My name is Tracie. I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an employee, and a survivor. I endured emotional and physical violence by the hands of my ex-husband. I’m going to begin by telling you my story.
I was married to my ex-husband for 4 years. Within a few months of us being married, he became physically abusive. I remember the first time he ever hit me, we were arguing and he back-handed me straight across the face as I got out of the bathtub and was wrapping myself up in a towel. He slapped me so hard, I hit the ground. He was immediately apologetic, telling me he loved me, he’d never do it again and that if I hadn’t made him so angry, he wouldn’t have had to do it in the first place. To this day, I don’t remember what the argument was about, all I can remember is that I wanted some peace and quiet and to stop arguing, so I went to take a bath, but he followed me into the bathroom and continued to yell and argue with me while I was trying to relax in the bathtub.
I knew at that very moment that the violence wouldn’t stop there. You see, he had been arrested on average twice a year while he was married to his first wife for 10 years. I knew about his history, but chose to dismiss it when he told me he loved me, that he had changed and that all of those arrests were his ex-wife’s fault.
The beatings became more frequent as time went by. He would get angry over the smallest things…If dinner wasn’t cooked the way he wanted it, if his pants weren’t ironed just right, if I took too long grocery shopping, if I didn’t want to have sex at the very moment he did. It got to the point that we couldn’t even go out and socialize with friends and family, because he was so jealous and would always abuse me when we would get home. He would hit me across the face, punch me, choke me, literally pick me up and throw me across the room like a rag doll, shove me into things, even physically kick me out of the bed when I wouldn’t have sex with him after he had come home in the middle of the night drunk and high and beaten me. He even raped me. He had no limits, and he was proud of that.
One night, he got drunk, we had family over earlier that day and he had been drinking all night. He was insistent on having sex and I was trying to clean the kitchen…he pulled me into the bedroom and started hitting me, I tried to run to the living room to get away and he started picking me up and throwing me across the house. So, I ran back to the bedroom to try and get some clothes on and he took my dresser drawers out of my hands and threw it across the room, then he tried to kill me, and almost did…he threw me on the bed and began choking me, he choked me so bad I blacked out and it ruptured the blood vessels in my eyes. As soon as I came to, I ran straight to the neighbors, no clothes on whatsoever, and had them call for help. He was arrested that night, although I begged and pleaded for the officers not to arrest him, they did anyway and I bonded him out of jail the very next morning. I was out of work for a week because of the damage to my face and neck. After that night, he promised to attend counseling and never lay a hand on me again, we made an agreement that if he did, I was pressing charges and leaving him.
Unfortunately, neither one of us held up to the agreement, within 2 weeks, he was hitting me on a regular basis again. One night while he was beating me, I decided I had enough, I ran to my dresser drawer where I kept a handgun for my protection, only to find it in pieces and him laughing at me, he knew I would resort to that for my protection, so he had already disassembled it. That’s when I knew that I needed to figure out a way to leave because he was going to kill me one day, if I didn’t. I did finally press charges and leave him one night, after he had beaten me for the last time and fractured my wrist and I didn’t look back. He was prosecuted for felony strangulation, violating a protective order, misdemeanor family assault and federal gun charges. He is currently incarcerated in a Texas prison.
Domestic Violence goes beyond physical abuse. It is mental abuse as well. I can remember him yelling at me, telling me I was nothing, I was worthless, I was stupid…you name it; he would say anything he possibly could to break me down. He would tell me that I couldn’t leave him because nobody else would want me or that if I did leave, he would hunt me and my family down and kill us. He would even go as far as to empty the bank account so I couldn’t leave him, so that I was completely dependent on him. This type of abuse has a dramatic effect in your daily life. You feel worthless, depressed and broken down, you withdraw from your loved ones; don’t perform to your fullest potential at work and in most cases end up sick more often than usual.
What the majority of the population doesn’t understand is how difficult it is to leave an abusive partner and to prosecute them. 1 in 4 women will be victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives and every 9 seconds in the United States a woman is beaten by her partner. Every 9 seconds! That’s a lot of women that have been abused, just since I began this story! Every day in the United States, more than 3 women are murdered by an abusive husband or partner. The problem is that it is difficult to leave an abusive relationship, so it goes unreported in most cases until somebody else is forced to step in, until someone is seriously injured or until someone is killed. The average response time for a 911 call is 10 minutes, I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, that was just enough time for my ex-husband to finish me off. It’s not law enforcement’s fault that the response time takes that long, its just the simple cold hard truth. For anyone in that situation, that’s a scary thought…so leave an abusive partner the first chance you get, the first time he hits you!
There are many resources available for domestic violence victims nowadays, there is help out there for them, they just usually don’t know about it. Just in my area alone, there are many aids and avenues available to crime victims. Both the sheriff’s office and police department have crime victim liaisons as well as the prosecutor’s office. There are many counseling centers available at no cost and you may also ask for financial assistance to relocate or get back on your feet.
What many victims don’t realize is that it is their decision to leave, their decision to start fresh and their decision to prosecute. That being said, it requires effort on their part. You can’t just leave and put it all in the hands of a victim liaison, a police officer, an investigator, a prosecuting attorney or even a family member. You have to follow it through to the end. Just like any other life altering decision, it requires effort and participation. You wouldn’t expect to get a college degree without attending college, so don’t expect law enforcement to repair the months or years of damage from the relationship that you chose to stay in. Time and time again, women have their husbands arrested and start the prosecuting process with every intention of following it through, but it is rare that they do. It is because of this, that law enforcement may not take it as seriously as you would like. It’s because of this that men are still out there beating women, I know, I was one of those women at one time. As a victim that is looking for justice, you have to fully cooperate with the justice system. It is set up to protect victims. But you have to help yourself as well. The only way to stop domestic violence is to stand up to it! Leave your husband, press charges, follow up with the investigators, with the prosecuting attorney, make your presence known, show up at every court hearing, arraignment and sentencing, follow up with the parole board. Take a stand! If they are behind bars, they know someone got tired of the abuse, maybe they will think twice before doing again!
I will admit, it is stressful, standing up to anyone who has hurt you. I attended hearing after hearing for all of my ex-husband’s charges. I even had his attorney in my face on the witness stand a few times. It seemed like it was never going to end, they would just keep getting reset to another date for this or that…one time I left the court house, got in my truck and just bawled my eyes out, instead of going back to work like I should have, I went to spend the day with my dad. I felt like I couldn’t take any more resets, I just wanted it to be over with….and then it happened, a few court dates later, we didn’t even have to go to trial, he pled guilty to everything. After he pled guilty, I exercised my right to stand up there in that courtroom and give what is called a Victim Impact Statement; it is a statement, off the record, to the court and the offender of how the crime impacted mine and my family’s life. It was the first time I had ever got to stand up to him and tell him how much turmoil he put me and my family through and how I have learned from the situation. I would go through every single court hearing all over again to have that moment…it was justice in and of itself. I was finally free, free to be me, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a sister, an employee and no longer the abused!
The only way to stop domestic violence is to stand up to it. If you see the signs in a loved one, offer help, let them know that whenever they decide to do something about it, you’re there for them. Contact your local law enforcement, counseling agency, hospital….they all know the resources to help you or a loved one get out of an abusive relationship. But don’t stop there; use your knowledge to help others who are going through it. Remember that it takes time and be patient.
Look for these warning signs and offer help:
Constantly putting their partner down
Checking on their partner’s every move
Isolating their partner from family and friends
Rarely attending social gatherings
The abused partner calling in sick to work to avoid showing signs of abuse
Withholding money or hiding money from their partner
Preventing their partner from reaching their goals (job, school)
Not allowing their partner to make any decisions on her own
Drug and alcohol abuse
If you see any of these signs in any loved one or family friend, please offer help, it may be the one thing that they need to hear in order to take a stand, stop the abuse and leave!
Now, it is time to give credit where credit is due. My family, friends, co-workers and bosses were absolutely wonderful through everything for me. If anybody deserves applause, they do. They stuck by me, when it was easier to walk away; they were there for me to lend a shoulder and helped me get out of the abusive relationship. Especially my family, just knowing I had somewhere to go when I finally decided to get out and knowing they would be there for me through every step of it all was an amazing feeling and a true blessing. My sister, in particular, although she may live miles away, has been a rock! She was in an abusive relationship at the very same time I was, and we both left those men almost simultaneously, so we completely understood what we were both going through when we went through it. We no longer talk about the details of our tortuous past, we just tell each other we love each other and we are thankful to be out of that and close again. We understand each other and how precious our lives are. She is an amazing woman and I can only hope that someday, she too will be on a stage with me advocating for domestic violence victims.
And to end my story on a happy note…Since I left my ex-husband and followed through with prosecuting him, I have found myself again. I have figured out what it’s like to think and act for myself again without worrying about any repercussions. I’m able to enjoy time with family and friends and socialize. I believe that everything happens for a reason and always have. That being said, I went through that abuse for a reason, and my belief is that I went through it so that I may be able to reach out and help others who have been abused or are being abused. I am a stronger person today, because I stood up for myself. We all have a past, and some of us have worse than others, but it is ultimately up to us to determine our futures…make yours a happy one, I know I am.
“My eternal optimism”
Firstly I wanted to say all of the stories posted here have moved me greatly and I feel this website is doing such a wonderful job in bringing these issues out of the shadows.
I grew up in an abusive and dysfunctional household and, by virtue of that, I didn’t know what a healthy relationship looked like. I moved out when I was 17 and wanted to start fresh. I thought that I had finally escaped my abusive past and fallen in love with my Prince Charming.
The first two years everything seemed good. It appeared to me that I was living in a bubble of happiness and I genuinely thought this person was my best friend. Looking back on it I can see that there may have been signs as there were a few instances where he was short tempered with other people. But I shook those off because I loved this person completely.
My bubble burst about two years into the relationship when his violence surfaced. I remember it began slowly where during an argument he would hold me down or pinch me surreptitiously in public if I said something that upset him. This made me feel like it was my fault, even though I know it’s not true. Then one time he threw me off of our bed and began to kick and hit me. I was in total shock. There was no apology. There was no recognition of what had just happened. We both just walked around as though it had never happened. I mentally blocked it out as best I could because this was the man that I had broken my virginity to, this was the man that I loved, the man who I thought loved me.
Similar incidents began to occur with greater frequency. I remember he launched at me and smacked my head into a cupboard when I was arguing with him about watching pornographic material. I believe this caused me concussion because I was in a lot of pain and very dazed and confused and all I wanted to do was sleep. He was very clinical about it and said that I couldn’t sleep because if people have concussions then they can die so he kept me awake for half an hour. It has always puzzled me why he did that. Was he afraid I would die and then he would be charged with my murder? It seems like a very strange thing to be so concerned about after having done the act itself.
Another time I was having a huge panic attack and shaking all over and he began to punch me so that I would stop. He punched my stomach repeatedly. I said to him I felt like I was dying and I just remember him saying, “you’re not dying” and punching me as though in his mind he was just trying to make me see reason. I felt like I was the person in the wrong and that he was just doing the right thing by calming me out of my panic attack. It’s strange how we can be made to feel that things are our fault.
Another time he flipped me over on the bed and began sinking his nails into my neck and as I struggled to get up he pushed me back down. I remember wondering whether my neck would snap; whether it was a reasonable or unreasonable fear I don’t know. I just remember feeling very afraid.
I recall countless incidents after that of being thrown across the room, attempted strangulation, bloody nose, bloody lip, bruises, scratches, being thrown out of my chair and being denied the ability to contact a therapist. I can see now why he didn’t want me to speak to a therapist because he was worried perhaps that I would report him. It seems the more depressed I became the more the violence continued, he even ripped a number of special items of clothing and one necklace while it was on my neck which he had given to me.
One of the final counts of violence was when I was at his house. I was surfing the net and I think I must have had a cup-of-soup in one hand. I had brought up the number for a psychologist. He came behind me to see what I was looking at and seeing this he flipped me from my chair and the soup fell all over me and scalded me. He didn’t say sorry and he didn’t help me clean myself up. At times I asked him why he did these things and he said that it was because I made him do it.
I found the entire experience incredibly dehumanising. Perhaps the greatest blessing in disguise was that he ended up ditching me for another woman (I sincerely hope he never hurt her). However, I was finally free as I don’t think I would have known how to free myself. I was that deeply entrenched in that world. My whole reality was altered. I suffered with deep, deep PTSD after the relationship broke down and was even hospitalised with severe symptoms.
Since then I have rebuilt my life and I am proud of how far I have come and what I have achieved. I am writing a law honors thesis on a legal issue to do with domestic violence. I intend for the exercise to be healing and to propel me in my journey, which I hope will ultimately be one that helps other survivors.
Despite the fact that I hear so many tragic stories, I do still believe in love. I believe that love can conquer all burdens and wounds. However, I now know what healthy love looks like. I am an eternal optimist.
When I was very young, my mom and dad got divorced. I was about five when my stepfather came into my life, so I had always thought of him as being my father. He had always been emotionally abusive, but it had taken me a long time to realize that. He would become angry at me and my sisters very easily for silly reasons; I remember being scared to come back home after our scarce visits with my real dad. He claimed that he would get jealous of my dad; we were often manipulated into feeling sorry for my stepfather because he would constantly remind us of how much he was doing for us although he did not have to and we were accused of being unappreciative. Throughout most of my childhood, my mom developed a terminal illness that worsened over the course of a decade, which created tension in our small and isolated family. It might have been my mom’s sickness that caused him to distance himself from her, but it was not until I was about to start my senior year of high school that he revealed his attraction toward me.
I lost my virginity to a boy from my high school; when my stepfather found out he was furious. He completely ignored my existence for a few months; I would sit in my closet with the lights off and cry. Finally, he decided to talk to me. He sat me in his office and told me that the reason he had been so mad at me was because he was madly in love with me. He described to me how he wanted to sit me on his desk and take advantage of me and that when I went to college, no guy would ever love me; I would come crawling back into his arms and he would marry me. I was disgusted, but he asked me if that was weird and I said no. I didn’t know how to react and thought it would be best if I pretended nothing had happened. Later, he said that he made up the story to make me hate him and I believed him because he had a habit of playing mind games.
I used to sleep in my mom and stepdad’s bed all the time. I thought nothing of it because I did not think of it as being sexual in nature, although as I got older I felt I was too old to be sleeping between my parents. I kept sleeping there, however, because if I indicated that I was uncomfortable, my stepdad would get angry. I don’t know how long it had been going on for, but my stepdad would touch my side right next to my chest. It was close enough to my breasts that I felt very uncomfortable, but far enough that I couldn’t tell if he was actually touching me inappropriately. I used to have stomach pains often as well, and he would frequently offer to give me stomach massages, but his hands would go further down than I was comfortable with, the tips of his fingers touching the area at the top of my low cut underwear. Although it felt awkward, I kept telling myself that my stepfather could never do such a thing to me and that I was imagining it all because I had a perverted mind. This happened frequently; I remember when he pulled me close to him as I was in the bed beside him, I would put my arm in front of my chest so that it wouldn’t come in contact with him. He would tell me to move my arm and I refused saying I didn’t know where else to put it.
One night, as I lay in bed between my sleeping mom and stepdad, his hands moved from the side of my chest to the front and he started fondling my breasts. He may have thought I was sleeping, but I wasn’t. I was trying to convince myself that this wasn’t really happening; I was having a bad dream. He moved his hands down and below my panties and started to finger me vigorously. I tried to build up the courage to turn around and tell him to stop, but I couldn’t. I was terrified and felt guilty because it felt good. After he was finished, he got up and left. I waited for him to leave before I went to the bathroom and cried. I didn’t talk to him for awhile and he realized I was upset. He asked me what was wrong and I told him that he should know. At first he said he was sorry and told me not to tell my sisters, but then told me that I wasn’t so innocent myself either as if I wanted it.
I can’t remember whether this happened before or after the molestation, but once I was taking a shower in a hotel room. I reached for the shampoo and thought I saw something weird on the floor. I turned around again to look. It was a phone; after I looked to see what it was, it was quickly removed from under the door. He had been watching me shower. After I finished, he was no longer in the hotel room. His phone was on the bed, so I searched it to see if I had been recorded, but I didn’t find anything.
These incidents were isolated and didn’t happen again, although he did continue to admit his love for me. I never got a chance to tell my mom because she died before I went to college. My stepfather has helped me to pay for my college, so I can’t tell my other family members without them confronting him. I only contact him via email when I need something, but have separated myself in all other respects as much as possible. My other family members know my stepfather is somewhat emotionally abusive, but they think that I should be the bigger person and develop a better relationship with him. They probably think I am ungrateful because he has helped me financially and I refuse to talk to him. I wish that I could tell them so that they could understand.
In March of 2010 my ex-husband moved out and filed for divorce. After dancing a jig of glee, I gathered myself and set on my way of reconstructing my life. My kids were devastated to not be living with their dad, but I was excited to be free of his abusive and controlling ways. We had been together for 13 horrible years and I finally felt like I could breathe.
He was, at first, a charmer. He always told me what I thought I wanted to hear. He had an excuse for everything. Even though he was holding me down, I felt like I wanted him to hold me down.
Some times were better than others. We drank. We partied. We were irresponsible. It was great. It was fun. There was never a dull moment. Other times, we fought. We fought a lot. We would get drunk and sure enough, he would do or say something I deemed unnecessary. He would even flirt with my friends or even strangers. He would call someone a name. A fight would surely ensue and the fun for the night would be over.
One time, long ago, before children entered our lives, we were at a bar where my friend’s brother worked. I came up behind him to find him arguing with the bouncer. All I heard was the bouncer say “You’re out!” I, being the wonderful girlfriend that I was, defended my man. I quickly stuck up for him and said “Hey! That’s my boyfriend! Don’t talk to him that way!” To which the bouncer sweetly replied, “Well, you’re boyfriend just stole a beer, and he’s out of here.”
We left the bar and walked to his truck. By this time, he was too drunk to drive, so I decided it would be best for me to do the driving. He listened to his rap music at a deafening volume. The more I thought about what had just happened, the more upset I became. Finally, I turned to him and asked “Did you really steal a beer from there?” He smiled a very evil, toothy grin and said “Yes, of course. It was right there and I didn’t think anyone would notice.” He was good and drunk by this time.
I was infuriated and embarrassed. Surely, my friend would hear about how MY boyfriend had been kicked out for stealing. I screamed at him “Are you stupid?! My friend’s brother works there! How dare you embarrass me?” I went on and on for a few minutes like I usually did at that time, being in my early 20’s and not knowing at that time that you don’t argue with a drunk. After hearing enough of my nagging, he had enough. I was staring straight ahead at the road in disbelief that he would steal from a bar and BOOM! The right side of my head felt a giant hammer slam into it. It took me a second to realize it was his fist. He punched me in the side of the head a good three or four times. Since I was driving I just kept my composure, but inside I was in shock. I looked over at him and he was still smiling, as if what he done wasn’t that big of a deal. We went home and went to bed like nothing ever happened.
The next morning, my head pounded from both the barrage of his fist and the over-consumption of alcohol. I woke up to the memory of the night before. The side of my head had a lump and a faint, pinkish bruise. I rolled over to find Prince Charming was gone. I went down stairs to assess the damage. It didn’t look nearly as bad as it felt. I thought to myself, “What in the world am I going to do? I live with this man, this man I love. I can’t tell my parents. They’ll kill him.” As I was in the bathroom looking in the mirror, I heard him come in. I hesitantly went in the living room to see what he was doing. He looked at me, tears in his eyes and went down on his knees. He begged me, pleaded, “Please forgive me. I’ve been crying for two hours about what I did to you last night. I swear I’ll never do it again.” Isn’t that the M.O. for abusers?
I did what many women do. I forgave him. I loved him, even felt a little sorry for him. He saw his Dad do it to his Mom. He wasn’t hugged enough. He struggled in school. I mentally gave him more excuses than he ever gave me.
Over the course of the next 10 years after that incident, there were others. Once, he threw me to the ground, put his knees on my chest and proceeded to give me a sound pounding upon my face so hard I had a fat lip for weeks. It bled on my shirt and stained it so that it never came out. I threw the shirt away like it never happened. Looking back on it, that was how I dealt: like it never happened.
Of course there were apologies, as there always are for abusers. I always forgave him. I wanted the good guy all the time. I only got the good guy sometimes. There were moments; anniversaries, birthdays, etc. where he went above and beyond. He cleaned the entire house spotless, from top to bottom. He covered our bed in rose petals. He bought me nice gifts, like watches and rings. I think that’s how his Dad thought. “If I buy them stuff, it shows I care.” I know it seems obvious, but how our parents behave really affects us and how we treat people. That can be a good thing if we have well-balanced parents. As I’m sure this is obvious to you, the reader, neither of us had great role-models for parents. They didn’t teach us how to respect others and in turn, respect ourselves.
Six months after he filed for divorce, I met a wonderful man. He treated me like I’ve never been treated before. He listened to me, didn’t belittle me and was always patient and kind. My ex and I had agreed we would never introduce the kids to any of our boyfriends or girlfriends without the other’s permission. In accordance to this rule, I called him up on the phone and said, “I met someone I would like the kids to meet.” He was very short and curt in response and said “We’ll talk about it when I get there.” He was already on his way to my house to drop off our son.
When he got there, I was up in my bedroom. He came into the room, shut the door behind him and said, “I’m going to jail for you tonight.” He started punching me in the face harder than I’ve ever been hit in my life. I remember simply thinking, “This really hurts.” I’m surprised I didn’t panic, but I didn’t. I kind of relaxed and let it happen. I must have passed out from either the force of the beating or my brain hit the emergency shut-off switch because it knew I couldn’t handle the trauma. I woke up to him cleaning my face off with a wet washcloth saying, “Oh my god Deidra, I’m so sorry. Please don’t call the cops.” I stood up and said, “Get out, right now. Get out.”
The first person I called was my new boyfriend. I was slurring my words and very dazed. He answered and asked what was wrong. I said, “I’m just so dizzy.” He said, “Why are you dizzy? You don’t sound good. What happened?” I said, through swollen lips, “He beat me up.” I’m sure I was hard to understand. He immediately said, “Call the cops, I’m coming over.” He showed up, as did the police, in less than 5 minutes. The ambulance came and took me away. My kids rode in the ambulance with me. My poor little babies, they weren’t in the room when it happened, but they knew.
While in the hospital, I texted my boss of over 5 years to let him know I was in the hospital, what had just happened and wouldn’t be in to work the next day. He promptly texted back with, “See how you feel in the morning. If you’re not better, I’m gonna need a doctor’s note.” Please keep in mind, I rarely missed a day in over 5 years. I was laid up, beaten, bruised, and violated. All he had to say was, “See how you feel in the morning.” Talk about adding insult to injury. I quit that job less than a week later.
I recovered slowly with the help of my boyfriend and my wonderful kids. The wonderful folks at the victims unit in my local county also helped me out. My ex was arrested and convicted of a class 7 felony, instead of the initial charge of a class 4 because he didn’t break any bones or created any need of stitching. He spent four days in jail. Four days while I spent the next 2 months after the incident sleeping for 16 hours a day and looking like a car crash victim. He lost his job because of the felony.
I have residential custody of the children. It’s almost as if he did a favor for me, in a horrible way. I didn’t have to fight for custody at all. It was obvious to the judge the children are better with me. He sees them every other weekend. It can be emotional and heartbreaking for them, but I hope someday they understand why they didn’t live with him. I encourage them to talk to him often and want them to have a healthy relationship. He has apologized to me and them for his behavior, but there’s nothing he can do to change the past.
A year later I sit here and recall that night. I’m not asking for sympathy or a shoulder to cry on. I simply want people to be aware of the choices they make in their lives. They affect not only us, but our children and the other important people around us. I look at my face in the mirror, I see a strong woman. I am a woman who has overcome many obstacles, and because of those obstacles, I know I can handle any new challenges that come my way. I see the beauty that surrounds me: my kids, my friends, my ever-loving boyfriend. I see me and my life. It is my choice.