Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Survivor Story

Telling your story is healing. Thank you Gabrielle for sharing yours.

“I am a survivor of domestic violence. I always follow it up with how lucky I was because I wasn’t in a situation where I was being beat daily, but I’ve realized after (and with therapy) that it was daily in the sense that there was a weight I placed on myself, a fear of what might set him off, thus a restraint that shrouded my life.
 I believe my ex husband to be an undiagnosed bipolar. Months could go by with no manic episode, but they always happened again. It started with verbal abuse, what a lazy ass I was (We were flipping a house while I was pregnant and at 8 months pregnant I didn’t work fast enough for him painting and such), what a fat ass I was and how ugly I was and how no one would want to have sex with me. Then one day it became physical, we were arguing and he stopped our car and pushed me out in the middle of nowhere telling me to get out. I was holding on and still tangled in the seat belt when he began driving, dragging my legs and feet along the rocks. I started screaming bloody murder and he stopped the car and I got and gathered my things from the side where he threw them out the car. He didn’t end up leaving me there, but the ride home nothing was said. This was on my first Mother’s Day, our daughter was in the backseat.
At this point I had no money and I was too ashamed to tell anyone, so I stayed. I was always the strong, independent friend, I didn’t know how to admit that I allowed myself to get into this situation.
 When he came out of the episode he apologized profusely.
Next episode he choked me and broke my ipad. After he apologized but said that I should know he wouldn’t really hurt me, he just wanted me to be quiet. I imagined him over my dead body someday saying that same exact thing to a cop.  I’d like to say I was strong and got out after that, but I relied on him financially, I have no family nearby and I was so ashamed. I stayed another 2 years.
 I bless the day that he actually served me divorce papers, I think I was too afraid to serve him, his family has money and he always said he would destroy me and I always worried he would try to take our daughter out of spite.
 The thing is he kind of did destroy me, but I had begun to build myself back up.  January 2019 (still married) I started working out for me, I lost 35 pounds and was stronger than I ever was. I built up my real estate business and started actually making more than him. By summer 2019 I was becoming me again, apparently my strength was not attractive to him and on September 8, 2019 he served me with those magical divorce papers. Of course at the time I felt destroyed, I cried, mourned for our marriage etc., but that didn’t last.  A few days later I felt I needed a protection order against him when I started having panic attacks because he just thought we’d go on living together and sleeping next to each other through the divorce. My lawyer, family and friends kept saying I needed one too, since I’d now opened up to them, but I hated thinking of myself as a victim.
I got it anyway, because luckily I had been smart enough to document every bruise, everything he broke to a secret email. After awhile I ended up lifting it in lieu of a temporary order where my daughter and I got to stay in the house and he had to go to 20 sessions of anger management and we had to go to 10 sessions of couples therapy to potentially reconcile or at least guide us through a peaceful divorce. He found a therapist he went to and this guy was also a couples therapist.
After the first session the therapist said he wanted one session with me alone so he could get to know me and it would help with the sessions. At the end of that session we were both crying and he told me that he couldn’t break doctor-patient confidentiality unless he believed someone’s life was in danger and that he believed my life was in danger. He said he knew abusers that actually wanted to change and that was not my ex husband. He told me I was lovable and I would find love again, but that I needed to run towards divorce and leave him or he would eventually kill me. That guy changed my life that day. Something about it coming from a third party, especially one who my ex husband told his deepest darkest secrets to…it just opened my eyes and I’ve never looked back.
I started therapy on my own too and worked my way through never receiving a real confession or apology from my ex as he didn’t view it as abuse. During our marriage whenever I had mentioned getting help he had always said “he was self-aware, he knew what he did was wrong, so he didn’t need help. I was the one that needed help because I couldn’t get past it.” (how messed up is that?)
Today I have run a small real estate team with a focus on giving back to the community. I make 200k + a year, I own my home, and I manage to co parent pretty good with him by keeping conversation only about our daughter. Today I feel blessed and fortunate for everything I went through as I don’t think I’d be where I am today and as strong as I am today without having gone through everything I went through.”

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