Cover it up, little girl
No one wants to see that.
Use makeup, hide the secret betrayal of trust
Try so hard to be perfect
Stay in line, little girl
No one wants to hear that.
You know better.
This time it was your fault, it always is
You know that, little girl.
He does this because he is protecting you
He takes care of you
You need him, crave him, love him.
Broken dishes on the floor, holes in the wall, blood smeared on a cracked TV screen
No one will believe you anyway.
Hospital visits with a perfect practiced story of how you fell, again
No one hears your silent screams, little girl.
You can’t leave, he blocks every exit.
Start planning, little girl
You aren’t crazy.
It is getting worse.
The only exit door isn’t marked with the word death
Your time is running out.
Pack as much as you can while he’s out on a run
Just drive and don’t turn around, little girl.
You know it takes up to 7 times to really leave.
You are at number 4, so make it count this time.
Relief in the growing distance between you and him
The foreign sound of silence fills the tiny apartment you call your new home
You can scream now.
You are safe now.
My Way Out
When I was 18 years old, I fell in love with a man. He was sweet to me. He was my dealer, my lover, my protector. I craved him; he was my drug. The abuse quickly began and was escalated by our using together. I tried to leave, but he would tell me how much he loved me and I would return. “Things will be different this time,” I would tell myself. Then things suddenly took an ugly turn, and he began forcing me to do things I didn’t want to do. The physical abuse began resulting in hospital visits.
Multiple times I tried to abstain from using substances—he would tell me that I was not as fun anymore and I would begin using substances again. Things got worse. He would no longer let me out of the house, and I could not talk to anyone; I was a prisoner in my own home. I don’t remember the day I left, but I made it out alive and began the long process of healing. I was left with more than physical scars—I was stripped of any sense of safety. I slowly began to feel safe over time. I started going to counseling and processing the trauma I experienced. I began to find my voice and myself.
I began my recovery journey the day I escaped him. While working as a Domestic Violence Specialist, I would share my story with other womxn. One thing that many DV survivors struggle with is that we truly do love our abusers. It is a difficult place to be in when the person you love hurts you. The guilt, shame, and judgement from others and the feeling of being alone in your suffering is so difficult, and can lead to further isolation. Writing this, my eyes fill with tears and my heart breaks for the little girl I was who was hurt so badly. I am so proud of her for the womxn she has become.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men experience sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Intimate partner violence can take a number of forms, including physical violence, mental and verbal abuse, emotional abuse, economic control, gaslighting, and sexual abuse.
On average, it takes 7 attempts to leave a domestic violence relationship. The moment when an individual leaves their abuser is the most dangerous time for them. More than 30,000 deaths a year worldwide are owed to domestic violence. Many cities have Death Review boards that review cases of the deceased victims to see where the gaps in service were, how these people’s deaths may have been prevented. Domestic violence represents such a gap.
COVID-19 has created an extra layer of difficulty for those in relationships ruled by domestic violence. Many are no longer just isolated by their abuser, but by a pandemic as well. So many service providers have had to shut their doors and operate remotely, leaving those in danger with nowhere to turn. So many people are locked in their unsafe homes with their abuser; having a safety plan is crucial.
Here are some things to keep in mind for those in an abusive relationship during the pandemic.
- Abusers can monitor technology a lot easier than more traditional means of communication: they can use this to monitor your behavior and learn your plans of escape, which may include going to find domestic violence support.
- Use caution while using text messaging, social media, or email and ask general questions to reduce risk if someone is monitoring the person’s device.
- Discussing code words or hand signals with safe and supportive friends and family members are important for letting people know you’re in danger.
- If you know someone that may be in danger, there are safe ways to check in and support them. Some ways to check in safely include asking “yes” or “no” questions. For example: “Would you like me to call a shelter on your behalf?”
- Having a burner phone and memorizing emergency hotlines can be critical in ensuring your safety.
- Planning your exit strategy is paramount to ensuring your safe escape. This may include having a bag stashed that contains cash, your personal identification (Social Security Card, ID), birth certificates, bank information, medications, and any other important documents you may need to grab in a hurry.
Leaving my abuser was one of the scariest decisions I ever had to make, but it was also the best decision I ever made. I was finally free and I could begin to heal at last. I write this to let you know that you are not the only one who’s been through it. There are resources out there and people that are here to help and support you. Please reach out, because there is help.
There is hope.
You are not alone.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact your local domestic violence shelter or call the National Domestic Violence Hotline: