"I wanted a big change, so I packed up my belongings and moved to Charlotte, North Carolina to live with my friend. Shortly after arriving, I met a man. David was a handsome, clean cut, all-American guy. He was a single dad, with full custody of his young son. The first month with him was a fairy tale. Then, everything abruptly changed.
One Sunday, I worked for 12 hours and didn't have access to my phone. I missed many calls and texts from David. They escalated from, "Where are you?" to "Who are you with?" to calling me names. After work, David was waiting at my apartment. He had not given notice that he was coming. He insisted I go back to his house with him. On the drive there, he started saying very degrading things to me: calling me names, insulting my job, and making fun of my physical appearance. The next morning David said, "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean it." It was the first time of what would become a habitual cycle.
Less than two months living at the apartment with my friend, he paid for me to break my part of the lease and leave. Somehow he had made my friend the enemy and I had severed ties with the one friend I had in Charlotte. In hindsight, he had manipulated the situation so that I became completely dependent on him for housing and emotional support. I worked 60 hours a week. Though he told me that he had a job, and would even be dressed in the mornings, it turned out that he had been dismissed from his job a year prior and was living on unemployment.
Over time, I began putting together clues that confirmed that David was actually living a life full of lies and illegal activities. I told David I was leaving him. He hit me across the face with the back of his hand, cutting and bruising my face. I was in so much shock, I could not even form words, and gasped desperately for air.
The assault continued to escalate. He held me down, continued to hit me, and then moved on to sexual assault. It was exactly like those dreams where you go to scream but nothing comes out except some hoarse whisper, and your limbs don't cooperate the way you want them to.
The next day, David was crying and hugging me, begging for forgiveness and ensuring it would never happen again. When he proposed to me just four days later, it validated for me that he truly loved me. Then "Nice Guy David" disappeared and the violence happened again.
If he turned on my car and there was rap music playing on the radio, he would ask, "Who's been in here with you?" He would grab my cell phone every night and scroll through my call history as well as read all my text messages. If I went shopping, he would grab the bags out of my hand as soon as I entered the house and start looking through the receipt and all items I bought. He forbade me from wearing shorts even in the summer heat. He insisted he have the passwords to log in to all my social media and email accounts and checked When I met a young woman my age and she invited me out for coffee, I was so excited to have the prospect of a friend, but when I got home, he accused me of being out with a guy and became violent, so I gave up trying to make friends.
He always thought I was orchestrating things against him. I endured constant accusations and escalating violence. Each time he was violent, over and over he would cry and say he was sorry afterward, and that he was going to get help. When I met a young woman my age and she invited me out for coffee, I was so excited to have the prospect of a friend, but when I got home, he accused me of being out with a guy and became violent, so I gave up trying to make friends.
I was lonely with absolutely no friends or family to turn to. Every time that I told him I was going to leave, the violence would start. He punched me, choked me, and broke my wrist. I wanted to tell somebody what was going on, but David told me that people don't want to hear drama, and that I would be labeled "trailer trash" forever if I ever tried to tell anyone what he was doing. I actually believed that.
David even threatened, "If you ever leave me, I could have you killed or your family killed, no matter where you go." I was terrified of him and fully believed him. I felt trapped. If I stayed, how bad might he injure me next? If I left, I faced homelessness as I had no friends or family to go to out here. Where would I go?
I decided to leave for good the day after my 26th birthday after experiencing another beating. His friends were there and witnessed it, but they never stepped in. He took my wallet containing my ID and bank cards/money, phone, and car keys so that I could not leave that night. He choked me until I started thinking "This is it. I'm dying! He's killing me!" David choked me until I blacked out.
When I came to, David was sexually assaulting me. He barricaded me in the bedroom to keep me there. He and his friends left the house. I somehow escaped, running barefoot to the nearest convenience store. They wouldn't let me use their phone. I ran back to the house to get quarters and to find shoes. One of David's friends and his sister happened to pull up at the same time and helped me. I was so afraid David was coming he was coming he was coming! I had to leave NOW. I left my family pictures, everything. I drove away, with no idea where I was headed, only that I had to get far away.
His friend's sister took me home with her and then to the police the following day. The police could see my bruises and cuts and they charged him with 2nd degree kidnapping and felony strangulation. While I was in court trying to get my domestic violence protective order, David continued to try to threaten and intimidate me within the courtroom. I continued to feel defeated by all the power he still seemed to have.
David continued to play mind games with me during court dates. He brought young women to court who wore the clothes I had left when I escaped. Eventually the court convicted him of false imprisonment. While in court, I discovered that David had been in prison for 7 years for assault on women, stalking, and felony burglary. I spoke to his parents to express my concern about the safety of his son. There was a custody battle and the boy was removed from David's home.
I found a fully furnished apartment and moved in. I started making friends. I very slowly started feeling like the bright, optimistic, free-willed woman I had been just a year before. There were still many times I was haunted, though. I never slept in my bed because it faced a window. I had nightmares for months of David finding me. I would get severe anxiety every time I passed a car on the road that looked like his.
It has now been nine years since I left David. I have made a great network of friends, am enrolled in graduate school, am a volunteer board member for a local non-profit for at-risk youth, have a job I love, and outside of work, I enjoy adventures, travels and activities with people I love. I believe in the good in people, and that is what helps me to still smile, to trust and to love.
The question is always, "Why does she stay?" I always thought it was because the woman was weak. David was so methodical, though. He quickly villainized my only friend and then isolated me from family, too. He created the control he had over me, and it came in well-defined patterns: too-good-to-be-true romance, verbal abuse/threats, physical abuse, apologies and self loathing. The behaviors repeated and escalated. A huge factor in "Why?" is that I had no friends or family to turn to.
What do I want other women to know? You CAN overcome it. It may seem terrifying to do life without him because that's what you have become so accustomed to, but please know that a far better life, a healthy life awaits you. Also, have a plan. If you tell your abuser of a plan to leave, that can put your life in grave danger. Developing an exit plan without your abuser's knowledge is crucial to your safety. Never be afraid to reach out for help. It does not make you weak. It does not make you seem low-caliber. It can save your life."
Safe Alliance believes that everyone deserves to live free from violence. Call our Domestic Violence Hotline at 704-332-2513 and we'll help you create a safety plan to avoid dangerous situations and know the best way to react when you are in danger. Each plan is different, depending on your situation. Whether you need emergency shelter, trauma counseling, court advocacy or legal representation, we'll be here for you. Safe Alliance will help you heal from the physical and emotional trauma that results from domestic and sexual violence.