“The number of American troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq between 2001 and 2012 was 6,488. The number of American women who were murdered by current or ex male partners during that time was 11,766.”

(Huffington Post)

Double that of war casualties. Domestic violence is an epidemic, and yet people aren’t educated enough on the red flags of abusive relationships. As a victim, I feel it’s my responsibility to share my own story to help others identify the warning signs and avoid these toxic situations.

Almost four years ago, I was sucked into a trap I could’ve never seen coming. He was popular, charming, sweet, funny, and the life of the party. He made himself my perfect guy and treated me like I was so special…until he didn’t. It was a whirlwind romance turned very toxic. Outwardly, I showed the world a smiling face, cute social media posts, and the image that we were in a happy and healthy relationship. But behind closed doors, I was lost in the black hole of abuse. Before I knew it I was stuck in all his drama, but making excuses for him because “he’s had a hard life”. I was fighting with my family constantly because they saw the red flags that I didn’t, and I was determined to justify his actions. I was rationalizing his blatant lies because he was so good at manipulating me into believing them, even when all the evidence proved otherwise. He would tell me how much he cared about me, while telling others I was a “dumb b*tch”. He had convinced me that I was “crazy” or “dramatic” for confronting him for cheating on me multiple times. I was constantly guilt-tripped into apologizing for my feelings.

He would push me into the wall with his hands around my neck, pretend to punch me in the face, pull my hair until I cried out in pain, embarrassingly grab my breasts and crotch in public; all with a smile on his face to justify it as “playing around”. He made me feel bad until I performed the sexual acts he wanted. He would tell me about the dark thoughts in his head, and how he might “take his anger out on me”. I was terrified to speak my mind around him because I didn’t want to be locked in his car for hours while he screamed in my face and punched the steering wheel and himself over and over again. His threats of “what he was capable of” would ring in my ears any time I thought I wanted to leave him. He simultaneously tore me apart while making me feel that I needed him to keep me together.

Yet, when I was finally at my breaking point, he was suddenly the helpless victim bawling in my arms. He would throw out a million excuses for his behavior. He would threaten suicide until I’d beg him to stay with me, out of fear for his safety. He insisted he loved me, and promised to change. Spoiler alert: he never did and it was an endless cycle.

It took all the strength I had in me to finally leave that relationship after almost two years and a lifetime’s worth of bad experiences. I was left only a shell of who I once was, and I had no idea how to live my own life. Here’s the sad thing though; I’m a lucky one. He never punched me in the face, broke my bones, or attempted to kill me. There are too many relationships that reach far worse extremes than mine ever did. But one thing common among all toxic relationships: the abuse transcends far beyond the end of the relationship. It leaves a lasting mark. The ability to fully trust anyone is broken, and opening up to new people seems impossible. Victims are left with a long list of insecurities, doubts, and fears that their abusers instilled in them. In many cases, victims are also left with anxiety and depression. I still struggle with my damaged parts, and maybe I will hold onto some of that baggage for a while longer. Healing is a roller coaster in itself, but it is so worth it.

I couldn’t handle it all on my own, and, thankfully, I didn’t have to. I was emotionally isolated from my loved ones because I didn’t know how to share the truth of my situation. I am blessed to have friends and family that, despite how closed off I was, pulled me out of my darkest days. When you feel powerless and weak, reach out. You are not alone, and you will get through it with the help of others. You’re stronger than your abuser has made you feel, and your support system will remind you how strong you really are.

It’s possible to rebuild after a relationship that destroyed everything in you. As trite as it sounds, time really does heal all wounds. There is light at the end of the dark tunnel. There is hope. There is happiness. There is healing. There is real love after the twisted version of “love” fails you.

Domestic violence awareness can prevent so many people from experiencing this and can let victims know that they are believed and supported. If you ever need someone to talk to, feel free to reach out to me on any of my platforms. If you or anyone you know needs help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1 (800) 799-7233 or visit their website thehotline.org!

“From every wound there is a scar, and every scar tells a story. A story that says ‘I have survived’. Turn your wounds into wisdom.”

Sincerely, M & E

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