I could not wait to get started on my favorite romance author’s latest publication. About halfway through the first chapter, I had to put it down. The book was too close to home. Although this was a fictional story, it was based on a true life experience—and it had torn off the scabs of my 20-year-old secret.
Nine out of the twenty years, I was in an emotionally, and sometimes physically, abusive marriage. Divorced for the other 11, I never had spoken to anyone regarding this. I think my family suspected it all along, but most likely didn’t know how to address this with me—and to tell the truth, I would have denied it.
People often ask how you can stay in such a relationship. You don’t want to, and deep down in your subconscious mind, you know it is wrong and unsafe, but there is just not an easy way out. Emotionally and spiritually, you are so broken down that you don’t believe that you will make it if you leave. Every day you hear that you are not good enough or skinny enough—and that even if you do leave, where will you go? Who will look at you anyway, seeing that you are so overweight? Moreover, he controlled the finances, so how would I survive?
Emotional abuse is so much easier to hide from the world because there are no marks on the outside, but deep inside, you slowly die. You become a master at wearing a mask while your own personality, creativity, and soul wither away. And you have to keep up the guise, because nobody would believe you anyway.
People considered my ex-husband to be a nice guy, everyone’s friend, someone who was always willing to help. Sometimes, I even let myself be convinced that I was just imagining things.
Today, I have no desire to ever see my ex again, but if I ever did, I know it would be okay—because I no longer have the fear inside me. Speaking out about abuse after I finished reading the romance made me stronger, and I keep getting stronger each day.
It is difficult, but it only takes one step. Now, I am also involved with gathering “second handbags” filled with toiletries, a soft toy, and a letter addressed to women who have been abused or raped, or who are survivors of human trafficking. My mission and passion now are to let women know that there is help, and there are safe places and people who believe in you.