Today would have been another wedding anniversary for me. A ticking off of another year of pain but it has been over now for nearly three years. Wow nearly three years, and here I am happy and free. You’re thinking remembering my anniversary, how strange. And it is. I am sombre when in reality I should be celebrating the fact I escaped and I did escape. In truth had I stayed there is a distinct possibility I wouldn’t have been here today to write this letter to you.
I don’t know you and all I know is that where you are now is where I stood three years ago. Broken and afraid. Afraid to be alone, afraid to make the next step, afraid to live, afraid to die, afraid I was crazy, afraid I had been stamped and twisted into the dirt so far I’d never dust myself off. I curled on the couch in foetal position for weeks, didn’t eat and just felt that despite breathing every morning the heartbreak would eventually, kill me. I was an empty shell wracked with fear, and a pain so hard to describe, it’s grief but it is so much more complex. I understand the hope bubble you are floating in. The one about to burst with all that you know is true but don’t want to acknowledge.
I remember crying about how he wasn’t really that bad to a DV counsellor on the phone, even when I could barely move from the pain and as the lingering presence of his fingers bruised my neck. I defended him even as she told me that I was in extremely dangerous situation. I remember trying to find a rational explanation for something that just didn’t make any sense. I remember him trying to act sorry when all he felt was pride that he’d scared me into submission. Yet I don’t remember seeing his face when he strangled me, when he forced his forearm hard across my neck…I don’t see that and I don’t want to ever see that it is locked away somewhere. Sometimes it still feels as if it wasn’t me it was happening to that I was some other woman. Perhaps I was then in a way, but it was me and I didn’t deserve any of it. I didn’t deserve to be bullied and broken by a man who was supposed to love and care for me and nor do you.
Right now you feel lost and alone but if there is one piece of advice I can give you it is reach out. Don’t be silent. It is terrifying but it only takes one step of courage and you have that inside you. You have lived in a situation that no one can understand unless they have lived it and you have survived. That takes strength, you are far from weak. Reach out and tell your story to someone, a professional who knows about domestic violence, they can help you start to put the pieces back together.
I don’t know why I write this to you today. I feel that maybe you think it is better to stay, that maybe he’ll change (he won’t), you’ll be alone, you’ll be homeless and maybe it’s best to stay. It’s not, you are not safe. I know leaving is terrifying. I know you are scared of what he will do and it is dangerous that’s why I urge you to reach out for help. You cannot do this on your own. There are good people out there who will believe you, who will help you and get you to safety.
If you do make that step it will be the biggest one and it is the first step to freedom. The first step to finding yourself again and it is a long, sad and traumatic journey. I won’t lie to you it is not easy but it is better than living in fear. And yet one day, light will begin to filter in, moments at a time. One day you will find yourself smiling, you’ll have a spring in your step on another and then imagine that day when you hear yourself laugh out loud again. And you will laugh again. It will surprise you, delight you and you may even cry a little but they will be joyful tears that you own.
Right now you don’t believe me, I know, I didn’t believe it either. It is just a slow one step at a time journey that can never be rushed but you CAN DO IT. You are resilient, you are capable, and you are a beautiful woman who deserves to find happiness and respect. Please take that step but do it with care, and be safe and do seek help. Some of the most beautiful people I met on my journey were strangers and it restores faith in your heart when you need faith desperately. You deserve to be happy, safe and free.
Please if you or anyone you know needs help please contact the following for help or seek helplines in your country or state.