This article was originally published on Bernews.com.
In honour of Domestic Abuse Awareness Month in October, one woman tells her story of verbal and physical abuse as a way to encourage others: you are not alone … In 2008, Emily was at a friend’s barbeque when she was introduced to a man.
The two started talking and exchanged phone numbers that day. He seemed like a “really cool” and “down to earth” person and a friendship developed gradually over the next four years, with them even working together at one point. Then one day he asked her on a date.
“It was like a whirlwind,” she said, “because although we had been friends for a long while as soon as we crossed that line into a relationship he became very full on and wanted to do everything for me and buy me everything.
“For Valentine’s Day he gave me the largest bunch of flowers I had ever seen. He wanted to repair things in my house. It kind of threw me and made me feel uncomfortable how full on it was. He told me he loved me repeatedly and that he wanted to marry me.”
Emily gradually got used to the attention and began to open up to him more, but without warning things changed.
He did less and made less of an effort to see her – then once Emily became pregnant he became more distant and grew verbally and physically abusive.
Emily, not her real name, shared her story as part of October’s Domestic Abuse Awareness Month.
Her advice to anyone who finds themselves in a relationship that is physically or emotionally abusive is to take a stand and leave.
“At first it can feel worse before it gets better as you have taken away their control over you,” she said. “But in the long term and with the right support you can rebuild your life and live a happy life again.”
Emily admits the relationship started turning sour gradually after she told him she was expecting his child.
While they had talked about starting a family and made the decision to stop using birth control, once she told him she was finally pregnant his response was disappointment and anger.
“For the first few months of the pregnancy he wouldn’t spend the time with me and stopped wanting to go out with me,” she said. “He would stay out late and come over at 1 a.m. to jump into bed. He was less attentive and I was really scared that I had made the wrong choice in taking it further.
“He withdrew his attention and became very critical of me. He went out of his way to put me down in front of people. I felt like there was something wrong with me, I was doing something wrong and I needed to correct it.”
During the birth of their child, Emily said she had to beg her partner to take her to the hospital.
He was reluctant to stay, he complained about how long the delivery was taking and was verbally abusive to her. The experience was so traumatic she eventually couldn’t push anymore and had to have an emergency C-section.
“Shortly after, he saw the baby and left,” she said.
From there the relationship became worse. He grew more aggressive; she felt extremely isolated and alone.
One day, after she found drugs in his possession and confronted him about it, he got violent and lashed out hitting her many times in the face.
“At first I didn’t want to press charges because I was scared and thought it would make matters much worse,” Emily said.
“A friend had told me I was trying to protect him, a man who over the last couple of years was slowly demoralizing me, putting me down and creating a lot of self-doubt about myself and my self-worth.
“But it came to a head that day when he really hurt me physically. Things had escalated previously in a violent way, but not like that. He had pushed me, would throw things around and damaged my property.”
“I couldn’t live in denial any longer,” she continued. “It was too serious to ignore. I had to protect both myself and my child. This had to stop. My child was not going to grow up witnessing this abuse and thinking it was normal.”
Once Emily decided to press charges, she went to the Centre Against Abuse to get more information on how to obtain a protection order. They were helpful and she admits she’s extremely thankful for the support and guidance they provided.
“I had no idea when I pressed charges and put matters dealing with my child through the Family Court, just how tough a situation I was up against,” she explained. “I thought the hardest part would be making the statement, pressing charges and starting the court process, but that was only the beginning.
“I thought the relationship with my ex was bad and what happened when it got violent was awful, but nothing prepared me for the resistance I would be met with once I took a stand on things. I thought I could pick up the pieces and move on, but my ex was still able to manipulate and control things through the court system. At times I felt powerless and doubted my strength to carry it through.”
Emily enlisted the help of Tina Laws, the founder of abuse support agency UnderKonstruction, after the Centre Against Abuse suggested Mrs. Laws as another resource.
In the beginning, Mrs. Laws listened to see if she could help; then she started walking Emily through every phase of the court process.
“Tina was a listening ear when I needed it and would check in with me from time to time,” Emily said. “She knew I needed legal help and managed to get a lawyer who offered her services probono to help me. Tina arranged the meetings and stayed at the office while I met with the lawyer.
“The lawyer helped me with every piece of paper I had surrounding the criminal trial and the family case. Both Tina and the lawyer stayed by my side through the whole process, which was a saving grace.”
Thanks to that support, Emily was able to rebuild her life.
She encourages other women going through similar abuse to get the right support and not try to go the process alone.
“The court process can be just as traumatic as the abuse itself,” she said. “It’s a different type of trauma, but it is still traumatic. You are in this position in the first place because you may have low self-worth and that’s why these men prey on you, but if you have the courage to leave, just know that you do have the strength and support there to build yourself back up, to create healthy boundaries, better relationships and a happier life.”
For more information on abuse support services provided by UnderKonstruction, visit http://thelovecompass.net or call 533-8857.