“You really can’t tell much from a photo. Sometimes what you see is the full truth, but sometimes there is a false sense of reality. We all want to put our best self forward, which is why we take selfies, overuse filters, and smile…no matter what is happening around us. I know I did that for months after I entered an abusive relationship. I was scared and embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know the terrible things I was experiencing. Looking back, my eyes seemed so hollow compared to now.
I had moved to Kansas City, started my journey on becoming a strength coach, and just ended an 8-year relationship. I was going to start a new life! I was excited and felt so energetic.
While working at a coffee shop, there was a man that kept coming over to talk to me. The talks turned into dates, and the dates turned into us spending all of our free time together. Many will tell you that at the beginning of an abusive relationship, there is only good. Compliments, signs of affection, gifts. That was true for me. It was about 2 months into it that things started to quickly spiral downward.
I borrowed my boyfriend’s phone one day while he was sleeping to use the internet. He received a message from ‘My Cousin.’ The preview of the message seemed too graphic to be from a blood relative. I opened it and realized he was texting some random woman. My curiosity got the best of me and I found out he had a Tinder account that he actively used. There were DOZENS of women he was talking to through text and email. I was furious! When I confronted him about it, he admitted to it, but had an odd, manipulative charm about him. Why did I ever forgive him? Why did I ever believe him? It only got worse.
The wonderful compliments he once gave were still there, only they weren’t so wonderful anymore. They were backhanded.
‘You look great in that skirt. If you lose a few more pounds in your legs, you would look even better.’
‘I’m so glad you like to go to the gym but you look funny when you lift.’
‘I think you are beautiful! I wish you had less muscle, though.’
Somehow he was able to emotionally break me down by building me up at the same time. What was this sorcery? Why was I staying with someone who made me feel horrible about myself? These were constant thoughts, but I pushed them down. I mean, he still said I was beautiful and hardworking.
The verbal abuse became more aggressive. He would yell at me for getting him Taco Bell instead of McDonald’s, for questioning him about how he came up with a number while calculating finances, for wearing a shirt that was too tight because other guys might hit on me, and so on. These weren’t short outbursts. These were explosions that caused his face to get red and had me curling up in a ball with tears streaming down my face. Eventually, it all turned physical. I was more broken inside than I had ever been before. He knew he was able to control me. He knew I wasn’t going to just up and leave, no matter how many times I said I was going to. We always ended up back together and the cycle never ended. More of him screaming, me crying, and then the slapping, choking, dragging me into the bedroom, throwing books at my face.
I recall one late night in January, while I was driving, 2 days after my close grandmother had passed away, where he cursed me out, calling me a c*nt, bitch, whore… You name it. I parked my car in an empty parking lot and told him I was going to walk the mile to his brother’s house. He yelled at me to stay in the car, but I got out and started vigorously walking away from the car. I only made it a few yards before he picked me up and shoved me into the passenger seat of my own vehicle. I was telling him he was hurting me, but he ignored that and went for the keys in my hand. He started the car and started speeding towards my apartment, which was a good 20-minute drive from where we were. I kept silent, even though he continuously pushed my head into my window while name calling. That ride felt so long. When we arrived at my place, he walked in and destroyed my place. He knocked my fully decorated Christmas tree over, smashed my gift to him in the parking lot, threatened to kill my pet lizard, and pissed…yes, PISSED…on some coins I had collected.
He walked out into the night with my keychain that contained my car, apartment, work, and mail keys on it. I wasn’t about to let him take my car. He hopped in; I hopped in too. His home was only 5 or so miles away from mine. I thought if he could get back to his place, then I could grab my keys and then head back to my place. I could stand being around him for a little bit longer to accomplish that goal. I wanted him gone!
He proceeded to smash my head into the window, disparaging and vulgar comments flying into my face with no effort on his end. Once he informed me of his plan to throw my keys in the pond next to his place, I didn’t know what to do. I NEEDED those keys! When we came to a halt at 3 a.m. at a stop light on top of a bridge hovering the interstate, I moved quickly and pulled my keys from the ignition and hastily tried to exit the car. I wasn’t able to remove my seatbelt quick enough. My boyfriend had a hold of me, and bit my cheek. There was a car behind us on that deserted road, but even with my door flung open and my arms and legs flailing, it drove around the vehicle I was in and ignored the whole situation. I was finally able to unbuckle my seatbelt within that whole struggle. Unfortunately, I failed at retrieving my keys.
My boyfriend drove off and left me on the side of the road. I was startled and didn’t know where to go or how to get there. It was a minute or two later that a young man in a truck saw me.
‘Are you ok?’
I cried and shook my head.
‘Do you need to go to the police?’
That night I filed a police report, but never followed up. I went back. Even with a large bruise on my ribcage, I went back.
The days went on and we had extreme highs and lows. We had the police called multiple times, he threatened to shoot himself in the head or slit his throat if I didn’t stay with him, would monitor everything I did, forced me to sit down and write out a list of everything bad I had ever done to him.
Finally, I was starting to wise up. I had my own business now and had to be an adult. I couldn’t deal with his outbursts. He had checked himself into a hospital to get treatment. He would send me photos of him looking sad and pale and thin with an IV sticking out of his arm. I was able to contact his doctor. He told me that all conversations my now ex had with him somehow ended up on the topic of me. He obsessed over me. The doctor told me that he was diagnosed as bipolar and had narcissistic personality disorder and gave me the advice to get a restraining order. I was scared. But I was still stupid.
Not long after his treatment, the night from Hell happened. A night I wish I could get out of my head. A night I’ve had to learn to empower myself with, rather than mourn. After all, I am writing this, so I survived.
After a lifting session, we were having an argument outside my apartment building. I told him to leave me alone and we could talk about it later. I truly had no intention of readdressing the fight at a later date, especially about something that was so miniscule. I just wanted him to leave. He followed me into the building, begging me to talk. When he had his back turned, I ran up 3 flights of stairs to my apartment. He followed and pushed his way in. ‘Sit on the couch!,’ he demanded.
I sat down with a new sense of fear in my body. I had never seen a person change so quickly. It was like watching the seasons speed up, only this was a spectacle of emotions. Not even true emotions, but a manipulation tactic to connect with me in any manner. He went from crocodile tears and asking why I wouldn’t speak with him to dropping to the ground and beating his face with closed fists to turning maraschino cherry red and having veins pop out of his neck. Crazy was the last emotion. That’s the only way I can describe it.
My abuser got 2 inches away from my face and screamed at me without a care. I would hold up my hands to block myself from possible punches, but he would just slap them down. He told me he was going to stay all night. I knew I would never be able to fall asleep for the fear of what violent act he might pull. I begged and begged for him to leave, while he kept yelling and telling me how much I have hurt him, completely disregarding the past incidents he had put me through. Then he came up with an idea: ‘I’ll leave if you have sex with me.’ What?! That was the LAST thing I wanted to do. I couldn’t believe those were his terms. At the same time, I was scared out of my mind. This may be the only way to get him to leave. What did I do? I said ok…
I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to do this. I didn’t want to do this.
My ex got completely undressed while I sat wide-eyed on the couch. He told me to undress. I sat there thinking of any way to get out of this situation. I couldn’t think of anything. He was blocking the only exit I had, and my phone was sitting beside him.
‘No. I don’t want to. I’ll do anything else. Please!’
By that time, he was over negotiating. He threatened to beat me if I didn’t agree to his terms. I undressed, crying. That night I was raped, twice. While doing it he told me to stop crying otherwise he would hit me. My face was on the ground and I had to hold my mouth closed. When he was finished, he uttered the words, ‘You didn’t think I was actually going to leave, did you?’
I’m dead. I’m broken. What else do I have? I even had to ask to put my clothes back on.
He told me he wanted me to hurt the way he was hurting. He told me that if I told anyone he would find my family and kill them.
While continuing to call me names and showing no signs of no empathy at all, my ex searched my closet for something to tie me up with. He found some scarves and I freaked out like I had never freaked out before. I literally got on my knees in front of him and pleaded for my life. Pleaded for him not to tie me up and hurt me. He laughed and walked towards my television. ‘Let’s just sit down and watch TV. I’ll be good. I promise!’
His response: ‘I’m just turning up the volume so no one can hear you scream.’
That was the moment I knew I was going to die in a very painful way if I didn’t run. And even if I ran, I still may be killed, but at least I tried. He was away from the front door, so I saw my chance to escape. I screamed at the top of my lungs and bolted. He was able to grab me and put me in a choke hold on the ground. Objects fell in disarray during the struggle, but I kept screaming. Through the punches, through the moments of my mouth being covered…I kept screaming.
I was able to get the attention of my neighbors. They were banging on my front door, trying to get inside. My ex got frightened and grabbed my apartment key and phone, then sprinted, barefoot, out of the apartment. I was curled up on the ground with strangers looking at me. I felt so vulnerable.
My ex wasn’t arrested until 10 days later due to needing to obtain a warrant. He messaged me through Facebook the entire time, but I had fled to my mother’s house in Oklahoma City. On my return to Kansas City I was depressed. I was happy to go home, but didn’t know what would happen next. I lost all my clients and had no money. I locked myself in my apartment for almost 2 weeks. I then acted out and found that alcohol was the way to relieve the sadness, but that was a flawed theory. I couldn’t take care of myself anymore. I was just plain sad!
Yes, there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Going to the gym and focusing on me after some time of destruction was my solace. I told myself to only look for beauty in everything because nothing could ever be as bad as my experience. I created an Instagram account to keep my mind occupied where I wanted to give advice in inspiration to others by presenting my healthy lifestyle. I still had demons to conquer, but I was focused on becoming strong inside and out. Along the way I grew a thriving business and found the man of my dreams. I pursued legal action that landed my ex in prison. I truly overcame a dark juncture in my life. Some may have let this type of circumstance take them over; I wasn’t about to do that.
All I could ask myself when looking back was, ‘Why did I go back to him?! Kate, what were you thinking?! Run! Run far away!!!’ Manipulation can have one hell of a hold on a person. ‘But the good times…’ Screw that! NOTHING can overshadow the abuse a person can put another through. Nothing! They will pull at your heartstrings. They will apologize and minimize situations, only to return to the same vicious cycle. In a manipulator’s head, in a narcissist’s head, they have done nothing wrong. It must be you or the meds or other outside forces. Never them.
Don’t let that suck you in over and over again. It never gets better, only worse. At the same time, do not blame yourself for falling for such a controlling method. It’s powerful! That’s why so many people fall victim to abusive situations. I still have yet to figure out how to convince someone else to leave that kind of hateful environment. What would have gotten me to? I honestly don’t know. But don’t hold it in like I did. Please, ask for help!”
[If you need help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit thehotline.org to live chat with someone 24/7. Help is out there and you are not alone.]
Read more empowering stories of women overcoming their abusive relationships:
Do you know someone who could benefit from this story? SHARE on Facebook to let them know a community of support is available.