"The day I decided to break the cycle of abuse was like any other late fall day. It was sunny with a little chill in the air, vibrant leaves everywhere. People were getting excited about Halloween and college football. That day I woke up and decided to break this cycle of abuse, I took a deep breath of that chilly air and told myself, "I want to live."
I wish I could say my childhood was unlike many others but I fear I'm not alone in my experiences. My mother fought many demons and battled substance abuse while my siblings and I grew up. Her battle with these vices resulted in varying levels of verbal, physical and emotional abuse thrown upon us. I can't say that I only have bad memories growing up, but those horrible memories definitely overshadow so many good times. Luckily my anchor and life-long survival partner happened to be my identical twin. I know that without her hand to hold during those screaming fits of rage that occurred in our presence, neither of us would have survived. Our souls wouldn't be as kind or as giving as they are. Regardless, my twin and I would still end up holding each other's hands as we closed our eyes to go to sleep.
A bright and wise woman told me recently that our past experiences create a paradigm or pattern for our future. I know now that this statement holds a lot of truth. My mom laid the foundation for the acceptance of the future abuse I would withstand in a past relationship. Domestic violence is a sneaky thing. When an abuser infiltrates your life, he or she does it so slowly that you may not notice the abusive behaviors at first.
My experiences began very shortly into my new relationship with this man. It began with a string of emails asking me why I needed to make a trip to volunteer for an event I had previously signed up to attend. I thought it was odd that he questioned my desire to follow through with a commitment I made to volunteer for this event, but I engaged in the multiple emailed discussions and defended my case. This was just the beginning of his desire to question my choices and control many aspects of my life.
We went through what I considered were typical relationship ups and downs, but now I see them as toxic and controlling. I was diagnosed with cancer after we began dating, and the majority of that period of life was focused on battling it. Many people rallied with and around me, including my past partner. That's another thing about domestic abuse--I can't say that he was a monster of the worst kind. He truly cared when he wanted to care. He took care of my daughter and I so many times I can't even count. When he loved me and us, he truly loved us with all of his heart. But the anger and rage that was present during his unpredictable times overshadowed the multitude of good times.
I completed my battle with cancer, but this was the beginning of the worst times of my life. There were numerous fights that were very physical and mental in nature. I would try to speak up and stand up for myself but I learned quickly I was only going to get more of his rage. It didn't stop me from sticking up for myself, though. People often ask why a woman doesn't just leave when she's being abused. Some people even say, "I wouldn't let him do that to me." And that's what I said, too, at first. I fought back. I tried to stand up for myself. I could only fight back as hard as I was physically strong, but his strength and rage were stronger than me.
During one bad physical altercation, a light bulb finally turned on in my head - enough is enough. I needn't go into detail, but it was a scary moment in my life. Shortly thereafter I was mentally planning my escape.
As strong of a person as I consider myself to be, I’m sad to say that my spirit was broken. I truly believed and would tell myself that this is what my life needed to be. I didn’t see another version of a future for me. My childhood -my mother- taught me that violence, uncertainty and fear were a “normal” part of a relationship and that love could coincide with pain and hurt. I fought that paradigm without much strength because I wasn’t taught to thrive. I was only taught to survive my surroundings.
I survived my final, worst moment in my abusive relationship one night after an argument about money quickly escalated into physical altercation and me thinking that I can't do this anymore. This has to be a new beginning for me and my daughter. My daughter and I left in less than two minutes after that final, scarring incident, with just our essential items. By this point in our lives, we were good at packing essentials and escaping. This was the end....or should I say the new beginning.
Since that final event, I have spent time rebuilding myself. I have learned to stand on my feet and make the decisions I know I can make for myself and my daughter. My best friends and especially my twin sister helped me stand when I thought I couldn’t. My daughter reminded me that I was a strong woman who could take care of the both of us. I finally had a chance to breathe and have peace in my life. And now, as I write this story, I know that real love doesn’t hurt. Real love does not allow space for intimidation, controlling behaviors, or fear. Real love includes respect for another. Real love shows that everyone is important. When someone loves you, that person wants you to feel safe and not scared. A person who loves you should be the first person who will shelter you from harm instead of surrounding you with chaos.
My hope is that I can show my daughter that she will always deserve real love. I also pray that I can be an example of hope for another person who may be in a similar situation. No person should ever feel scared in the midst of the person who is supposed to love them the most. Everyone deserves respect. I told myself this phrase so many times while in my past relationship but it wasn't until that catapulting moment when I knew I deserved to always feel safe.
My advice to others who may be in a similar situation is to remember that everyone deserves love and respect even if you don't believe that applies to you. Your life is important to many people on this earth. When you feel completely alone, my hope is that the murkiness subsides and you can find clarity and peace with the help of the people who love you the most.
I found myself steering away from people who told me to leave or who had strong opinions about my relationship. All I needed was to know that my best friends would be there to listen when I needed to talk and to help if I needed help immediately. Be that person for your friend. It could save his or her life someday. Each day I feel stronger and know my purpose in life-- to help others know that they deserve love and respect always. My spirit is no longer broken nor do I feel weak. I know now that I can thrive in this life I have been given. Every morning I wake up knowing I am living peacefully with love in my heart and life. I will live.”
This story was prepared, written and submitted solely by Jennifer in her personal capacity. The content and opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of 7 Billion Ones, Randy Bacon Photography and/or any members or associates of these organizations.