I was young. I didn’t know. Didn’t know that someone you fall in love with could turn out to be so cruel. Didn’t know that someone you love can end up coming after you with a powerful vengeance. That love can nearly cost you your life.

He was 25. I was 17. I thought he was so handsome and charismatic, and I felt special to be dating an older guy. He liked to party and I fell into that lifestyle. We were not hanging around healthy people. Life was all about getting buzzed and having fun.

We had a great time together in the beginning. Looking back, though, I see now that there were warning signs I ignored.

He was very controlling. If I didn’t answer his phone calls or didn’t do what he wanted, he would withhold his affection and cut me off. It was his way or no way. So I started making sure that I was always available, that I always did what he wanted so I could “keep him.”

He didn’t seem jealous at first, but that began to change. One day I was talking on the phone to a friend and he grabbed the phone out of my hand. I grabbed it back and then he slapped me. That was the first time he hit me.

Moving to Get Away

Not long after that I decided to move out of state to get away from the party lifestyle I’d fallen into. I wanted to get myself together. My life had begun to get seriously off track from where I wanted it to be.

About a month later, he called and professed his love for me. He said he couldn’t stand being away from me and he was willing to move to be close to me. I loved him, and in my naiveté, I thought the worst thing that could happen would be for me to spend the rest of my life wondering what could have been between us if I had given us another chance. So, he moved to the town I was living in.

For the first couple of months it was good. He wanted us to live together and he found a place for us. It was in a very remote rural area. There was one neighbor and one gas station within a 10 mile radius.

We drove to a party at my cousin’s house one night. We were all doing our share of drinking. At some point, I told him I wasn’t feeling well and I needed to lie down. After a while, he said he wanted to leave.  “I just need to rest for a while,” I told him, and continued to lie on the couch I had been sleeping on.

A moment later, he was on top of me punching me in the face. Then he began strangling me. My cousin happened to come in at that moment and saw what was going on. That scared my boyfriend, and he ran out and drove off.

I stayed at my cousin’s house that night. My boyfriend kept calling and apologizing, and when everybody eventually left the party and went home, he showed up and asked me to come back home with him. It didn’t feel like I had much of a choice, there was no one else to protect me from him then, and he seemed so sorry for what he had done. I went back to our house with him that morning. The violence stopped for awhile…until I got pregnant.

The abuse really began when he knew he had me. Having a family was very important to me…and he knew it. Much later, when I asked him why he’d treated me so badly he said, “Because I knew you would never leave me.”

He started making threats. He told me one day that he could kill me, throw me in a swamp, and no one would ever find my body, so there would be nothing to prosecute him on.

We had lots of fights, and I was scared. I wanted desperately to believe him when he said that things would change, that he would change, and that we were going to be a happy family… but in my core I don’t know if I ever really believed him, I just wanted it to be true and possible so badly that I convinced myself it would get better.

Returning to Michigan

He moved us back to Michigan in a show of how we were going to leave our violent history behind us and start our relationship over again…back where it all had began. I had hope that things were really going to be good this time… but of course they weren’t.

One day we were coming home from a 4th of July party and he punched me in the face while I was driving. He took my cell phone and threw it out the window so I couldn’t call for help. I pulled over and he kept punching me. He threw me out of the car and he tried to run me over.

I pressed charges that time. I was scared though, and refused to testify in his trial. He was still the father of my unborn child. He got a slap on the wrist with a short time in jail and several years of probation.

When he got out of jail, he began contacting me and saying how sorry he was. At that time, I thought it was his drinking and drug use that were the cause of everything…not him. I always accepted his apologies…and believed his promises.

We ended up moving in with his parents. I didn’t have anyone outside of him or his family to talk to, and they were not supportive of me. His father used to abuse his mother. “This is just the way it is,” his mom told me one day.

When my son was eight months old, my boyfriend assaulted me again while I was driving. He started hitting me in the face. He grabbed the steering wheel and tried to steer us into an expressway wall. I knew the area, got off at an exit, and drove straight to the police station.

I left him for good then. Or so I thought.

On the Run from Violence

I moved in with my mother for a while, until he found me. Then I moved in to another place. He found me again and he ended up sending three guys to break into my house.

I moved again and got a place on a month-to-month lease so I could pick up and go whenever I needed to.

He ended up getting arrested on a DUI and spent six months in jail, then six months in rehab. Some part of me still believed that the violence was connected to his drug and alcohol use.

We started talking again. I believed him when he said he wanted to be a part of our son’s life. I wanted him to be a father to our son, too. Now that he was getting help for his addictions, I thought that he might finally be able to be the man and father my son needed him to be.

When he got out of jail, I started making arrangements for our son to spend time with him. It was okay at first, but that didn’t last.

He began making more and more demands on me. He wanted us to get back together. I kept telling him, “No. This is about you being close to your son, not us getting back together.”

He kept calling me, texting me, and threatening me. He blamed me for everything.

After he threatened to kill me and then himself if I didn’t come back to him, I finally took out a PPO (Personal Protection Order) against him. He ended up violating the PPO about 15 times. He went to court on the PPO violations and was charged with aggravated stalking. He received a two- to 20-year sentence.

He is in jail now. I plan to go in front of the parole board every year to fight against his release.

He was just up for parole after his minimum sentence was served. His parole was denied for another year-and-a-half because he has continued to violate the PPO from prison.

Putting the Pieces Back Together

Before all this happened, I didn’t have any faith or any religion. Now, I have a different outlook. I don’t live in bone-chilling, gut-wrenching, incapacitating fear anymore. There is still fear, but it is no longer so paralyzing.

I continue to move. I continue to have post office boxes so he can’t contact me from jail, or have someone else come and find me.

I’m not the same person I was then. I felt I owed him because he was the biological father of our child.

I don’t have guilt and shame about what has happened, or a sense of loyalty to him anymore. I can defend myself and my son now, and I realize finally how much we deserve to be defended. I am not helpless anymore.

That’s what these last two years have given me. I’m capable of handling things differently now. I see through his lies and manipulations. I see him for who he truly is now, a sick and dangerous person who has no desire to be anything better or more than he already is.

It’s funny what time can do, if you use it wisely. I was scared and helpless when I was with him, and petrified when I left and he began stalking me.

After he went to jail, I was furious at the world for what he had put me through. I hated him with such an intense loathing, that it actually frightened me. That’s when I realized I had a choice in who I wanted to be from this point on. I could let this tainted love and violence harden me and make me cold by holding onto it, or I could forgive him for what he’d done and let it go and move on with my life.

It was hard, but I chose to forgive him. Not because he deserved it, because I did. I deserved more than a life filled with my own anger, because I had let my heart become cold with bitter resentments.

I chose forgiveness, because it set me free from the chains that had weighed me down. Forgiveness broke the cycle of violence.

Understanding Violence Is Not Love

The biggest thing, aside from joining the church, was getting to know that violence isn’t love. I grew up in an abusive household. I confused love with violence.

Today, a part of me pities him. He will never have a full or happy life, because he doesn’t know or understand the things that really matter in this world.

As I begin to grow and flourish in who I am and who I am becoming with my new understanding of life and love, he will always be trapped by his small mind and his heart that’s filled with hate and violence. The person I am today has grown in compassion enough to see how sad of an existence that is and pities him for it.

He terrorized me for years with his violent tyranny, but in the end he is the one in a cage and I am the one who is free…in every sense. I will continue to grow and love and find joy, and bring it to others… and he will continue to rot from the inside out.

Freedom never meant so much to anyone as it does to me, unless they too have felt the despair in living without it. I am grateful for the lessons I have learned from this nightmare, because overcoming it has made me a far better person than I ever would have been otherwise. My dreams for the future are deep and bright, because my past was so dark and ugly.

I thank God for who I am today.

Finding LACASA and Learning about Abusers

Truthfully, finding LACASA and becoming a LACASA volunteer has changed my life.

When I went through volunteer training, I realized how classic all of his behavior was. Everything he did was typical of most abusive men. “Oh, really,” I said to myself after learning about the abuser’s patterns.

Realizing my situation wasn’t unique was so liberating. Before I thought no one else in the world could understand…and there it was. Everything he did laid right out there. It was freeing. I needed to know that this is how abusers act. This is what they do. This is how they do it. I “get it” now.

LACASA helped me become educated about the realities of the abuser. I have been able to let go of the guilt, shame and self-blame. I have learned to put the blame where it belongs…not on me.

Now I want to help other women. LACASA is providing me with a way to do that…helping me reach out to teenage girls who are in the situation I was in.

The most important thing is to get information. You need to realize that you are not alone…that there are complete strangers out there who are willing to help.

My story is not over. Parole hearings will be held every year. I will continue to fight to keep my abuser behind bars. And I will continue my volunteer outreach work with LACASA. If someone had come in and talked with me before all the extremes I went through, maybe things would have been different.

God can use a situation to make something good come out of it. My volunteer work and my love for my son help keep me strong and give me hope.

Parenting Education Partner

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