When I was 15, I was a victim of date rape. I never told anyone and suffered for many years in silence.
When I began dating, I didn't date guys that were good for me. I chose the ones that were negative because I wasn't good enough for the good ones. I felt so much shame in what happened to me and blamed myself for many years.
You see, I was a virgin, and I was very involved in our church youth program. I made many excuses as to why being raped was my fault. As years passed, I pulled away from guys that were good for me, because I didn't deserve them. I clung to guys that were negative influences because after all, that is what love was. As a child, my father was very emotionally abusive to my mother so with the rape, and my childhood exposure, men like him were what I thought was good for me.
In 2002, I met a man who did all the right things. He was kind to my son, and after only two weeks, he even purchased him a new four-wheeler. That should have been a red flag, but I ignored it. After three months, I was pregnant, and we were engaged. Once we were married, things got bad for me. He would have temper tantrums which sometimes led to name-calling and blaming.
When I was about six months pregnant, he choked me for the first time because he did not see a bill on the table that he needed pay. This act terrified me, but he was remorseful and apologetic. He promised that it would never happen again. He said all of the right things to convince me to stay. This pattern of behavior happened off and on throughout our 10-year marriage.
Our relationship was very unhealthy, and he isolated me from family and friends over time. I quit going to family functions and things like that. My family had no idea what was happening in my house. Nobody did. My children missed many days of school, and I made excuses for them since they were in the middle of all of the chaos. They witnessed the abuse for years. At some point, my oldest son began trying to intervene, and he was getting caught in the middle of it. There were a few times that my x-husband even put his hands on him. I wanted to leave badly, but every time I tried, my x-husband got worse and threatened to take the kids and run or have me killed. I thought that toughing it out until the kids could grow older would be safer than leaving home. I could at least protect the kids.
One day, he wrapped his hands around my neck in anger and choked me until I passed out. When I woke up, my daughter was standing over me crying and shaking me. That was the point when I knew that I had to get out. When I did get him out of the house, I tried to get a protective order, but he had his fancy lawyer, so the court quashed the order. He sued me for full custody and child support, as well as a divorce from board and bed. He humiliated me online via Facebook and went around town notifying all of his friends that he left me because I spent all of his money and cheated on him. The only salvation that I had was finding support by women in a local church and the community.
I did some stupid things after we split. I met another man who was unhealthy, but I pushed him out after realizing what I was doing. You see, I hadn't gotten myself help initially, but once I started counseling and did some other things to empower myself, I became healthy again. I found my spirituality. I finished college and completed a 6000-hour internship to become a substance abuse counselor. I formed healthy relationships. It was not easy, but I pressed charges against my x-husband, and he pled guilty to a lesser charge to avoid a felony.
Leading up to and following the divorce has not been easy. My x-husband has unsupervised visitation with the children, and I have to communicate with him. I have been raising my children for the last five years without any financial help for my x-husband because of his continued threats against me. Somehow I am making it though. There are hard days, but I am being assertive and taking care of myself. I go to counseling when I need to or seek out guidance from women within the church. When my x-husband is verbally abusive towards me, I hang up or walk away.