopez to co write a bill called Erin’s Law. If passed, it will require schools to teach students K through 6th about sexual abuse, things like good touch, bad touch. It will also teach them to tell an adult if they are being abused even if it is by someone they know. It also will give teachers the tools to know what to look for in a victim. I’m done being silent on an issue that affected my life for 10 years. I’ve become a much stronger person since the abuse started, yes I still get a panic attack every once in a while but now I have the tools to cope and get through them.

1:4 10 4

Is there anything about domestic violence you’d like to tell the world?

I first want to tell the victims that they aren’t alone and they don’t have to face it alone. I promise you there is someone out there they can talk to and will understand what they are going through. I also want people to know that we are more than our abuse. We are people. We have baggage yes, but we are more then that and we want to be accepted as people. Lastly, if there was anything I learned from the abuse is that you choose how you react to the situation. You can chose to let the abuse control your life for the rest of your life, you can let the perpetrator win. Or you can chose to let it make you a strong person. You can chose to take back your life and take back the control. You chose if you are going to win or lose. Even after something bad has happened to you, you can still do everything you set your mind to. You can survive it and move forward. It’s going to be tough and it’s going to be a long road but you can and will do it. Have faith that you can do anything you set out to do.

1:4 10 3

1:4 #9, The Photographer

DSCF9381  Please share what happened to you:

He was (of course) unlike anyone I had ever met. He was also quite charming and good-looking, and he was paying attention to me. He gave me an awareness of the connectivity running through everything…a love of coincidences that has reappeared in sobriety. I felt we were brought together by magic…he told me so and I believed him. It was fate that had brought us together; we were soul mates.

I wanted all these things so badly…had wanted them for as long as I could remember. I turned all this need into worship. Any power I might have had before was given over to this man…and I was lost: Immediately, hopelessly, and dizzyingly lost.

And this was only the beginning.

“Tell me everything,” he said, and I told him.

“Tell me about your past relationships,” he said, and I told him more.

He wanted to know everything about me, and I wanted to give it to him. I felt safe—loved. He wanted to watch over me, and I craved it. He placed himself in the role of savior, and I believed I needed one.

I showed him excerpts from my journals, hoping to give him understanding. I carried a weight, too, and wanted him to lift it. I kept only small pieces, tucked into myself unseen, not wanting to hurt him—not wanting him to think less of me.

He took it upon himself to find them anyway, reading my journals without permission, and when he had armed himself with my complete story; when he knew everything, he began to break me down.

“Who was that?” he asked after we ran into Sam as we were out walking. “How do you know him?”

I told him the truth. I thought it was safe. He knew my history, he knew I slept around a lot before I met him, but it was my past—it was behind me, I thought, forever.

“Did you fuck him?”

In the bar I watch him drink shot after shot of whiskey while beers slide down his throat like water. There is a moment—if I could slow down time to show each second lingering like a hummingbird, you could see it—the twist inside him; a snapping of a twig. I can see it in his face, and I get to know this moment well.

Before this moment he loves me, caresses me, kisses me. He is kind. I am happy.

After this moment he is someone else, someone new to me the first time it happens, but one who eventually replaces the boyfriend I thought I had. He despises me, suspects me, yells at me.

“Who are you checking out?” he hisses into my ear. “Do you want to fuck that guy? Is that what you want? You are a fucking whore, you fucking bitch.”

I sob. I cry and protest and beg forgiveness for things I haven’t done. I am begging forgiveness for things I have done. Please love me again, please love me again, please love me.

We end up in screaming matches in the bars, out on the street. Friends are helpless to stop it. He leaves, I curl into myself even further, sobbing, drunk, alone. I often find myself in doorways or in alleys, holding onto the pavement to remind me of this world.

I try to keep my eyes to the ground; to only look at the drinks in front of me, the bartender, him. I only stare directly at the person reading on stage. I am shell-shocked. I don’t want to give him reason to hate me. It doesn’t matter, of course.  He can’t stop that twisting inside from happening unless he stops drinking. We both know that he will not.

He flirts. It is a different woman every few weeks, it seems, and he leads them on. They each fall for it as I have, thinking he will stay with them, but he keeps coming back to me. He loves me, I think.

But no, he owns me. I let him.

I lived in fear of these moments, moments that repeated and repeated; my heart too big for me as I shrunk further into myself.

 

            A definition of insanity:

            Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting different results.

 

If I could just be what he wanted; who he wanted. If I could just figure out what that was. If I could only; if he would only…I held on to the magic of those first few months, when I had been swept up into love like dandelion pollen blown to bits.

His birthday one year…our housemates are at a hotel to celebrate their anniversary. I make a special dinner. I wrap gifts with loving hands. I open the wine, light the candles and wait.

I wait while the dinner gets cold. Is this what I have become? Have I been reduced to a caricature of the put-upon female? I am afraid now. He will be drunk when he comes home—if he comes home.

He stumbles in the door reeking of whiskey and cigarettes and laughs at me for being mad. I tuck it away, again, and say a silent prayer for salvation. We sit to eat; we drink wine. He opens his present of books (of course). I am terrified. I know that he reached that turning point long before he came into the house. This is not the man I love, yet over and over again I pretend he is.

I don’t know what set him off this time, but it was only a matter of time for it to happen: hissing insults, hurls of accusations and then chaos—screaming, crying, violent turmoil. He lights the book on fire and throws it at me. My crying and pleading only make things worse, enrage him further. He is upstairs now, destroying my things. He smashes my stereo with his foot. I scream for him to stop, please stop, and he throws two chairs, one after the other, down the stairs at me. Old needle pointed cushion chairs from my parents, chairs from my childhood, turn end over end down the staircase, smashing into the kitchen. My rage begins to surface and I run upstairs to fight him, to stop him. I pull on him, hit him, shout in his face and he only laughs at me and curses me.

These fights blur together in my memory, pock-marked with holes left by drugs never to be filled in:

A door slammed so hard the full-length mirror shattered in pieces onto the floor.

Standing on the side of the street in a shoving match, crumbling to my knees because I just don’t have the energy anymore and cops stop their vehicle. They don’t get out. He convinces them I’m fine, just dramatic and a woman. I think they laugh. I know they drive away.

A wish to escape. A bottle of valium left behind. Swallowing one after the other. He’s passed out now upstairs in our room. The silence envelops me as I sit on the couch, holding the empty bottle. He’ll see, I think. He’ll be sorry. There will be no more of this.

Waking up to my friend shaking me, my housemates have home to a war zone; their poor dog cowering in the basement, the cats all scattered.

I am alive, and I am disappointed.

He left me but came back to torture me often (I let him). I was an addict. Then I was a pregnant drug addict who finally hit bottom. I went into rehab, pregnant with his child. I still wasn’t away from him for a long long time after that. He told me in rehab that he should bring me a razor blade so I could kill myself. This, after bringing me Chinese food and worrying over me.

I had so much guilt over keeping the pregnancy a secret, I still allowed him to dictate terms. I bent over backwards to let him have a relationship with our daughter. I didn’t tap his checks for child support. I was flexible and kind even when he constantly tried to push my buttons. I was a fucking doormat, in other words. It wasn’t until many years later when our daughter stood up to him for the first time for me to finally see him more clearly than I ever had. A narcissist. A misogynist. An asshole. Things I knew, but constantly made excuses for. My daughter is the strong one.

DSCF9411How are you doing now?

I am ok, mostly. I still don’t know what a good relationship looks like (though I got closer than ever with my marriage). I still catch myself being submissive with men once there is romantic or sexual attraction. I defer. I stay quiet. Not as badly as I once did, but it is there. At least I have some awareness of it now. Being under that kind of control with that much intensity leaves a mark, even without punches being thrown.

DSCF9405Is there anything about domestic violence you’d like to tell the world?

I want people to understand that anybody can find themselves caught up in a bad relationship before they realize what is happening. None of these relationships start out horrible. They change subtly at first and once you get into making excuses and start believing that the problems are your own fault, the pattern gets locked in. If it escalates, then you are terrified to do anything different. The abuser has you right where he wants you. It is all about power and control.

1:4 #8, The Artist

DV#8 artist1

Please share what happened to you:

Well, I guess it started somewhat in childhood. I was a Daddy’s girl and my mother preferred my brother to me. My father died the week after I turned 14 on his own 58th birthday. My mother told me his death was my fault (I’d had the flu, Daddy got it, it turned to pneumonia which added to his issues with congestive heart failure).
At the time I didn’t know my mother suffered severe depression and she was taking it out on me. My only thought was to get away from her as soon as possible.
At 22 I married Mr. Wrong, a man nearly 10 years my senior who was jealous of all my friends and even my family. I was naive and thought it was “cute” that he “loved” me so much to be jealous.
I honored that marriage for nearly 11 years. 11 years of being forced to take jobs that no men worked, jobs that paid next to nothing and hide a recording device so in the event a man did come near me I had to record his every word. I was brainwashed. Convinced that I was lucky that he loved me, only HE would have me…. ALL men were like him. I was convinced I was so horrid that even the devil wouldn’t have me… I was truly lucky that mr. wrong would stoop so low as to keep me around.
He was convinced I was cheating on him (I’m sure he was the one doing the cheating). He would time how long it “should” take me to get from work home and if I was more than 1 minute late I would get a beating. Or he would sit and watch my workplace from the parking lot till someone noticed and I got fired. It was hard to get a job with a work history like this, much less trying to explain why I couldn’t keep a job.
He would beat me if he had a dream and it woke him up… he’d wake me to fight, then beat me if I “argued” (I called it defending myself, he called it lying). He broke my nose and choked me so severely my eyeballs bulged out of my head, he nearly killed me twice.
In 1997 I’d had a belly full. He was slamming my head on a concrete block wall so hard I nearly blacked out. I hit him so hard he spun on his heels and pass out on the floor. That was my wake up call. After he came toand he took off to his mother’s, I called a friend to come get me. I spent the next few months in hiding… got a good job in a plant ­ behind locked doors where I thought I’d be safe. He found me. He got into the plant, but was chased out before he found me inside by some muscle that worked the same shift as me who didn’t care for wife beaters.
This was the plant I met the wonderful man I’m married to now.

 

DV#8 artist 4

How are you doing now?

I’m doing better. I no longer have the night terrors. It took years to stop having them or not jump at every noise or have the fight or flight feeling every time I smelled the same fragrance he wore.
I married a man I met at that plant I went to seeking refuge. He was my boss, and put up with my man hating moods. I did everything I could to get rid of him, but he was persistent and saw something in me, we now have two beautiful children together. I’m able to express who “I” am now, be me…. not pretend, not worry if I’ll say the wrong thing or worry that he’ll be jealous because someone spoke to me or shook my hand or hugged me. I have a marriage full of TRUST and LOVE. I’m Blessed and so very thankful.
I have forgiven Mr. Wrong. I am sad he’s alone. I’m still close to my nephew, niece and sister in law and oddly enough… his brother. You don’t stop loving a family just because of a divorce, but not everyone has this type of situation. Had his brothers known, I believe things would have been different (at least that’s what his brother has told me). I don’t care if Mr. Wrong knows where or what I’m doing, I live states away and I’m no longer in hiding. I’m no longer afraid of him and I think that once I stood up and decided that, I was no longer as attractive as a victim to him.
Abusers don’t like strong people.

DV#8 artist3

Is there anything  about domestic violence you’d like to tell the world?

Be strong, you are NOT alone. An abuser will try their best to make you feel like you are. This is how they maintain their control. Had I not run, I could very well ended up dead in one of his blind rages. Regardless of what they tell you, THAT is not love. Love does not hurt, Love builds up.

There is help out there, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to seek it out. I left with my purse and the clothes on my back, literally… I started over from the ground up, from NOTHING. I should have been smarter and planned better, but the opportunity to leave presented itself and I had to move fast and right then. It was the action that saved me. I’m very happy now. I don’t want to even think of what my life would be like if I’d stayed… I may not have even been alive now.

DV#8 artist2