Here I am. Alive, strong, thriving. A year ago if I thought about where I would be a year from then I thought I would be dead. But here I am. I am alive and proud of my story. I am proud of what I have overcome. I want to share it. So here I go.
I grew up in such a happy healthy household. The ideal childhood if you asked me. Never experienced anything dark nor traumatic. I remember watching Law and Order SVU with my mom. When I would watch I remember feeling sick about how things like that could happen in the same world I was living in. I never thought that anything like what was going on in those episodes would ever happen in any aspect of my life.
I met him when I was 18. He was 17. We met at work. A job working with kids at a school. He was so good with the kids. So gentle and loving. He had a sense of innocence. It is what drew me to him. We spent time together over the summer of ‘17. Began our official relationship after 3 months in August. I felt safe. I was happy. I actually thought I was the one in control at this point. It was his first kiss. I took his virginity. He was younger. I thought I was the one who had control.
It was about a month into the relationship when he began saying negative things. Not In a blunt and obvious way. Just little comments about my family or my appearance. Wasn’t enough to freak out over but enough to plant seeds in my head.
He was smart. He knew what he was doing with those seeds he put in my head. A few weeks after the comments and remarks started he began to get worse. The little comments about my family turned into me somehow believing that my family who I was so incredibly close to hated me. The comments about how I was attracting the wrong type of attention with clothing I wore turned into being told how to dress. It got to the point where if I was speaking to my family with him there even for a brief second.
The moment we were alone he began telling me how “immature” I was for talking for so long. About how my family was making him “uncomfortable”. If I wore a shirt that was too low cut he called me a whore. If I wore shorts I was slut. If I had too much makeup on I was trash. After he would attack me with his words he'd apologize and blame it on him having a bad day. I would then be the one who ended up consoling him. But even with all those terrible words it wasn't abuse. Words aren't abusive. I deserved it. I couldn't be abused.
The physical stuff started not long after. The words he'd use were now accompanied by my hair being pulled. Or a pinch on my inner thighs. Small things like that are how it started. I remember he would do these minor things in public even. He would put his hand on my shoulder under my hair. Making it look like he was showing me affection but he was actually ripping my hair out. He would hold my hand and squeeze it so hard tears would come to my eyes. Leaving constant bruises on my hands. He was smart. He did this in such a manipulative way. I believed I deserved it though. He made me believe I deserved it. These little things didn't mean anything I would think to myself. This isn't abuse. I'm not getting punched out. I'm not bleeding. This isn't what abuse is. That couldn't be happening to me. I couldn't be abused.
Gradually it got worse and worse. It turned into getting my face rubbed into my bedroom carpet. It turned into getting my head smashed into my car window as I was driving. It turned into being suffocated by my own pillow. Being held onto his bed getting punched in the ribs with his big hand covering my mouth so his mom in the next room wouldn't hear my cries. But I deserved it. He left marks. He made me bleed. But still I wasn't being abused. I couldn't be getting abused. That couldn't happen to someone like me.
One Saturday afternoon we got back to my house. No one was home and I upset him. He knocked my drink out of my hands and it spilled all over me and the floor. He then pushed me to the ground and had me clean it. He laughed. He watched as I cried and cleaned. Soaking wet. He just laughed and smiled. He then just walked up to my room and I finished cleaning. I then joined him. I got to my room and began to change out of my soaking wet clothes still in tears. He watched me. I felt his eyes watch me. As I was changing he pushed me onto my bed and forced me to have sex with him. I cried. I asked him to stop 3 times. He never did. He finished. Then got back into my bed like it was nothing. But it wasn't rape. It couldn't be rape. I couldn't be raped. That wouldnt happen to me.
When I would think about my future I didn't see one anymore. Me. This girl who once looked forward to a bright future, only saw death as her future. I remember thinking either he was going to end up killing me or I was going to kill myself. The light that got me through my beatings was the peaceful thought of dying soon. I would be driving home and I would think about driving into traffic. But the only thought that stopped me was “if i killed myself right now no one would ever know what was happening to me. He would win. No one would ever know this part of my story.” I realized I was being abused right after that thought.
When I think of what he did to me I compare it to being placed into a box. He put me in a box and little by little he took things from me. The things that made me, me. He controlled me in all aspects of my life. He took things like my laugh, my confidence, a sense of humor, my faith in god, my family, my friends. He controlled where I worked, who I talked to, what I wore, what I ate, how I spent my money. He tried to shape me into what he wanted. Even after taking so much from me, I still wasn't enough. I didn't recognize myself anymore. I hated who I was.
He was so smart. He thought of everything. Down to where he would put the bruises, burns, and scars. Places that were hidden. Places where the world wouldn't see. I wore jeans and sweaters everyday for 2 years. I couldn't look at my own body. I couldn't look in the mirror or look down in the shower. Because if I didn't see the marks, were they really there?
December 31st 2018. New Years eve. I brought in the new year getting beat. In the morning on January 1st 2019 I knew I had to get out. I knew I needed to leave but didn't know how.
On February 22nd 2019, a Friday. A co worker who I got to know randomly asked me if I wanted to go with her to get a pedicure after work. It was the first time she's asked to do this. I hesitated, but had this urge to say yes. So we went. We sat down in the chairs and spoke about the day at work. But it got silent for a bit. Then out of the blue she asked “does he hurt you?”, I sat there in disbelief that I was asked that. I sat silent. She asked again. “Haley does he hit you?”. I couldn't find the words to speak but I nodded….yes. I took the first step in getting out.
A week later she helped me get out and leave. She helped me gain strength. She made me realize I wasn't alone anymore.
February 28th 2019 was the day I said it was over and proceeded to block off any possible contact. He then began calling the school I was working at, showing up there and threatening to come in. The police got involved and I told them what was happening and I made a statement. I spoke up. The police went and told him “we know what you've been doing to her. This is a warning.”
After that day I never saw him again. I remember going home and finally telling my parents “he's been hurting me”. I saw how hopeless they looked. But they weren't surprised. With that I know in my heart that they knew something was wrong. But they did not want to believe it.
It's almost been a year now that I have been free. I am still learning how to be myself again. But here I am. I am alive. I have my family, I have friends. I am still learning how to live my own life, but I am enjoying the journey.
I survived something I never would have thought would happen to me. But it did. It is a part of my story and I am damn proud of that. Not a day goes by where what happened doesn't cross my mind. I will think about it for the rest of my life. And as twisted as it seems I am thankful for that. When I think of it, when I hear his name, when I get in my own car where I took beatings I think not of the pain I endured but the strength it gave me. I am now a strong, independent, beautiful woman. I am exactly who he never wanted me to become.
So here I am. Living and surviving. I have my voice again. I will never be put in a box again. I will stand up. I am not afraid anymore. I am beautiful. I am a beautiful disaster.
I came across “Beautiful Disaster” from the same co worker who helped me leave my abuser. She found it and introduced it to me. We sat and read through all these stories. It helped me not feel so alone. I felt empowered. I found my tribe.”There is nothing stronger than a broken woman who had to rebuild herself.” I live by those words each and every day. I am and proud to say I am a Beautiful Disaster.