This testimony has been edited for clarity.
I have a long history of bad relationships with my ex-husband for thirteen years. He was not physically abusive; he was extremely mentally and emotionally abusive. I would actually prefer to be punched in the face because you can’t take words back. Words almost hurt more than a physical punch. It took everything I had in me to leave. I felt this need to keep trying for the marriage, keep trying for our kids. One day I realized addiction had become such a big part of our lives, I didn’t want to feel anymore. I didn’t want to feel the hurt. I didn’t want to feel the pain. I basically shut down and became an addict. Not his fault, I’m not blaming him for that – it is my responsibly. But he broke me down to the point that I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t even know who I wanted to be. all I knew was that I wanted to be there for my kids.
When I finally did leave him, I cleaned up and I got sober. Then a few years later, I got into another relationship. In the beginning it’s like a love story, a perfect love story. I remember thinking, “wow, I got it this time. I picked a good one.” Well, I think one of the signs of someone, whether male or female, who is potentially going to be domestically abusive to you is that whole image of perfection in the beginning. I’m forty now and I’ve been in three major relationships and all three of them have ended up being extremely domestically abusive, either mentally or physically. The last one I was in ended up being extremely physical with jealousy and possessiveness. This is the one where it was so perfect in the beginning. He knew I loved strawberries, so he would bring me home strawberries after work, with my favourite chocolate bar. Because of the domestic violence, family services got involved, and they took our kids. After the kids were apprehended, it went from bad to worse. I felt like I couldn’t leave because I loved him.
The one night I will never forget, my phone rang at four in the morning. I’m in Alcoholics Anonymous and I had a bunch of sobriety behind me, and a part of the 12 steps is taking a call if somebody needs you, so I put my number on that list. My girlfriend called me at 4am and he lost his mind. He accused me of cheating on him. I handed him my phone to show him that it was a text from my girlfriend. He didn’t even look at it; he just threw my phone against the wall and smashed it. He then grabbed the phone cord from the wall, wrapped it around my neck. I remember I kind of faded to nothingness, things got all spotty as my vision fogged. I remember the last thought in my head was that I’m going to die, and my kids are not going to have a mother or a father, and my kids are going to be stuck in the system forever. I remember my last thought being the kids before I passed out. He choked me so hard that I passed out. Then I woke up, he was sobbing on top of me, and that was my moment of clarity. I remember looking up at him and said, “You know what, you have two choices right now. I phone the police and you get arrested, or you leave, right now, and go forever.” He left, called me from the bus station the next day, said he was going to BC.
I have all of my kids back now. I have a really great worker, which makes a world of difference. He wants to help me and he wants to see me succeed. There are stipulations that I not have contact with my ex because of our history. The transition house, they are nothing but supportive. They taught me to have confidence in myself, and how to build my own strength up so I didn’t feel the need to be defined by an abusive person. I used to define myself by the relationship that I was in; I would let them take complete control over every aspect of my life to avoid an argument. What the transition house has taught me is how to be confident and ok with the person that I am, because I am ok today. Not saying I’ll be alone forever, there’s a difference between lonely and alone. I’m happy and comfortable being with my own children. They taught me parenting skills, and they gave me a new awareness for who I am. I am not a bad person just because I made bad choices.
As far as plans for the future, just to continue reaching out to people, like the transition house when I need them. Realizing that I’m not strong 100% of the time. Be a happy family. Raise good children. The support that I get from here is immeasurable.
What would you like other women to know, who are thinking about contacting a shelter?
Have faith in yourself. Believe in yourself. When something seems wrong, trust that instinct and get the hell out. They are not going to change; they do not change. Once that line has been crossed, it can’t be uncrossed.