I actually did it. I got out. It still feels surreal to say it – I never thought I would want to leave, let alone find the strength to go through with it. He got me to believe that I deserved it all. “He wouldn’t do this if you were a better partner,” I’d think to myself. “It’s my fault, it’s always my fault.” These thoughts would spiral until I was drowning in self-blame, guilt, and shame.
It took me a long time to get to the point where I could even talk about leaving. I snuck away to many appointments with my advocate, and if I couldn’t make it, we would talk on the phone. I remember in the beginning just feeling like this was how my life was meant to be. I had let go of hope.
Slowly, though, my advocate helped me realize that I did not deserve the insults. I did not deserve to be accused of cheating just because I was talking with coworkers. I did not deserve to be told that no one would ever love me or that I was lazy, crazy and that I would never be believed. My partner kept me so low by telling me these lies over and over and over. The care and compassion I received from my advocate over time was the only thing that broke through those layers of shame and self-blame. She believed me.
I remember the first time I talked to my advocate about leaving my partner. We talked about all my options. I could have gone to their temporary housing facility, but it was 2 hours from where I live. Two hours! The thought of that filled me with fear – I would have to pull my kids from their school and their friends. I would have to find a new job and learn a new town. This facility was temporary so I would eventually have to find yet another place to live. I felt like everything was spinning out of control, and then she asked me something no one had ever asked me before. “What do YOU want your life to look like?” I sat there and thought about that. “What did I want?”
I told her I wanted peace for myself and my kids and freedom from the constant anxiety in our lives. I wanted safety from the violence that we lived with for so long. I wanted HOPE for a fresh start and a chance to live without fear. I wanted a place to call home – a home near my family, my friends, my job and my kids’ school. The thought of pulling them from everything they knew was too much for me. I just knew I couldn’t afford it all on my own – I had never had any control over my own finances.
My advocate listened and with her help, I applied for a housing program that put my desires first. This program helped me find a place to live in the area where I wanted to stay. It helped me with the deposit and rent until I was able to get on my feet. I also received help from my advocate with food, toiletries, household items and so much more. It was only after this that I began to feel peace. I felt a glimmer of hope for a future where my kids and I could finally thrive. I just needed someone to believe me and a place to call HOME.