She excused herself to go outside and breathe before she shared her story. Then she opened up, though it caused her to reflect on the pain from the experience. But she shared because she wants others to know that they too can escape.
My logical brain and my illogical heart both tell me the same thing. I am not ashamed. I am not a survivor. I am not a victim. I am a champion.
Stacy was 15 years old when she met her abuser. When she was 23, Stacy’s mom walked into her bedroom and saw her daughter laying on the floor with her boyfriend straddling her – his hands around her throat. Because of that moment, Stacy was finally able to free herself from eight years of abuse.
Can you tell me about the abuse?
There was not a lot of physical abuse; it was mostly emotional. He did things like – he’d smack the back of my head or on my shoulder with his hand. As I was walking away from him once after a fight, he smacked me with his open hand in the middle of my back. It left a bruise the shape of a hand and I only realized it because my sister saw the bruise.
Why do you feel it took eight years to leave him?
At just 15 years old when we met and with him in college, I felt he was completely in love. He would do whatever he had to do to be with me. That’s how he acted. I was a middle child coming from an abusive household where there was violence. So to hear someone say I was the best thing that ever happened to him, I was immediately drawn into his web. I don’t believe he intended to abuse me in the beginning, but I let him get away with more and more until he just didn’t care.
Are you victim blaming?
Yes. But abusers don’t start out by punching you in the face. It’s an escalation process. That’s why those relationships are so dangerous. They don’t de-escalate, they escalate. If they are physically beating on you regularly, the only way to escalate is to kill you.
And that’s what abusers do. They escalate. If they get arrested and go to jail, you’re kind of in a safety zone. But on the other hand, they’re sitting in jail thinking about who put them there. Abusers will never take responsibility for their actions. It’s something I learned from that relationship. They never ever take responsibility. Never once did he say he was sorry. He never acknowledged what he did. He never would say he was sorry.
What advice do you have for people who find themselves in an escalating relationship?
Talk to people. Talk to your family and friends. An abuser wants to isolate you. You need to talk to people. Preferably file a police report or make the police aware or someone close to you aware so they can tell the police. Because then they know. That way if you ever turn up missing, they will know exactly where to go and who to question.
Talk to people closest to you. Don’t be ashamed. Don’t be ashamed to talk about it. The shame is theirs. It belongs to the abuser, not you. That’s for physical abuse, emotional abuse, and psychological abuse.
Can you share anything else about your experience?
A lot of the abuse occurred during intimacy. I was treated as property and not as a person. He was the only person I had ever been intimate with so I didn’t know. After I dated a couple of nice guys, I realized my treatment at his hands was an extension of his hatred toward women and his need for control.
How did you feel once you were free?
After we broke up, there was a lot of emotional confusion. I thought I loved him, but I also hated him. Some days I was relieved. Some days I felt shame that I let it go on that long. The only reason I left was because my mom witnessed it. I was ashamed about what my mom must have been thinking knowing she didn’t raise her children that way. I thought my mom would have blamed herself to some degree and that made me sad. It’s not rational, but she loved her children so much and was so close to us that all she wanted to do was make our lives good and better. She just wanted for us to be happy. Getting almost choked to death is the opposite of that. With my mom, we thought the cycle was broken but it turns out that kids really do what they see and not what you tell them.
Did you know there are common characteristics of an abuser?
- An abuser often denies the existence or minimizes the seriousness of the violence and its effect on the victim and other family members.
- An abuser objectifies the victim and often sees them as their property or sexual objects.
- An abuser has low self-esteem and feels powerless and ineffective in the world. He or she may appear successful, but internally, they feel inadequate.
- An abuser externalizes the causes of their behavior. They blame their violence on circumstances such as stress, their partner’s behavior, a “bad day,” on alcohol, drugs, or other factors.
- An abuser may be pleasant and charming between periods of violence and is often seen as a “nice person” to others outside the relationship.
For help, visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
UPDATED TO ADD: Local help in Murfreesboro through the Domestic Violence Program.
DV Crisis (615) 896-2012
SA Crisis (615) 494-9262