For my 33rd birthday, I asked 100 people to give $33 to support survivors of domestic violence.
As part of this fundraiser, I committed to publishing my own story of domestic abuse.
This Mother’s Day I’m reflecting on the decision I made to leave a man who’s violence shaped my pregnancy. I wrote this to acknowledge that ending an abusive relationship was a defining moment for me as a mother.
I did not count the number of times my ex hit me over the course of our 3 year relationship.
What I know is every time he hit me I protected him.
I did not go to the doctor for the injuries I sustained as a result of being assaulted by this former domestic partner until I was taken to the hospital by the police. I know the summer I was pregnant with my oldest daughter my ex gave me 3 black eyes, broke my wrist, and choked me until I threw up. He also broke my phone, knocked food out of my hands, regularly hid my car keys, and withheld my laptop.
Years later, the long-term impact of my injuries still means I am unable to hear out of my right ear. I have shoulder and neck pain from headlocks, and other forms of strangulation, and I am still afraid of him 10 years later.
I don’t remember how most of the assaults I experienced started, with the exception of the last one. It was 8 days after my oldest child was born. I was asleep when he kicked me in the stomach to wake me up and he was screaming at me that I had stolen the keys to a storage locker and $50 from him. At first, I was terrified and confused. I had no idea what he was talking about. I remember asking him if he wanted me to help him look around for his lost keys and cash. He responded by calling me a liar and a bitch. None of this was new, the name-calling and distrust was part of the cycle of abuse, but for the first time, there was a person in the room with us.
There were so many toxic and brutal patterns I had become numb to as our relationship closed in around me and isolated me to the point of obscurity. Still what I had come to expect for myself could not be reconciled with all that I hoped for my child. It was so clear to me having given birth just eight days earlier that if he couldn’t have some sense of reverence for the sacredness of the eight-day-old baby asleep with her mama, he wasn’t capable of love.
I’ve rarely spoken about this relationship. In part, because I’ve been trying to put it behind me for 10 solid years and also because a part of me still gets stuck between how we fell in love and everything that made it astonishing, and the destructive and excruciatingly painful situation it became.
A few months ago I spoke about it publicly with a group of women, the prompt was “what was the bravest thing you’ve ever done?” I felt like my answer was supposed to be to put my name on the ballot, but it wasn’t.
The bravest thing I ever did was break up with a man who hit me 8 days after my child was born. The bravest thing I’ve ever done is choose me and walk away. And 3 months after I left, when he climbed up to the balcony of my second-floor apartment to punch me in the face again, I survived.
The helpline for those experiencing domestic abuse is (608)251-4445 or 800-747-4045. If you are in immediate danger call 911.