TW: domestic abuse
So here I am, sitting down and writing this. Its taken me a year to get to this point. A year to not feel ashamed or embarrassed to show that this happened to me. A year to not put blame on myself and a year to not feel held down by someone. I’m still going, I’m still struggling and I still get emotional from time to time. However I feel as though I need to turn this chapter into a positive once and for all. Im still working on myself and that may take a little longer than I expected however I want to communicate with you all my experience in hopes that someone going through a similar situation can find strength and put themselves first. So here we go.
Let me take you back to 3 years ago. I just moved across the world. From Sydney, Australia to Park City, Utah. I was terrified and excited all at once. I spent the first month digging into work. There was a man who came into my work to get coffee every morning. He was lovely, outgoing, a little quiet and very handsome. I reached out and we went skiing. I felt an instant connection. After that day we hung out every few days until eventually it was everyday. We moved quickly. Very quickly. We started dating after a month and he moved into my apartment at 5ish weeks. I was so in love so quickly and I had never felt so much happiness with another person in my life. I genuinely thought to myself this is the one. I looked up to him, I thought he was perfect. Everything about him made me happy and I felt lucky that I was the one that got to spend special moments with him.
We quickly grew into a family, however things started to get a little complicated. We had different views on life. I grew up allowed to express myself in anyway I felt. However after a few months, I wasn’t aloud to wear certain clothing. I know it sounds ridiculous that I am going on about clothing however for me and I know a lot of people it is self expression. I feel my most confident when I love what I am wearing. It was also the very first red light flag of control that I did not see at the time. Little things like this started to happen over time. I wasn’t aloud to wear the clothes I wanted, I couldn’t hang out with male colleagues, I couldn’t drink with colleagues, I couldn’t go out without telling him where I was going at all times. I started to feel trapped however I was so in love with this person I couldn’t walk away. He promised to change and work on himself as he had expressed that what he was doing was wrong. All while this was happening we got joint bank accounts, a dog and continued to spend every single day together no matter what. He was my best friend, however he didn’t work on himself and things only got worse. I now wasn’t aloud to hang out with female friends from work either. If I wanted to go somewhere I had to wait until he was home. I was being controlled day to day. I wasn’t making decisions for myself anymore and I became reliant on him telling me what to do. I lost confidence and gained some weight. I sat at home waiting for him to come home on my days off. I was depressed without realizing I was depressed because I believed that he made me so happy. I believed this was what a relationship was supposed to be like. Compromise. and don’t get me wrong it is, however you cannot compromise your entire being to please someone else. All this did was send me into a downward spiral. After having so many boundaries put up around me I then started to feel like I couldn’t do anything right. If I went out during the day on my day off I was told I was lying about where I was and that he didn’t trust that I wasn’t with someone else. If I didn’t go out on my day off I was told I was lazy, boring and unattractive. At this point I had no friends around me. I had blocked out the people who really cared about me (you know who you are) because they were telling me everything I didn’t want to hear. That this relationship was toxic and manipulative and abusive. My mum sent me articles on domestic abuse, something I knew about however really had no idea about at the same time. As I’m reading the cycle of abuse and flags you should look for when in one, I realized everything matched up. However I still didn’t believe it. I thought we were different. I thought our relationship was going to get better, go back to the way it first was because that’s the person I held onto. The man I fell in love with.
Unfortunately I kept holding on and things started to escalate. My partner at the time started to drink. He always drank however started to drink more often. Our fights became more regular and our make ups became more intense. Everything was amplified. I felt more hurt and confusion while also feeling more and more in love each day. Now that I look back on this I wonder if it was my heart telling me I was in love or whether it was complete manipulation. We started to go to counseling, to work on trust and to work on our differences. Things got better for a month or so before they took the biggest turn in the wrong direction. One thing I would like to note is that when you are in an abusive relationship couples counseling does not work and it never will. You are not the issue. I didn’t realize this at the time and so I continued to go with him every week. All this did was make me more submissive. They teach you to compromise which I was already doing so much of. I stopped standing up for myself which in return meant I stopped caring for myself. Things began to become physical however for some reason it never alarmed me. I never stood there and said this is an issue. It would happen at night and the next morning I would forgive him. Or even worse he would leave, make me feel bad and I would be the one that ended up apologizing for things that didn’t exist. My brain started and still does think in a different way. I question everything I say. I would apologize for things that I didn’t need to say sorry for and I started telling lies about things that were never an issue. I would lie about not leaving the house to go to the shops because I thought it would upset him and eventually I would blurt out the truth which would end up in an argument that escalated. I was completely trapped in a vicious cycle and no matter what I did it never seemed to be good enough.
Things continued to get worse and worse until it was over.
One night I was one hour late back from work. He wasn’t happy and said that I was lying about where I was. We were opening a new store downtown so everything was very chaotic. When I got home there were beer cans everywhere. He was in our room and I knew how things ended with alcohol so I sat down in the living room feeling stressed, angry and guilty about not being back at curfew. An hour and a half went by and he came out and was upset with me for not comforting him when he was upset, I apologized again. He asked to check my phone which was an almost daily thing at this point and he saw a number that was not saved. He was intoxicated and angry and started screaming at me. It was a fake call (one of those ones you get when people are trying to get your details). I tried to show him that it wasn’t real however he wouldn’t give me my phone back. I was done fighting at this point.
A few days earlier I came home to him drunk, telling me that I ate myself fat, I was ugly and boring and that I was unattractive. I still have this whole conversation on my phone because I recorded it to show him the next day. I never did.
But anyway, I ended up walking away into the bathroom to go to the toilet. He cornered me. Pushing, shoving and screaming. I put my hands behind my back and told him to move and that I felt uncomfortable. He kept screaming “no, tell me the truth”. 40 minutes had passed of me being pushed around and backed into a corner. At this point I almost wanted to lie however was scared of the consequences. I was frustrated, tired, sad and just over it. I asked him to move one last time, when he didn’t I punched him in the stomach. He immediately dropped his hands and body away from me and looked up at me and said “I can’t believe my girlfriend would hit me”. I told him it was out of self defense and that he made me feel uncomfortable. He paced around the house crying, acting like a victim until his personality completely changed. This was the moment I knew I was in trouble. It was the first time I had seen the blatant manipulation directly in my face and it was terrifying. He held my neck against the wall and started to choke me. He did this multiple times, over and over again until he threw a beer at me and then poured one over my head- for some reason this hurt me more than anything, it was a clear sign of disrespect. He then ran outside, locked himself in my car, called his mum and started crying. I ran out after him asking for my car keys as I purchased the car, however at the time of the purchase I couldn’t drive so he convinced me to put it in his name and then we would transfer it over to mine. That never happened. I never got that car back or that money back. His mum told him to leave because I was going to put him in jail. I never did. I reported the incident and once talking about the situation and showing photos, the police decided there was no other option other than to arrest him due to the severity of the situation. After studies done on domestic abuse it has been proven that choking is the next step before murder. I was in denial about this at the time because I never thought he would do that, however after educating myself I have come to realize that all abusive relationships will end in death. Whether it’s 10 months or 10 years it will happen. Scary I know! I balled my eyes out and begged them not too. I was still very much in love with him and didn’t want to see him suffer. I wanted to protect him no matter what. Due to him being out of the country at the time this case went straight to court, I wrote a letter to the court with my advocate provided by the police and they decided to not press charges on my behalf. At the time I felt an immense amount of relief, whether it was out of fear or love I’m not sure, however all I know now is that standing up for him was the biggest regret I’ve made throughout this whole journey.
That night I left. Packed one tiny bag, walked away and regretted it completely. To everyone reading this who hasn’t been through abuse before, it sounds insane I know. Completely insane. However, its manipulation and he had a pull on me. He told me to leave that night. So I did. I thought he didn’t want me anymore. The next morning we spoke on the phone and he was upset that I left, he said he could have fixed everything. I believed him. However I was with good people who convinced me not to go back.
The thing that scares me the most about all of this is that I didn’t leave because I wanted to, I left because he told me to. I left because I was doing what he said. Since that night, I’ve gone back multiple times. I’ve hidden it from everyone around me because I knew no one would approve. However a few months ago, he pushed me away again. He told me I had serious mental health issues and that I needed help. I was so upset and angry because by this point I had started to realize how much he was able to control me. Not to mention he was struggling with mental health throughout our relationship and that is never something to use against someone or put in a negative light. I ended up blocking him on social media and have not seen him since. I am proud of that. I am proud that I am finally starting to move on, even if it was after he pushed me away. I finally have no want to run back to him. After giving him my car, my income, paying off debts for him, picking him up from jail (not related to this) and last but not least the one that’s the hardest of them all. Giving him the access to my soul, my heart, my entire being. I can finally say I’m done. I have nothing else to give and I don’t want to give someone that has no respect for me anything of me. I’ve already made that mistake and I will not do it again. The hardest part about this whole experience is no matter how mad or hurt I am from this person he still creeps in my mind everyday, filling me with anxiety and a butt load of questions. Unfortunately this is what happens when someone manipulates you. They have the ability to drag you back into the toxicity time and time again.
From all of this, Im not trying to shame or call someone out. Im learning to speak up and believe in myself again. I hope this can help someone in need. If you are going through anything similar to this remember who you were. Remember you are strong, intelligent and incredible. You do not need someone to make you YOU. You are all you need. I will never be that same outgoing person I once was, however I hope to turn this complete negative into a positive. No matter how deep the love you feel, walking away shows that you love yourself first and that’s so god damn important.
Love always, Ashley
Domestic Abuse Hotline: 1800-799-SAFE
National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1800-656-4673