As October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I would like to share with you my daughter's story. This was a very difficult time for our family, and I know it is not an easy story to share, but my daughter really loves to write; she's found healing in it as many of us do. She wants to share her story to help other women/girls who are experiencing violence but she has no platform from which to share her story and reach the audiance she wants to reach, so I'm offering my platform to help her share her story in her own words. I know sharing her story is good and healing for her, and we hope it will help someone else as well. Here is my daughter's story in her own words that she very much would like to share with you.
My name is Brittany and I am an Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) survivor. Domestic violence is the most underrated crime reported. One in four women are affected by this violence at the age of eighteen years or older. I was nineteen years old when it happened to me. I remember it vividly. My boyfriend had just broken up with me and my abuser messaged me. He had a way of making himself seem charming and funny. We had talked before but nothing came of it, so I didn't think much when he contacted me. He made me feel better about my boyfriend breaking my heart. Within three months of my ex breaking up with me we were dating. I wish we never had. I was in college, I had a job, I had a car, and I had a roof over my head. All of it was ripped from me. I'll explain.
At the beginning it was great. It felt great, but it didn't last. Have you ever heard the saying, "we accept the love we think we deserve"? I felt broken after my ex broke up with me. It was my first heartbreak. I didn't know how to deal with it, so I went for the first guy that gave me attention.
At work, he didn't want guys touching me. For example, touching my hand to look at the ring on my hand - a present my mom gave me. He didn't want me talking to my guy co-workers. Basically made it physically uncomfortable to work. He would use my religion against me. I am a Christian. He would tell me that God told him I thought of a guy or something of that nature. Like he knew my thoughts because God the Father told him. So I felt compelled to tell him. He would tell me that if he found out the hard way of my thoughts then he would not be happy. I should have stopped there, but I thought I loved him and I was blinded by it so that I didn't see or ignored further signs of control.
He asked me to move in with him in March of 2016. He told me that if I wanted to be in a serious relationship then I would do it. I felt like I had to do it, in the process breaking my family's heart. Especially my mother. I've always been close with my mother. I lied and said I was moving out because of my sister. Really I did it because I felt I had to. I had no choice. My first mistake of many. Once I moved in, it was great at first. Let me paint this picture. Him and me, his brother, sister-in-law, their two boys, his grandmother, and both his parents living in one roof. There was never a moment of silence. Not even with the door closed. Someone was opening it 24/7. It drove me crazy.
I went from a girl I was proud of, to a girl that cursed a lot, felt insecure, isolated, and alone. If this is you or was you please know you are not alone. Remember that job, car, college, and roof over my head I mentioned earlier? The job let me go because I was then unreliable (he didn't like me working), the car was repossessed because he refused to let me work, college was gone because he didn't want me to go to class anymore, and the roof over my head was ripped from me because he wanted me to move into his hell of a home. I didn't think of it as hell at first. After the first few months, that was when it began to click in for me. That was the first real time I thought, "this is not how I should be treated." But I thought it was too late to stand up for myself. I was wrong. It is never too late. Before this I had prayed that God allow me to be able to stand up for myself and not let people run all over me, but that was exactly what I was doing. I was letting him treat me horrible. He called me every name in the book: a bitch, whore, immature, childish, and I believed him after being called it so many times. Then he would say he loved me, like it would soften the blow. Like I wouldn't mind the insult.
Later, he wanted me to be a "woman", like the term "woman" means something other than having your first period. Like doing what he wanted made me a woman. He wanted me to give him sex when he wanted it, two to three times a day. Watch him play video games. Allow his friends to hang out with us, but I was unable to look at them or speak to them. Take care of HIS dog and HIS grandmother, a woman he cursed on a daily. He wanted me to cook him food and clean HIS room. Anytime I refused, I wasn't woman enough for him. He cheated on me for the first time with his brother's wife, a woman the same age as my mother, twenty years older than me. He told me I was a woman because I said I forgave him. I didn't really. I used to bring it up in fights. He used to think my forgiveness helped him. Forgiveness is for you and you alone. Anger and rage only hurts you, not your abuser. I didn't see any of these things as abuse. Not even when he hit me and gave me a black eye.
He isolated me from my family, making them think I hated them and he made me believe that they hated me. He wanted me to put nice things about him on social media, but how could I put anything nice about him when I didn't believe it. I was scared of him. It was like walking on eggshells. I did what he wanted for my own safety. I tried to avoid making him angry. I kept everything he did to me bottled up, unable to tell a soul.
I finally was able to speak to my mother again. I met her at the park but I couldn't be alone. He had to be with me along with a hoard of his friends and his sister and her husband. He told me I could talk to my mother as long as I didn't walk too far away from him. I was fine with that until I realized how impossible it was. The only problem? I forgot to put on makeup, so my mother could clearly see the bruise mark on my eye where he had hit me. I tried to give her a lame excuse like I hit my eye on the door in the middle of the night. I thought she bought it, later on she admitted to me she knew I was lying. I was never a good liar. I was clumsy but never that clumsy. It was a bad lie. She knew he was hitting me but felt it wouldn't do any good to talk me into leaving him. By the time we were done talking, my boyfriend told me that I promised not to walk away from their group and I had. I just looked at mom and said, "He's going to make me hear it tonight." She said I shouldn't have to live like that but I was too scared to listen. Right then I wanted to leave. Every day I wanted to. I never had the courage to just walk out and do it.
The control he had over me was strong. He yelled at me based off his own insecurities. He cheated on me more and more with the same sister in law. He made plenty of comments about other girls but it was forbidden for me to make a comment about a guy. I couldn't read books with guys in it, I couldn't watch movies with cute guys, and I couldn't do my passion in writing with guys names in it - it meant "I was thinking about guys based off a name." He was that insecure. I was in hell. He would make me put my hand on the bible and swear I would not think a guy was cute. How am I supposed to not think a cute guy is cute? So I started to lie? Did you look at that guy? No. Did you think that guy was cute? No. I became good at the lie until one day I slipped up and said yes. He yelled at me for an hour.
I finally got so fed up with him I realized if I left I wouldn't feel anything for him. I realized I only cared for him; I didn't love him. Love and caring were two different things. One thing he told me set me off. The only thing holding me up was the fact I could leave at any second. But when he told me this I broke: "Even if we break up you're still not leaving." Once he said that I felt trapped. I felt like the only way to end it was to kill myself. It felt like the only escape. I put the knife to my skin but I couldn't do it. I wasn't suicidal and I definitely wasn't about to give him the pleasure of taking my life. I put my hope in God and it was Him that I had to hold onto.
Since I felt like I couldn't leave, I messaged my mom and told her everything I kept bottled in. Nine months' worth of stuff I poured out to her. You might think, "why would you tell your mother? Nine months is a long time to hold a grudge." Nine months is a long time to be dating a monster too. That's what he was to me. So, yes, I told my mom everything I kept bottled up. I couldn't tell my only friend, his sister, she would just tell him what I said. I told her he beat on me, I told her I was afraid of him, I told her how I wanted out. He was talking about marriage and wanting me pregnant. I felt panicked. My mom was going to come get me. This was my chance. I tried to delete the messages as much and as fast as I could, but I wasn't fast enough.
He asked me to give him my phone. When I refused he twisted my arm to get it out of my hand. Then he made the most pitiful look and said, "You're leaving me?" How was I supposed to feel sorry for him? He just hurt me to get something that doesn't belong to him and he wants me to feel bad for him? I had to call my mom not to come get me. I had it in mind that I would just call her back and tell her to come on. It didn't happen. When I called her she said the magic words that snapped me back to reality. "Brittany, he's abusing you." I never thought of it as abuse. Until that moment. I started to cry unstoppably. He shook his head like he could hear her and she was wrong. "He's not going to stop. He will never change. If you don't get out now you never will. You have to put your foot down."
After hearing that, I decided to do just that. It was almost Christmas, and I wanted to see my family so I said the only way we could continue is if I see my parents. He agreed. I was going to see them for Christmas but he refused me. "I want to spend all day with you. I didn't get all day with you last year." What difference does that matter? You see me all day every day? It was a way to control me. Needless to say, that was the worst Christmas I had ever had. I was miserable all day. He kept telling me to hold off a day, hold off a day, hold off a day. I finally had to put my foot down, say I was leaving to see them tomorrow, and there was nothing that was going to change my mind. He finally agreed.
I didn't plan to leave and not come back. It wasn't my plan but when I came back to my childhood home and I walked into my brother's room then my sister's room I couldn't help but cry. This wasn't my life anymore. I wanted more than anything to stay. I talked to my mom and dad about it. About what he does to me. Mom said, "You don't have to go back if you don't want to." I finally said, "I don't want to." I like to say I tricked my way out of his house because in reality I did, but the nightmare wasn't over after that. I was terrified he would come for me.
My mom wanted me to come with her to take my uncle, her brother, back to Nashville, where he lives. To ease my mind, she let me go with her to take my uncle back. That night I couldn't sleep so I messaged my abuser to see if I could get my stuff in a civil manner. The only way I could was to make him believe we could get back together later on. The real plan was 'be civil, get my stuff, and cut all ties.' So I did. Mom wanted to go to McDonalds on the way back home from Nashville. She wanted to get us a Caramel Frappuccino. In the past, I was only able to get kids meals and small drinks and we had to share them. I starved most of the time living with my abuser. So when I asked, "What size can I have?" she said I could have a large. She was surprised when I said, "I can have a large?" I don't think she fully understood the pain I went through. She was starting to see and she wanted to rip him apart for doing this to me. "Get used to getting spoiled again," she told me.
It took time but I got used to getting a large meal again. Within the time I was with my abuser I never gained a pound. There were days when I didn't know if I was going to be able to eat anything. I understood what it meant to be hungry. Since I left, I've gained over thirty pounds, maybe not for the better, but I don't have to worry if I'm going to get my next meal. I have peace. I can sit in a room with utter silence and it's amazing.
The upside was I was safe. I was free from my abuser, but I was still terrified. My parents had to constantly assure me that I was safe. I constantly needed assurance that they forgave me for leaving. I told them everything that happened. I had to assure them that I didn't hate them. I never did. The abuse was over but next I had to deal with the trauma. I dealt with guilt, anxiety, and nightmares. The guilt was hard to get rid of. I had to forgive myself for what I had done to my family. It was not easy but with prayer it was possible. Anxiety came and went. The moment I recognized it as anxiety it left as soon as it came. I asked God to take it from me and he did. I didn't have a big case of it. This may be different for you. Lastly, the nightmares. I would have dreams of being back in my abuser's house and calling my mom begging her to come get me. When I woke up, I was in my bed in my parent's house. I had dreams like this for a while. I prayed for healing and after a while I felt less and less hurt. I wasn't heartbroken because I loved him. I did not. I was hurt that a person that could say the words 'I love you' could do something so horrible to them. Day by day, week by week, month by month it got easier. God was my hope I held onto, and I spent as much with my family as I could.
Something I would say if I could talk to my younger self is, "Don't go there. He is not worth all the pain you are going to feel." Or to myself that is in that situation, "It is never too late to stand up for yourself." I don't mean insults or petty arguments. I mean being smart and knowing when it's time to leave.
I did not report my abuser out of fear. It had nothing to do with shame. I felt shame later. That is where the guilt comes in. If my story can help anyone that's all I can hope for. If you're starting to date someone with the same signs, please dodge the bullet. If you are currently in an abusive relationship, please find any way to get out. Any safe way you can think of. There are plenty. Call a family member. Call the police. If you have nowhere to go, Safe Space can help. I didn't need them because I had a place to go, but they will help you and/or your children if you have them. I found my hope in the Lord, you could find yours in something else, but find something to put your hope in. Trust me that someone does love you and someone does care about you. If they are anything like my mother, she wanted me to make the decision myself to leave. She couldn't force me because there was a chance I could go back. I needed to make the decision myself. Make the decision yourself. No one will know you are being abused until you speak up and ask for help. Please ask for the help. Your man will not change, it is simply something he says to make you believe it so you will stay. Stop falling for it and bite the bullet and get out. I promise it is worth it. I know this is a problem some men face, but this is normally an issue women face.
It was been three years for me since I left my abuser, and I can honestly say it is the best decision I have ever made. I am not the same girl I used to be. I can stand up for myself now and I don't let people walk all over me. I can say no. I am more confident and I don't feel like the same shy girl I used to be. In this department, I changed for the better. I didn't just change but I'm thriving. I have a job I love. I surrounded myself with family and friends that love me. For the first time, I feel happy. I am single but I'm happy with that. I'm not opposed to dating but I'm okay if I don't have a boyfriend. I don't feel like I need a guy to feel complete anymore. All I need is my family. I really hope this helped you. My goal is to change that one in four statistic. I want to save women from ever going through what I went through. If telling my story does that then it would have all been worth it.
If you are experiencing violence the National Abuse Hotline is available 24/7 at 1-800-799-7233 or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
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