One in three women are victims of domestic violence and every year around 4,000 women die from it. Abuse comes in different forms; physical, mental, verbal, emotional, sexual and economic. Many times abusive relationships start with emotional, mental and/or verbal abuse because they are easier to cover up. Over time though, in many cases the abuse escalates and eventually reaches the point of being physical. The question on why woman stay is a sensitive one and most will never understand unless they are put in that type of situation. It’s scary and in most cases getting out of the relationship and being on their own is scarier than the abuse they are facing at home.
I was recently befriended by a wonderful and strong women. In talking with her it came out that I had been married and went through a rough divorce. As she apologized to me for having to go through that I quickly stopped her to explain it was a good thing and there was no need to apologize. Divorce is sad, I don’t deny that and I don’t wish it upon anyone. But in my case, it was liberating. As I explained to her, my marriage was an abusive one.
Shortly after that conversation I received a message from her thanking me for sharing my story. You see, we not only have mutual friends, are both moms and share a love for running but she herself has been in the same situation with her marriage. Hearing my story and how much better things were for me and my daughter after leaving empowered her to be able to finally stand up for herself and her beautiful children. Reading this made me so grateful that I had shared my story and even happier that she had made the decision to stand up for herself and her kids. It also made me think; if sharing my story privately with one person can help her, than imagine what could happen if I shared it with thousands!
To me it’s not about receiving sympathy. To me, if this story reaches just one more woman out there questioning what to do and whether or not she should stay, then sharing this is worth it.
At 18 I thought I could conquer the world. I was a strong and independent woman and I was ready to break free from the chains of adolescence. I was so ready to grow up that 2 weeks after I graduated high school I packed up and moved out into the great big world. I had met the “man of my dreams” and everything was “perfect”.
The reality is that at 18 I was more insecure than I’d ever been before. I had no idea what I wanted and over the next 7 years I would find out that the “man of my dreams” was actually my worst nightmare. Looking back on it, the warning signs were written all over the walls in bold letters, as they usually are in abusive relationships. But as the old saying goes “Love is blind”.
The control and manipulation started out small and progressively got worse, but as it did I grew blinder to it. By the time I realized what I had lost over the years it felt too late. I was so ashamed that this is what my life had come to, everything I thought I once had was gone. My life was sheltered, lonely and incredibly unstable. I had been forced away from my career, forced to end relationships with family and friends, and even lost the privilege of being able to leave home some days. I had lost track of the last time I had been truly happy with where I stood. And worse than anything I was scared out of my mind every day.
No woman deserves to feel or be physically beaten to the ground. No one asks to be treated or trapped in a relationship they feel they can’t get out of. No one thinks that it can happen to them, I certainly didn’t, but it does and it did. It was slow and disguised but it happened. After months of telling myself that if ‘X’ happened one more time I was done and ignoring it, I finally woke up one day and realized it was time. Everything I had ignored for the past 7 years was all right there in front of me. What was I doing? Why was I allowing this to be my life? I deserved and could have so much more. And more importantly, the 12 month old that was quietly sleeping across the hall deserved that even more.
I made the extremely scary decision to end my marriage, to save myself and my daughter. I will be completely honest it wasn’t and at times still isn’t easy. But much like conquering that 1 mile, 10k or full marathon; where there is a will there is a way. It’s a roller coaster ride of emotions. It’s liberating but scary as all heck at the same time. But you CAN do it. My new favorite mantra to myself is “she believed she could so she did.” It applies to everything we face as women in this world; raising a family (with a partner or on your own), building or maintaining a career, running….you name it. So lace up those sneakers because one stride at a time, at your own pace you will cross that finish line to a new you and a life of true love, strength and happiness. Then you can look back and say “I believed I could and I DID!”