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I am a survivor of domestic violence - Samantha Leigh

I'd like to start off by saying that I am a survivor of domestic violence. I choose to tell the world this way for one very specific reason and with the emphasis on one specific word - that word being a survivor, rather than a victim. Today, I choose to share my story with the world not to be viewed as a victim, and not to be viewed with pity. I spent enough time feeling sorry for myself (don’t worry I’m done with that) and certainly don’t want anyone to be sorry for me now. I simply want to share my experience(s) with domestic violence in a romantic relationship with other women in the hopes that I can help others avoid similar situations or help others gain the courage to leave those situations if they are already in one - or even help readers understand the cycle of abuse so they may judge their loved ones less for being too scared to leave.

When B and I met (we will call him B) I was young, I was happier than I had been in my entire life, I was doing well in college, I was social and active. He stole that from me, slowly and surely. It was all a part of what I learned to be the cycle of abuse. Of course, this wasn’t immediate or evident at the start of the relationship. As everyone does - we had a honeymoon phase. We fell hard & fast - late nights, long talks, affection, romance, etc. He was polished, well-spoken, educated, he came from a good family and he had a smile that could stop a war (or in this case, start one.)  The first signs of manipulation and abuse weren’t exactly physical. It started with the disapproval of the things I did, the places I went, the people I spent time with and even the way I dressed. Desperate to salvage what I thought was actual love, I complied. I changed. I stopped seeing friends and family. I stopped doing things I love. This was the first stage. This stage was the most significant because it isolated me and B successfully made it so that he was all I had. The first time it got physical, I was so naive that I didn’t even view it as physical abuse. It was our very first fight. I don’t even remember what it was about, all I remember is fighting so much that eventually I shut down and stopped talking because I had nothing productive to say. I was sitting on my bed with my back against the wall and he came over to me. He straddled me, gave me a soft look, held my head in between his two hands and whispered in my ear. I thought he was going to whisper something sweet & apologetic, but instead, his embrace was followed with a threat to harm my friends and family and watch me suffer if I didn’t comply with his wishes. He then took my head that was in between his two large hands and smashed it against the wall. I was so brainwashed, that because he didn’t physically “strike” me I truly felt that he hadn’t abused me. From that day on I stayed out of fear which I had mistaken and had been disguised as love. From that day on the physical abuse continued and worsened. He got more bold with his abuse and his grip around me became tighter. The emotional manipulation was as violent as the physical. At one point in our relationship, he slept with a gun under his pillow to ensure that I wasn’t going to “pull anything.” Twice, I tried to leave. Each time reaching out to friends and resources at my school that I knew I could trust - but never honest enough with them or myself about just how physical it was which was the biggest reason it took me two attempts to actually leave him. To break the cycle of abuse and to really want to escape you must first be honest with yourself & that took a sense of bravery from me that I had been robbed of. I still to this day have not been completely honest with my friends and family about just how bad it got and even censored it a bit writing this to you now because part of me still hasn’t escaped. Yes, I had eventually left him but I remained in a battle. When you allow someone to take ownership of you, there is a piece of you that you may never get back and you may always miss.  I write this in hopes that women everywhere will not make the same mistake I did - and I don’t mean the mistake of getting into that situation because it is SO easy to be manipulated into abuse. I’m referring to the mistake of letting him get away with it and not letting my friends in to help me completely when I was ready for help. I let him get away with it. I was so happy to get out of it that I didn’t want to drag it out and seek legal action. Now I live wondering every day if he will do the same to someone else. I sadly ended up in a relationship that almost ended my life years after this, it wasn’t the usual cycle of abuse and there were no warning signs - but he did pull a gun on me. I did not make the same mistake twice, and I did see to it that this time around, the man behind the gun was brought into the court systems and rehabilitated.  I hope women reading this can take something from this -whether it be warning signs, lessons, hope or vigilance in stopping abuse everywhere. Anonymity and silence is what abusers hope for, today I have decided to ruin that for my abusers.

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