5 Things An Abused Woman (This Woman) Wants You To Know


Five –

I’m not weak.

I , legitimately, walk the planet on a daily basis knowing that there is someone out there that wants to physically harm me. I live knowing that, at any minute, Mike could return. And I’m only able to do this because on a hot July afternoon I picked up my broken body from the concrete floor and limped out of the door, without looking backward. Nobody else did that for me. Nobody was there to protect me from the madness, nor did they hold me by the arm while I walked on a strained ankle and battered knee. I was in so much pain that I wanted to crawl. But I didn’t, knowing that if I took even a second longer than necessary he might kill me. Weakness wasn’t an option. Strength is what allowed me to survive. And it kept me alive every day before and every day after.

It wasn’t easy to come home to a house that didn’t have electricity or running water. It was heartbreaking to have my car repossessed two days after I made the decision to leave. Trying to find a job, without a car, was embarrassing and difficult. But I did it. And I lived in a home for the next several months knowing that, at any moment, he could walk back into my life (and my house) because he knew where I was and he knew that my back window was broken out (because he shattered it with his left fist).

Survivors of domestic abuse are strong. We fought our own disease. Don’t ever doubt that. It’s offensive. It’s appalling. It’s also the easiest way to find yourself outside of my circle of friends. I’m not asking you to understand what I’ve been through, but I am asking you to understand that my strength is there.

Four –

Abuse rearranged my beliefs. Yours are only yours. Don’t try to pawn them off on me.

Abuse changes everything. Before my abuse I searched for answers about religion. I wasn’t sure who made decisions or why they were made, but I wanted to find out. I looked for answers in churches and conversations. But when things began to become abusive and I seriously questioned whether or not I’d be given the opportunity to wake up the following morning, I became an evangelical Christian. I PRAYED and pleaded and THANKED god that he was there, looking over me and keeping me alive. I knew that he had a message for me…that I was there for a reason. I stayed, longer than I should have stayed, because my faith in the lord was strong enough that I ‘knew’ I would live.

Yet something changed inside of me during that time and now I say this almost every day: when you are slammed against a concrete wall and thrown down a flight of stairs…when YOU are YOUR ONLY HOPE for survival and no higher being is there to lift you out of an awful situation, your hope lies within your own heart. I knew I had to get out. I knew I was the only one PERSON who could save myself. And I still know that. My savior? Myself. When you tell me that god helped me get out of the situation, and to thank him for that, it takes away from the strength and courage that I had to conjure. No higher power got me out of that house. It was my feet, my heart, and my strength. It was me.

Three –

Dating isn’t the answer.

If dating were the answer, I would’ve started already. Yes, at some point, I have to start seeing other people again, but I deserve to (and will) give myself enough time to feel ready before I allow someone to buy me dinner. I already understand that I won’t ever feel fully ready to date, but respect me enough to let me make the choice for myself. When the day comes that I say, “Okay. I want to try this again,” your help will be appreciated. Until then, questioning my readiness only pushes me further away from the idea. I’m not ready because I don’t trust anyone that I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t trust a lot of people who I do know. I have to retrain my brain. I have to accept myself. I have to feel strong enough that I won’t second guess every move I make. I still do that with friends. How could I ever create a successful relationship from that? I couldn’t. So please stop trying to tell me that I should.

Two –

I won’t get over it…soon.

I can’t get over it because my life has been forever changed. Downplaying the severity isn’t helpful; it’s denial. Acknowledgement and acceptance are necessary.

Some days are easier than others; I know it’s getting better. Yet there are days that I’m crying before I get out of bed. I don’t want to leave my apartment. I’m angry and sad and scared. The world isn’t one that seems to hold opportunity on those days. It’s a place that swallows me whole. On those days I have to remind myself that I was in such a devastatingly bad place a year prior. I have to allow myself to cry in the shower, so that I can keep it together during the work day. I have to be angry on the way to work, and I have to remind myself that I wasn’t allowed to feel anything for two years of my life. I wasn’t allowed to be human, so how can I expect myself to act like I am human?

Every week I feel stronger, even though I’m digging into the issues further and further in therapy. I do feel better…but just because my recovery doesn’t fit your needs doesn’t make my small steps any less significant for me. I am moving forward. If you can’t handle the pace, then just don’t say anything at all.  I will get there. Your doubt and criticism prolong the recovery process.

One –

Never ask me why I stayed.

If an abuser was abusive from day one, there isn’t a woman in the world that would stay. Mike was charming, he was romantic and understanding. He took care of me, complimented me, and made me feel as if I was the only girl who had ever made him feel loved. He listened. Mike helped me heal a wound in my heart from my previous relationship. He was everything that was missing from every relationship I’d ever been in. What 26-year-old girl, looking for love, wouldn’t stay in a relationship like that?

I’d talked up his dedication and love to my friends and family. I’d beamed with pride when I thought about my relationship. We were in love and we were great together, so it wasn’t exactly easy to admit to anyone that things had changed.

When things began to turn, when the verbal manipulation began, I saw this as the man who I loved changing…and I needed to do whatever it took to fix the problem and make things go back to the way they once were. So I devoted my free time to ‘fixing’ the issues because then I wouldn’t have to eat my words. I bent over backwards to make sure he was happy. For awhile, it worked.

But anyone that has ever been in an abusive relationship will tell you that right when you think you’ve ‘fixed’ something, your attempts aren’t good enough anymore. More is expected of you. And, by the time you realize this is the cycle, you’ve already given up so many things in your own life that you feel like you’re trapped. If you try to leave, he’s going to come after you. If you stay, you’ll eventually get to the point where he’s happy. He can’t really expect the world from you…so you just have to reach his expectation.

Why did I stay?

I stayed because I loved him. I stayed because I thought that I could help him. I stayed because I have a heart that works the way a normal heart should work. It’s one that tries to love unconditionally and doesn’t assume others will meet their expectations. It’s one that assumed that a man who treated me so well was only suffering from something else. Maybe if his mother was nicer to him. Maybe if his dad didn’t expect so much of his time at the office. Maybe if his son’s mother wasn’t such a bitch. Maybe if he could find a medication that would actually help with his ADD. Maybe if he hadn’t taken steroids in college. Maybe.

I stayed because I was trying to solve a problem. My heart kept me there for a long time…

…and then he put a gun to my head.

He picked it up off of the top of the refrigerator and cackled his manipulative laugh. He turned around, put his hand on my shoulder, and I could feel the cold metal of the barrel on my temple. He said he loved me so much that he could kill me. He laughed again. And then the gun was placed back on top of the refrigerator, where it hung just out of reach. But it was close enough that he could grab it if he wanted. And it was close enough that I could see it while I was cleaning the kitchen. It was a constant reminder that he could kill me.

And I was never left alone anymore, so I couldn’t escape. I wasn’t allowed to be out of his eyesight. He got me a job at his office so that I could be there with him all day too. I was trapped in his life.

So I stayed because I didn’t want to die. Because somewhere inside of me I knew that if I tried to escape he’d pull down the gun again. And he’d load my head with bullets. But staying meant I’d have a chance at another day.

A list of 1,000 reasons why I stayed wouldn’t ever appease someone who’s never been in my shoes. And that’s fine. But the bottom line is that when you ask me why I stayed, it puts the blame on me. It alleviates Mike of any of the blame. Why did I stay? I stayed for a million reasons. Why don’t you ask why I left? Or why he was abusive? Or if I’m still scared?

Don’t ask me why I stayed. The answer is far too large and confusing. And I’ll never give you the answer that you want me to give, because no answer I give you will make you understand. I know that. And I think deep down you do too. So just let it rest. And let me rest too.

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33 thoughts on “5 Things An Abused Woman (This Woman) Wants You To Know

  1. I read a book about a rape survivor and I came away with a much more vivid understanding of how life-alerting something like that is. I’m not saying your experience was the same as the authors, but I did notice similarities in your post, especially in the strength category.

    I wish you continued strength in your recovery. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Andrew,

      I can see why you would find similarities between the two. Truth be told, abuse comes in many forms. Mine happened to be physical, emotional, sexual, and financial. Each of those lends me another hurdle to leap before my journey to recovery becomes less volatile/more consistent. I write this for anyone who has suffered any type of trauma.

      Thank you for coming by and sending your well wishes. Whatever journey you’re on, I hope that you’re finding your path.

      xoxo,

      Fina

  2. Oh Fina. Thank you. I needed this. I needed to know I wasn’t alone in feeling all these ways. You are amazing. You’re a fighter.. a survivor. You are so strong. Smile pretty girl. And who cares why we stayed? We left didn’t we? We got out. We are alive.

    I connect to this so much. It’s crazy lady! =] xo.

    • I’m always here for you, miss. You’ve been here with me for a long while now. Thank you for always encouraging me to keep writing (and, in turn, keep healing). Thanks for sharing this with others…and staying strong in your recovery.

      I love you.

      -Fina

    • I’ve heard that you never actually struck anyone out, Dorn. Either way, he didn’t throw any of the balls or strikes. And he certainly didn’t help the batter. Or tell anyone in the world series that they were going to hit a home run (but lose the game).

  3. I love you.

    Not only am I saving and printing this to carry with me, I am sending it to a number of friends who I know need to read this. You and your words matter. It doesn’t justify or excuse what has been done to you, but your voice is strong and clear and full of emotion and compassion and other women are going to hear it and be helped by you. Your story, words, voice – YOU – are going to be the catalyst for other women (and men) to walk away and not look back.

    I wish I could hug you right now. I miss you, think of you often and am so fortunate to know and love you.

  4. Fina, Thanks for this brave look fro your perspective. We may be interested in reposting at The Good Men Project if you are interested. Please let me know via email after you have had a chance to review the site.
    Jack

  5. I am also an abuse survivor. I left after only 8 months, and had mentally gone through every phase you can go through: denial, silence, grief, finally acceptance. The abuse drove me to do things I never thought myself capable of doing. One night, he raised his fist to me, so I picked up his gun and held it to his head and dared him. It was at that point that I knew I had to leave. I, too, was ashamed and embarrassed because I had previously bragged about being completely in love and having the perfect relationship, only to have it fall to pieces in front of me. I tried to pick up the pieces and put them back together again, but I knew that the very moment his fist first connected with my head, that something had broken that could never be repaired.

    • You are strong and brave for sharing your story here. I appreciate your courage. While I too say that I’m broken, I think what I really mean is that I’ve changed and it’s irreversible. There is no better way to explain it, really. If I were broken, I wouldn’t be able to speak these things. Maybe it’s just a word choice, or maybe it’s an outlook. Either way, I’m seeing you over there…and I think you’re beautiful.

      xoxo

  6. I took seven years to walk away. Mine wasn’t as violent, but it was deeply awful and painful; mental, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. It wasn’t like that to start with, and it did seem like I was doing something wrong to make him so unhappy. It’s been eight years since I finally left, but there are still echoes sometimes.

    I agree with all of these. Surviving is hard. In a lot of ways, healing is harder. Trusting myself to know what I needed after seven years of being controlled was terrifying, but that, at least, is better now. It’s a slow process, and I am very proud of you (if that isn’t too weird) for being willing to talk about this and show others how to heal.

    I don’t always comment; I always read. *hugs*

    • Oh Wen,

      I miss the fuck out of you (sorry for being so classy). I hope that baby girl of yours is treating you well and that life is giving you as many blessings as one person can handle. Thank you for being a rock in my life. Thanks for always letting me know that your hand is close by and I can call on you whenever I might need to.

      Healing sucks. It’s painful. And I can NEVER make a decision without second guessing myself. But somewhere along the way I’ve learned to be more compassionate with myself and that’s what keeps the healing alive. It’s okay to second guess decisions, as long as I acknowledge that I probably shouldn’t. It makes the gut-reaction less important…and the thought process after so much more deliberate. I’m doing really well, I think. And there isn’t any reason to slow down.

      I love you, Wendryn.

    • Fina, I chose my words incorrectly. I am far from broken. 😉 What I meant was that an element of my relationship was GONE in the very instant he first struck me. You see, before him, I had a 3 week long violent relationship with a man who assaulted me 4 times in those 3 weeks, hid my cellphone from me and held me hostage so I could not escape. I lived in terror, it was my first experience with domestic violence, and luckily I was able to escape. I met the second man a few months later, but wasn’t ready for anything so we talked for over a year before I worked up the courage to start anything more than that. So over time I built up a sense of security and trust that this person was not going to hurt me in this way. So the instant his fist made contact with my face, it was gone in a flash. I instantly knew that this would not be the end, and it wasn’t. He nearly destroyed me. I left with nothing but a beat up Ford and a few belongings, and I completely re-constructed my life. I attempted to date, but if a guy so much as hugged me, he never saw or heard from me again. I lived in terror of every man I met, not knowing what was beyond what they were willing to let me see. And then, unexpectedly, I happened upon an old friend who I had known for about 10 years. I already had a foundation of friendship and trust with this man, so things naturally and comfortably progressed for me and we have been married for over two years now, together for over 4 years, without any drama or violence. I simply took notice of how he treated my chihuahuas like they were children, pampering and spoiling and cuddling with them. I decided that any man that could treat a small animal in that manner could never harm me. And so far he hasn’t! =) I consider myself lucky, but i will never downplay my inner strength and determination. I had to learn to be strong when it was the only option I had, and I now know that I can survive anything life throws at me. I am STRONGER for it. =)

  7. your words called up a very strong response in me. i am an abuse survivor who has since found the most wonderful partner i could imagine – so when the latent effects of my abuse surface, it amazes me what a deep scar it has left in me – even though i don’t think about it much in my daily life currently. so many ways it still affects me when i am least expecting it. just last year i returned to the city where my abuse occurred and i was surprised that upon approaching the city my body went into a panic mode even though i was only there to see a dear friend. thank you for sharing. i wish i had written this.

    • Kat,

      Write whatever is in your heart now. It’s been such a wonderful release for me. And, in a way, group therapy. I avoid the city where Scott lives and, sadly, it’s my favorite place in the country. I know that there will always be battle wounds/scars as a reminder, but I hope that they’ll lessen as time passes. Your decision to enter into a new relationship proves to me that it’s possible to heal and to regain some deserved happiness. Kudos to you on your progress.

      Keep moving forward, sister. Show everyone else that it’s okay to move on and it’s okay to love again.

      Thank you for stopping here today,

      Fina

      • the scars do lessen as time passes. your life is changed forever, but the immediacy of the pain/anger subsides. i am still amazed though when something triggers the pain/anger that i still carry so much in me.

  8. Really honest, agree with vast majority… Point 4 – I left so well done me. It was my free will to act. But I do give thanks to God and don’t think it takes anything away from my strength or accomplishment. Plus I thank God for keeping me sane in the aftermath of horror. Which for me was harder than the act of leaving… Really agree with the assumptions behind the why did you stay question. Usually accompanied by the unsaid I would never have put up with that!… But really, not understanding the issues means maybe they would have.

    • It’s hard for others to empathize with incredibly painful things that they’ve never experienced. I can’t (and won’t) be mad at someone for not understanding, but I will (and should) be mad at someone who refuses to try. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and perspective here. Although the act of leaving was difficult, I wholeheartedly agree that the aftermath was/is far more difficult.

      I wish you continued success on your path and hope that you’ll come back again sometime soon. I always appreciate the ideas of other survivors.

      Much love,

      Fina

  9. Thank you for writing this and making it accessible. I’m recently out of an abusive relationship and your 5 points ring sharp and true to me. Good luck on your path; you’ve helped me along mine.

    • Jesse,

      Keep going. Don’t lose sight of what’s most important: your healing. You are strong, intelligent, and worthy of a wonderful life ahead. I don’t know how recent your departure is, but if you’re ever struggling, I encourage you to seek help. The best thing I’ve done for myself since leaving is finding a therapist that specializes in abuse therapy (trauma). If you’re interested in learning more, please feel free to email me.

      I wish you nothing but the best,

      Fina

  10. It never goes away… But each day seems to bring more happiness to my life. I’m am forever proud of the strength I have. You are such an amazing woman to do what you did. I am proud of you as well.

    • The best part of the healing process is being a part of a group of women who BLOW me away regularly. I don’t know you, but I’m so very thankful for you and your words. And thankful that you took the scary steps of removing yourself from a terrible situation. Sending you courage, strength, and support on your continued journey. xoxo

  11. Wow, what an incredible post. It’s spot on. I get it, I’ve been there, I left, I’m finding my way through the fog with two kids in tow. You are incredibly strong. We all are. Thank you for articulating that so eloquently. x

  12. Thank you for this post. I’ve always found so ineffable to describe how & why I was in an abusive relationship.

    I’m thankful that you have so well articulated my past experience & that of many other women & men as well.

  13. Pingback: 5 Things an Abused Woman (This Woman) Wants You to Know. | Picking Up the Pieces

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