As you know…I hope: this blog is written by a committee of people (all genders, all races).

Here I give you my story so that YOU may learn and WE can change this:

Sometimes in life I wish I could go back in time and talk to my teenage self. I wish I could sit her down and tell her that dad as much as he loved me was wrong about relationships. I want to tell her that mom was also wrong. As much as my parents loved me and wanted to protect me from the world, they were unable to do that. You see, we had the perfect little middle class American life. Both parents worked. Both parents were educated. They were supportive of their kids and they never fought. Their marriage wasn’t perfect, but it worked for them. It worked for us. Growing up I never saw violence. I didn’t see it at school and NEVER in my home. My brother, sister, and I were never hit and discipline was fair, but firm. My parents were the type of people who weren’t big advice givers. They felt that we should find our way in the world without much intrusion. When I was a teenager though, my parents said something to me that I will never forget. They said that if I’m ever in a relationship and a man hits me, to make sure I knock him out and never look back. That was it. That was my relationship advice and the only talk I ever got about domestic violence.

Fast forward to the age of 22. I had fallen in love. He asked me to marry him. We knew each other only a little over a year when he proposed and believing that every marriage was like mom and dad’s, I said yes. It was a small Christmas wedding. I was still in college and we had no money. It didn’t matter. We were in love and we were married. Fast forward about 3 years. I’m now about 25 and had started my career. I was college educated and he was not. We were both starting to find our way in the world and starting to find ourselves. What we found was that we were completely different people. I had work friends who spent the day talking about changing the world and he had work friends that were unfocused and wandering. It was a recipe for disaster. We tried to make it work, but as time went by we knew that we had made a mistake. I had fallen out of love. I simply didn’t love him anymore. That was it. That was my crime. We never should have married that young, but we did. When I started pulling away, he started to hold on tighter. The more I showed that I was no longer interested in loving him, the more he showed his anger. Over the next couple of years we fought a lot. The fights were never physical, but always emotional. In time those fights became increasingly abusive, except I didn’t know they were abusive, because he never hit me. I was never shoved or pushed or threatened. Everything I had heard about domestic violence didn’t seem to fit my scenario. I didn’t understand what power he was holding over me. I didn’t realize that I was starting to live my days in fear. I didn’t realize that I was in a domestic violence scenario, because I didn’t know abuse meant anything but physical violence.

So now I’m going to tell you a story. One night right before we separated, around the age of 27, we had gotten into an argument, over what I don’t remember. Our fights by that point had progressed to name calling and he had started using phrases such as, “You know everyone thinks you’re a joke.” He would tell me that no one wants a woman whose bad in bed like me. He would tell me that no one would ever really love me. Over time I started to believe those pack of lies. I didn’t trust my friends anymore, because I thought they were all talking about me. My husband was starting to erode my trust and the strong self-esteem that my parents spent 21 years helping me build. So, on this one night the insults had gotten so bad that I told him I was going to go and spend the night at a friends house. I went into the bathroom to brush my hair and gather some things and while I was in there he shut the door and barricaded it with a chair. He had effectively locked me in. I tried to get out, but couldn’t. While I was in the bathroom he was yelling at me. Calling me names and using insults. The words he used were vile. I sat in the bathtub in the fetal position while he did this and cried. I don’t remember how long the abuse lasted, but it felt like hours. My guess is that it was about 30 minutes. When he finally opened the door, I was shaken and beaten down. When I came out the door, he asked me why I was crying. He said, “Go to your friends house now. Feel free.” He stopped all the yelling and insults and proceeded to watch t.v. I didn’t leave that night. I spent the night on the couch watching t.v. with him.

He never once laid a hand on me. Not once. The violence was in his words and body language. His violence was in the fear he created in me. What no one told me was that I was in a relationship where even the attempt at escaping was seeming impossible. I couldn’t visualize a life outside of this marriage. Everyday I went to work and no one knew about my life. I became brilliant at covering up emotional abuse. Every night when we would argue I begged him to hit me. I would fall to the ground and beg him to hit me. You know why? I wanted the bruises so someone, anyone would see it and help. In domestic violence even the smartest and vibrant women can lose their voice. They can lose their hope and when that happens, they can’t see a way out.

I eventually was able to get out of the marriage. I eventually found the courage to leave in the middle of the day while he was at work. I had two friends come to the apartment and help me get my things. I left a lot of my stuff there. I filed for divorce and asked for nothing. He had beaten me down so much that even during the divorce I told the judge that I just wanted out. He left me with all the debt, no furniture, and got the car I had paid for. The reason for this was because I was scared to fight him over “stuff.” I was scared. Let me say that again. I was scared that at any point I was going to be locked in the bathroom while he screamed obscenities at me. It took me years to realize that I had been in a violent relationship and I told no one for many, many years what had happened. My parents still don’t know. They just think we were young and made a mistake.

This is what everyone needs to take away from this. Violence comes in many forms and sometimes you don’t realize it until after you are away from it. This is what I wish mom and dad had told me that night a long time ago when they told me to never let a man hit me. I wish they had told me that no man, no matter who they are has no right to hold me in a relationship when I’m ready to leave it. I wish they had told me that no decent man will ever leave me in a ball of fear. I wish they had told me that a relationship is suppose to make make you a better person and not a person of fear. I wish that they had told me had told me that crying is not a normal part of a relationship and that no matter what anyone tells me, there are people who will always love me.

I would like to end with this. Once that cycle of violence had started in my life, it created damage. The damage came in the form of starting to seek out men who knew how to manipulate and knew how to hurt. That marriage so many years ago eroded my self-esteem to practically nothing. I no longer believed in the marriage my parents had. I believed that I deserved my fate so that what I sought out. I looked for men who could give me immediate love and who would eventually try to hurt me. This blog post is the first of three. In the ones to follow I will tell you about something lessons learned by relationships I found myself in and the ultimate path out, which is the path to peace.