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Stella, age 23

It started with emotional abuse. We moved when he enlisted in the military, and I was separated from family and friends.

Isolated. I was two different people: the person the public saw and the one I truly knew and kept hidden. I worked extraordinarily hard to conceal the bruises and cuts, and the trauma. A person walking in my shoes at the time would have been wearing gorgeous heels, secretly causing the most painful blisters.

I started to think about leaving when he dislocated my shoulder and broke my thumb. While staying with family, I slept throughout the night. I was not responsible for someone else’s mood, and I felt myself finally thinking clearly.

I decided to leave. During the move, he locked the door and held me hostage. I experienced the worst beating before my family found the apartment manager to open the door.

Once they knew the truth, my family immediately supported me and continue to do so today. One of the biggest first steps is speaking up and being heard. When someone trusts another individual enough to disclose, they need to be believed. There are so many barriers to leaving the abusive situation and to do so successfully is an enormous undertaking. 

I want you to know that that you cannot simply leave your abusive relationship. It sounds extraordinarily easy to simply get up and walk out of an abusive relationship. In time, I recognize that I was being abused but chose to remain in the relationship because leaving felt impossible. My family was three states away. I told no one about my abuse. I wanted to believe him when he said he would change. I worked part-time and had no financial stability. We had only one car that he drove daily. I was afraid of what would happen if I left – both to me for leaving and to my cats because I left. From my perspective, I lacked options.

I accept I will always have a lingering inability to trust, times of prolonged sadness, and anxiety. Yet, I am so proud of my recovery after something so horrific. Now, I use what I have learned to support others. 

Do you have a story to share about domestic violence? You can submit it here (you will remain anonymous).