By Guest Blogger Lalani Reaves
“What made you stay?”
This seems to be the most asked question of survivors of abusive relationships. I have even asked myself this question, “Why did I stay?”
I am a survivor of a very abusive relationship. This was my introduction to domestic violence. I don’t know if I could ever convince anyone of the reasons I stayed, including myself. It’s very easy to see all of the warning signs I should have paid attention to now that I am on the other side of it. But while I was in it, I only knew survival.
Abusers do not present themselves as monsters, they present themselves as very humble, charming, attentive, and loving. We had a lot of laughs, great conversations and good times overall.
But then things took a turn one night while we were hanging out with some of his friends. I thought we were all having a good time. We got back to the car and he began an argument about me having too much conversation and being too friendly to other guys. I started to explain to him but was cut off and suddenly I couldn’t speak! In fact, I couldn’t breathe! He was choking me! I tried to swing my arms to fight him off but he reached over and leaned my seat back and put his weight on me and continued. He finally let go and began pulling my hair as he was yelling about me making him look stupid in front of his friends! I felt like I was in a bad dream.
That next morning I woke up with bruises, small cuts, patches of hair missing and parts of my arms and legs were swollen. In fact, I woke up many mornings like this.
It began to be expected, so I learned how to apply make-up to cover it up and became clever at making excuses to friends and family so that I was not seen until the bruising faded or the swelling went down. I tried several times to get away, but he would somehow find me. He did things like break into my apartment and hide in my shower until I came home. I went into the bathroom and he would slide the shower curtain back and with a very calm voice would say “hello.” This went on for years until I realized that I had so much more to live for-my children who had witnessed so much!
When I finally decided to leave this situation, it felt like a “snap decision.”
There was an incident where my children got involved in the middle of us fighting and my daughter was almost hurt very badly. She attempted to “help” me stop him from taking my car one night by jumping through the passenger side window. She was thrown from the car as he sped away in my car and he never even stopped to see if she was OK. I looked at my son who was standing there with the most helpless look on his face and I realized that if anything happened to my children as the result of my bad decisions, I could never forgive myself.
I called my sister who lived out of town to come here and explained to her what had been going on. She came and stayed for a couple of weeks as I reinstated the restraining order that was previously put in place and pledged to abide by it this time. I changed my phone number and changed the routes I took to work as well as the locks on my apartment. I made sure my employer and church had copies of the restraining order and had security walk me to my car in the evenings. I sought out counseling for my children and myself, which was extremely helpful. I began having anxiety attacks because I never knew if he would show up at any of the places I went.
My apartment was quiet for the first time in years and it was scary to me, so I had to learn how to “self talk” to calm myself down. It took time, lots of counseling and a strong support system for my children and I but life began to get better for us.
I am happy to say that I met my husband in 2011, we began dating in 2012 and got married in 2018.
Victims of domestic abuse understand what danger is but in some cases they do not have confidence in the resources available which could result from lack of knowledge and/or fear. It is so important that we educate our communities on the help that is available and that we have the understanding that leaving such an abusive relationship is a “life or death” decision for the victim.
Unfortunately I am not able to give a definitive answer as to why I stayed, but what I can say is that I survived.
Click here for guidance on what to do if you are in an abusive relationship.
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