At first I wasn’t scared of him. He was sweet and we fell in love very quickly. By 6 weeks into the relationship I was staying at his house many nights of the week. We were sleeping together and most of the time we used birth control. I was in college and my grades started to slip. Eventually I moved in with him after about 6 months at his parent’s house and dropped out of college. Things were good. We were in love, we spent time together and I believe he genuinely cared about me.
I remember very clearly one night after one of our first fights his dad told me “You need to get away from him. Don’t get stuck in this family like I am.” He was a very wise man, and I remembered his words long after he passed away.
Eventually we moved out of his parent’s house and things changed. He wasn’t as sweet sometimes. He didn’t buy me gifts or flowers, but I assumed it was because we had more bills to pay now. We’d fight and he’d get in my face and scare me. But we were still in love and happy most of the time, so I stuck it out.
About 2 years into our relationship things really started to escalate. When we fought he would say really vile things to me like “You’re just a whore with her legs up in the air” or “You’re an ugly cunt”. But I stayed because I was working a job which wouldn’t allow me to have my own place, I had no other supports in the area, and I didn’t want to be a burden on my friends. They would ask me if I was ok, and I’d lie and say that I was fine, or blame some other reason I was upset or in a bad mood. He’d tell me my friend was a “bad influence” and tell me to stay away from her. I’d listen to what he was saying about her, and at the time it made sense, so I stayed away. About this time he started really scaring me. I’d lock myself in the bathroom to get away. He’d tackle me or shove me onto the bed. He’d grab my wrists so hard it left marks or bruises.
3 years into the relationship things started to fall apart. We fought a lot, probably more than we had good days. But he had asked me to marry him: center ice of a hockey game. It was so romantic and he planned the whole thing by himself. That tiny piece of compressed coal on my finger was accomplishing a goal I had wanted for so very long. We started planning our wedding, the stress from wedding planning weighed heavily on me. He wasn’t happy with the wedding my parents could afford, so I felt less. I felt like the wedding I had dreamed about wasn’t good enough for him. His mother offered to help pay for things, I reluctantly agreed. We planned a church wedding and began marriage counseling, which led to more fighting. He’d yell at me for disclosing that we’d fight or the things we’d fight about. He’d tell me that if I made more money our finances wouldn’t be so tight. I was working my ass off as it was, and going to college at the same time. Fights continued to be physical. He’d slap me across the face, and sometimes punch me in the head or ribs. He left marks and did not care. I hid them from my coworkers and friends (so I thought). I was careful in everything I did not to upset him. I avoided my friends. I didn’t interact with anyone at work or school unless it was necessary. I learned to wear a mask to hide what I was going through.
Finally my friends had enough. Two of them invited me over to one of their houses on the premise that we’d be doing a makeup or pedicure party or something like that. Once I got there, they sat me down and had a kind of “intervention” about my fiancé. They told me they were scared for me. They said I might be killed. They told me they would support me in leaving him. They said I could stay with them until I found my own place, or become their roommate as one of them had a 2 bedroom apartment. These were my closest friends in the world at the time, and I hadn’t seen them in months. To this day I am thankful for this interaction, but at the time I minimized what I was experiencing. I was only 21 and didn’t know what a healthy relationship really looked like. I had seen my parents fight. I argued that every couple has fights. I defended him. I gave excuses and I lied to my closest friends that I was fine. Inside I told them if things got bad that I would leave him.
I left that house with so many mixed emotions. I was angry at my friends for saying such horrible things about my fiancé. I was hurt that they would say that. I was confused as to what to do. I knew they were right, but I had no place to go and no money to be able to leave with. My parents would have helped me, but I was too proud to ask them for help and embarrassed to share what I had experienced. I thought it was my fault because I let it happen. I didn’t know any resources for women like me. I was stuck. My friends had planted a seed which sprouted almost immediately into doubt in the relationship.
At about the 4 year mark that seed had grown significantly. He had lost his dad the previous year. Wedding planning came to a complete halt. His mother was a wreck and he asked for us to move in with her. We spent most evenings at her house keeping her company. The nights we didn’t, we fought about things. Mostly we fought about the usual things, but sometimes also about how much time we spent with his mother and sister’s family. He began to drink. At first it was only a little. Alcohol wasn’t the reason he started getting physical, I knew that, but things got so much worse. He’d threaten to kill me if I called the police. He’d call me names and say hurtful things about me. He’d chase me around the apartment with a knife. He’d hold me down on the floor with the knife in my face. When I hid in the bathroom he’d pound on the door and shove the knife under the door saying terrible things about what he was going to do to me. I was terrified and feared for my life.
The next time we fought was when I started to fight back. He had me pinned down on the living room floor and was screaming and spitting in my face. He lifted his hand to slap me and I punched him right in the face with my left fist. The engagement ring that I treasured so much made a jagged cut in his cheek. He stumbled back while grabbing his face and I ran into the bathroom to safety. He started crying. He cried at the bathroom door while pleading with me to please forgive him, and that he was so sorry. This was the first time he had ever said something like this about the abuse. Eventually I opened the door and he cried in my arms and we made up for the last time.
His mother threw me a wonderful (and very elegant and expensive) bridal shower. I was happy and it felt so good to see all my friends and all his family members. My family wasn’t really welcome and was only invited as a courtesy. Invitations had been hand made (by me), addressed (by me), and sent (also by me). I was finishing up last minute duties having to do with the wedding.
The next week we had our last counseling session with the pastor who would marry us. We had a big fight about an hour before the session. He didn’t come home the night before, and I thought maybe he was cheating on me pretty strongly. My car window had been broken a few days before, and he told me some story about this woman at work that was crazy and may have broken it. He told me he wasn’t going to attend the session because he was busy and wouldn’t give a reason or tell me where he was. I screamed that I would go on my own. I left for the church. He called my cell phone about a dozen times in the 15 minutes it took me to get there. I ignored every call. Eventually I turned off my phone. I couldn’t take it anymore. I couldn’t stand him lying to me or hurting me. I couldn’t marry this man who didn’t trust me and who had nothing good to say about me. I went into the pastor’s office and just broke down in tears. He asked me what was going on and where was my fiancé, I told him everything. I told him about the abuse, the threats, when I fought back, everything I could tell him. The pastor said “Jodi, I’m afraid I can’t marry you after hearing about all of this.” I nodded and told him I understood, and that I didn’t want to be married to him.
About a minute after I finished, he walked into the pastor’s office. Regret instantly hit me like a ton of bricks. He was so angry already. He changed his face quickly and sat down. He asked the pastor what we were working on this week. The pastor said he needed to cancel the session and that he thinks we should take a break from our relationship or end things. He said more, but I couldn’t hear him over the sound of my own breaking heart. This man hurt me both emotionally and physically. He beat me on a nearly daily basis for the past 2 years, he threatened to kill me, he held a knife to my throat and I was still in love with him. It hurt so deeply. I remember leaving the pastor’s office, he grabbed my arm and practically dragged me out of the church. He screamed at me across the parking lot, but I didn’t hear any of it. I got in my car and he said “We’ll finish talking about this at home.” and drove off.
When I arrived home, I called the police. I knew that things would be bad, and I thought this would be the end of my life. I didn’t want to die at the hands of this man, so I called the police to help me leave safely. When I got inside I went straight to the bedroom and started packing as much as I needed and planned on staying with a coworker for a while until he and I figured out what to do about the apartment we shared and dividing everything out after the breakup. He wanted this to be a true break, and wanted to maintain contact, but I told him I didn’t want that. I was terrified that he might hurt my cats, but I couldn’t take them with me.
About a week later he called and told me he had moved everything out of the apartment he wanted and that I could live there. He signed papers with the apartment company saying that I was taking over the lease. I had no idea how I was going to pay for the apartment. I didn’t have living room furniture and the bed I had was a piece of crap. Everything reminded me of him. I felt conflicted because I knew we shouldn’t be together, but once again all those emotions came rushing back both good and bad.
Three days later I was served with a no contact order listing him as a victim. It said I had to show up to court and that he was claiming I had abused him. His mother had also filed against me citing that “her husband died” and “Jodi threatened to hurt me” and “She’s much bigger and weighs more than I do, so I fear for my safety (she had criticized my weight the entire length of our relationship, so I knew this was a dig at me being “fat”).
I was terrified at court. I brought a friend with me to court who was male. That didn’t go over well, I could tell he was furious as we sat in the hallway. I was shaking on the witness stand, and crying so hard, he was giving me dirty looks and I could see his fists ball up and his shoulders tense. The judge was kind and patient as I gave my testimony. I don’t remember what he asked, but I remember crying so much and seeing my ex’s angry face at the desk. Then I had to listen to my ex talk about how he was scared of me. He cited the time I fought back and showed the judge the scar on his cheek. He told the judge that he was the victim. He blamed me for the abuse. He lied. The judge dismissed the order and arranged for us to exchange the things I had left at his mother’s house.
Finally it was over, but it didn’t feel real. I was terrified to see him out in public. I avoided where he worked, and everyplace he went on a regular basis. I was still scared for years. For the first 5 years after we broke up, he messaged me about once a year to berate me and try to hurt me. He’d say terrible things, but as time went by I wasn’t scared as much anymore. Sometimes I’d cry, but it got better.
12 years later I realized how much I have healed. That’s why I chose now to share my story. In my work as an advocate, I’ve seen similar stories to mine. I’ve spoken to victims about the reasons they want to stay and how long it will take to fully recover. I’d like to tell them how long it takes, but the truth is that I still have times when I’m weak as well. But I am not the woman that I was then. I will not be his victim anymore. And I will no longer let this story hold me back from whatever I want to do!
So here it is, my story and I hope you will learn from this that you’re not alone. It’s ok to love your abuser. It’s ok to miss the relationship. It’s ok to remember the good moments and forget the bad. It’s ok to stay and it’s ok to not call the police if you don’t want to. There’s things that people in your shoes do that many people wouldn’t understand, and that’s ok. You do what you need to do to stay safe and serve your own needs. But if you are ready to leave, there’s help, you just need to reach out. There’s people like me who know what it’s like and can support you through the changes that will come next. There’s resources available for people who need them. Best of all, there’s hope.