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Rita_ehn

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Review for Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence Inc., Colorado Springs, CO, USA

Rating: 5 stars  

I had the honor of being chosen for the Grants of Hope program through BTSADV this year. There are many programs and resources that help victims of domestic violence leave. But none like BTSADV that truly understand how hard it is to pick up the pieces long after you're out. For 13 years I endured physical, and devastating mental and financial abuse. I left the relationship with three children by my abuser, in debt and with nothing to my name. For 7 more years after that I continued to struggle. This year I turned 40 years old and became deeply depressed about my financial situation. I have a job. I survived domestic violence. I got out. Why am I so stagnant? My mindset, my confidence, my decision-making skills had all been damaged. I was still living like I was a victim. I was just surviving to get to the next month or week or day. When I applied to the Grants of Hope program I knew I needed help, and not just financial help. I needed to change the way I thought about myself, and my children's and my future. The program made me face my financial situation head on, week after week. I am so grateful for the grant and all of the tools and support this program gave me, and most of all the wonderful people that run and support this organization.

Here's my story:

On the night of November 15, 2011, my children and I were standing on the doorstep of my parents’ home with a few garbage bags and laundry baskets containing everything I was able to grab from our home. I almost turned around and went back. I was so ashamed of my situation. I had been quiet about my abuse with my family, friends, coworkers, and had tried my best to hide it from my children until the night I left.
My ex-husband was excessively jealous throughout our marriage. He was envious of the relationships I had with friends and family, and over time worked to sever every one of them. He downplayed anyone close to me, was quick to point out their faults and flaws, constantly made me feel like people were against me, and ultimately succeeded in making me feel as if no one else really cared about me at all. He outright lied about friends and family to discredit them in my eyes. I met him when I was 19. By the time I was 23 my entire circle of family and friends was broken.
In the beginning, we argued constantly about his controlling and jealous behavior, behavior I did not recognize was not love. I had never been exposed to any type of abuse growing up, and I had no idea how to deal with it. I felt it was something that could be fixed. When the physical abuse started, I fought back. I never thought of myself as a domestic violence victim. In my mind it was a fight, not abuse. He was 6’5” and over 200 hundred pounds. I lost every time.
During these fights, there were days I succeeded in making him leave, only to wake up that night to him at my bedroom window, or sitting outside of my apartment for hours waiting for me to come out the next morning. He would pop up randomly where I lived, at my job, anywhere he knew I would be. I slowly began to realize that this was not going to be a relationship that I was just going to simply walk away from, even if I wanted to. Instead of reaching out for help, I withdrew further into myself, and closer to him. I was spending all of my time with him, not going to class, and even failing school. In my head, I became an island.
My abuser didn’t physically assault me every day. In fact, there were long periods, sometimes months at a time, with no physical abuse. He did not physically assault me regularly because he did not need to. He had numerous ways to control me and physical abuse was just one of his many tools. I was financially and emotionally manipulated early on, and it didn’t take long for me to stop challenging him in any way I thought would lead to physical violence. I had objects thrown at me, my hair pulled out, and was often held behind closed doors with my mouth covered until I couldn’t breathe or call for help. Violence was always followed by dramatic, seemingly sincere apologies and honeymoon periods that made me feel the relationship was getting better. Although I forgave him many times over, none of his apologies took away the permanent fear that was planted in me from these episodes.
I am sorry to say this lasted for 13 years. I had three children with my abuser. During that time span we moved 10 times. The most devastating move was when I followed him to another state hundreds of miles from my family. Every day with him was unpredictable. Sometimes I would come home to notices on the door for utilities and rent that had not been paid that he said he had taken care of. Other times he would disappear for days with no contact, using the only car we had and leaving me without transportation. His return from these hiatuses again resulted in arguments and physical altercations.
It took a long time for me to accept my marriage was not salvageable. When I did, I had no idea how I was going to leave. Where would I go? Would I be safe? If I stayed with family, would they be safe? What about my kids? I didn’t have answers to all of these questions, but I knew I had to go.
The first few months after I left for good were some of the scariest months of my life. I received nonstop threatening text messages and phone calls at work. Even after securing a protection order my apartment and my parent’s home were broken into and burglarized several times. Things were stolen off of my front porch. I woke up to flat tires. I made police reports but I could never prove it was him. When a warrant was issued for his arrest for harassing communications, he left the state, and I was finally able to breathe and stop looking over my shoulder. It has been a long road to recovery from those years with him, but I have been able to slowly work toward a much happier, healthier and more stable life. Most importantly, I am safe, and living free from domestic violence.

Role:  Client Served