Discussion Topic: Sharing Domestic Violence Survivor Stories

Dianna Melear

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As the Servant of All Team continues to focus on domestic abuse/domestic violence for November, we would like to create a safe space for domestic violence survivors to share their stories. Survivors applies to anyone who has experienced domestic violence in the past or is currently experiencing domestic violence. Regardless of where you are in your experiences, you are a survivor. Please feel free to share as much as you would like.

We understand that sharing these experiences can be both empowering and triggering. :grouphug: If you have concerns around sharing your experiences, please feel free to reach out to me or another member of the Servant of All team privately and we can discuss ways for your voice to be heard in ways that both empower you and keep you safe. Also, when sharing your experiences, please use spoiler warnings, as the content might be triggering for other survivors.
 
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Trigger warning for language, violence

I met my ex husband when I was 19, and a freshman in college. I was studying Criminal Justice and Psychology. I already had my daughter, and she was about 18 months old. Anyway, I needed a PE elective credit, and Karate was offered. It sounded more fun than a general class, so I and a few friends signed up. I was good at it and I enjoyed it. There was this guy there, he was the Head Student, and he made friends with my group. He seemed nice. After a while, we started dating. He was sweet and great with my kid and my family absolutely loved him. He lived about an hour away, and he was about to start a new study program in my town, so he needed a place to stay. So after just a few months, he moved in with me and my family. And things started changing.

When we met, I was pretty dark, like black clothes, collar with chains and spikes, dark makeup, kind of a mix of rocker and goth. He didn't like that and after a while, and before I knew it, I was wearing pink polo shirts and white and my collar was missing. He didn't like that I was bisexual either and before I knew it, I was in the closet for the first time in my life. I didn't come back out for years after I left him. Anyway, we started fighting a lot. He'd say the most horrible things to me, like how worthless I was, how nobody could possibly love me, that if my friends really, really knew me, they'd hate me and everyone would be better off if I just left them alone. I ruined everything, etc. I still hear that by the way. I would look at him afterward and tell him to just hit me next time, because my body will heal, but shit people say stays with you. He never did. Not that I noticed anyway. I'll get to that.

The next few years were a blur. I didn't go back to school after that year, I needed to be able to work and I couldn't do school and my job and be there for my daughter. I had to be able to pay for shit and take care of her, so school was a luxury I couldn't afford. But over that time, things kept escalating, fights getting worse, verbal and physical. He never punched or slapped me, so I just shrugged it off when he threw me on the bed where our karate weapons were and I hit my head on the prongs of a sai, or when he disliked my tone while we were driving down the road and he grabbed my head and slammed it into the passenger window, or when he would choke me, or lock my joints just to the point of breaking until I'd agree with whatever he wanted. And it was normal and ok to everyone around me when these things would happen, so I just told myself that the physical stuff didn't matter because he hadn't hit me. I rationalized it all away, not wanting to admit that I was that girl, that I could be someone who would ever let someone hurt her. I didn't realize it until later.

We ended up getting married because my daughter's bio dad, had come into the picture and made trouble, but eventually he was convinced to sign over his rights. But my mom panicked, thinking that my daughter still wasn't safe and insisted on us getting married so he could adopt my daughter. Never mind that all this meant was that I was now the only parent she had unless I allowed someone else to adopt her. But I was young and apparently super easy to manipulate, so I agreed. So that happened.

One night we came home from another karate class. I went to get online and my computer was missing. I went to look for it, and he told me he had taken it and hidden it from me. He felt I was on it too much and wanted to limit my access to it. Like I was a fucking child and he was grounding me. I was about 23 at this time, my father had been dead for quite a while, and I did NOT need a partner trying to fill in his place. So we were screaming at each other, and he had his escrima sticks in his hands. These are for Pilipino stick fighting. They are sticks made of wood, bamboo, or rattan, and they are about 2 and a half feet long.

To "shut me up," he jabbed the ends of the sticks into my sternum so hard my legs immediately gave out and I hit the ground. I couldn't get my breath back to tell my daughter, who saw this happen, that I was alright. My mother, who watched the whole thing, ran up and all she could say was "Listen to him Kaitie, calm down and listen to him." This was the first time I ever wished that not only was my dad still around, but that she had died in his place.

But I still wasn't seeing what was happening. I eventually got the computer back and set up to talk with my friends at Wotmania. One of them realized I was upset and he private messaged me. I told him what happened, and I get to the part with the sticks, and Adam stopped me. He said, "Wait, he hit you?!" I said, "No, of course not, it was a jab, a jab isn't a hit!" He said, "Kaitlyn, a jab is a hit, he fucking hit you." And I stopped. and suddenly my mind was flashing back to everything over the last 4 years, and I felt so stupid and pathetic. So ashamed. I thought I was stronger than that.

Trigger warning for sexual assault, violence, language

I wish I could say that was that and I kicked him out and got my divorce and it was all rainbows and light, but I'm not that lucky, and I wasn't that smart, I guess, which is weird cause I am actually really smart and intelligent, but whatever. Guess everyone has blind spots.

I told him that if he ever touched me again, we were done. He agreed and it wasn't even a month later that he broke his word. I really don't want to go into detail, cause dredging all this up is fucking me up enough, but long story short, he got super drunk and decided we should have sex. To get him off my back I agreed, but then he wanted to do stuff that I was against, and I only got away because I still had some clothes on. He still followed me out, but now he just wanted to choke me until I couldn't breathe and tell me he loved me. It was so twisted and I decided my marriage was over at that moment.

I told him to leave the next day. He told me that it wasn't my house, it was my mom's house, so I couldn't throw him out. See, in Louisiana, you can't live under the same roof for even a night if you are seeking a divorce. You have to live separate and apart for a certain amount of time, and even a single night means your time starts over. So I went to my mom and explained that I needed him gone, and why. She looked at me and said, "I've never kicked anyone out of my house before, and I won't start now."

Cue second time in my life I wished that Daddy was still there and her gone in her place. See if Daddy had been there, I'd have been a widow, and wouldn't have to worry about a divorce. But really, what an awful thing to wish or even think about your parents, so now I feel shitty on top of trying to figure out what to do.

I had no car or license, my daughter was in school, and I had no way to get her back and forth, and I needed to find a place to stay, because I was still expected to sleep next to this man who kept hurting me. My friend offered me a couch, and I stayed there for about six months. Meanwhile, my mother did her best to blacken my name to pretty much everyone, because otherwise she'd end up looking pretty fucking bad, so I was made out to be a liar. Anyway, the only support system I had were the people at Wotmania. They kept me together and sane. The friend whose couch I was sleeping on got pissed that I wouldn't pay rent by sleeping with him and that cost me a lot of my in person friends. I had no idea how to find help because everyone just believed the lies.

Then Kelvin showed up. We had been best friends since we were 16 and 17, but he joined the army right after he graduated, and I had seen him twice since then. He and I picked up our friendship like we'd never been apart. We got together, and we had to figure out a new system for disagreements. We figured out that I would completely shut down if he spoke in anger, even if it wasn't directed at me. Like hide or curl in a ball kind of shut down. The moment he noticed, he completely adjusted everything to what I needed. He really is amazing. I still do that. Verbal attacks and fights, even if they are just near me, send me into that bad headspace and I freeze. People forget its not just fight or flight, freeze is just as likely an option and it's mine. So Kelvin and I don't fight. If I make him mad, he waits til he isn't anymore to say something. And I do the same. Because I cannot handle anything else. To this day. It has been 15 years and I still cannot deal if someone comes at me with words.

Also note, more shit happened during all of this. I left it out because it didn't seem relevant, and the relevant things were hard enough to get out.

TL,DR and trigger free: The human mind is really good at rationalizing things we don't want to admit, and it took a friend of mine to smack me over the head with the fact that I was actually being abused. Told him to stop, he agreed, then hurt me again. Family drama ensued and I was cast as the bad guy because my mom was a bitch who decided she liked having him as a son more than me as a daughter. Wotmania was there for me and Kelvin is my knight in shining armor. I'm still scared of angry people, especially men, and my fight or flight response is actually Freeze when confronted verbally. But only verbal confrontation.
 

Dianna Melear

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@Analiese Sinclaer Thank you for sharing what happened to you! :hug I'm so sorry you went through all of that, but I'm glad you had Wotmania and eventually Kelvin as a support system. The way other people in your life responded and treated you -- especially your mom -- makes me so mad on your behalf.

Not realizing your situation sooner has nothing to do with your intelligence, so please don't see yourself as not smart or anything like that. In my experience, it's incredibly common for DV survivors to rationalize away the abuse they're experiencing and think "I know this can happen, but not to me," even as the abuse escalates. You're not alone in thinking that way! I'm glad you had friends to help you realize and eventually get out.

Thank you again for sharing! It takes a ton of bravery to talk openly about domestic abuse/violence. You're an inspiration! :grouphug: :love
 

Nebka Galyn

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Amylia Lerato

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So before I share my story I wanted to add that it took me a very long time to actually realise that what happened was abuse and not just a bad teenage relationship.

Tw: Violence and suicide atempts and ideation
So before I start I want to mention what happened before my relationship and some red flags I wish I had actually seen. I was about 15 and I was at a new school. I joined this writing club to make new friends. The host of the club (I'm going to call her Jane because I don't want to share her real name.), really didn't like me. She would read out bits of my writing to the rest of the club to try and demonstrate what not to do. I had a crush on a different girl at the school and I wrote her a love note. Jane stole the note out of her locker and gave it to one of the teachers. For context we were at a very homophobic catholic all girls school. The principal had a chat to me about how "I didn't understand those kinds of feelings yet" and gave me detention for a month. Jane would call me names and eventually it escalated to the point where after the club she would hit me. Then about 6 months after meeting she asked me out. Because I had only recently figured out I was bisexual and I was 15 I assumed that she was only cruel because she liked me. And when I look back of it part of me figured if we were dating maybe she would stop bullying me. The writing club stuff continued, her reading out extracts of my writing without my permission as bad examples. And when I brought it up she said she didn't want to give me "special treatment". It was pretty soon after that I realised that her Mum would hit her dad.
I've been in therapy for chronic anxiety since I was 7. I'd been going to a therapist every month ever since. I mentioned offhand that I had a therapy appointment to Jane and she told me I should stop going because "some people have real problems". After that she brought up her parents relationship saying that my mental health was just attention seeking and that her trauma related to her parents relationship was a "real problem". I stopped going to therapy. Im a very positive person, I try to look on the bright side of life. But whenever I would be smiling or happy about something she'd tell me my smile wasn't pretty enough and that I hadn't gone through enough hard time to have "earned" being happy. I'd been going to karate since primary school but she asked me to stop going because it wasnt a feminine enough hobby and she wanted to "be the man in our relationship. So I also stopped going to karate. My anxiety gets a lot worse if I don't excercise and after almost a years worth of bullying about my writing I had put so much pressure on myself that every time I would re read a piece of writing of mine that "wasn't good enough" I started to contemplate suicide.
I had been having suicidal thoughts for a while when she read another piece of my writing after our club meeting. She decided it wasn't good enough and there was no one else around so she picked up a chair and repeatedly hit me with it. I should have realised that our relationship was more than "silly teenage drama" at that point but I didn't I still have scars all over my thighs from that incident. Pretty soon after I tried to hang myself in the school bathroom with my tie. One of my friends found me and I got put back in therapy. I told my therapist about what was happening and he told me I should try my best to end it with her. (In a public place with adults around). I didn't do it then. It took her kissing my best friend's boyfriend at my halloween party for me to end it.
Jane and I had been dating for so long that we basically had the same friendship group. She told me when I ended it with her that she would send all of my incomplete short stories to my english teacher so they knew what a bad writer I was if I ever tried to sit with her friends again. So I spent the rest of that school year hiding from her in the library. For some unrelated reasons I left that school at the end of that year.
Last year I got a message from her on discord. She had kidney cancer and she was reaching out to appoligize for treating me badly because she'd rethought her behaviour in hospital. It was only thanks to my friends at my new school that I didn't get back in touch and try to "make nice". They knew that I would start rethinking everything and go back to not acknowledging that she had done anything wrong. I think it took me so long to realise how bad my situation was because I'd come up with this idea that abuse from your partner only happened if it was your husband. I thought that just because we were both women and so young that it wasnt abuse. Even looking back on it a lot of what happened came down to the fact her parents where in an abusive relationship, I don't blame her entirely for what she did because of how much of it came down to circumstance. But it still doesn't justify what she did. It doesnt matter what age you are or how you identify, no partner should hit you or make you feel like you arent good enough.
 

Alexr al'Petros

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Thank you @Amylia Lerato , sharing that took a lot of courage. I'm sorry you had to endure such a horrible situation. You are strong, stronger, and in a much better place now.
 
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:hug I'm so sorry, and I'm glad you got out.
 

Leala ni al'Dareis t'al'Caleum

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Thank you both so much for sharing. You are both so strong, and I'm so happy to know you. :grouphug:
 

Dianna Melear

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Thank you for sharing @Amylia Lerato . I'm so sorry that you experienced so much abuse, but I'm so glad you're free of her, hopefully forever. :grouphug:

Domestic violence/domestic abuse can happen at any age and regardless of the gender of the abuser or survivor. Thank you for sharing your story and highlighting that.
 

Thaddius al'Guy

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You know, I'm not sure I've ever actually told anyone this in full.Only in parts over the years.

We met knew each other in high school, but didn't connect until I was out of college in about 2007. She always talked about us getting together between her dating other people but would always deny me before moving onto someone else. That really should have been a first red flag, but I really liked her. Eventually we got together and were together for around 4 years in total, never expressly living together with each other. She half the time we were together, she was still finishing college whereas I was working full time at that point.

Once we got together, I got to see her personality behind closed doors way better and it never occurred to me how not normal it was. She would always tell me that she loved me, but would spend a lot of time teasing me about a lot of stuff. I always thought it was playful teasing, and in the beginning I really think it truly was that. Over time it got meaner and meaner. I could show up when we were going to watch a movie, and it would be little things like telling me the movie I picked out was a shitty movie. I'd try to suggest other things but nothing was good enough. She would just make fun of the movie the whole time, belittling me as it went on. I just sat there and took it because I didn't know any better. It would bleed into just about everything else. Nothing I could do was right, but it was "OK" because I didn't know any better. This was a constant daily thing from her. Constant beratement at everything about my person. No topic was off limits. If I tried to stand up for myself about anything, I would just get made fun of more for "poor attempts" to defend myself.

As time went on, anything she did was always "This is the correct way of doing thing" while anything I did was the incorrect and bad way. It really wore away at my self-esteem over time. She was only ever like this when it was just us two. She would even go so far as if she thought I did something badly enough she would just withhold sex as punishment. Which was another angle to the abuse. She would make comments on men in TV shows/movies all day long about physical attributes and how she'd love to be with them, but I was not allowed to look at other women, and she would go so far as to cover my eyes when any women she deemed to pretty would come on the TV. She would get visibly upset at me about this and would be mean to me for the rest of the day. Twice she told people that we weren't actually dating (with me standing right next to her) when we had been together for a couple of years at that point. I'd get yelled at if the gift I gave her for her birthday wasn't good enough, etc.

One of the last times we were together before the relationship finally failed, we were out with a bunch of friends, and I had been having trouble at work and was feeling a bit depressed about it. She gave me an earful about being depressed in front of her friends because she didn't want to hear about it and only wanted to have a good time with the people we were out with.

As if a blessing in disguise, she broke up with me the next week, through text. The best i got out of it was "We're just not meshing." I never actually got any sort of closure, but she tried for months after that to be my friend. I never spoke to her again after that text.
 
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Catt Heckathorne

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I think a Really Important Thing to remember is that a lot of the mental health disorders we've been talking about as part of these series often show up years later as major symptoms of unresolved trauma from DV, PTSD, or similar situations.
 

Megana Vallentin

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These are hard to read but I have such respect for each of you, in your strength to survive your past trauma, and in your bravery to revisit those memories and share your vulnerabilities. I wish that these horrible things had never happened to you, but I hope that your stories will help others avoid being caught in similar situations, or open the eyes of those who may already be in danger but have tricked themselves into not believing it.
 

Jaryd Kosari

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CW for sexual abuse / rape.

(Pre-emptive context: I am a trans man, but I didn't know that transing my gender was a thing that I could do until about five years ago. I know now that the issues I describe in the third paragraph were caused by dysphoria. The good news about this long and horrible story is that I am now in a very, very wholesome and loving relationship, I have had lots of therapy, and there is very little chance that the person I talk about below will ever hurt me again.)

So way back when, I participated in Occupy Portland, specifically by supporting the kitchen (anyone who has seen me at a Tower party is unsurprised by this, I imagine). One day I was struggling to get some sort of task done, and a man walked up and asked if I needed help. He was funny, he was handsome, he flirted with me, he didn't seem to have a care in the world....I was smitten immediately. I also had no boundaries and no self esteem at the time, so we hooked up that night. It was okay, I guess? I went back to my tent after and thought I'd seen the last of him.

He was in the kitchen when I came back from work the next day. We drank vodka and played cards. He wanted to have sex; I didn't particularly want to, I was feeling sick, but...he was cute. So I said yes. This time when I tried to go back to my tent, he grabbed my wrist and said "stay." It wasn't a request. I was tipsy and really not looking forward to walking two blocks in the rain, so I didn't push the matter. The next day, he moved his stuff into my tent "because it's bigger." Fair enough.

Three days later, I needed to be in the kitchen to help with breakfast. This guy I barely knew pinned me to the bed and told me I wasn't allowed to leave, while grinding himself against my backside. I remember awkward-laughing and saying "Um, actually no, I have to go," and trying to push him off. I remember that for a really long, scary second, I didn't think he would let me up. Then he pulled away and tried to laugh it off. When I came back to the tent after helping with breakfast, he refused to speak to me for hours, and then insisted on having sex. I didn't want to, but I was used to not wanting to...every relationship I'd had up to that point had had huge issues with what I percieved as my "broken" sex drive. So I let him do what he wanted.

I remember thinking, very clearly and specifically, that his behavior was a red flag and I should cut him off. I'd only known him for three days, after all. I talked to my mother about it...and she told me I was overreacting. So...I let him stay.

After Occupy got evicted, he moved into my mom's basement with me. Once we were in a real bed, the issues became more pronounced. He wouldn't take no for an answer. He wouldn't let me shower alone. He wouldn't respect my body when I was asleep. If I pulled away, he would pursue me, and get progressively more aggressive. There were innumerable nights where I pulled away so many times that I physically fell off the bed. Sometimes I didn't get away, and I'd wake up to him having his way. We fought about it a lot; he told me he "couldn't help himself when he's asleep" and "men have needs" and that I was a bitch and a prude and I just needed to loosen up, among many other equally horrible things.

We got married a year after we met, almost to the day. Looking back, I truly have no idea why I went ahead with it. The sexual abuse was so extreme that I was afraid of going to sleep at night, he'd been through five jobs in six months and was unemployed at the time of our marriage (and spending my money on weed), his driver's license had been revoked for dangerous driving, and just...there were so MANY reasons why I should have kicked him to the curb. But my mom said "he loves you" and "relationships are hard" and "maybe you could loosen up a little" and at the time...I was pretty thoroughly under her thumb. I thought...surely she knows better. So we got married and we moved into our own apartment.

In February of 2013, I got an a-typical pap smear and had to get a LEEP procedure, which required the removal of my IUD. For 30 days I was free of penetrative sex (not that that saved me from other kinds of unwanted touch). Exactly 30 days later, he insisted on sex. The condom broke, and he ignored me when I asked him to stop. Two weeks later, the test told me I was pregnant.

I love my son very, very much, but I am haunted by the fact that I wanted an abortion and I let my husband and mother convince me not to. My mother gaslit me; my husband told me only a selfish monster would kill their child, and besides...isnt' it half his choice, anyway? I wish I could go back and erase this from my memory. I wish I could love my son without all the baggage associated with how he came to be. Of everything I describe here...honestly, that is the hardest, most messed up part for me to work through. I think I'll be working on it until I die, honestly.

Through most of my pregnancy I worked 50 to 60 hour weeks on my feet to pay the bills, and he refused to get or keep a job. He insisted on smoking cigarettes and weed in the house. He wouldn't change the litter box. He got upset when I was too tired to make dinner. Sexual violence continued, verbal abuse amped up, and around the start of my third trimester he started hitting walls and furniture and screaming at me. Backing me into corners and raising his fist. He never hit me...but he made sure I knew he wanted to.

My kiddo's birth was horrific. I will skip the details, I've written about it many times before and I simply can't again. The important details are that I had H1N1, my baby was 2.5 weeks over due, and my mom and my husband spent more time fighting with each other than supporting my needs. The end result is that I had to get an emergency c-section, and the fighting continued at home. Three days after I got home, my mom put me in her car and took me back to her place. She framed it as a rescue; in retrospect, I know it was more like I was the victor's prize in whatever she had going on with my husband.

I spent the next year teetering between my mother's anger and my husband's. Mom was completely impossible to work with; my husband was at least willing to go to counseling. In July of 2014, my mother finally took her BS one step too far and I cut all ties with her, permanently. In August, husband person moved back into an apartment with me. For a month, he was a decent, normal human being, and I had hope.

Then it all started up again, but so much worse. I had no family, no friends, no support system. I was working my ass off and taking care of an infant. Husband-person wouldn't stop smoking cigarettes and weed in the house. He was unemployed for months, then finally got a job that required him to be at work 25 minutes away at 5am every morning. He still didn't have a license, which meant I had to drive him. He kept forcing himself on me, and getting violent when I dared to say no.

On March 31st of 2015, I told him I wanted a divorce, and he wasn't allowed to touch me ever again.

Two hours later, he tried (and failed) to lock me out of our joint bank account. I flipped the script and locked HIM out (which he later tried to claim was me being "financially abusive") because I literally barely had enough money to make rent and I had no idea what he was planning on doing.

Early the next morning, I woke up to his hands pulling at my pants and his body holding me down. I had to violently fight him off; I still have no idea how I managed it, but he called me a bunch of nasty names and slammed the door so hard it broke. My baby was asleep two feet away; I have no idea how he slept through the noise and chaos.

I got up. I got dressed. I packed my baby in the car. I took the guy to work. He was inappropriate, but I ignored it. After, I drove to the police station and told them what happened, then to the court house and got a restraining order. Then I spent my last $50 on the cheapest no-tell in town, and cried until the police told me they'd escorted the guy out of our apartment.

The DA said it was a he-said/she-said and declined to press charges. I got the restraining order renewed the next year, and finally got the cash together to push our divorce through in...2017, I think? In 2018, I hesitantly invited him to kiddo's birthday party, thinking maybe a touch of "normalcy" would be good for my son. The first thing Mr Dude said to me when he came into my house was "your tits looked better when you weighed less."

He lives in Missouri now, and gets an hour a week of zoom time with my son. He doesn't pay child support.
 
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I love you, Jaryd
 

Veluene al'Myr

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Thank you all for your willingness and courage to share your stories. My heart goes out to all of you. 💛

 
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  1. She - Her
Not realizing your situation sooner has nothing to do with your intelligence, so please don't see yourself as not smart or anything like that. In my experience, it's incredibly common for DV survivors to rationalize away the abuse they're experiencing and think "I know this can happen, but not to me," even as the abuse escalates. You're not alone in thinking that way! I'm glad you had friends to help you realize and eventually get out.

Its more than just denial though making you feel stupid when its you in that place. For a long time, I would tell people and the first thing they would do would be to start interrogating me about how I could possibly not know, or why I didn't fight harder, or why did I stay as long as I did, like it's so easy to just walk away, when you have no resources or means. Leaving is a privilege, a luxury, when you have nowhere to go or the means to get there, especially when you have kids. I have had so many people judge me for, in their minds, being stupid enough to not see as soon as the fights started, to have put up with it for four years, to not putting my foot down and making him leave, for not choosing a messy divorce since I couldn't prove anything. I did a full contact martial art, any marks were readily explained, and my family supported him? I'd have been laughed out of court. I felt stupid for not realizing it yeah, but I got over that, since trauma is not a stranger to me, but what made me actually doubt how smart and intelligent I really was were the bystanders who needed to share how stupid I was in their eyes.
 
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