Her Campus Logo Her Campus Logo
placeholder article
placeholder article

I am a Survivor.

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at WMU chapter.


Four years ago I became another statistic of domestic violence, and not a day goes by that I don’t think about it.


At first glance, I am a bubbly, short, blonde haired 24-year-old college student. I am finishing up my last year at Western Michigan and couldn’t be more excited to start my life. I, like everyone, has their own demons that stress them out, but fuel their need for success. For some it’s their battle with weight, for others it was the mean girls in high school, and for others it’s just the social pressures that keep them on their toes in fear of failure.


My daily demons aren’t any of those. Everyday I try to find ways to deal with the fact that my life isn’t the same as it was before that night; that night when violence was the answer. I fell victim to physical and mental abuse by a guy who I thought I cared deeply about. Quick glimpses of that night and pictures taken by police officers still haunt me and make appearances in my nightmares.


Four years later, I can’t seem to figure out why I still let the situation get to me.  It’s holding me back from experiencing life and love again. But I am a work in progress. I am not damage goods, but only a beautiful repackaged present. 


As with everyone, there are good days and bad days to be had, mostly good, but there are still those days where I am mad at that night. I am angry for reasons I couldn’t pin point if I were asked to. That’s not fair. It’s not fair for my loved ones to deal with my emotions and deep seeded anger in watching my past life slip through the fists of another. And it most certainly is not fair to me to not have answers for why I am angry. Even though most of my days are jam packed with smiles and jokes, there are still those grey days where one thing will set off my Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTDS-which is what many people have after they have witnessed and/or been involved in something traumatic that it, for lack of a better description, leaves on mark on your brain that follows you for your life.)


I recently have realized that the future of a survivor of domestic violence is a rollercoaster of emotion and for reasons unexplained, will never be able to be predicted.  As the year that the incident progressed on, I was depressed. I was sad. But these words aren’t doing justice to what we survivors feel.


Have you ever looked in the mirror and wasn’t able to recognize the person looking back at you because your entire face was black and blue, and swollen to the point where you couldn’t open your mouth wide enough to brush your teeth? There are more women than you think who have experienced this type of sadness. 


Have you ever been seen as the ‘bad guy’ or the ‘trigger’ to why a ‘loved one’ laid his hands on you? That’s depression; not knowing how to convince people that you didn’t do anything, and more importantly, how to convince yourself that you did not do anything to cause such an amount of rage that can’t even be imagined by a normal human.


Another battle we survivors have is we, momentarily, lose the ability to feel love or want to be loved. Speaking from my perspective, I did not want to touched, held, loved, nothing. I wanted to be left alone. The only reasoning I can gather for this type of reaction is fear. Not necessarily fear of being abused again, but fear of being lied to.  Anger and depression are such powerful emotions that when broken trust seems to be the root of these emotions, all mental hell breaks lose. I trusted those words: “I promise I would never hurt you.” We all did. Trust is a powerful thing, and when misused it’s hard to come back from.


Trust is a hard thing to build up on after this type of traumatic event. I deal with trying to be more trusting of people (particularly college aged men) everyday. Telling yourself people can be trusted becomes exhausting.


Trust is a touchy topic after an act of violence. I can tell you first hand that people who were trusted and had a bond with prior to the incident, will surely make you rethink your friendship with them post-incident. People picked sides, as with people do, but with choosing sides, people nonverbally expressed their stance on domestic violence to me. People who I thought cared about me and had a strong understanding of right and wrong seem to fall by the wayside. I would never wish this on any young women, but I would hope that if it were their sister or daughter in the same situation that they remember how they cowardly turned their backs on me and put me as the point of blame.


Survivors deal with a lot. I can’t even begin to discus the relationship issues we have with future partners, as well as medical bills that still come in the mail long after the bruising is gone and your jawbone is workable again. It’s a horrible burden that to the public is view as a sign of strength, but to us, it’s a scare that no one can comprehend the enormity of.


Sometimes we feel ashamed of ourselves. We look at our beautiful bodies and discard them because we were used and abused in the most literal way. We have to leave public places because if our abuser is there, we know nothing good can come out of this situation. Some would say, “No! Stand your ground! Do what you want!” To that I have to say this, we want to. We want to so badly, but it’s hard. It’s probably one of the hardest things being in the same public place as someone who hurt you so badly only three days before Mother’s Day.


It’s really not fair. Whenever I hear someone say that they got an undeserved parking ticket or bad grade, I get instantly annoyed. No, you did something wrong in those cases; we did nothing wrong to have experienced the amount of hatred we received.


 In many cases the abuser continues their life while maintaining the same habits. That also, is not fair. How come we, as survivors, have to rebuild everything all over again just to defend our ‘view’ of the story? It’s truly heartbreaking.


There are ways that people can help even out the equality in these situations. One of those ways would be to listen to us. We aren’t asking you to consume yourself in a grave amount of hate, we just want to be heard. When we deserve to be listened to and respected. Even anyone has a question about my experiences; I without a doubt will sit down with you and tell you everything. From the amount of alcohol consumed by both us of us, down to the embarrassing way I had my roommates call the police. Knowledge in these situations is key to steps in understanding and hopefully, stopping another attack.


Another thing people can do to support a survivor of domestic violence is to remain a true friend to them. Through thick and thin, my family and friends have supported my emotional rollercoasters. They have seen me at my worst, watched me build myself up and occasionally fall, but they have never once stopped believing in me. They have watched me grow from an angry victim to a cheerful and motivated survivor. No words can describe how my support system has always had my back throughout the years. I love all of them dearly. If it wasn’t for them, I might not be writing this now.. who knows.


The road to recovery is a bumpy one. With the amount of sadness and anger I feel, happiness and love trumps it on daily bases. People who have loved me, helped me, nurtured me back to life, have shown that through evil, good will prevail; you just have to give it a chance.


What I ask of you is to give domestic violence the respect and attention it deserves. Listen to your friends and know the red flags before it’s too late. This isn’t something that should be swept under the rug and dealt with another day. No one deserves this burden and more importantly, no one deserves to be ignored. Make yourself aware of the path that leads to domestic violence.  I don’t mind being the voice of this, because I don’t want to see this happen to anyone. To some I might be beating a dead horse, but I am willing to stand up for what I believe in and continue my path toward getting justice. My justice would be to make people aware of what actions are considered supportive and what actions aren’t.


October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, make a difference and take a stand. 

I always find self-written bios to be kind of awkward, but throwing modesty out the window, here goes nothing: Hi, my birth name is Sara but I feel as though most of Kalamazoo knows me as Hollywood, which has been my nickname for several years now. The nickname was given to me when I played rugby for WMU, and it just stuck. This is a chance to set aside my ultra ego, and dive into the opinions and thoughts of Sara rather than the outrageous, unbelievable adventures of Hollywood. A little about me: I am studying Communication Studies and Nonprofit Leadership at Western Michigan. I think I'm almost done, but with college, who actually knows. My ultimate goal would be to have my own column in a women's health magazine that talks about nutrition, exercise, and maintaining a positive outlook on life as a woman. But if that doesn't pan out, I figure I would own my own hotdog stand, so I got options. Unlike most people, I love running and exercising. A few years back I had something devastating happen to me, and the way that I found happiness again was through a healthy diet, learning about nutrition, and working out. I completed two triathlons this summer, and in one of them I placed in the top 10 for the 29 and below age group. Now that I have conquered the triathlon, I don't know what's next off my bucket list that I want to conquer. (May be Brazil??) I am not a 'down-to-earth' person, rather, I like a busy life and I like being involved whether it be getting involved in volunteering or just trolling around Kalamazoo with my friends. I'm always on the go and I like it that way. But as of now, I'm just a twenty-something girl with a zest for adventure with an empty wallet who is making due with exploring all what Kalamazoo has to offer. If you see me out, I'll be the girl with red shoes and a mustache tattooed on her finger. I usually refer to myself as not the girl next door, but the girl two doors down; I have a little more life lessons under my belt and a different outlook on life. http://theblacksheeponline.com/author/sara-czarnecki twitter: @sarasuzieczar