I’m not going to lie or sugarcoat anything. Leaving an abuser can be harder than staying. I am learning this the hard way. Thankfully he has made it easy for me to not give in and run back. He is giving me a gift by not becoming Mr. Nice guy, again. He also gave me a gift by verbally abusing my teen age boys. These boys will never let me forget and they will never forgive him. For that, I know I will never go back.

One thing I wasn’t prepared for was the lack of support from people who you thought would have your back. Presently this includes my family. Lately I have been wondering who’s abuse is worse, there’s or his. They told me it was my fault. They told me I should have known better. They told me I always made bad choices. Of course now, just when I needed them the most, they aren’t there. Although I didn’t expect an outpouring of emotional support, I expected something. Yes, I know it’s my “second failed” marriage, the forth “bad choice, “ or failed relationship. However this time was different. What they don’t understand is those relationships look like a fairytale compared to this. As bad as any of my past ex’s were, they didn’t abuse me or my children. This time was different and this time I desperately needed their help. Instead they think I need to “learn a lesson.” “Get my head straight” and “finally figure it out.” What they will never understand is the second I opened up to them and asked for help, I was figuring it out.

Five years ago, I felt lonely, really lonely. I was in a four-year relationship with a man who wouldn’t marry me. He was so good with my kids and I thought everything was too good to not move forward in our relationship. We had a beautiful house, he had an amazing family. I thought he was my happily ever after. Sure we had our challenges but I was a work in progress. I blamed myself for it all. When I found out there was possibilities of him seeing another woman I was heartbroken and devastated. More-so I was rejected by a man who I couldn’t imagine having a life without.

This was a perfect opportunity for an abuser to come into my life and that is exactly what happened. He swept me off my feet. He instantly started talking marriage. He posted daily love songs on my Facebook wall. He brought me presents at work. He constantly told me how amazing I was and how he had waited his entire life to find me. I was smitten. I felt like I needed him. Especially since I felt broken. He told me one man’s loss was another man’s treasure. I believed him. I thought he loved me. I felt special.

I accepted the offer to move quickly. It made sense. After all we both wanted the same thing, commitment, partnership, honesty and marriage. I didn’t understand that this “perfect man” had red flags. If you had told me I would have thought you were jealous or trying to block me from finding true happiness.

He declared his love for me to the world. Facebook was his spot to show everyone how in love we were. He opened photo albums, dedicated songs to me and made comments on a majority of my pictures. I never realized that this was how he was beginning to “own” me. I remember having friends that dropped off Facebook because they “couldn’t stand it.” I had family members think it was a little overboard. I was so angry at them for not being happy for me. I had finally found someone who adored me.

He moved in a few months later. Everyday we were consumed by each other. I couldn’t find anything wrong with him. Sure he seemed a little jealous, but I thought that it was because he loved me so much.

One day I decided to look into his email. After all, he was always checking mine. I had nothing to hide, so of course he didn’t either. I was overwhelmed by what I had found. How could he have been with her when we were so in love? When had he even found the time? Why would they have taken pictures? When did this happen? I felt so confused and so angry. I confronted him and he didn’t have much of a response. He didn’t admit it, nor did he deny it. He acted like he didn’t really care. I was especially angered by his lack of explanation or emotion about it all. He kept saying “ I can’t change the past.” I was so furious at his lack of response that I threw my glass of water on him. That night I ended up in the hospital with a torn ligament. I still don’t know how it was done. I blamed myself because I he convinced me I went into a rage and tried to kick him. He was “defending himself.” I was overwhelmed with emotion and confusion. The crutches just made me feel embarrassed. He had convinced me that this was all my fault. He told me that he was sure that I was “cheating”when I first met him, as I was still living with my ex. I convinced myself that it was only one time. I had given him a reason to fall for his ex. He convinced me that It was all her fault, she manipulated him and then planted those pictures for me to see. She was trying to destroy us because she was jealous. She was “crazy.”From that point forward his ex became the blame and the target for our problems. His family and friends backed him. “He never even liked that girl, she tried to manipulate him,” they told me. I had to believe it. She was the devil.

I convinced myself that he was confused when it had happened. He was confused because he loved me so much and he wasn’t sure that I was true. I became determined to prove my love to him. I had been a little “sketchy” and I needed to be more open. I left my computer and phones unlocked. I gave him all of my passwords. I had nothing to hide and I needed him to trust me, so that he would never run back to her. I didn’t realize this was always a double standard in our relationship. He changed passwords constantly and made sure I would never open any of his devices again.

About a month later I found out I was pregnant. Never did I feel regret. I remember his smile when I told him. He was happy. Finally a man was happy I was having his baby! This was an amazing feeling to me. My first husband ran away to Brazil after becoming overwhelmed with my second pregnancy. This was a chance for me to have an experience that I hadn’t ever had.

My biggest worry was telling my family about the pregnancy, so I didn’t for three months. During this time, he decided to propose. We presented the marriage proposal first. He was such a good guy and they supported us. A few weeks later we broke the second part of the news. They had mixed feelings but agreed we should get this wedding together soon, and we did. We married a little over a year after we met. I never thought of this crazy. I kept going back to the fact that we were so in love and we had loved waited for each other our entire lives. Now I know “moving quickly” is red flag for an abuser. He had me locked in before I knew what he was capable of.

Things started to get a little weird when his youngest son would come to visit. Words can’t even describe the manipulation he would use against me and my children during these visits. His son was clearly the golden child. It was as if no one in the house existed. He would buy special groceries just for him. They planned special activities together. He would cook just enough food for the two of them. My children began to grow resentful. I began to hate those weekends. It turned our “perfect world” upside down. I blamed myself. He told me I wasn’t understanding. He said I caused too much tension when his son was around. He said he rarely got to see him and I was trying to block that even more. Once, he cried, saying that I wasn’t who he thought I was because I was so cruel. I hated how I felt about myself during those weekends. I felt like a failure. I felt so guilty.

One weekend when he was cuddled up on a couch reading to his son. I lashed out. I was angry at how rude his son was to me. I felt disrespected and invisible. I started an argument and he followed me into the bedroom. I remember feeling the blow to my head and I fell to the ground. I hit both the door and the wood floor. I stumbled to get up, as I was 7 months pregnant. I didn’t know how to respond, how to feel or what to do. I ran to my mother’s in disbelief.

He never did say he was sorry. He acted depressed and withdrawn. My mother came over to protect me. She told him he needed to apologize and that “You don’t hit your wife!” She was a fighter and I knew if anyone could get through to him, it would be her! She knew how to set someone straight and that was exactly what he needed!

I loved him too much to see how wrong this was. I justified his anger. I thought it was my fault for triggering him. I was so nasty. I should’ve had said all those awful things about his son and his parenting.

I tried to make it better. I tried to be a better step-mom. I tried to let go of my jealousy.

The rest of my pregnancy was very stressful. There were times we would fight over food. He would buy separate food and hide it from my kids. He never shared his money or resources. He said I had unrealistic expectations. He wasn’t involved with my boys. He blamed me and said that I was the one who wasn’t committed. I had “one foot out the door at all times.” He also accused me of being sneaky. He would sometimes lash out and call me names like “hoar and dumb ass.” I didn’t understand it. There was something wrong but I didn’t know what it was.

When my daughter was 1 years old, I began finding letters to other woman in his email and in Facebook. He was flirting and reminiscing about sex. When I confronted him, he told me I was a prude. He said I was reading into it. He said I wanted to be miserable and was finding things wrong on purpose. He would somehow always turn our conversations around and blame me.

One night I found a CD that his ex had made for him and I got very angry. I didn’t understand why he was “accepting her advances.” I was worried he would cheat again. We argued for a while. I was confrontational and strong. There were times I yelled and got in his face. This was what I thought a strong woman should do. I needed to let him know how much this was destroying our perfect relationship. I thought that if he knew how much it hurt me, he would stop. During our conversation, he ignored my feelings and responded as if I was a threat to him. He began to flinch and react as if we were about to fight. He balled his fists up and glared at me. I had no idea what was coming next. Next thing I knew he had his hands wrapped around my neck and had me pinned down on the couch. I was scared. I begged him to stop and he didn’t. He began to threaten me. He told me he needed to teach me a lesson. I continued to beg him to stop and reminded him that our daughter was right at his feet. When he finally let go I grabbed my daughter and ran. I frantically grabbed my keys jumped in my car and drove away. I was so scared and confused I didn’t even put my daughter in her car seat. She was on my lap. My hands trembled as I drove. Luckily my mother was only a couple of blocks away and I went there. I reluctantly called the police. At first I hung up. Then they called me back. They arrested him. I later found out that he had over 22 similar incidents in the past.

The next 9 days I was heartbroken. I couldn’t eat. I couldn’t sleep. I felt like my world had fallen apart. I looked around my house and saw all the furniture we had bought together. I didn’t want to lose everything that I had ever wished for. I felt like this was a terrible terrible mistake. It was my fault. Why did I call the cops? Why did I act so jealous and childish? Why did I tell my Mom? I blamed my family. They wanted to control me. They didn’t want me to be happy. This was my life and I needed to take control.

When he finally came home I felt whole again. He was sorry, well somewhat. He constantly reminded me that I “had way too many people involved in our business.” He was right. It was breaking us up. I didn’t understand that he was in the process of isolating me so that he could have me all to myself. It worked. I lost friends, I lost family. I stopped talking to anyone who didn’t support us.

After this incident he was on probation and had to attend anger management classes. I had gone to court to support him. I wrote letters to prosecutors. I told them it was my fault. I begged them to release him and not press charges. I didn’t know till I went to court that he was not a first time offender. The Judge’s words couldn’t have been right. He would have told me about that. He knew I spent hours researching and calling legal people for advice. He didn’t seem to care. He hated his anger management class. He would tell me how inconvenient it was. He would tell me how he couldn’t work because this charge was holding him back. He even told me that the men in his class were also victims of woman who triggered them. He never took responsibility or showed remorse. He instead would tell me that he loved me so much that he forgave me for putting him through all of this. He also told that if a woman hits you, she should expect to get hit back. He told me that I caused this by “lunging at him.”

The violence continued. Each incident seemed to get worse than the first. Once I remember him dragging me across the basement floor by my hair. No matter how much I pleaded, he didn’t stop. That night, I looked at him and saw a monster. He would push it too far but then soon turn into this calm, emotionless person.

I remember the desperate feeling of having to leave. It happened frequently. Several times it was in the middle of night, after a fight. One night I recall being too upset to find my car keys.

I ran out in my pajamas while it was raining. I walked for miles. I cried hysterically. I felt so alone. I had no one to call. I stopped calling my mom. She didn’t understand. I had to be very sure that I didn’t regret telling someone what had happened, because I knew it would all be okay eventually. “It was just a fight.” I went to his sisters twice. She supported us and would tell me stories that made me feel like this was normal. I always went back feeling stronger about staying with him than before. He was mostly so calm. So gentle. He was a good man. I loved him and he loved me. There must’ve been something wrong. I needed to figure out how to help him. This was why I didn’t leave. I didn’t realize this was abuse and I didn’t notice how far I was getting sucked in.

I sought out therapist and decided he had PTSD. He had an abusive childhood and I had triggered abuse that his mother put him through. A therapist once told me that I should know better than triggering him. I should never look threatening. I should never confront him. I didn’t understand that marriage counseling doesn’t work with an abuser. They can even manipulate a therapist into thinking it was your fault. This is exactly what happened with two therapist.

I became consumed with our problems. Every other weekend we would fight about his son. We would fight about parenting. We would fight about his flirting. He would snap, call me names, say crazy things in front of me children. This all became the norm. One time my son pleaded with him to stop but he didn’t. He seemed unaffected by an 8 year old crying. He would tell them lies about me just to hurt them. He acted as if they were a threat. We would make up and when I would try to talk about it, he would downplay it and make jokes about my “bad memory.” He convinced me that I didn’t remember what happened, but it was all my fault. My children never forgot.

Pulling hair, getting bruises and being pushed down was common. I recall my wrists always having marks from him grabbing me. It was always my fault.

I knew things were wrong but I needed this life with him to work. I didn’t see a way out. I thought he was my best friend, he was my world. I never considered leaving. I was so wrapped up in his cycle that I would forget the bad times when it was good.

In November, 2012 My mother was diagnosed with cancer. It was a stage 4. Her prognosis was not good. I felt such conflicted emotion because our relationship was awful. I was so angry with her for interfering in my marriage. I had put up a wall to block out her negativity. She was so fed up, she had moved away. Now I was going to lose her. I didn’t know how to feel. The one thing that I knew is that she had always kept me strong and I still needed her.

It was a difficult time because he didn’t talk to my mom. He said she didn’t like him and he didn’t want to be rude and upset her. I had to choose between the two worlds, my mother or my marriage. I decided to compartmentalize. I would spend as much time with my mother and then would go home to be with him. It seemed easier in a way. I lowered my expectations and made excuses for him. Once he agreed to come to spend Christmas at my Mom’s. I was so excited that he would finally meet my relatives. I thought he would charm them and they would think he was a good guy. He didn’t. He left because he “was bored” and he “felt like he was in the way.” He never tried to get to know anyone. He wasn’t interested in my family. He was only interested in me. I realize now that they were a threat to him. He was afraid that if I got too close to them, I wouldn’t need him anymore.

I had three miscarriages this year. They were all “accidental pregnancies.” Looking back I realize they were intentional. He “faked” The birth control method that we agreed to. He could feel me pulling away and he was trying to make sure I could never leave him. This was another tactic of abuse.

During a period of one year I “accidentally” got pregnant three times. Now I think they were intentional. He thought he was losing me and needed a way to make sure I would never leave him. My body protected me. The first time I had a spontaneous miscarriage and was hospitalized three times for excessive bleeding. He was supportive and “took care of me” just how I had always wanted. I felt so lucky. The second time, he was not so supportive.

I found out the same weekend, I had just started a new job. I was stressed and physically exhausted. I came to him for support but he ignored me. He knew how to push my buttons. One again, I found myself hysterical pleaded for him to pay attention to me and help me. He told me I was a “crazy bitch.” This was done in public and A police officer had offered to help. He had remembered him from jail. He consoled me and told me to give them a call if I needed to. I was humiliated. I felt so much shame and embarrassment. They treated me like a “battered wife.”

Later that night we had an argument that once again got physical. This time, he had called the police. I fled. I spent hours in the car wondering where to go. I ended up at my Mother’s at 1 AM. I told my kids to act normal and pretend we were just there to surprise her. At this point, I hadn’t realized that my children were getting so used to the constant fleeing that all they did is look at each other and knew we had to go.

I wasn’t arrested this time, but was told I could have been. I was terrified from that point forward. He had me right where he wanted me. He knew my trigger. Anytime after that when I would start arguing he would pick up his phone and threaten to call the cops. I would plead and beg him. I would cry hysterically telling him my boys have no one but me. I would tell him how it would ruin my career. I now know that this gave him another tactic to use to control me.

I continued to believe we were okay. I tried so hard. I didn’t realize what continuous chaos I was going through because it became so normal. Financially we were struggling. My new job didn’t pay as much as teaching. We lived on foodstamps and had medicaid. He lived on his son’s SSI.

I became the responsible one. I took care of everyone. I woke up early to take his son and my two sons to school. I would frequently have to bring my infant, because it was too difficult for him to watch her. If I too longer than expected he would call me to see where I was. On occasion I would attempt to talk to my mother or close friend. These conversations were risky, as he would often accuse me of talking to another man and would often search my phone for evidence. It became embarrassing and confusing.

I made sure all the chores were done and that the bills were paid. He never found a job because he told me the misdemeanor I caused him had ruined his chances. I never considered that he was using me or manipulating me to do all the hard work.

Despite the abuse I vowed never to call the police again. I was afraid for where that would leave us. I didn’t want another investigation from protective services. I felt like a threat and an embarrassment.

At this point, I knew I couldn’t leave him. My credit was awful. I filed bankruptcy shortly after we married. I had no savings. I counted on him for daycare so I could work. I knew I would never be able to pay the bills on my own. He would financially torture me. He would make it possible for us to survive, but he would never contribute too much. If he knew I had money, he claimed he had none. When the heat got shut off he would leave the house. He didn’t care if we were cold. I didn’t think of this as abuse at the time. Now I know it was all a tactic of control.

Mother’s day fell on my Mom’s birthday this year. I was an emotional wreck. I knew it was her last and I knew I was losing her. I knew she needed me to be stronger but I wasn’t. That weekend the kids and I left as usual. He took his “golden child” to buy mother’s day presents. He never took my children. He didn’t think of my mother. He didn’t think of me. When I came home that day he ignored me. There was no empathy. There was no compassion. He spoke to my daughter and not me. He ignored my boys. He acted as if I didn’t exist. He was working me silently. He knew this. He was waiting for me to explode and that night I fell into his trap. Despite my efforts to calm down I confronted him. I asked him if he even considered asking how my day was or let alone show up at my mother’s as a husband would. He looked at me with a blank, detach emotionless stare and said “no.” I snapped. I instantly slapped him and said “How dare you.” He quickly retaliated. He pushed me over and scratched me with his nails, he attempted to choke me while saying “Now you are going to jail.” He grabbed his phone and called 911. I pleaded and begged him. “please don’t, do you know how much this hurts?” I sobbed “ this hurts so much, I am losing my mom…” He didn’t care. This was what he had waited for. Finally he would get revenge for his arrest.

I grabbed my daughter and ran. I thought, “this is my chance.” I will tell then what it’s like. I will tell them what he does to me. Berkley police knew us and would always ask me “are you okay maaam, let us know if you need us.” Surely they would talk to them and know what is really going on.

I was wrong. The cops didn’t didn’t believe me. They said “if he is that bad, why don’t you leave him?” They took pictures of my scars. My chest and neck were filled with scratches. He didn’t have any. It didn’t matter. I spent the night in jail and was charged with two misdemeanors. One for domestic violence, the other for possession of a controlled substance because I had some of my mother medication in my purse. None of my explanations mattered. I was a criminal.

My life would never be the same after this incident.

In jail I was physically sick. How could I do this to my Mother, I thought. How could I do this to my children? My brother blamed me and told me I deserved it. My mother thought my husband was a coward. She was right. I knew I had to get out. I knew if I didn’t he would continue to try and destroy me.

Three weeks later my mom died. He came to the funeral. He made jokes and acted like nothing happened. He even accused me of trying to impress other men at the service. Later that night he left home because he was “bored.” He never showed support, compassion or empathy. He stopped talking to my boys. He never told them he was sorry. He even ate the donuts that were given to them in support of their loss. He didn’t care.

He continued to get worse. At a time when I had expected him to show some sort of support he did not. When I cried he thought it was about him or “another guy.” He never acknowleged that my Mother had died. He didn’t talk about her. He acted like she never existed. He even removed her funeral program from the refrigerator.

I was beginning to see his true colors. My son became fed up and started to stand up to him. He would lash out at my son and call him names like “fucking faggot and homo.” Clearly not how an adult should respond to a 13 year old. He never apologized. He was angry at me for letting my son be so “disrespectful.” I told him my son had no reason to respect him anymore. I knew I couldn’t continue this life. I had to get away from him.

I learned through my court case he was an abuser. I began to get counseling at a domestic violence center. I had no idea that he was such a textbook case. I had no idea that I was caught up domestic violence. It was nothing I caused. It was not PTSD. It was not anyone else’s fault. Learning this was overwhelming. How did this happen? How did I not know? Am I really one of those woman? I thought I was strong. I cried tears of shame.

I filled for divorce on my birthday. It took three months to get him out of the house. I felt like I had to be close to him in order to “keep him in check.” I felt like if I played his game he wouldn’t be as difficult. I walked around on eggshells. I was wrong. He decided to fight me for custody and wanted me to pay him child support. It made sense if you know what an abuser does. He was always trying to throw me off and cause some sort of chaos in my life. Especially when he felt like he was losing control.

The day before he moved out I found out my family was not willing to help us financially. I felt completely overwhelmed. I had told my kids that soon we would be free, soon we would have a house to ourselves and everything was going to get better. I had no idea how hard it was about to become. I had focused so much on getting him out that I been able to focus on the details. My family also seemed like they were on board and understood how desperate I was to get out. When it finally happened I was on my own. They didn’t seem to care about how we would eat. Their belief was that I had chosen this situation and now it was up to me to figure out how to get out of it. This was a difficult thing to swallow, and made me wonder if I had made the right decision.

Each day was an emotional roller coaster. It was crisis and survival mode 24/ 7. I didn’t know how I would feed my kids, how I would pay for gas, heat and electricity. I didn’t know how we weren’t going to end up homeless. I was lucky to receive emotional and some financial support from my mom’s side of the family. They never blamed me. They always told me how strong I was and encouraged me. I would open their cards and cry.

I don’t think I am on the other side yet, but I am in motion. I am still processing all that I lost in those four years. It will take me some time to get stable again. I have learned that not everyone understands Domestic Violence. I didn’t. I am still filled with some shame. I also learned that I am the third woman that he had done this to. He had told me his ex’s were crazy and I believed him. My mother always told me that he had “pushed them there.” She was right.

After my mother passed, I found a book on her bookshelf that was recommended to me during counseling. It described abusers and the cycle of Domestic Violence. She knew, she really knew. She had highlighted paragraphs that had described him and things that he would do to me. It talked about his manipulation, his seemingly calm manner. It talked about his blame, his lack of remorse. Our entire relationship was documented in that book. I felt as if that book was one of gifts my mom left me. She was waiting for me to be ready. I will keep fighting this fight and moving forward for her. I know she wanted me to be free. I only wish she was able to see me do it.

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