“Every time you look in the mirror, you will see your scar and remember me.” Those are the last words my Abuser said to me. He was right…my scar is my strength.
Our relationship started out like most…dinners, movies, long drives, gentle hands and kind words. 6 months into our relationship, his words turned ugly. He enjoyed calling me names and humiliating me in public. He preyed on my insecurities and manipulated me into believing I was stupid and unworthy of his love.
I remember the first time he physically hurt me. We were driving in the country. He started to belittle me. His verbal abuse was exhausting and I thought it best to lay my head on his lap and pretend I was asleep. He put his lit cigarette on my neck. I remember lying there, feeling terrified. I was too afraid to confront him. This was the first time he hurt me. The first of many…
Each time he hit me, he cried. He held me. He told me it was the last time. In the beginning, my family tried to emotionally support me but they didn’t understand domestic violence. They didn’t understand why I didn’t “just leave.” After a while, they chose “tough love” and I was alone, alone with my abuser.
I remember the night I thought he would kill me. He accused me of cheating on him and strangled me. I tried to call for help. He grabbed the phone and hit me in the face several times with the receiver. I was covered in blood. I begged him to allow me to go to the hospital. He refused. He was out on bail for previously assaulting me and didn’t want to be arrested on a bail violation. Hours passed…eventually, he allowed me to contact a friend to drive me to the hospital. I kissed him on my way out the door and told him I loved him.
My friend was astonished that I kissed him. She didn’t understand why I loved him. She didn’t understand why I blamed myself for the assault. She didn’t understand domestic violence. My abuser had manipulated my mind into believing that everything he said was the truth. He manipulated me into believing that the abuse was my fault.
Our relationship didn’t end there. He was arrested for domestic violence assault a few more times, and on a few occasions, he spent time in jail. He wrote me letters from jail. My abuser was highly intelligent and had a knack for writing. His letters were poetic and filled with promises of change and a bright future together.
I stayed with my abuser for many different reasons but the number one reason I stayed was Fear. Each time I tried to leave, I feared for my life. My abuser would leave short stories on my door step at night. The stories always had the same theme: a woman being chased and killed by a mad man. I never drove at night and always parked out in the open. I spent many nights awake, worrying that tonight would be “the night.” Living in fear is exhausting and I knew if I went back, I could rest.
Most of my friends were scared of my abuser or tired of the ups and downs of our relationship. I had one friend who changed my life. Her name is Allison. I admired Allison and her friendship gave me the strength to break free. She listened and believed my story. She encouraged me to file domestic assault charges on my abuser and to follow through with those charges. With her encouragement, I reached out to Spruce Run-Womancare Alliance and attended support group. At support group, I met other women who were abused. These women taught me that there are many tactics abusers use to abuse and real love doesn’t instill fear in a person.
I escaped my abuser decades ago but I will never forget how hard it was to leave. “Every time you look in the mirror, you will see your scar and remember me.” Those are the last words my Abuser said to me. He was right…my scar is my strength. It reminds me that I am strong; I am not broken.