Speaking Up

“He had me over the railing of our balcony holding my neck and saying if you ever leave me I'll kill you. I was pregnant and didn't know what he would do to me if I told anyone, so I kept my mouth shut for the longest time. That scared the s**t out of me. Like, he had done a lot in the past but that time woke me up. I had to do something or both me and my baby boy we're gonna die.”

            21 and seeking love is what started this relationship. This man came into her life right after her heart was broken by a previous 5 yearlong relationship. She had mutual friends with this man and they began hanging out quite regularly. He listened to her, stood up for her and treated her like the center of his world. Their relationship turned from friendship to love as he began taking her on spontaneous dates. He complimented her whenever he got the chance and most of all, made her feel safe. She knew if she was out with him, no one could say or do anything bad to her because he would immediately come to her defense. “Now when I think about it, I think I probably should've been a little more aware that the way he stood up for me was way too aggressive but it felt good ya know? To have someone care that much that they will flip out on random strangers for even giving me a look.”

            Their relationship was perfect for the first two months but by month 3 they moved in together and she started witnessing more of his true colors. “He drank a lot more than I thought he did. He was funny and awesome until he had one too many and then he became a whole different person. He would get so angry and start yelling at me pretty hardcore. The first time he laid hands on me he just grabbed me and shook me while screaming in my face. It scared me so bad but he apologized over and over the next day and actually started crying when he told me his dad used to be abusive so he would never ever be like that with me. I forgave him and believed him because he seemed genuinely so sorry.”

            That was the first of many aggressive encounters between the two. After that it began happening more and more...a slap to the face, shoving against walls, throwing her on the ground, choking her out while on top of her. It built and built until the incident over the railing where he told her he was going to kill her. She wanted to leave, she wanted to tell someone, but she was too scared of what he would do. Because he apologized so genuinely every time, she wanted to stay with him. “I think I thought I could fix him. When he wasn't drinking he was the most caring man, but when he flipped...it was something else.”

            She stayed with this man until the birth of their son. Holding her little boy for the first time made her understand protection in a whole new light. “I didn't want my son exposed to him so the first time he laid hands on me again after he was born, I decided that was it, I was done. I had always covered my bruises and made excuses because he threatened me, but there was no way I was gonna let that happen to my son. That's when I broke down and told my sister everything. She picked me up from my apartment, took my phone so I couldn't respond to him and helped me figure out a way to get away. We called the cops, my aunt is a police officer so I asked her what to do and she set up a date for us in court to get a restraining order. It was all so scary and sad and freeing at the same time.”

            The process was long and hard but so worth it to her. It was scary to be vulnerable and have to rely on other people to help her. “My sister had my back when I sat down with the family and spilled everything I had tried so hard to cover up. They were pretty upset that I didn't come to them with this earlier, there was a lot of crying that I didn't want, but they were there when I had to stand in front of the judge and explain in detail, all of the abuse with him sitting right behind me. “ Finally all of the secrets and covering up was exposed and the weight on her shoulders started to lift.

            5 years later she is married to a man that treats her right. This new man adopted her son and takes care of them as his own. Her ex was in jail for a year and now has no contact with her. She still has PTSD from the situations with him and still struggles with her self worth but she feels safe now and has surrounded herself with people that build her up rather than tear her apart. She is starting to understand the difference between being loved and being possessed by someone “I never spoke up because I was afraid if I did, he would try to kill me. Had I not though, I don't think I'd be here today.  When someone takes your voice away from you they gain all control but when I got my voice back. Now I'm back and back in control of me and my life again.”

 - A the word changes contributor

Antoinette Rodney

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