Warning: this post contains discussion of physical, sexual, and emotional violence.
One in 3 women in the United States will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, according to the National Domestic Violence Hotline. This includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. I am 1 in 3. It’s been over 10 years since I was in contact with the person that brought me such trauma, yet it still affects me.
I’m honestly hesitant to post this as I fear I’ll be judged, blamed as the victim, and/or my abuser will somehow see this and retaliate. Regardless, I feel this is an important message to get out there by sharing my own experience with domestic violence.
How it Started
It started many years ago in 2009. I had just finished my Masters Degree and was starting classes for my Education Specialist Degree, both required to become a school psychologist. I was busy in life yet was lonely.
I met my abuser, we’ll call him DI, through someone close to me and he seemed like a great guy. He spent time getting to know me, paid a lot of attention to me, he made me feel I was special and that I mattered. Not only to him but to the world. He was 6 years older than me and seemed more mature than guys my age and we seemed to have a lot of the same views and interests.
He was so incredibly attentive that he’d even stop working if I called during the day when I was between classes, to chat with me. I knew he had a sketchy past, involving drugs and rehab, but I thought he was done with all of that and ready for a better life. With me, and only me.
The Way it Went
The sweetness he had while we were apart and talking on the phone would turn into scary situations when we were in person, especially if he was drinking.
The warning signs were there. I had training in psychology. I should have picked up on it and gotten away quicker. But I didn’t.
At first, we lived about an hour apart, though that didn’t stop him from being controlling. He always wanted to know where I was and accused me of cheating on him with a classmate of mine. Constantly. If I didn’t answer his call or text immediately I’d get in trouble with DI. Sometimes he would check up on me every 20 minutes, even when he knew I was in class or a counseling session with a client.
I remember one time he called me while I was about to start my first class for the day, accusing me of cheating the night before. He said he was going to come to my apartment and smell my sheets and he’d be able to know if I had cheated or not. I was terrified. I was afraid of what he’d do to me if he thought I had been cheating. He actually did it too, he drove an hour to my place in the middle of a workday, let himself in with the key I had given him previously, and smelled my sheets.
Seriously, who does that?!
I was on campus less than a mile away at the time and was so relieved when I got the text from him that after smelling my sheets, he now believed me that I hadn’t cheated on him. Granted, I was a little worried as he said he’d be waiting for me when I got done with class. I wasn’t sure what he had in store and if he’d be sober or not when I got home.
Before long, the controlling/manipulative relationship became verbally, physically, and sexually abusive.
Danger Moves In
Before long, he ended up losing his job and getting kicked out of his apartment. Foolishly, I let him move in with me and after a while, he got a job at a local restaurant as a line cook.
Despite the scary situations, he seemed truly interested in my life and my career path. He even came to the national school psychologists convention with me in Chicago. Of course, I paid for his plane ticket and everything while we were there as he had no money. He said he’d pay me back and we even drew up a contract that he signed and I still have. I know I’ll never see the $1K+ that he owes me, but that’s the least of my worries. All that to say, he really did seem to care about me and my plan in life.
However, those nice moments where he seemed to care became more infrequent.
When he’d come home from work he’d smell so bad from being in the kitchen all shift, mixed with cigarette smoke. I have a very sensitive sense of smell and if I’d grimace at the smell, he’d become overly upset with me.
My memory is quite spotty from that time in my life due to it being over 10 years ago which seems like another lifetime, due to the trauma of it all, and in part to how much I drank back then in the evenings and weekends. There are many reasons I drank to excess then, one of which was to numb myself from the scariness of the whole situation. He always drank in the evening and that’s when things were the worst, so I’d drink too. Now that I’m 10 years sober my brain is still trying to piece things together from nights and weekends back then, even if I’d rather just forget the times with him.
Despite the fuzziness, I do clearly remember a time when I was on the phone with my dad one evening and DI came in from the small balcony off my apartment and started yelling and swearing at me for some reason. I don’t remember why he was so angry, but I know he had been drinking heavily, was just coming in from smoking, and had been talking on his phone. I remember sitting there, with my phone in hand, knowing that though I was talking to my dad and he was hearing all of this, he was 90 minutes away so couldn’t do anything to help. I remember telling my dad I was scared and didn’t know why DI was so mad. I bet my dad didn’t sleep well that night, worried about what might happen to his little girl. Sorry for that, Dad.
Another night, DI hit my cat so hard she flew across the room. We had just found her as a stray outside of my apartment weeks prior and she was probably 6 months old at the time. I don’t remember what DI was upset about but I know it had nothing to do with the cat. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, sitting on my desk within easy reach so he threw her. Luckily she was ok. To her credit, she retaliated by pooping in his backpack which I have to admit, was pretty awesome. I’m glad he found it when he was sober or he probably would have hurt her even worse.
He had a past of drug use, selling drugs, and being in rehab, all before we were together. I thought he was doing better. He drank and smoked cigarettes but that wasn’t concerning to me until it became excessive and he starting being abusive. He’d be so sweet when we were apart and talking on the phone or online, but when we were together, and when he was drinking, things got so scary. That’s also when I started drinking more, and more. I drank to dull the pain, forget what was continually happening, lower my anxiety, and get some sleep.
The interesting thing is with all of his accusing me of cheating, it was actually him who I caught cheating, at least twice. He’d continually deny it and I looked back at one conversation between us about 4 months into our ‘relationship’ when he was still living an hour away from me and he kept trying to assure me he hadn’t been cheating with his ex and begging me to believe him. It was so pathetic. And yet in the end, I believed him enough to continue our relationship.
After about 9 months of being together, I caught him cheating…again… This time I had more proof so I kicked him out of my place, and my life. By then, he didn’t even have his own car, he had been using mine, so his friends drove an hour to pick him up. Then he was someone else’s problem.
Loneliness + Drinking = Bad Decisions
A few months after I kicked him out, I started my first real job in my career as a school psychologist. I moved back across state lines to the state I grew up in but about 90 minutes from anyone I knew. I was lonely and bored when I wasn’t working. It wasn’t long before he showed up. I honestly don’t remember how it all went down, I must have told him where I lived when chatting with him some night while drinking. I clearly wasn’t thinking.
Within a month of letting him back into my life, just a couple weeks into my new career, I had to call 911 for the first time.
On a Friday evening, he slashed his arm open so deeply he wouldn’t stop bleeding, all because I didn’t want to have sex with him. I was tired and had to get up early for a conference the next morning so I wanted to go to bed early. He got angry, grabbed a kitchen knife, and slashed his arm. I couldn’t believe how deep he cut and how much blood there was.
I called 911 and before long police officers and an ambulance came to bandage him up, take our statements, and take him to the hospital for a 72 hour psychiatric hold.
Oddly enough, I had gotten my first piece of furniture delivered that day, a red couch. One of the medics had him sit on it and DI was actually concerned about not wanting to get blood on it because it was brand new.
Want to know something even more ridiculous?
I visited him in the hospital that weekend when he was in the psych ward. Why the heck I did that, I don’t know. The night he slashed himself, he very easily could have turned that knife on me instead. Yet, I still cared about him and visited him in the psych ward.
As a woman and a psychologist, I probably thought I could fix him.
After that did I kick him out of my life? NOPE! Still lonely, even though I had met someone I was starting to spend more time with, I kept this loser in my life. We didn’t spend much time together anymore but hung out and talked every once in a while. Mainly when I’d be drinking in my apartment, at night, alone.
Afraid for my Life
A few months later I became afraid for my life.
Let me set the scene:
I was living alone, 90 minutes away from anyone I knew, living on the ground level of a place that had big windows. It seemed like it was a place that maybe used to be an insurance agency or something and then got converted to an apartment. There was a screen door, a small area just big enough to turn around in, and then my main front door. I don’t think that the screen door locked, if I remember right. I only had neighbors on one side of me but wasn’t able to hear them and they couldn’t hear me due to brick walls and just how the place was set up. I didn’t know them at all nor could I contact them if I needed help. I was completely alone. I had an unfinished basement that was more like a dungeon. Had he gotten into my place, he could have held me captive there and no one would know. DI knew the layout of my place and if he broke a window, no one would hear and he could kill me before anyone had a clue.
One night he showed up at my place, uninvited and unannounced. It was dark out and I was home alone, like usual. He was mad as heck about something, pounding with his fists on my main door after he was able to get through my screen door. He was hidden from any cars driving by inside the little entryway between the two doors. No one would know what was going on. He was trying to break the doorknob so he could get in, and yelling at me anything and everything derogatory and threatening he could think of.
I was completely terrified. I seriously thought he was going to break through the door and kill me.
I don’t even know where he came from or when he pulled up to my place. There was a bar across the street from me with an attached liquor store. I’m guessing he pulled up in front of my place, parked his vehicle, proceeded across the street to consume large amounts of alcohol, and then came over for some reason. I honestly have no idea what he was so upset about.
Below is a picture of where I lived at the time. As you can see, I was on the corner, kind of under where the tree is and I’ve typed ‘My Place’. I put a yellow car out front to denote where he was parked. I lived on a corner and no one lived on the three surrounding corners. Though the post office was behind where I lived, no one is there overnight and it was often closed during the day. You can also see where the bar is within walking distance of my place, this is where I think he went once he arrived and proceeded to drink. As the picture shows, I was isolated and alone.
As he was angerly pounding on my door and shouting, I was frozen in fear, I didn’t know what to do. All I knew was to stay away from the windows in case he broke one to get in, or Heaven forbid, had a gun.
I think I called a friend and they told me to call the police.
I called 911, explained the situation, and begged them to come help me. When they came, they gave him a breathalyzer and he blew a 0.24 BAC which equates to 10 drinks in a 2-3 hour time period for a normal person and is 3x the legal limit to drive. Had the police not come, and had he not been able to break into my place, I can assure you he would have driven his car. It wouldn’t have been the first time he drove heavily intoxicated. He had called me on other occasions while he was driving drunk and I had actually called the police as I was worried for the safety of others on the road, but they were unable to find him.
As a police officer or two were hauling him away in a squad car, a remaining police officer instructed me to get a restraining order the next morning before going to work so they could serve him the papers before he was released from jail.
I did so and had some explaining to do to my bosses and colleagues since I was late for work. I felt like such an idiot. I don’t remember if or who I told the actual truth but I was embarrassed and terrified.
I Was Even Scared at Work
I worked as a school psychologist in one PreK-12 school basically in the middle of no where, another school that was 6th-12th grade, and at a school in another town for children with higher needs. I was spread thin and he knew my schedule. I worked alone in an office most of the day and he’s good at manipulating people so I figured he’d trick them into letting him in to see me.
I often had to stay late at work for meetings and was afraid to walk to my car alone, especially at the school that was in the middle of nowhere. In the winter it was common for me to be walking out to my car in the dark, all alone. I thought he was going to show up and kill me.
I still wasn’t all that sure why he was after me. He had told me repeatedly that he loved me and wanted to be with me forever, yet treated me horribly when we were together, that we had broken up. Even when we hung out again for a while, we both had decided to go our separate ways from what I can remember. And then he came after me at my apartment. I don’t get it.
Restraining order or not, I figured he would come taunt or kill me if he wanted.
The song, “If I Die Young” by The Band Perry came on the radio while I was driving around on a sunny afternoon soon after I filed the restraining order. I knew he was out of the 72 hour hold and back on the streets again. I broke down crying, scared that I would die young and it would be at his hands. To this day, this song touches me deeply.
Despite the Restraining Order…
Despite having a restraining order against him, he showed up one time at my place when I was trying to defrost my car after an ice storm. The ice was so thick on my car that winter morning I wasn’t able to get into it to drive to work. I kept trying and trying, and even turned my remote start on to see if I could warm it from the inside to melt the thick ice on the outside, but that didn’t work. I had to call in to work that day and tell them I wasn’t coming in because I couldn’t get into my car.
By mid-day, the sun had come out and melted the ice on one side of my car. I decided to get into the car and turn the car around so the sun could work on the other side of the car so I could hopefully drive to work the next morning. In the process of this, he drove by, stuck his head out the window, and said hi to me as if we were old friends. He even pulled into the small parking lot to ask if he could help.
Seriously?! I mean that’s nice and all but that’s so how he is. I have a restraining order on the guy because he tried to break into my place and I thought he was going to kill me but here he is, showing up and offering to help. No way.
I declined his offer for help, cautiously turned my car around in the parking lot, and went back to my place. Yes, I was terrified at that point. Though he was seeming to be nice, he has been diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, among other things, and obviously is very good at manipulating people, especially me. Since I had declined his help, he could be upset by that and since he knew I was home in the middle of the day, he could have surmised that no one from work would be looking for me anytime soon and he could have come back and tried to get in to my place and hurt me.
Luckily that didn’t happen.
Not long after that I decided to buy a new vehicle that could handle the relatively open fields driving I had to do daily, especially during the Midwest winters. I knew the vehicle I wanted and when I walked into the dealership, guess who I saw working as a mechanic.
It was DI. Seriously.
I really wanted this vehicle and figured he wouldn’t come after me with a wrench in front of everyone so I just kept walking, pretending all was fine. He then came into the sales area to say hi to me.
Again, I didn’t feel it appropriate for me to tell the salesman that I have a restraining order against this guy and he needs to go back to where he was or I need to leave, so I was cordial. Within a few minutes he went back to working luckily.
The rather humorous thing from this is when I was in the final stages of buying the vehicle and getting those sales pitches on the extra vehicle warranty and such, and I kept declining, the guy brought it up that my mechanic friend he saw me with would recommend I get it. I just wanted to buy the vehicle and get out of there but seriously considered saying that he didn’t know what he was talking about, that I actually have a restraining order against that guy but made a judgement call not to make a big deal of it since he wasn’t being threatening. The last thing I want to do is anything that he would suggest.
Instead I said nothing.
That’s the crappy thing about a restraining order. Yes, I had one against him. Yes, I could call the police if he were near me. However, I walked into his place of employment, not knowing he was employed there. I could have left but I decided not to because I wanted to purchase a vehicle.
He didn’t come after me again after that.
However, I do believe that had I made a stink about anything there, told anyone that I had a restraining order against him and he’s unstable, etc. I’m sure he would have come after me again. Restraining order or not, it doesn’t save your life when someone comes to your place and kills you quicker than police are alerted of the situation and able to save you. I knew my odds weren’t good if I ‘stirred the pot’ at that point.
I also surmised that since he was employed 10 minutes from where I lived and knew someone he was likely staying with just down the street from where I lived, that he was still hanging around the area.
This freaked me out.
Moving Away from Danger
Within a month or two of the incident that resulted in the restraining order, a townhome I had wanted to live in in one of the cities I worked in opened up for rent. Living where I had been, I had a hard time sleeping, afraid that DI would try to break into my place again and this time he might succeed. Though my lease wasn’t up as I’d only been living at my apartment for about 5 months, I found out that I could terminate my lease early due to being a victim of violence, fearing for my life, and having a restraining order. I went through the legal process to do so and moved about 20 minutes away from the last place he knew me to be. I would have loved to have moved further but I couldn’t change jobs so needed to stay nearby.
It was like a new beginning at the new place. Sure, I was still afraid that he could come find me, but he’d have to try harder to do so at this point. I also had a neighbor that I shared a very thin wall with so I figured if he did find me, hopefully she’d call the police if things sounded bad.
I still was afraid when I went to work since I couldn’t change my hours or location, but luckily he never came to my work.
In the Years Since
It was January 2011 when I moved from where he knew me to be, and I luckily haven’t heard from him since. I blocked his number on my phone, blocked him from social media, and email. He could have gotten around any of those things easily enough, I’m sure, but he didn’t. I’m sure he just moved on to his next victim.
I met my husband just months after this all happened. Within a week after having my first date with my husband I told him that I had a restraining order on an ex. I wanted him to be aware in case DI ever came to bother us while we were out and about.
Luckily, this didn’t scare him off and DI never bothered us.
Since then we’ve moved rather far away from where we were then, and moved twice since then, I’m not as scared anymore. DI really has no reason to even think of me anymore, much less come after me. I am sure that I’ve thought more about him while writing this than he’s thought of me in the past 10 years.
I wish I didn’t think of him ever but trauma really seems to stay with a person, and I’m a person who tends to ruminate so that surely doesn’t help things.
For a While, I Didn’t Have to be Scared
Though it’s been over 10 years since I last saw my abuser and though I’ve moved over an hour away from where I last saw him, I still am fearful. I’m afraid that he’ll find me and come after me. It’s pretty easy to find out where someone lives these days.
However, in early 2022 when I originally wrote this, I found out that he is in prison. Finally. Granted, it has nothing to do with me.
Turns out, he had gotten back into dealing meth, like he had before I knew him. Police got a tip that he was dealing meth and busted him just down the street from where my husband and I lived when we first got married. DI was found with multiple baggies containing a total of 24 grams of meth, other items apparently for dealing drugs, and a loaded gun with two spent bullets. This is terrifying. I’m relieved that he’s finally in prison, but petrified that he’s back into drugs and had a loaded gun in his possession. Drugs, dealing drugs, a loaded gun, and multiple mental health diagnoses, are NOT a good mix.
As far as I know, I never saw him on drugs, but who knows. Just knowing how terrifying he was while drinking, I’m assuming on drugs would be significantly worse.
Who knows though, hopefully I’ll never have to find out.
I’m relieved that he’ll be in prison for 3 years and hopefully this post doesn’t reach him. Even if it does, he has nothing to gain by hurting me at this point. It’s not like I named him, I didn’t even use his initials.
Granted, nothing that happened previously regarding him made sense either.
If he did do something, there are people who know his identity and he’d be the only suspect if something did happen to me. So there’s that. Hopefully nothing will though.
I do have to admit, hitting publish on this gives me quite a bit of anxiety, but as I mentioned above, I feel it’s important to share my story.
Unfortunately, since I originally wrote this, he has been released from prison after less than a year. Suddenly, the anxiety and terror comes back even though I know that he has no reason to come after me. I didn’t identify him here and he has nothing to gain by hurting me. Though I know that doesn’t necessarily matter when it comes to a person with mental illnesses who apparently now abuses drugs and carries a firearm while selling them.
Does this Sound Familiar?
If you’re reading this and parts of it sound familiar to you as though it’s your life, please take a step back and examine your situation carefully. It’s easy to just roll with the punches, figuratively and literally, hoping that things will get better, feeling that your abuser does really love you and care about you, despite the heck they put you through.
I’m here to tell you, it’s not worth the danger of sticking around.
True love doesn’t hurt. True love isn’t controlling, doesn’t scare you, and doesn’t threaten you. Love doesn’t hurt you, physically, sexually, or emotionally. Love isn’t calling someone names or belittling them.
That’s abuse. And YOU deserve better!
Here are some resources if you need help:
Always be careful if you do reach out to domestic violence resources. Try to use a phone or computer other than your own if your abuser tends to snoop on your phone, the phone bill, or the computer.
- National Domestic Violence Hotline (24/7)
- Website & Chat: https://www.thehotline.org/
- Phone: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
- Text START to 88788 to text with someone who can help
- Violence Free Minnesota
As a mom of identical twins and a son two years older, I have gained invaluable experience in the realm, and chaos, of parenting. With a Master's Degree and Education Specialist Degree in School Psychology, I spent years as a school psychologist, helping children navigate through their educational and emotional challenges. Now as a stay at home mom and professional blogger, I combine my areas of expertise to help you in your parenting journey.