Chicago mom: I’m a domestic violence survivor

Confession: I was in a relationship with a man that punched me in the face.

I was a nineteen-year-old girl when he proposed to me. My knight in shining armor. He was sweet and romantic and everything I thought that a husband was supposed to be in the movie that played in my mind. He made grand romantic gestures. He made me promises of a life that revolved around being loved and protected.

At nineteen and a product of a broken home, he knew right where I was vulnerable.

It was about a year in to our relationship when the first signs of something being off started to appear. He was six years my senior and when we would go out with his friends, there was a lot of alcohol consumed. Because I was underage and unable to legally drink, I ended up being the default-designated driver. Filled with booze, his eyes didn’t shine as bright in my direction. They became critical. Nitpicking and condescending of little things that weren’t really relevant – my driving, the blouse I’d chosen to wear, a conversation that had gone on “too long” with another man – escalated into vile commentary. I learned to weave my way around the conversation and pacify him until I could drop him off at his place and let the cocktails of the night wear off.

Daylight would bring back my Prince Charming.

Signs. All of the signs that I missed. A dollar for every red light flashing, warning sign that zoomed right by me and I’d have enough for a really nice vacation.

The fighting started. Just words at first – words with the power to tear at my soul. Over everything and nothing at all. He would yell and scream and throw things – pillows, plastic glasses. Nothing directly at me but his temper was bad. Because he didn’t throw anything AT ME, I convinced myself that this is how men communicate and I just needed to accept it.

The good times were better than the bad times.

We never lived together, but would spend weekends together when I could convince my dad that I was staying with a friend. My dad wasn’t dumb – but chose to not call me out on it. He knew where I was, but I lived in his house and those were his rules. But I was nineteen. I knew everything and nothing at all.

One weekend, almost two years in to our relationship we attended the wedding of a good friend. We had gotten in to a fight in the car on the way to the wedding and I knew that it was going to be a long day. At this point, I had gotten tired of the roller coaster of the relationship and was starting to have my doubts. I was angry and spiteful when I entered the reception that night, and I proceeded to shamelessly flirt with the bride’s brother. In front of my fiancé. While he sat in a corner and drank.

Can you say recipe for disaster?

The car ride home was very quiet. All that changed when we arrived back at his home and the fighting started. After what seemed like forever of going around and around about something that I can’t even remember what, I took my ring off and said that I needed some time to think. I laid it on the dresser and turned my back to walk out of the room.

Big mistake.

The next thing I remember was that my head slammed in to the wall in front of me, I was spun around and screamed at that I wasn’t going anywhere. I’m no shrinking violet, and by this time I’d had enough. After screaming back that I was leaving, that’s when it happened. Closed fist, swinging. Making contact with my cheek and the side of my face. Pain. Shock.

After he hit me, he looked at me in horror at what he’d done. I grabbed the phone, ran to the bathroom and locked myself in it. I called a close friend who came to pick me up and I never saw or spoke to him again.

I walked away. Some women don’t. Or can’t. But I missed the signs that it was coming and I should have walked away sooner. A lot of women stay, and there is no rhyme or reason as to why. They do. I don’t judge them. I don’t judge Janay Rice for the choice that she made to marry the man that punched her in the face in the elevator that night. We aren’t living in their relationship every single day.

What I can say is this, I’m better at seeing the signs now and I know when to walk away before it gets to that point. I hope that we as women are all looking out for our sisters, friends, daughters and neighbors because love is blind. Circumstances are blinding.

An extra set of eyes or a helping hand is never a bad thing.

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