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Invisible Wounds: The Story of a Domestic Violence Survivor

Domestic violence occurs a lot more frequently than most people would think. Just because it did not happen to you or someone you know, it does not mean it doesn’t happen. It is one of the most underreported crimes. (2) Most of the victims of domestic violence are women – approximately 85% of domestic violence victims are female. Domestic violence is the leading cause of harm to women. (1) One of every four women will experience domestic violence in her lifetime. Women who are between the ages of 20 to 24 are at the greatest risk of nonfatal domestic violence by their intimate partner. (1) I am a student at NC State and a victim and survivor of domestic violence. Since October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, I thought I should share my story with you. I want you to know that domestic violence does happen and that it could happen to anyone. You don’t need to know who I am, what I look like, or what my name is. All you need to know is that I could be the girl you pass on the Brickyard, I could be the girl waiting in line at the Atrium, I could be the girl in your class, I could be your friend –I could even be you.

I hope that my story will help others understand and recognize what an abusive relationship looks like. Even though you may know the signs of an abusive relationship, you might not recognize that you are in an abusive relationship. Or even if you do, you may not have the courage or know how to get out of it. I never believed something like this could happen to me. I never thought that someone I loved and trusted could hurt me like this. I always thought to myself: “I’m a strong independent woman and I will never let a man hurt me.” But I did not know that domestic violence was indiscriminate and anyone could be a victim – even strong independent women.

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My ex boyfriend Dan* and I met Fall semester of my sophomore year. He was cute, shy, smart, friendly, and very easy to talk to. We had so much in common and got along together really well. I knew we liked each other but I was hesitant to go out with him because he was Black and I knew my parents would never approve of interracial dating. But in the following semester we started going out. Dan was my first boyfriend and I was so excited, nervous, and in love. We were constantly texting each other, had late night phone calls, and saw each other almost every day. He told me I was his ideal girlfriend, that I was perfect for him, and that no one else understood him like I did.
In my junior year of college I started to ignore my friends and club duties. I did everything with Dan. He was my best friend and my lover. He was the person I trusted and loved the most. Then he started to become possessive, jealous, and paranoid. He told his friends not to hug me. He constantly accused me of talking to or checking out other guys. I couldn’t even look in the general direction of a guy jogging down the road or watch a movie with a shirtless guy without Dan accusing me of checking him out.

Before summer started Dan asked me to move in with him so we could be together during the summer. He said he would be so sad and lonely without me and that he would miss me terribly. He also said he could not do a long distance relationship and that we would break up. I was reluctant to move in with him because he had gotten really possessive and jealous. But he had never hit me before and I believed that he would never hurt me. I decided to move in with him to see where our relationship would go. I lied to my parents about where I was going to be for the summer. I didn’t tell my siblings or friends where I was going to stay. No one knew where I was.

When summer started we moved in together to a little studio apartment in Raleigh. Things started out just fine. We were just happy to finally have some privacy. But then things started to turn sour. It started as verbal abuse. He would call me names like fat, stupid, ugly, bitch, and idiot. At some point I started to believe him — I didn’t think I was beautiful or smart anymore. My self-esteem dropped and I sunk into a deep depression. I even had suicidal thoughts. Then the verbal abuse turned physical. Dan would grab me really hard or pin/hold me down. I had bruises on my arms from him grabbing me too hard. I started to question myself if I was in an abusive relationship but I did not think I was because he had never hit me. These things did not set off a red flag in my head until it happened.

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It happened one night when we were arguing. Dan picked me up and slammed me onto the bed – breaking the wooden part of the box spring. I let out a cry but he jumped on me and gripped my throat tightly with one hand. Tears were streaming down my face and I was crying but no sound came out of my mouth. He was pressing down really hard on my throat and I was hitting his hand repeatedly with both of my hands. I felt my head going light, my head and throat felt like it was swelling. I couldn’t breathe and it felt like things around me were getting more distant. I really thought he was going to kill me. I was screaming at the top of my lungs but no sound escaped my lips. I grabbed his hands and arms and pinched and scratched as hard as I could. He moved his hands off my throat and then gripped my face, covering my mouth. It felt like he was going to dislocate my jaw. I continued struggling with him and tried to scratch his hand off my mouth. When I got his hand off my mouth enough to catch my breath, I looked him in the eye and said “You choked me.” And he said “No I didn’t. If I choked you, you would have no air.” His expression was cold. I felt a shaking fear within me and thought that this was really the face of someone who could kill me.

A couple of days after that we got into another argument. Dan restrained me on the sofa. I begged him to let me go. I said I would leave and never come back and never tell anyone what happened but he would not let me go. Time passed and he relaxed his grip on me and I took that chance to run to the door. I got the chain half way off the door when he grabbed my arm and pulled me back. I was screaming: “Someone help me! I’m in 1314! Help me! I’m in 1314!” All I could think of was my neighbor in that military uniform I saw the other day. I was hoping for a hero or at least knock on the door but no one ever came. Dan tried to force me back to the sofa but eventually just dragged me onto the floor and pinned me down. A couple of hours passed and I decided to pretend everything was okay and even apologized to him. Then he said we had to have make-up sex. I said no. He said that if I did not have sex with him I was still mad at him and that make-up sex would make me feel better. Then Dan tried to take my clothes off. I was trying to hold onto my pants but he pulled them off me. I kept saying: “No. Stop. I don’t want to have sex. PLEASE STOP! Dan…No…” But Dan didn’t listen, he yanked me by the arm into a standing position and then pushed me onto the bed and forced me to have make-up sex with him.

I stayed with him for about another month. I did not leave because things were not bad 100% of the time. We would have our happy moments, and I would forgive him for what he did. He made me believe that everything that happened to me was my fault. I was isolated – I lost touch with my friends and I was even scared to call or text my family members. I had no car, no key, no money, no freedom. I felt helpless, ashamed, scared, sad, and regretful. I thought I was being punished for lying to my family. I would suffer more abuse from Dan before I finally made the decision to let someone know and leave. Dan would grab, pinch, bite, and back hand me. He ended up slamming me on the bed a second time. Another time he tried to break my hand because I refused to change my Facebook profile picture to a picture of us. The last straw was when he asked me to have sex with him. When I refused, he bit me on the face. That night as I laid on the sofa crying myself to sleep I promised myself that that was the last time I would let him treat me that way.

In the morning after Dan left for work, I let my sisters know what was happening to me for the past two months. One of my sisters and her boyfriend drove three hours to pick me up the very next day. A month later I obtained a restraining order. The first and last time I saw Dan after I left him was in court. There were a lot of mixed feelings. He was someone I loved and trusted. He was a friend and boyfriend but he was also my abuser. I don’t think I would have been able to be where I am now without the love and support of my family, friends, and all of the services that NC State provided me.

I’m glad I got out of that situation. So many women stay with their abusers for life because they believe they have no way out. Many women in abusive relationships are killed by their partners. I didn’t want to be just a dead body that served as a lesson to others. I didn’t want people to say “She was kind. She was smart. She had so much potential. She was strong.” But rather, I want to be able to say that I am kind, I am smart, I have so much potential, and that I am strong. So next time you’re on campus, stop and take a look around and remember that one of every four women will experience domestic violence in their life time. We may not have scars or bruises, but we have wounds that you cannot see. We have invisible wounds. They are the emotional anguish, the paranoia, the fear, and the remains of abuse.

If you are in an abusive relationship please let someone know. Domestic violence is not your fault. You did not choose to be abused. Don’t stay with someone who treats you that way, you deserve much better. Take your heart and run. Live, struggle, and survive. Don’t be a lesson, be a teacher.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the people in the story.
For Emergencies please dial 911.
NC State Women’s Center: 919-515-2012
• Relationship and Sexual Violence 24/7 hotline: 919-618-RAPE
NC State Counseling Center: 919-515-2423
NC State Campus Police: 919-515-3000
InterAct: 919-828-7740
Legal Aid: 919-828-4647

1. http://domesticviolencestatistics.org/domestic-violence-statistics/
2. www.ncadv.org/files/DomesticViolenceFactSheet(National).pdf
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