I was 21 when I first met my ex-husband. I hadn’t dated a lot of people and was struggling with depression. I had always been very self-conscious and didn’t have a very good self-image. So when I met him for the first time, he was charming. He told me I was beautiful and paid attention to me. I let my guard down, even though there were several things that were initial warning signs. Although kind at first, he quickly changed. He was fast moving in our relationship and wanted to get married very quickly.
I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. I wanted to believe people could change for the better. By age 27, though, he had already been married twice and did not have custody of his two young daughters. When I asked him about his past, he would justify past mistakes and tell me his ex-wives had been crazy. I would try to fill in bits and pieces of his history from his friends or family members. It wasn’t as if one day things just got bad, or I would never have been with him.
It was a subtle shift. Day to day, he would see how much more he could push, and then he would say he was sorry when he pushed too far.
I grew up very protected and sheltered by very good people. I was confronted by a man who I thought loved me, but he began to isolate me from my family and threatened me with bodily harm if I didn’t do what he wanted. He pushed my boundaries — guilt tripped me into everything. I was verbally, sexually and physically abused.
I didn’t know how to handle the situation. I had never been around a person like this, my dad who is such a good man, had never once spoken or treated my mom the way that my ex-husband had treated me. I was very confused, but I felt like he owned me. He would tell me that no one else would love me but him. He would point out that I was overweight, or that I was not pretty. He would compare me to women at work. He cheated on me two days before we got married and didn’t tell me about it until the day after our marriage. If he hurt me, he would tell me it was because of something I had done wrong, or because he had a bad day at work, always justifying his actions.
I found out he was extremely addicted to pornography in which women were being beaten and harmed. He acted out this same behavior in our marriage. At first, I couldn’t understand why he was being so rough and hurting me, and then right before I left I had a glimpse of what he was watching.
Unfortunately, it didn’t only affect me, as I was pregnant at the time. One night he got too carried away. The next day, I ended up in the emergency room. Doctors told me that I no longer would get to have my sweet baby — my sweet baby that I was so excited about and had already fallen so in love with. I was devastated.
When it finally affected another person besides me, something clicked. Several weeks later, I found the strength to run away.
I share this story in the hope that it will help bring a better awareness to just how toxic pornography can be. The things we watch, see and surround ourselves with influence our actions and the way we treat our loved ones. I also hope to make people more aware of just how serious domestic violence, abuse and rape are, having experienced each of these personally.
I know how difficult it can be to leave these types of situations. This portion of my life was so hard for my friends and family members because they didn’t understand what was going on. If we are all better educated, more aware, and cautious, we can work to prevent situations like this from happening in the future and to help those who have experienced these devastating circumstances.
I feel fortunate to be where I am today. I got away. My baby was not so lucky, and that is something I think about every day. I know that there is life after a bad situation and that healing can happen.
I know that we women are incredibly resilient.