Hi my name is Angela. I grew up in a middle class family in Michigan. I'm 43 years old now, and I am a domestic violence survivor.
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It seems like so long ago, but it was still a very real part of my life. Since I survived, that makes me one of the lucky ones - many do not! The anger and abuse that was demonstrated in my family of origin made it very easy for me to get into a bad relationship, and very confusing for me to determine if and when I should get out.
It seemed normal and nature to continue dating a boy in high school even after he hit me. After all, I was in love... wasn't I? What did I know about love?
Had I seen it before?.. not really. You see even if you don't see your dad hit your mom. If there is anger and rage instead of love in the house, kids will grow up not knowing love or what a good relationship looks like.
My first real boyfriend in high school hit me, manipulated me and forced me to give up all my friends in order to control me. It seemed in so many ways how my own mother treated me. I had no self worth and I just didn't know better. But this was all okay to me because I would have done anything to make him happy, surely that is what you do for the one you love, right?
I dated this boy for over six years, hiding the abuse from my parents when I could and making up excuses for my black eye when there was no way to hide it.
My parents were not that much a part of my life as they had their own needs to worry about, so it was very easy to keep it from them. For all practical purposes, our family "looked" like the all-American household. I did what I was told, I always tried to be good, but I was never good enough.
I eventually married this guy, after all he hadn't abused me in two years, he was a Christian now!
Upon returning from our honeymoon, during that first week in our marriage - it happened again. The abuse was back. I had done nothing to deserve it this time, I was sure. He came home drunk from work and woke me up to beat me.
I don't remember much of that morning except for him telling me he didn't love me any more and I remember him hitting me so hard I fell into the tub... the rest has been forgotten (thankfully). I left immediately, but.... where could I go? How could I quit on a marriage that hadn't even begun.
I briefly contemplated a shelter for abused women, but I knew I couldn't or wouldn't really go there. You see, deep inside I felt I "needed" to be with him, I was addicted; the proper term is Co-Dependent. I knew this because I had tried to leave before and I literally got physically sick over not being with him; that is common in situations like mine where the abused has no self worth and is being controlled by someone else.
In the years during which I was abused, the law did not mandate that a violent offender be taken to jail after an assault. A woman who was abused would have to file charges against the abuser, but she never would because he would get out and come back after her worse than the first time. Most abused women are so controlled we don't have the means or resources to leave, no place to go, and no money to support ourselves.
My son never saw the abuse, at least I don't think so... but children are very smart and see more than we realize. I never knew, that by staying in the abusive relationship, I too was guilty of a crime. Did you know if this took place now, I could be charged for allowing my child to be in a home where abuse is present?
Don't worry, I didn't stay long. You see, I knew that my husband learned this behavior from his father and I did NOT want my son to learn it too.
A year into the marriage, after our one-year anniversary trip, he beat me so badly. I had blood coming out of my nose and he had fractured a rib bone near my collar bone. It didn't happen right away, but after much praying and many nights in fear curled up beside my bed, I decided it was time to leave.
While I couldn't do it for myself (as I had no value), I found my strength in doing it for my child! I vowed to make this the most pleasant experience I could. I put a smile on my face and made my voice happy and excited and asked my son if he would like to go stay some place special with me. Of course he said yes. So we packed a suitcase and left. We went to the shelter for abused woman.
Thank goodness my abuser could not find us, no matter how hard he tried. It wasn't easy after that, but we did survive. During the first year alone, my son and I were forced to move over a dozen times due to lack of finances.
It's now 2010, over 20 years have past, I have a BA degree and most people would never guess what I have been through. The physical damage from the abuse is behind us, but my son will not speak to me any more.
He turned 24 years old on April 1 (no joke) and his emotional scars run deep. I did what I could, but I didn't know better -I knew what I knew and that's all I had. I tried hard to give my son more emotional support than I had as a child, but it wasn't good enough. You see my mother was abused by her father too....
If I have learned anything about domestic violence, it is this: No one is safe based on their race, economic status, educational background, or even gender. It can happen in any home, including the ones that look like the all-American household. Rich or poor, it doesn't matter.
Children need to be raised with love and taught to have character and kindness, not material things and possessions. We need to stop domestic violence and speak out to educate our community.
Will you help? On April 27, 2010, as a domestic violence survivor, I've decided to walk in the Avon Foundation Walk the Course Against Domestic Violence event. Domestic violence affects one in three women around the globe and I was one of them.
In North Carolina there have been more than 535 domestic violence-related homicides since 2003. I cannot ignore these shocking statistics, so I have made a commitment to work toward changing it. Therefore in addition to walking, I will also be fundraising. All proceeds raised from Walk the Course will be managed and distributed by the Avon Foundation for Women to very deserving domestic violence organizations in North Carolina, including The Shelter of Gaston County, United Family Services Shelter for Battered Women, Turning Point of Union County and the North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence to support education, prevention, and direct service programs for those in need.
You can make a donation to my fundraising campaign from my webpage by clicking on "Make a Gift" above the thermometer. Here is the link to my page. I thank you in advance for your contributions, and I thank you for hearing my story!