Be a Better You.
Beauty, Health, Pregnancy, Fitness, Well-Being
STANDING UP AGAINST DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND ABUSE
I believe all women are brave. I believe all women are courageous. We are all fighting a good fight by battling obstacles in our everyday lives. Women find a way to persevere and get it all done. The reason I am sharing my 10-year-long story on domestic violence within my home and family is to possibly help one woman out there who doesn’t know where to turn. I want to get through to one mother, daughter, aunt, co-worker, friend or neighbor who could possibly be experiencing a situation similar to mine. As a survivor of Domestic Violence, I want to create awareness and put domestic violence and abuse on people’s minds. I want this to be a topic of conversation so we can educate others about the statistics in our counties, states and nation. If we join together, we can teach others about signs of domestic violence and help those experiencing it find ways to get out of their dangerous situation.
This October marks the 30th anniversary of Domestic Violence Month. When Monica approached me to write my survivor story, I thought this was the most appropriate time for me to put my story out there. I want to offer words of encouragement for those who are presently going through their own battle with domestic violence, and enlighten members of our communities around Texas and our great nation about possible warning signs to watch for. You can be brave and stand courageous against your abuser... you have to!
My story of abuse began with my high school boyfriend. I had only known him a few months before we started dating. Within the first couple months, I realized he was manipulative with his friends and myself and he was controlling towards me. I believed he was controlling “out of love”. His personality was strong-willed, somewhat jealous, and he liked be the center of attention. But, he was also charming when he wanted to be. It was about 4 months into our relationship when he first spit in my face and pushed me into the brick wall of my house. My 8-year-old brother walked out and witnessed this. I can never take that image away from my little brother. I can only imagine how frightened and upset he must have been. This is the day I should have walked away from that boy and never looked back. Our friends started noticing that we were arguing all the time. My girlfriends would encourage me to leave him and he, of course, did not like me listening to their negative comments. However, he had control over me. I felt like I could “fix” his anger issues and I would be able to demand that he respect me.
We had a small break when I went off to college, but not for long; he followed me to my University. In no time at all he was controlling everything I did. Controlling who my friends were, with whom I could hang out, when I had to call him, etc. The physical abuse worsened in college, too. My abuser was cunning. He would do things like pull my hair, twist my arms behind my back, shove me down to the floor, bang his fist on our apartment door until my roommates and I were so scared, we answered. It all started small… scary, but small compared to where it lead.
During 5 long years of college break-ups and make-ups, I was officially robbed of my spirit. I lost it and I still don’t know where it is. He worked so hard to destroy the person my parents raised me to be. I didn’t like the person I was. I often prayed to find a way out of this toxic, abusive relationship but there was no way I could do it alone. I needed God’s help. Certainly, He showed many ways for me to leave, I just ignored them because I was convinced I could change him and save him.
That high school and college boyfriend became my husband. I know. I married him. I knew it was wrong when I walked down that isle. I didn’t even make it through the wedding night before I was physically abused and made to sleep on the hotel floor with my wedding dress as a blanket. I can’t even remember all the thoughts running through my head that night. I felt alone and afraid in this big world. I just remember praying all night long for God not to leave my side and for Him to guide me through it.
We got back from our honeymoon and things went from bad to worse. Now, my new husband felt as though it was his obligation to keep me in “order”. The very first time he felt I spent too much money, he came into the bathroom where I was taking a bath, grabbed my hair, dunked my head under water and held it under for a few seconds. Screaming and cursing at me, he finally let go. That was the first time I was truly scared for my life. I realized that I was no match for this 6’4” and 260 lbs. man. Over the next 2 years, there were a series of busted lips, bruised cheeks, bruised arms, and a lot of missing special occasions for friends because I could not hide the bruises or bloody lips.
Then finally, some joy! We had our son! My son was 2 weeks old when I had him swaddled up in a blanket. My predator was yelling at me for something and when I didn’t pay any attention to him, he was angered. While holding my 2-week-old son swaddled in my arms, he backhanded me on my face. I knew there was no stopping him and he wasn’t going to stop himself. I even moved out several times, but he would always profess his “Great Love” and become obsessed with getting me back. I always gave him another chance. That is where I was so wrong. The codepency is what he needed and it was what I had learned to need, too. I was so beat down emotionally, I truly believed him when he told me no one else would take me and that I would amount to nothing.
Our lives kept marching on. We had our lives with each other, and different one in front of all our friends and family. No one realized that he was abusive. No one. Not even my family knew. They knew he was narcissistic and possessive, but I never let on that I was hiding a secret. Finally, after 9 years of ups and downs, our lives were crumbling… so heavy with heartache and irrefutable damage that I felt as though I could not breathe. Close to the Christmas Holiday, he abruptly stormed into my home office demanding that I give him money. When I declined his request for cash, he got so angry he kicked over my chair with me in it. I knew right then that this would end badly. I slowly got up from the floor and limped down the hallway to a chair in the family room to get away from him, but he followed me and started to beat the side of my head over and over again. That was the moment I knew that I would never stay with this monster again. Everything we had was dead. He was relentless. I headed for my kitchen where he threw me into the kitchen island and down into a chair. This terrible act of violence lasted for close to an hour and I somehow ended up in my son’s room. There, I was put in a forward chokehold until I faked passing out so he would let me go. I was crying, I was begging for him to stop, but it only seemed to enrage him more. Finally, he just stopped. I had stopped defending myself because my body was hurting to badly. He then walked over my shaking body on the floor to get himself a soda from the media room. Seconds later, he walked back over my body, down the stairs and out the door.
I was brave and courageous this time. It took me a decade to find it within me. I called my mom and told her everything. I threw random stuff in bags, grabbed the kids and we left that house. I did not even have my wallet with me and my kids had no shoes on their feet. But we were out. I went down to my family’s home in South Texas and as a family we worked through the situation. This marked the beginning of our new life.
From here I’d like to say that I would be nowhere with the constant love, support and council from my family. My entire family formed a bond around me and the kids like I never knew was possible. Together, we worked through this whole nightmare and joined together on taking care of the kids and getting them into counseling. I am proud to say I that was brave and courageous enough to stand firm with the state’s prosecution and have my abuser convicted for one of the assault crimes. He went to prison for 6 months and is serving probation for 10 years.
It has been a long fight since 2015. It’s been a longer fight since the day I met my ex-husband. I believe with time, things will get better.
They already have!
The “Go Purple” campaign and Domestic Violence Awareness Month – October is so important. There are so many programs and support groups like prevention programs and housing programs among a few, that can assist victims and families. Anyone can go to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence for information or Futures Without Violence for more information.
State Statistics: Texas Council on Family Violence
According to the TCFV, knowing the facts is the first step in supporting victims of domestic violence. There were 146 women killed in Texas in 2016 by a male intimate partner and 1 out of 3 Texans will experience domestic violence in their lifetime. The National Domestic Violence Hotline, Love is Respect received 995 calls from Texas in 2016.
Victims can call, chat or text to that hotline for assistance.
1-800-787-3224 (TTY for Deaf/hard of hearing)
In a single day, 1,539 requests for services were unmet because of lack of resources. This is disturbing, because once a victim has obtained the bravery and courage to leave a violent and hostile relationship with her children; they could be turned away from resources because of lack of funding.
In closing, I hope these words have helped someone out there who might be hurting, knows someone that might be hurting, or who just wants to get involved. Other victims’ stories of bravery and courage encourage me everyday.
You are strong. You are brave. You are courageous. You are worth it.
-A Domestic Violence Survivor
***Additional resources will be added below as recommended by our readers. Please know that they are not affiliated with our website but may be helpful for those looking for resources. Let us know if you know of any other good resources so we can add them!
About the Author
You are preparing to have your sweet new addition. You have prepared the nursery, researched diapers, car seats, and breastfeeding, probably have an app (or two) reminding you of how your baby has grown, comparing your baby each week to a fruit or vegetable… and reminding you of all the things you need to do before the big day. Now, you've reached “make a birth plan” on the to do list.
Before I go any further there are 2 things you need to know about birth plans that seem to confuse people:
1. Birth plans are not required. You don't have to print one off the internet that says a bunch of things you don't actually care about just because you think you need to turn one in. Birth is not a school assignment. Turns out, it'll happen whether or not you have a plan.
2. Birth plans are not contracts. They are a list of preferences that may or may not happen (see below).
Ok, now that we've cleared that up, we can move on to why I am really writing this....
I am an OB and I am here to tell you why you need to get over your birth plan. Before you get all huffy, I want you to know that I am not against “natural birth” or even a birth plan for that matter… and I don’t care if you have an epidural, want to sit, stand, bounce, walk, who cuts the cord (or when it's cut), or if you want to bring your own pillow. In fact, if it means you are delivering in a safe environment rather than at home where you can do nothing in an emergency situation, I will do everything I can to make your experience as ideal as possible. I would love a vaginal delivery for everyone, although that is not possible. If that were the case, “died in childbirth” would not have ever been a thing. Unfortunately, even in these times, it is still very much a thing. In fact, it may have happened to the woman in the room next door to you. And you should know that every loss is taken personally by the doctors and nurses involved.
What I do care about, is when things don’t go as you had planned (and by the way, they often don’t), you act as though the doctor/nurse/hospital wronged you on purpose. No one I work with would ever want that for a patient. We want your experience to be that magical moment you have dreamed of. What I want you to understand is that sometimes your requests are not possible. It cannot cause your (or other’s) care to be unsafe. We have to be prepared for the emergencies that can happen. That usually means an IV (not necessarily fluids), taking vital signs periodically, getting heart tones periodically, and sometimes that means more intervention. No matter how “low risk” you are, you can still have a catastrophic outcome (see postpartum hemorrhage, shoulder dystocia, prolapsed umbilical cord, chorioamnionitis, breech/transverse/face presentation). So much can go wrong in childbirth. Why would you risk your life or your baby’s life just because it is not what you planned or pictured?
As obstetricians, we go through 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and 4 years of residency. We do hundreds upon hundreds of deliveries. We have seen babies die. We have seen moms die. The reason we keep going is because of the lives we can save. Please do not put your internet search or opinions from friends (or strangers) above our training. Go ahead and make your birth plan, but please make your ultimate goal “a healthy baby and healthy mom.” That is my goal every day that I work on Labor and Delivery. Ultimately, it is what matters most, and it definitely isn’t guaranteed.