October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, a time to acknowledge domestic violence survivors and be a voice for its victims. Domestic violence is prevalent in every community, and affects all people regardless of age, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality. Physical violence is often accompanied by emotionally abusive and controlling behavior as part of a much larger, systematic pattern of dominance and control. Domestic violence can result in physical injury, psychological trauma, and even death. The devastating consequences of domestic violence can cross generations and last a lifetime.
Although there has been substantial progress in reducing domestic violence, an average of 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute. This equates to more than 10 million abuse victims annually. Millions of Americans live in daily, silent fear within their own homes. In addition, every year millions of children are exposed to domestic violence. Domestic violence incidents affect every person within a home and can have long-lasting negative effects on children’s emotional well-being, and social and academic functioning. (via National Child Traumatic Stress Network)
The reason it is so important for me to advocate for DV awareness is because for years, I was a victim myself. I found it hard to speak about it because I was worried what others would think, I didn’t want to be called stupid or weak like so many other victims usually are. I wanted a perfect family so bad and I already had my oldest son and wasn’t with his dad. When I first was dating my ex, about 3 months in, I caught him cheating on me and broke up with him. He showed me his temper that night and I stayed away. Until I realized I was pregnant. I called him to tell him and he said he would be there for us and support us, so I stayed and eventually even married him. Despite him constantly cheating on me, despite his manipulation, despite his physical, verbal, emotional, and financial abuse. We had ups and downs but the downs were more often and extremely bad. He verbally berated me and if I got smart back, then it would turn physical. One night we were arguing over money that he owed me and I hit him. He backhanded me so hard my forehead split open. I still have a scar because I didn’t go to the hospital to get stitched up. I remember hiding it from family and coworkers with a scarf and blaming allergies for why one of my eyes was bloodshot. I would go to court for a restraining order and then be smooth talked back into the relationship. I have many instances like this, and even more that I don’t want to relive. When we were married, he did not work and was out all the time claiming to be hustling drugs but I would learn he was having affairs. My proof? He has multiple other children by other women and one is in between our two children’s age. When I was 6 months pregnant with our youngest son my job laid me off and for months I wasn’t able to find work and he got fired from the part time job he had for assaulting his manager. This is documented in public court files I later found out. Though at the time he told me he was fired for complaining about the him not getting enough hours. We were getting eviction notices, had no money for food, our utilities got cut and I had to ask family for money. I couldn’t even afford the laundromat so I was washing our clothes in the bathtub. That experience motivated me to be self reliant and hustle my own way. I started designing and selling lupus awareness t-shirts and was able to start getting back on my feet and even buy my own car. I was fortunate enough to find a full time job and was able to support my family. The t-shirt hustle was good but required a lot of time and my ex-husband thought my time spent on my computer designing and marketing was me being unfaithful so that income died out. All the while I was working and trying to keep an image of a happy family, because I was too ashamed to admit to myself and my loved ones what I was really experiencing at home. I became tired of playing a role and hiding my reality. The final straw was catching him cheating with a neighbor and while I was holding our 3 month old son he pinned me against the wall choking me and took my car keys and left the house. I called my cousin terrified and exhausted and told him what I’ve been experiencing and to take me to my parents.
By the time I finally walked away from that relationship I was a broken down version of myself. I lost a lot of friendships because I didn’t want them to see the life I was hiding. I was lying to cover his behavior and I was mentally, emotionally and physically tired.
So broken and manipulated that even after I officially left the relationship, I still had sex with him. Then when I stopped doing that is when the lies began. “He left because I was cheating or I keep him from the kids.” Again, manipulation to make me feel bad. I cared too much about what others thought and was always scared of the retaliation if I didn’t do what he wanted. I tried to co-parent and even that was a struggle with a narcissist. Eventually, due to a scare of him taking our kids and disappearing, I have won full custody of my children, a restraining order and my official divorce. With counseling and having a real man show me love, I am who you see today. I am stronger, I am wiser and I know my worth. I had to be better and leave for my kids. I hear of others who weren’t so fortunate to be able to walk away and were killed by a significant other and am devastated for all involved. This experience I wouldn’t wish on any one.
We have to break the stigma to automatically bad mouth the victims and start speaking out against domestic violence and recognize signs of abuse in our friends, family, co-workers, etc. The more we talk about domestic violence, the more likely it becomes that we build awareness, identify abusive behaviors, and take action to prevent harm to people in our communities who may be family, friends, neighbors, or coworkers. If you are interested in learning how to spot the signs this site provides great information, just click here.
If you suspect someone you know is in an abusive relationship, or even you yourself are please reach out to the National DV Hotline. For anonymous, confidential help available 24/7, call them at 1-800-799-7233 (SAFE) or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY).
Rosadela Durruthy is founder of She’s Got Lupus, a non profit organization aimed to improve the lives of those living with chronic illnesses by advocating for mental health, healthy living and raising awareness.