I am not a victim, I am a survivor

Post by Shelly Ingraham for the Love for Love series.

Editor’s Note : Due to violence, I ask that you please read on with care, especially if you’ve been in an abusive situation, this post may trigger you. It was hard for me to read being a survivor myself but I believe the more light & love we shed on these issues through honest story-telling can only lead to more healing, love & awareness around these difficult to read & live-through topics. Love, Amanda

print by MyAntarctica on etsy

I am not a victim, I am a survivor

Have you ever been hit? Ever had a black eye? Have you ever been so covered in bruises it hurt to move?

How about yelling? Has anyone ever yelled at you and made you cry? Has anyone ever held you by your neck, inhibiting your ability to breath and screamed every insult they could think of at you?

This has all happened to me. I have lived through the screaming, the yelling, the punches and the terror. I have lived through this and I have made it out alive. I’m a lucky one, because a lot of women don’t.

My name is Shelly and I am a domestic violence survivor.

I fell in love. Don’t all stories start out like that? Unfortunately I fell in love with a boy who could not handle his anger. My love, he was angry about a lot of things in his life. Things that were outside his control and things that were in control. My love and I had a whirlwind romance, we could not get enough of each other. We declared our undying devotion for one another and we moved in together.

Things were wonderful.

I was happier than ever, I had a boy who doted on me, who wanted me to be happier than ever before. We had grand adventure and then one day suddenly the honeymoon ended.

I remember arguing on day, I don’t even remember over what and he put his fist through the wall by my head. It was an effective way to end the argument.

The violence escalated from there.

Passing arguments over things like taking out the garbage or calling his mother would become massive verbal battles. He would become so angry over the little things that I would give up trying to talk to him and let things fester. I was unhappy, but I was in love and I thought that we would get everything worked out.

The first time he hit me, we were arguing about me going to hang out with my coworkers. I was ready to leave and I went to hug him and he told me I couldn’t go. I told him that I had made plans and I was going to keep my word. He grabbed my arm and he pulled me back. We wound up wrestling, him trying to keep me in the room and me trying to get free. After splitting my lip open he let go, I got up and I left, meeting up with my friends visibly upset. When my friends asked what was wrong, what had happened to my lip. I lied and said nothing was wrong and I had run into the door.

The lies had begun.

Soon we were fighting all the time. After he’d hurt me, he’d disappear for days a a time, and come back apologetic. He’d promise to do better, he’d see someone, he’d cut back on his drinking. He’d do better for a few days but something would make him angry, he’d yell at me, I would yell back and he’d snap.

I am a strong willed person. Always have been, always will be. But I got depressed. I started to see a counselor, and I wondered what was wrong with me, to make my love act like that.

When I told my love I was seeing a counselor then everything became my fault.

Obviously me talking to someone meant that I admitted fault. His issues were because I was depressed. . . that I knew there was something wrong with me . . . the list went on and on.

The violence increased to the point were I had black eyes. I had fingernail scratches down my face, bruises on my torso from where he had stomped on me. And my lies for those injuries were ridiculous. “Oh the scratches are from my cat”. . . “I keep walking into the damn door”. . . Yet everyone ate them up. I’m clumsy but I can’t give myself a black eye every week.

The breaking point was the night I called him out and told him I was leaving. There was no such thing as a rational, calm conversation. I made my case, told him I was done and went to go upstairs. He punched me, grabbed me by my throat, threw me to the ground and got on top of me. He pinned me and began to scream at me while he choked me. At one point he even yelled “Shelly put down the knife” not that anyone could hear us or I could have held a knife pinned to the floor. He made me beg for my life. He punched me in the head and face and told me to stop crying and struggling.

I was terrified.

My cat is the reason I am here today. He let me scream. He let me scream and when I did my cat attacked him. She went for his face and he unpinned me to grab her. When he let go I got free and ran to my bathroom. I slammed the door shut and called 911.

911 and my cat saved my life. He broke the bathroom door in and grabbed my cellphone. He hung up on the 911 operator and grabbed me, screaming at me the entire time. Then my phone rang. 911 called back. He took my phone and ran out of the house. I took my cat and ran to the police station. He evaded the police for a few hours and then finally he was arrested.

I pressed charges. The District Attorney dropped them, (3 misdemeanors and a felony) and gave him a slap on the wrist for being a first time offender. Karma is a bitch though, I hear through the grapevine he got in trouble again.

Why did I stay? I stayed because I loved him. I stayed because I could not afford the rent on my own. I stayed because I didn’t want to be thought less of. I didn’t want to tell people, my friends and my family that I was weak. That I had let someone hurt me, treat me like that, that I let someone force their will upon me.

It was rough at first, having to break the fairy tale my friends and family thought I was living. They had liked my love immensely, thought I was going to marry the boy. I lost friends, people were mean. Once he made the paper whispers followed me when I went out about town. The important people stood by me, bruises, concussion, fractured jaw and all. I’ll say it again, I am a lucky one.

I got out alive. I am doing well. I moved. I spent a year pulling my life back together. I still go to counseling. I treat my cat like a queen, but I owe her big. Day to day things suck sometimes. Even now, I’ll see something and think I should tell my love. Then I catch myself and I move on.

I’m not the same person I was a year ago, I don’t back down. I don’t bend to become someone I am not. My friends tell me I am more strong willed than ever, but that I am harder around the edges. Honestly, I can’t say that I will ever soften back up, but I am alive and that is what matters.

I am not a public service announcement.

I’m just letting you know, domestic violence happens. Never in a million years did I think I think I’d wind up in the hospital after my lover hit me. But I did and you could. Your sister could. Your best friend could.

Violence happens every day and it’s not going to stop, until we make it.

My name is Shelly. I am not a victim.
My name is Shelly. I am a survivor.

Shelly, or Shellasaurusrex as she is known to her friends, works as a Marketing Coordinator at an international company. She lives with her darling cat Montauk and enjoys knitting, reading and drinking tea from her Tardis teapot. You can follow her on Twitter as @whitelikebread or on Tumblr.


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