After being in an emotionally and physically abusive “relationship” for years, I finally got away…or so I thought. I thought that since I finally stood up to him, it would all go away. I was terribly wrong. It wasn’t until I escaped from his power over me that I really understood how hurt I was. It wasn’t until I finally let a few people in that I realized how much I needed help. I had thought for so long that I was somehow protecting everyone by not telling them. I couldn’t tell my family because I thought it would destroy them. I couldn’t tell my friends because they would look at me differently. I couldn’t tell anyone and it was for their own good. I had convinced myself of these things for so long that when people finally did start to figure it out, I was blown away by their reactions. For the most part, people were very welcoming. They wanted to help, even if they didn’t know how. They wanted to understand, even if they didn’t know how to express it. They wanted me to feel loved, even if they didn’t know how to show me. Those first few weeks of me telling my story is kind of a blur now since it’s been 10 years, but there are a few things that I wish I’d paid more attention to at the time.
First, I wish I would have picked out the “bad eggs” right away. The people that immediately doubted me and my story. The people that openly called me a liar. The people that gave me dirty looks for “embarrassing the family”. I wish I had really listened to them then. If I had, I would have saved myself 10 years of trying to convince them that I wasn’t a liar. If I had really listened, I would have known right away that they weren’t people that I wanted in my life. Looking back now, I have separated myself from every person that doubted me when I first told my story. I gave them so many chances to believe me, change their minds, and understand. I see now that it was a waste of my time because the people that really love me and care about me believed me as soon as I uttered those horrible words.
Second, I wish I would’ve listened when people told me that it would get better. I always would smile and nod, but I never believed them. I thought there was no way that I would ever be ok. I thought there was no way my life would ever make sense again. I thought there was no way I’d ever go a day without thinking of him. I should’ve listened, because they were right. Even though it has taken 10 years, there are days that I don’t think of him. I have a wonderful life that includes a loving husband and a baby on the way. I have a loving family that supports me in everything that I do. These were all things that I thought weren’t possible for me, but I was wrong. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and things really do get better with time.
Finally, I wish I had listened when they told me that it would make me stronger. I thought it was just the “right” thing to say or cheesy lyrics to a song, but it is undeniable. I know that I wouldn’t be the person I am today if I hadn’t gone through the terrible things that happened to me. I wouldn’t wish them on anyone, but I know it has made me a stronger individual. I am stronger in my faith. God has used my story so many times already. I have seen lives changed because I was able to share my story with them. I learned to lean on God for everything. Whether it was to pray until I stopped seeing his ugly face when I closed my eyes or to sing praise songs until I could fall back asleep, I learned that God could get me through anything. I am stronger and more self-confident that I ever thought possible. After years of being put down, I didn’t think I could ever walk into a room and command an audience, but I have proven myself wrong yet again. I am confident, poised, and brave.
It is important to me that survivors of sexual and/or domestic abuse know they are not alone. These are just a few of things that I wish I’d listened to 10 years ago. Here are a few things that I want survivors to hear….and really listen:
You are not alone
It’s not your fault
What happened to you doesn’t define you
It will get better…I promise
It will make you stronger
Eliminate the naysayers now—if they don’t believe you now, they probably never will
Always reach out for help