My name is Marina. I was in an abusive relationship for 12 years, and married six of those. I experienced abuse at every level, which started after being in the relationship one year. One of the most common questions I’ve been asked is, “Why did you stay so long?”
I was relieved to learn that it takes an average of five to eight attempts to get out of an abusive relationship—my experience was not unique. My first attempt to leave was met with extreme force. My ex and I were living in Arizona at the time. I was packing a suitcase when my ex grabbed me, dragged me across the bathroom vanity and threw me on the bathroom floor. He slammed the back of my head on the tile and then started choking me. I struggled and flailed around until I was able to free myself from his grip, but each time I did, he knocked me back down. At one point he knocked me on my stomach and told me to stay down. Every time I made an attempt to move, he kicked me in the stomach. I lay there crying and horrified for I don’t know how long. I waited for an opportunity to escape out the door. It finally came and I raced to our neighbor’s house to get help. I was shocked and dazed when our neighbor opened the door, but I refused to call the police and they eventually asked me to leave. So I went back home.
My ex would terrorize me with threats on my life, hint at paying someone to kill me, and lift his fist to me while I cowered in fear. He didn’t always follow through with the punch. He also used crazy-making techniques to distort my view of reality. He would deny the abuse and tell me I was losing my mind and had imagined it. He kept me isolated so I was not able to confirm the true reality of the situation, and I began to question myself. One of the most damaging things he told me was that everyone hated me including my relatives, and I should save everyone the misery of having to deal with me by committing suicide. He drained my bank account, created credit problems, damaged my possessions (including putting sugar in my gas tank), and held my possessions hostage.
Given all of the obstacles I was up against, it was not easy to leave. In addition, my ex’s abuse would escalate when I tried to leave, and I would be in even more fear of my life. There was actually some comfort in staying. At least I didn’t have to watch my back constantly like I did when I left. Also, he always would find me when I would leave. I felt I would never be able to get away from him alive.
Hope finally came after he and I moved to Portland, and a bad episode led me to the Domestic Violence Division of the Portland Police Bureau. I was assigned a Bradley Angle advocate who accompanied me to get a restraining order and helped me get into a shelter until I could move into a new apartment. My advocate was very supportive and also accompanied me to a hearing where I had to testify against my ex. I don’t know that I could have gotten away without help from the Portland Police Bureau’s DV Division and the help of my advocate. Finally, after 12 years someone put their foot down and protected me. There was a song called “Be Like That” that was playing frequently on the radio at that time, and I’d like to share a few lines that hit home for me:
“And all she wants is a little peace of this dream/Is that too much to ask?/With a safe home, and a warm bed, on a quiet little street/All she wants is just that something to hold on to/That’s all she needs.”
Every time I hear this song it brings tears to my eyes. I’m finally free and my ex was held accountable. It took time for me to heal, and again, Bradley Angle was there for me with a support group where I was able to talk about my experiences. Most people around me prior had shunned me into silence when I tried to discuss them. My strength and confidence grew, and I realized that it was not my fault. I was not the terrible person my ex had led me to believe I was. My ex told me I’d never succeed at anything, but since I left him, I’ve progressed in ballet and worked my way up to dancing on pointe shoes. I’ve done some commercials and print work. I also completed my MBA with a marketing emphasis. It seems the best thing I could do was to continue to prove him wrong every day.
It’s time to shed light on this problem and place the blame where it belongs—on the abusers and not the abused. Abusers should not be allowed to hide in the wings while the abused are placed center stage and scrutinized. If nothing else, I hope my story will give those in similar situations hope and courage to end the violence by using available resources. Please, do what you can to end the violence.
Jamie called Bradley Angle in March of this year looking for a support group. She had been silently struggling with the shame and fear of living with an abusive partner, someone who in this case was also the father of her two school-aged children.
“I never know what’s going to set him off, or if this is going to be the time that he knocks me out and I never wake up,” she told the advocate... Read More »
We are grateful for the support of our community partners >
BRADLEY ANGLE•5432 N. Albina Ave.•Portland, OR 97217•503.232.1528