The following blog post was written anonymously by a FCS client who was the victim of domestic violence. She bravely shares her experience and story as a way of bringing awareness to domestic violence and helping those in the midst of it find hope and courage for a better future. If you are experiencing domestic violence, we encourage you to contact us. You are not alone and we can help.

Many wonder but very few understand. How do you explain to others that for a length of time you loved someone who was physically hurting you and emotionally crushing your soul?

The answer now comes easily to me; in the midst of actually experiencing it, we have no idea that we are being abused. By the time it escalates, it feels like it’s too late as you have already been brainwashed, trained and manipulated to believe that you are worthless, insignificant and deserve every bit of it.

Welcome to the mind of a thriving survivor. This is my story.

To Hell and Back: A Domestic Violence Survivor’s Story

The beginnings of emotional abuse

I was 16 when I met the man I thought was going to be the love of my life. Inexperienced and naïve, I ended up pregnant at the age of 16. Being raised in a very traditional Hispanic household, we didn’t talk about sex. Because we also held the belief that family was everything, I never witnessed abuse so we never even spoke about it.

I remember going to the first family cookout where he accused me of walking in a “flirty” way in front of the men there. I aspired to be a model since the age of 13 and I would practice runway walking all the time, so it became natural for me. His accusation at the time made me wonder, if indeed I was walking in a provocative way. So I changed it and became more aware of it, just in case! The last thing I wanted was to upset the man I loved. Years later, I came to realize, this was the very first red flag of the beginning of abuse. You see, the early signs aren’t always clear. They are so subtle, you might be well-lived and experienced in relationships and even then, you can still miss them. Let me remind you that IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYONE!

The verbal abuse begins

The verbal abuse didn’t start until we were alone in our first apartment. I was very far along in the pregnancy, so of course I was hormonal and emotional on top of being so young. He began to constantly tell me that I was “good for nothing.”  Hearing this week after week, I eventually began to believe it; and so begins the “training” to try to make yourself better for the other person. After the verbal attacks came the make-up moments, the ones that you begin to almost want and need to feel like this individual actually cares about you. The ones that come with an apology that lets you believe over and over that it won’t happen again because you love them. It’s all part of a relationship, right? I was so wrong.

The physical abuse sets in

And then it happened. At the age of 17 with my first daughter in arms, I experienced the first physical beating of my life. I was left with two black eyes, a busted lip and marks in my back from being whipped with a belt. I was scared, disoriented and in shock.

But still I cared more about him and the consequences he would face, so I didn’t report it. He begged me for forgiveness, cried and promised it would never happen again. I wasn’t on speaking terms with my family because of this relationship so I was completely alone and embarrassed by what had happened. Somehow, he made me believe it was my fault. For years I believed I deserved it.

I would question myself at times…. How could I allow this? Me? That strong willed girl, the life of every party, the go getter, the one winning modeling and dancing competitions, the one that was popular in school and had many friends. What would people think? These are the guilty thoughts and self-doubts that contributed to living in silence. The same that make many other domestic violence victims live in silence too.

Countless attempts at leaving

I attempted to leave after my first daughter was born. This was the first of many, many attempts. Each time he’d show up at my parents’ home begging for forgiveness, crying, bringing flowers and anything to show proof of change. When you love someone, you want to believe and give the benefit of the doubt. Every time I returned, the length of time it took for him to begin the verbal abuse again would decrease.

No one knew

No one ever knew what happened behind closed doors. I always used my jobs as an escape to feel normal; it was the environment where I was truly respected. It wasn’t until I confided in a great co-worker that I began to open my eyes to how bad my situation really was.

Some of the red flags I experienced looking back that were a clear indication of abuse were:

  • I was often kept isolated when he would leave me and take the car keys and our only phone with him
  • I walked on eggshells, learning that if I just obeyed and never spoke back I’d avoid these traumatic fights and protect my children from witnessing more abuse
  • I once fell down the stairs in the middle of the night while preparing a bottle for our son and he woke up bothered over the noise but left me just laying there
  • One particularly bad fight ended with me in a headlock and close to passing out in our youngest daughter’s room next to the crib
  • It was clear to everyone around me that I was being manipulated and controlled. The problem was that I didn’t have a mind of my own at that point with an ability to see it for myself, as this was all I knew!

Additional signs of domestic violence from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

My journey of healing begins

I finally was able to escape the cycle of abuse I was stuck in and saved up enough to get a place of my own and secretly move out. I felt I had finally saved my children from the nightmare we had all been living in for so long.

I was blessed to work with Heather at Family Counseling Service for a few years to help heal the hurt I had been through. My counseling experience at FCS strengthened me and I was able to rediscover my authentic self! This woman who was always inside of me grew courage, ambition and passion to create a different life for herself and her kids!

Was it easy? No, It wasn’t! I have had to endure the sad reality of healing children with trauma and that’s another story to be told. However, as much as we have overcome, we have also received many blessings along the way. Including a beautiful granddaughter, being able to purchase a home of my own 5 years after leaving my abusive marriage, launching two businesses, and eventually winning the title of Ms. Illinois International 2021. All of my dreams that were put to rest while I learned other survival skills have come to life!

I’m writing this blog to deliver one message –  you don’t have to be a victim; you can instead be a thriving survivor of domestic violence!

Everyone deserves a healthy relationship. If you are a victim of domestic violence, we encourage you to contact us. You aren’t alone and we can help.