March 5th, 2009
03:18 PM ET

The tangles of domestic abuse

By Val Willingham
CNN Medical Producer

For four years, I dated a man who beat me. The first time was around Christmas of my freshman year of college. I had known him a couple of months. He was the first guy I had ever had a physical relationship with, and I was madly in love. But he had a dark side, a short fuse, and I was very vocal and told him what I thought. The problem was, instead of arguing with me, he just beat me up.

The episodes continued throughout our relationship. At one point, he actually put me in the hospital with a concussion, my face and body covered with cuts and bruises. My friends begged me to leave him. His fraternity brothers did an intervention of sorts and told me he was a no-good, nasty, SOB. But for some odd reason, which took hours of therapy years later to figure out, I just stayed with him.

It wasn't that I was unpopular or lonely. I had lots of friends, men and women. I was a good student, a leader on campus. I came from a loving home, with a father who never hit my mother, or me. But for years, I had a secret that only the closest of my friends knew about. I was an abused girlfriend.

According to a National Violence Against Women Survey, 22 percent of women are physically assaulted by a partner or date during their lifetime. I was one of them. The question was, why did I stay? The American Psychiatric Association finds that many women remain in abusive relationships for many reasons, lack of finances, poor self-esteem, children and even religious and cultural values. In my case, I felt I had done something wrong and deserved it.

It also might be because I was also raised in a family and at a time, when sex was a little taboo.  It was the ’70s and I was in school on a large rural campus. You just didn't do it unless you were married. So when I had sex at the age of 18 with this young man, I had pretty much made up my mind he was my future husband. So I put up with it. There was a strange bond I had with him, because when he wasn't beating me up, he was very nice to me. He treated me well, sent me flowers, took me places. We laughed, had a great time together. But periodically when we argued, he would just lash out with his fists. It was horrible. But what was even more horrible was that I blamed myself for mouthing off. I thought if only I could keep my opinions to myself, the beatings wouldn't happen anymore. How naive of me. How foolish.

The ironic part of this story is he ended our relationship because I graduated from college and he didn't. He threw me out. I guess he was jealous. He was definitely a jerk.

Six months after we broke up, I was coming home to my little apartment, carrying decorations for my first Christmas tree as a working woman, and I found him sitting on my doorstep. I have no idea how he found me. He asked to take me to dinner so we could talk. I reluctantly went. While chatting over the meal, he said he wanted to come back and that he "didn't realize how good he had it." I quickly answered back, "I didn't know how bad I had it, but now I do!" For once he didn't whack me. He got up and left me at the restaurant, never to see me again. I had to take a cab home. As I sat in the back seat I felt a sense of relief but also shame that I had let it go on so long. But I was no longer a victim: I was free. As I look back on it now, It was the best cab ride I ever took.

Are you the victim of domestic abuse? Do you know someone who is? How did you help? We want to know.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.

soundoff (174 Responses)
  1. janice

    i got to this page after reading the polie report on chris brown and rihanna. i am sorry to say that at 55, i have had two abusive husbands and that i brought my daughter up in a violent household. both husbands are now gone and the relationships have cost me in every way.. i am paying alimony to the second abusive husband. i now know that i should never have stayed in either relationship or rationalized away the abuse. i was/am an arguer too, but i have never hit anyone to make my point. it is completely uncivilized to beat a woman down for expressing her opinion on any subject and there is no way that anyone who beats you up loves you. the description of what chris brown did to rihanna is horrible, just because she read a text message from one of his sexual partners, the threats, the vicious way that he beat and bit her and tried to push her out of the car while she was in a seat belt, then pushing her head into the passenger door window are not acts of love or respect. i pray that all you girls will take this to heart. it's not because you are too fat, too mouthy, too nosy, too uneducated, too bossy, too educated, too bourgeois, too ghetto...it's because of what the man has in him and that cannot be fixed by you taking beatings from him. it hurts to leave a man that you love and i still love my husband, but i know that he never loved me and that gives me a lot of help and confidence in staying away from him.

    March 5, 2009 at 16:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Liz

    I was in an abusive marriage 20yrs ago which ended after 3 yrs and recently my sister (age 40) was in an 8yr abusive relationship. My husband and I allowed her to come and live with our family to help get her back on her feet. (I have to admit this brought back memories that I would like to forget.) My sister has been with us for 9 months and I recently found out that she has been in contact with her abuser for a little over a month now. I am extremely upset about this and have confronted her. I have asked her to discontinue the communication and she has refused. She states that I am not giving her credit. I don't know what else to do. she seems to think that he will get help and she just want to encourage him since she feels he has no one else. I have told her that she is not able to get healed if she continues to communicate with him. His guy is a manipulator and he knows her weak spots and how to string her along.

    Any advise?

    March 5, 2009 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Nanette

    I know someone who has been beaten by her husband for years, She stays with him because she says she wants her kids to have a Father, He beats her with objects, disrespects her and she takes him back eveytime. She is afraid of him, And so are her kids. He is a bully and coward. You know the woman can't win ina fight, and you beat on her anywa. I don't know why a woman would stay and take this form a man.

    March 5, 2009 at 16:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. LeeLee

    Good for you! Hopefully others will take a hint...

    March 5, 2009 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Foxy21

    I was in a relationship where I was abused physically, emotionally, psychologically & verbally. Abusers in general are either VERY MEAN or OVERLY OOZING with kindness. But just when you think things are going well, they snap. It also starts out very slowly & escalates over time. The physical violance is very clear, but the emotional, verbal & psychological abuse is confusing & always far worse. My ex was a ver narcissistic man, but underneath he is extremely insecure. I hope Rhianna is strong enough to move on- she's beautiful & talented & Chris Brown is just a BIG BULLY.

    March 5, 2009 at 16:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Sarah

    Here's a better question instead of why do people stay with abusers. What leads people to abuse their partners and how to stop it?

    March 5, 2009 at 17:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Dan

    His frat brothers should have kicked the shit out of him. Might not have helped but at least he'd get what he deserved.

    March 5, 2009 at 17:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Cheryl

    I had a friend who was physically abused for years by her husband. I talked with her numerous times about the abuse and tried to get her to see that she would be better off away from him. I took her into my home when she would leave him, but ultimately she always went back to him. One night she drove to a remote location and shot herself and quietly died alone.

    March 5, 2009 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Minnesota

    Thank you for this, what an honest, beautiful article. Most of us – me included – are the type to shake our heads at the women who stay or go back to abusers. Well, at least until it happened to me. When our First Lady Michelle Obama, stopped in the Midwest last fall, I was privileged to be able to introduce her and share some of this story.

    When my boyfriend of one year started becoming violent with me, it escalated from "accidents" and sexual assault to extreme psychological control and physical violence.

    I can't explain what I was thinking over those months; it kind of sneaks up on you and you can't process reality. In that sense, Rihanna is lucky. So many of us don't have the clarity of what Rihanna has just experienced – an outright beating.

    Instead, we're left to wonder if what's happening is a fleeting occurence or real abuse. Each incident in-and-of itself is not enough to make you walk away. But like Val said, the day I drove away with the baby in the backseat was the sunniest most beautiful, blessed day of my life. Every day since, has only been better!

    Unlike Rihanna, instead of bloody bruises, so many of us are abused in a different way.

    Our faces are shoved into toilet bowls as punishment for not cleaning it well enough.

    We're force fed food from the sink until it makes us vomit because we didn't do the dishes right.

    We're forced to sleep naked and comply in the nightmare that ensues every night.

    We're denied a pillow or blankets to sleep with because we stood our ground when we said "no" this time.

    We're held down by an arm thrown over our throat and chest until we're breathlessly gasping for air.

    Our work and accomplishments are ridiculed, but he spends our paychecks with a sense of entitlement.

    Our breasts are grabbed and twisted so hard, so maliciously – in the car, at the grocery store, in a hallway – that bruises are left in the shape of a handprint.

    We're stupid. We're selfish. We're crazy. We're nuts. We don't respect him.

    We are dragged across the room by our hair. To this day, he'll deny it all.

    Today, three years later, I'm loving the joys of mommyhood and my super silly, sweet little toddler. I have an excellent job that enables me to earn two times the national per capita income. And I'm writing a book profiling global women's issues. There is life after crisis because the system works.

    Thank you to the women, the Congressmen, the Presidents and the lobbyists who fought for non-discrimination against pregnancy in the workplace, who fought for a woman's right to attend college, who fought for a girl's right to be educated in the same school as boys, who fought for FMLA, who fought for a woman's right to own property, who fought for a woman's right to vote. Thank you for giving me a choice. Thank you for writing laws that balance a mother's and father's rights equally. Thank you for legally recognizing domestic violence. Thank you to the police officers, judges, lawyers, and court officials who push the judicial system toward greater understanding and awareness of this problem. Thank you to the teachers, day care providers, nurses and doctors who will keep my son safe and happy long into the future. I owe you everything.

    March 5, 2009 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Dedrienne

    One of the best hints that a woman has a physical abuser is when the relationship is quite young, and he gets angry over something TRIVIAL, and calls his woman a bad name like "b***h." A woman should know then that she has a real problem on her hands, and THAT'S the time to get out...not when the violence escalates to permanent scarring, paralysis, or death.

    March 5, 2009 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Wendy Murdoch

    I appreciate your willingness to share you story Val; that took strength and courage. Thank you.
    Violence against women and children is global and pervasive. It knows no cultural or socioeconomic boundaries. Yet despite its pervasiveness and the devastation it causes, first to the victim and then to her family, friends, and community; violent male behavior is still glorified and rewarded.
    In the case of Rhianna and Chris Brown, there has been much speculation and opinion sharing. Recently there have been rumors about them continuing their relationship. I say continuing because violence, sadly enough, does not preclude the continuation of a relationship. But as so often happens, when discussing domestic violence, discussions shift from the offender’s behavior to the victim's behavior. It's the blame-game. It would appear, from both the information in the affidavit–which was released earlier today–to the very telling photo of Rhianna's facial injuries–that Chris Brown is an extremely violent young man. My experience as a crisis counsellor tells me that Rhianna is not his first victim nor is she likely to be his last. Research and experience also informs me that, should Rhianna choose to stay in a relationship with Chris, she will be at a very high risk of being violently attacked again, maimed or killed. Rhianna needs counselling to help her deal with her traumatic experiences, her feelings about and towards Chris and to examine her perceptions of herself and what she believes constitutes a loving and mutually respectful relationship. Chris needs counselling to determine where his rage comes from and why he believes it is acceptable to physically and verbally vent his rage on his intimate partner or anyone else for that matter. Chris absolutely must take full and unequivocal responsibility for the violence he perpetrated. If he fails to do so and fails to take all the necessary steps toward understanding himself and controlling his anger, then Rhianna, and other women in his life and any future children he may have, will be at risk of being victimized by him.
    The public, Chris' peers and colleagues must also hold him accountable. That fact that he is a celebrated music artist is not a reason to dismiss, deny, ignore or change the color and context of Chris' violent behavior and the very real traumatic injuries he inflicted upon Rhianna. Equally important will be how the public, her peers, and entertainment community responds to Rhianna. Rhianna does not deserve to be vilified. Rather she deserves and needs to be embraced with compassion and empathy. She needs to be reminded of her value and uniqueness as a human being and her right to live her life free from fear and violence.

    Wendy Murdoch

    March 5, 2009 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Marie

    I remember something my grandmother told me, and this is true, the first time they beat you, shame on him, the second time they beat you, shame on you. You need to value yourself, before anyone will value and respect you, Stay strong, no one is here for anyone else's abuse. If they have the nerve to do it once, it will happen again.

    March 5, 2009 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Sz

    During an argument, my husband ran and threw me backwards – I hit 2 glass doors. When I hit the floor and grabbed my face, I told him I think you broke my nose. He pulled me up from the floor by the front of my shirt and threw me out onto the porch. I never saw this coming – I never even saw his face. I was bruised on my shoulder, my nose was broke (which required surgery) and my hip, back and pelvic were bruised and injured and I needed therpay for 5 months to fix them. My husband has many great qualities but I never realized his repressed anger and rage. His temper is out of control. He told me thats what happens when I pee him off and also said it was an accident. I filed for divorce two weeks after but my heart aches for the man I married. I just could never trust what may set him off again. Although he apologized, he did not accept responsibility for his actions or admit he needs help with his temper. Under those circumstances I had no choice but to file. Too bad, he has many great qualities but lives in denial.

    March 5, 2009 at 17:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Rima

    I was in an abusive relationship for six years with a man who, when not angry, was charismatic, thoughtful, funny and generous. He also had a short fuse, was threatened by my accomplishments and used elaborate manipulative techniques to isolate me from friends and family. He choked me twice, grabbed me constantly, shoved me up against walls, threw me down, threw objects repeatedly, uttered threats, called me names no one I knew had ever used. I knew he had put a previous gf in the hospital, but I stayed because I thought love demanded a certain forgiveness, and, secretly, I was afraid to be alone. My father abused my mother and she stayed. I have a graduate degree and have always supported myself. To this day, I am upset that I gave this despicable person even a day of my life.

    March 5, 2009 at 17:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Jill

    I was in a relationship with an abusive man for 10 years. We started dating in college and about 2 months into our relationship, he hit me for the first time in our campus student union. Later he apologized to me and after I had time to get over being mad, I made up with him, thinking it wouldn't happen again. This cycle would go on for the next 10 years.
    My family would constantly tell me to leave him, but I didn't want to hear it. It eventually got to the point that he had brainwashed me enough to think my family wasn't and wouldn't be there for me, so I turned my back on them. During this time we conceived a child. Thankfully he never touched her, but the threat that he would was always in the back of my mind.
    Part of the reason I was so reluctant to leave him was because I didn't want to think of myself as an abused woman – that didn't happen to girls like me. I came from a home where my father never hit my mother. I had a Christian upbringing and I knew better that relationships like mine were not the norm. But I also felt that I deserved his beatings for going against my family's wishes. I made my bed, I deserved to lie in it.
    As the years passed, we eventually got married. Now it was even harder for me to leave as the threats worsened – he would take my child away from me and I'd be left with nothing.
    During our relationship, he constantly cheated on me. I knew of some of the times, but I put up with it because my self-esteem was at an all-time low and I knew if I confronted him, I would get another beating.
    I left him numerous times during our relationship, but I always went back. Every time I thought things would get better and they would...for a little while. I now know that's called the honeymoon phase, I just didn't want to acknowledge it.
    After 10 yrs, something just clicked. We got into an argument in the car and he punched me in the face. I decided then and there that I couldn't do it anymore, he wasn't going to use me a punching bag. I left him in front of his workplace, sent our child to stay with my parents and filed for divorce. I've never looked back.
    What made me finally leave him? I decided I didn't want to live the rest of my life this way. I didn't want my daughter to grow up thinking this was the kind of relationship she should have. And I was tired. Tired of crying, being depressed and not caring about myself.
    My mom often asks me what she could've done differently, what she could've said to me to get me to leave and never go back...and I tell her nothing, there's nothing anyone can say or do for a victim of domestic violence until they're ready to leave for themselves.

    March 5, 2009 at 17:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Nana Mouse

    I pulled an abuser off a friend and fought with him until he fled. He was 6'4" and I am 5'2" but don't let that fool you–I am a little tank. We were evenly matched. This was almost 30 years ago.

    He and my friend had been arguing and I left the room to give them privacy to work it out. Next thing I knew, I heard a thin wail of anguish and ran back in the room. He was literally sitting on her body, punching her face with his fists. Ironically, I was afraid of using all my strength and hurting him because he'd been my friend for years. I grabbed him by the back of the pants and hauled him off of her and he came after me. He threw an antique, overstuffed, hardwood rocker across the room and it hit me, but I was so full of adrenaline that I didn't even feel it. I bit him so hard through 3 shirts that I left a bloody circle–he only felt it the next day.

    He seemed to calm and I left so they could talk, only to hear her scream again. This time, probably foolishly, I brandished a shovel at him, making to bring it down on his head. I didn't actually want to hit him with it–I didn't really want to truly hurt him, but it did distract him so that he got off her and tried unsuccessfully to wrestle it away from me.

    The whole time, his eyes were insane and he could not seem to speak, only to grunt and growl. It was when he finally was able to speak, saying "Give me the shovel" and I could reply "I'm afraid you'll kill us with it," that I could see he had returned to himself. He promised he just wanted to throw it away, which he did, and then he ran off.

    He tried to beat her again the next day, but this time she was able to fight him off and he left, returning only once to get his stuff.

    It was so strange to see a friend turn into a violent, grunting, even deranged beast–and so tragic. We were all a bunch of hippies basically from normal, middle-class or more backgrounds, proving once again that there is no social strata for this malady. It broke a trust in me that has never entirely returned–now I know what people can do to each other from a firsthand perspective and I don't really believe we are ever truly safe.

    March 5, 2009 at 17:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Rosa

    My god, finally the system did not fail. Seven years of my life and I am still waiting for the sytems to do the right thing. Thank you CNN, because of the media Domestic Violence will not be ignored.

    March 5, 2009 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. PJ

    I too share a very similar story from my past (15 years ago) and I applaud your courage and the strength you have shown in sharing your story. Thanks you!

    March 5, 2009 at 17:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Vincenzo Duke

    Anyone who hits a woman without her consent is a coward.

    If don't think you can get out of it alone, and you are in an abusive relationship, then get soemone to help you. There is no shame in doing that.

    The shame lies within not doing anything about it. The shame is the waste of a good person's life. The shame is you, whoever you are, not being able to be yourself and live life how you want to live it.

    March 5, 2009 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. greg

    my goodness,, black on black crime... and they both have an income of whaaaaaaat............... please. if this was a poor white mother like mine .. no story... like the body guards would let this happen,,, oh wait,, it was black history month,,, let a person of color get close to either of them now,, see whom gets hurts

    March 5, 2009 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. felicia

    I am a 32 year old woman with 3 kids I was married for 11 years to a great guy but having had my first child at 16 I thought I had missed something, so I left that married and began for once to receive attention from many men the ones that had nothing do with me in school, I came upon the man I had a huge crush in school on he asked me out and it began after the first few days of just talking, he had found out I had been to a friends house he got mad I didnt understand I had learned to be outspoken and vocal and he slapped me, broke my windshield of a vehicle had just got that day and from that point on my thought wow he loves me so much or why else would he be so mad. That was the begining of my nightmare that would take a year to get out I was the victim afraid to death of him even knowing if i didnt get away id be dead, he took me away from family friends kids, I was hit or verbally abused daily mentally I lost myself hated me, Id go to police and the be to afraid to stay away even with protective order, I loved him he was all I had, so he had made me to believe, I lived in my car ashamed and I had a job but couldnt get past him and the why? I did file charges after he had a gun to my head the gun went off as i moved the physical and mental scares im still dealing with, and then I turned to the man i thought be my hero took me from that state treated me like I was perfect, then away from my family he began my question is i hear its my looks and my independence im breaking on the inside, but im determined to win any advice or just someone who can relate if you could e-mail that be great people who dont no who havnt experienced dont get it. thanks for taken time read.

    March 5, 2009 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Priti

    Thanks for this article. Yes I was in an abusive marriage and stayed in it cause of money and cultural issues. I finally gathered enough courage to leave as I didn't want to end up dead! He is now remarried and has two kids...tells me he has never hit his wife. I on the other hand have managed to stay unmarried for 7 years cause of obvious reasons. I learned a lot from this relationship. The sad part was that this side of him was never revealed while we dated for a year and a half! Well at least I am thankful to be alive. Glad you shared your story...makes me feel not alone.

    March 5, 2009 at 20:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Pamela

    15 years ago I met a man in church he was a pastors "right hand" man, after 8 months of dating I married him. I had always thought I would die in my 30's since death was in my life with family members at an early age. Two months after marrying this man he hits me for the first time. My teenage daughters who saw all of it called the police. At that time he took off. The policeman's walky talky was going off with codes and I inquired what they meant. This man had been arrested for Murder, Attempted Murder, 2 rapes, 2 arsons, and a kidnapping. I should have put a restraining order on him but thought stupidly that he was now gone and would not come back. He returned two weeks later and marital raped me, I was then pregnant with twins. He continued to beat me throughout the pregnancy; My Dr. would see the bruises and admit me for a week at a time. My chart read "fetal endangerment".
    Still afraid I stayed with him another year and started counseling for "ME" I had been so broken emotionally, spiritually and physically. I lost all dignity and self worth. I could not look out a window in my home, or watch tv, I had to look straight ahead when we were out in the car. Once I left hte tv to take a shower, he came in the bathroom and thru open the curtain to see who was in there with me, when he left he left the curtain and door wide open, I just cried knowing one day he will act on his paranoia. he kicked me in the chest once full force with his shoed foot.. I ended up in emergancy where I lied about being in an auto accident. The fear and embarassment were hard to handle.Thru counseling I was strong enough to file for divorce, he then threatened to kill me if I went thru with it. So I gave him a slip of paper from the court saying it was canceled. Still in counseling I filed once more. This time when he threatened me I never gave him a notice of cancelation from the court. I waited the waiting period for my state and showed up at court with my friends for support. I had done my homework and gathered his criminal records, I talked to the local district attorney’s office the "child abduction “unit to cover myself so I could leave state, with my children. My divorce was final the day I showed before the Judge, The Judge hand wrote on my papers may leave the state with the twins. I lost my home, four cars and my business because of the turmoil this man made in my life. I left and rebuilt my life. I married three years later to a wonderful man who adopted my twins. Today they are 14 yrs old play 6 different instruments, are Top players in their school football team and are talking about college in the future.
    The only reason I could come up with for staying so long was that I felt safer when he was in my prescence then out of sight. Behind my back was the unknown, and I did not know his moodes
    Getting away from him was the best thing I could have done for myself and my children... I now even have my own business back, and own a home on five acres. Life is good

    March 5, 2009 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Bill Logan

    How about a single article about women who abuse men? Domestic abuse happens both ways and is more humiliating for men.

    March 5, 2009 at 22:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. S Callahan

    This is a wonderful happy ending...but not all end this way....some with permanent disfigurement...even death. And, it is not just the woman being beaten up.......woman also beat up men.

    Glad you were able to set yourself free...that was courage!

    March 5, 2009 at 22:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Tracey

    Thank you for this article!!! For the woman who surive and those that do not......Stop the violence now!!!!!!

    March 5, 2009 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Betsey Ingram Capotosto

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. Although I have never been in an abusive relationship I have a few friends who suffered through them and it breaks my heart to see women in this tragic situation. I sincerely hope your story will serve as an inspiration to the thousands of women who struggle each day to go on ...somehow... not knowing exactly what to do, but hoping for a way out someday.

    Congratulations on your success!

    March 5, 2009 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Hillary Daye

    Thank you for this. I myself am not in an abusive relationship but one of my friends is. They are broken up now, but I always fear for her. They hve been together since her freshman year of highschool. In that time he has punched her, beaten her and pushed her down the stairs. She's been to couseling but always seems to go back. When she is with him she's not allowed to associate with anyone but him. This time he broke her finger, but instead of telling anyone she blamed it on her english textbook. She says she's done with him but sometimes I don't belive her. Abuse happens at all ages, could you possibly do a story about it from a highschoolers point of view. Some parents don't even now it's occuring in their childs lives, and childern just want exceptance and what they think is love wherever they can find it.

    March 5, 2009 at 22:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. x

    Grow up, already.

    March 5, 2009 at 22:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Nadia

    I was also a victim of abuse but it was never physical. It was just him constantly putting me down,controlling me, lying to me, stealing from me, threatening in me, insulting me. I think you get the picture. I was with him for 7 years and I lied to every one in my family and tried to put on a happy face.

    WHAT HELPED ME? First, my current husband's constant support. When we met, he talked to me, he told me – become independent from this man. Take control first of little things, without thinking what he would say or being afraid of him. Don't let him control your mind. And second, abusers mostly do it to have power over you – and they want more and more of it. So it becomes a question of how much you can take. When I called the police that last day, I even said to him: "thank you for making it so easy for me". Now I am married to a great guy and I have my own business.

    MY ADVICE: If you are being abused, talk to your friends or family – prepare yourself. It will be easier to separate from that person if you talk to them and get emotional support. And to the family and friends: don't judge, don't pressure the victim to leave the abuser, they won't. Let them vent and encourage them to be more independent in their daily life. Once they see they can take care of themselves, it will be over, It's all in your mind – it's the psycho-dependency.

    March 5, 2009 at 22:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Chris

    I had a similar situation in college, but the guy was only borderline abusive. When he finally took a swing at me, just grazing my jaw, and was escorted out of my apartment building by the police, I think he realized that I would not put up with his abuse anymore. Alcohol was always a contributing factor – I wonder how often that is true in abusive relationships? He was fine when he was sober, but became paranoid and jealous when he drank.

    March 5, 2009 at 22:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Brandon Knight

    You go girl!!! I am so glad you are out of that nasty situation!

    March 5, 2009 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Victoria

    Val Willlingham articulated many of the thoughts and feelings I had while married to an abusive man. My husband was romantic and funny and attentive, but he also had a "dark side" and when he drank too much, he became argumentative and wanted to fight. He held me down by my hair and smashed a bouquet of flowers in my face because he thought I didn't like them. Flowers sound harmless but easily could have injured my eyes. He told the judge he never hit me. He felt if it wasn't a closed fist punch or open hand slap, it didn't count. He'd get in my face and scream the 'f' word over and over because he knew I didn't like it. This lovely man is a British citizen and I learned after 5 years of marriage that he "didn't want to get married but had to to stay in the country." Sure messed up my life (I gave up acceptance at law school to marry him). He convinced me he loved me and wanted to be married! My country (USA) provided no help whatsoever. One hard-hearted ICE investigator told me she didn't care if he left after the wedding, once he has his Green Card, he's "in" !! So, he drinks heavily, hit me, smashed wine bottles in my face, was emotionally and verbally abusive, but he gets a Green Card and I get to pick up the pieces of my life???

    March 5, 2009 at 22:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Ammie

    My mother was a victim of domestic abuse. My father always had a bad temper which only worsened with time. I told my mother to divorce him. Of course she thought I was cruel. My siblings too thought I was cruel. When he died at age 43 of heart disease, the only thing I felt was relief. My mother was depressed for 2 full years.

    I wound up with crappy boyfriends/partners throughout my life. If it wasn't one problem, it was another. I guess having crap for a father lowers your self-esteem to a point where you feel you don't deserve anything better.

    My husband was financially, emotionally and verbally abusive. After 5 years of putting up with him, I fell in love with someone else. He divorced me. It was the best thing he had ever done for me.

    When you have an abusive partner, falling in love with someone else may be a saving grace.

    March 5, 2009 at 22:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Arthur Dieli

    About 20 years ago, I don;t want to be more specific, while I was teaching computer science at the college level, I had a brilliant student who one day came to class with a black eye. I was doing some pro bono computer work for the local Women's Shelter, so I was aware of the problem and how to help.

    I talked with the student and invited her to meet with me and my wife at our house. We met and talked and suggested she move with her kids to the Women's shelter. She didn't want to do that. Later, perhaps after another beating she agreed. Her son moved with her but her daughter decided to stay with the father.

    Eventually she divorced and met a nice guy and remarried and moved out of state. We did not stay in touch so I don;t know how she's doing.

    March 5, 2009 at 22:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Cindy

    Violence is always a choice, and no one ever deserves it. I teach teens about healthy relationships in hopes of avoiding unhealthy people. What would a life free of violence look like? Pretty amazing!

    March 5, 2009 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. Alexis

    Wow! I really feel for Rihanna. Around her age I was in the same situation. My abuser made me feel as though I had done something wrong... I started to feel like the beatings were a punishment for my behavior and I almost deserved them. He hid it from EVERYONE and so did I - so in a sense I knew it was wrong. There was no way to get away... I was young, we lived in the same town.. went to the same high school. I finally got away but accepting as scholarship out of state for school. I fully thank college for getting me away from him.... it wasn't until months/years later that I realized how unhealthy my relationship was. From that point on I expected full RESPECT from all men..... but I still wonder why I kept going back. Celebrities and people on the internet are commenting on the Chris Brown /Rihanna case and saying "Well it's there business and they need to work it out." NO - The next step is for him to seriously injure her or kill her. I think her family and friends need to intervene and get her some serious help. He also needs serious help but at this point I think he needs to serve some jail time. Pretty boy wants to act like a criminal - he can live with the criminals!!

    March 5, 2009 at 23:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. One of Many

    I too was a victim of domestic abuse. I had been with my boyfriend on and off for several years. Many times because he had broken up with me to be with other women. Finally, after several years, we moved in together. A month later, we were both without jobs and and the fighting began. We lived in my apartment and I paid our expenses. I was able to find temporary work while he had found none. And then the fighting escalated. Slapping, punching, then hands around my throat, then the death threats, all leading up to a broken nose. I reluctantly let him move back with me against my family and friends and behind their back. When I realized we were done, he wouldn't leave. When he finally did, he stole from me and then began stalking me. It isn't all behind me. The restraining order was a tough rode and the criminal system does not favor victims, but I know myself and I know I won't be in that situation again. I also now know I have choices other than being with an abuser.

    March 5, 2009 at 23:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Shannon

    i am currently going through the same thing. but the thing is no one knows about the abuse. I am not even sure myself if its abuse cause really he hasnt done much. So here how it is. He gets really mad if i wear clothes that are two short and revealing. HE doesnt let me hang out with any of my friends. i CAN only meet him and go out with him, that too during weekends. He doesnt want me to go to parties at all yet i caught him lying and going to parties himself ( my rule: if i cant go party, u cant either..whcih obviously doesnt work in my favor). For new years, he was dancing with aother girl so i walked away and was waiting in line for the restroom, he got mad that i was pushing him away cause i really didnt want ot talk to him n i told him to leave me alone. so he slapped me really hard and dragged me out of the club. in that process i tore a rib muscle. But i am to blame as i had provked him. Another time i wasnt picking his phone call cause i had been calling him all night but he wasnt picking my phone as he was lying to me and was out somewhere else. so when he started to call me around 4 am i did not bother to pick his call. so he drove down all the way to my place , took me in the bathroom as my sister was in the apparment, caught me by the neck really hard (which scared me) and slapped me yet again. but then again, i thik. yeah i made him mad cause i didnt pick his call. He gets mad and curses me like crazy if i dont pick his call when im sleeping, or if i go out wihtout telling me. so far he has slapped me only twice. so i dont think its that bad. or is it? is he an absuer? im really not sure. n i love him alot, but yet the thing he does, and after all the stff thats going around in the media, im having my doubts about this relation. HELP! my frineds tell me to leave him cause he has cheated alot. each time i breka up with him. he comes over to my place n begs me or he tells me hes going to kill himself. he even cut his hand last week when i told him im beaking up after i caught him lying. for soe reason i am too attached and cant seem to end it!

    March 5, 2009 at 23:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Nikk

    I was married for 10 years to a woman that was like this. Abusive, never took responsibility for her actions, etc.

    March 5, 2009 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Sue

    I was the victim of domestic abuse. But I left. I had two kids and made $24K per year. I put myself through law school and now make $160K per year.


    March 5, 2009 at 23:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Jamie Brubaker

    I was in an abusive relationship from the age of 15 until 19. I wasn't beaten down physically, but emotionally and psychologically. There were a few instances of grabbing and pushing but luckily it never got worse than that.

    He was my first love and I was extremely naive and insecure. He called me every name in the book and punished me for talking or even looking at another male in class. I could easily write a book on the whole experience and the emotions I went through. It wasn't until six months after the relationship ended that I realized I was in an abusive relationship.

    I was so ashamed and didn't tell anyone about the horrible ways he treated me. Over time, I began to fight back and would give him a taste of his own medicine. That is when I began to feel more empowered and in control. We still continued to fight and disrespect one another. We were addicted to eachother.

    A part of me is grateful I endured those horrendous 4 years because I am 100% certain that it will never happen again. I have a great, healthy sense of self and it would be impossible to let anyone beat me down emotionally.

    I think everyone including teenagers and teachers need to be educated on this issue because it is so much bigger than I thought it was. I had no clue there were stories out there just like mine and in many cases even worse. This epidemic needs to stop, it is absolutely heartbreaking.

    March 5, 2009 at 23:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. susan graves

    A married female friend with one child, 5 years old, showed up at my door a number of years ago in tears. Her husband had gone into a verbal fit because she had not cleaned out some boxes that they had agreed she would clean out and ordered her out of the house. She stayed awhile, crying the entire time and left to go home to him. I was shocked! First I didn't know what to say. I knew them through my religion. Why she would go back and endure more verbal abuse and heaven knows what else?

    The next time I saw him, he apologized for her! I knew he was really screwed up. And again I thought "Why are you staying? You are college educated and have held excellent jobs in the past?" I know now she much have zero self worth.

    A few years later in a group of seven adults and two children (and that encluded his own daughter and nephew) he lit into me over some little point. I don't know why I was shocked. If he'd do it to his own wife, why didn't I think he'd do it me? His wife did not defend me and neither did anyone else. My own husband was not there. No one wanted to get involved. That's what is wrong with the world. Needless to say, I'm not much interested in these relgious people anymore.

    March 5, 2009 at 23:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. sunny

    i was a victim of abuse too. and i also blame myself for not keeping my mouch shut. the only difference is that we have a child together, and the sad part of this is that 90% of the fights took place in his presence. two times he went to jail, and i went right back to him. once i had to get stiches under my eye. but i felt like it was my fault. he constantly cheat it on me, and he did not do anything nice for me. no taking me out, no buying me nothing. but i meet him very young and like you i come from a background where he marry after sex. he was my first love, and i couldnt let go. now we been broken up for a couple of months and i find myself lonely and very depressed. i wish i can move on, we havent have any contact in a while but i feel lonely. i just wish i can find happiness. and everyone tells me im better off, but at the end of the day i find myself raising a child alone and tired, depressed.

    March 5, 2009 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Ashley

    I just left a man who I was in abusive relationship with for three years. I met him in high school. We used to "play" fight which didn't take long to really fighting. I always blamed myself because I was usually the one to throw the first punch. However, the last time he beat me I did nothing to provoke him. I finally called the cops and he went to jail. He just recently got out, and we live in a small town so it is hard to avoid him. We also have many mutual friends. It is hard to stay away from him, and he keeping thinking of what could have been. A few days ago though I had an epiphany. He will never change. I did nothing wrong that is the just the way he is. It was the most challenging experience of my life. I am grateful that I am only twenty years old and have learned to stay away from those that can't handle their emotions.

    March 5, 2009 at 23:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Lou

    I have a similar story to the one you shared in this article. That is, with the exception that I was the victim of domestic violence at an early age – my father beat me several times from the age of 8 to 17 for little infractions in the household rules or using bad language. It stopped when I was 17 becuase I fought back – he came after me one night and I attacked back. I used every bit of my energy that night – some defensively, some offensively. I came out of it with a bloody nose, busted lip, black eye, and many bruises, but it stopped. That was also the first time damage was done to my face where I couldn't hide it easily and the first time I finally told someone what had been going on for close to 10 years. My mom always knew – she used to tell me that if I did tell someone, then she wouldn't want me living in her home...so I never spoke a word till that day.

    In 2003, 3 years later, I fell madly in love with a man who already had a small child. I moved in with him – something you just don't do in my family unless you are married. When my family came down on us for that decision, we quickly raced to get married and I thought it was "forever". We soon found out we were pregnant, which did not sit well with my husband. After only 3 weeks of marriage, the abuse started. At first it was a slap becuase I wouldn't clean. Then all out assaults becuase I questioned him about staying out all night with his friends and, at times, another woman. I didn't want to leave becuase my family doesn't approve of divorce. I also didn't want to drastically change the lives of his son and my unborn child. After months of abuse, sometimes with him waking me up at night, I finally suffered a breakdown. I was told I was worthless and "fat" by my husband, his family and friends for gaining weight with my pregnancy (all of 10 pounds) and not keeping the house to my husband's wishes. I had no where to go – my family wouldn't let me come home and I didn't have the monetary means to support myself. My sister-in-law convinced me to go to the hospital and seek help. She sat with me at the hospital for hours holding my hand until I was admitted to an inpatient care facility. I was told I was a classic "battered woman" after years of abuse.

    I am now the proud momma to a 4-year-old little girl and am living with my parents. My divorce was horrible with my ex-husband continually threatening physical violence and to take my daughter forcebly from either the hospital at birth or from my home. He even filed a claim that I was threatening to harm our child with DFACS in retailiation for my reluctance to allow him to take her for a week long visit when she was only 4 days old. My marriage only lasted 3 months before that breakdown, but it was another 2 and a half years before our divorce was finalized – every step of the process included my ex-husband exuding what little control he thought he had over me. He even agreed to a mediation agreement, but wouldn't sign the final papers for more than a year. Even in court the day our divorce was finalized, he continued to protest the divorce in front of the judge and its terms that were identical to those in the mediation agreement.

    He has since had another child with the woman he used to stay out all night with and has been accused of beating her as well for similar reasons. He lost two jobs due to physical violence and is now "unemployable" by most standards. My ex left the state and did not contact us for almost 2 years – which I loved. He since joined the military and has calmed down considerably. He has even made attempts to really be a dad for our child. However, when I wouldn't operate by his rules and wanted to stick to the custody agreement the judge enacted, he went back to his old ways with threats for my safety and our daughter's. Of course, now I know my true worth, and know that my daughter already survived domestic violence before she was even born – I will never let her go through that again and am standing my ground towards my ex. I wish that I had reported his threats and the violence I experienced years ago – that is a mistake I will not make again for the sake of my daughter, myself, and any woman who ends up with my ex in the future!

    March 5, 2009 at 23:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Barbara

    I was married to an abuser for 15 years. I think I was one of the lucky ones since about 4 years into our marriage I had occasion to call the police on him. He took a good look at himself that night, and he didn't much like what he saw. He never touched me again in anger, but I never quite regained my trust in him. He acknowledged that when we divorced, and we are better friends now than we were when we were married.

    March 5, 2009 at 23:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Livia

    I was in a relationship with an abuser. Everything was fine until I agreed to marry him. Before I knew it, he was extremely controlling and jealous, pointing guns at my head, chasing me in his car and trying to run me off the road, beating me, cutting my phone lines, leaving expensive gifts on my doorstep one day and threatening to kill me the next, and so much more. The danger and the dramas were non-stop.

    I had to change my name and move to a distant state to get away from him. He sent desperate-sounding letters to a relative's address for 15 years, and called my friends and anyone he could think of to try and trick someone into giving him information.

    It was shocking to me that even though I told everyone how dangerous he was, people still felt sorry for him. Some felt it was romantic that he carried a torch for me so long. Some envied me my apparent ability to be so unforgettable. Sometimes they did help him.

    He didn't give up on me until was I finally figured out how to put a stop to it. He was in the military. That's why he got away with what he did to me, but also why putting it in writing to his commanding officer and the base commander made him stop. He's in his 60s now. Probably not so much the young lion he once was anyway. I learned how to handle myself from this experience. I learned how to fight back. I found a happy life in time.

    Why do women stay? I can't answer that question. I can say that for me, trying to get away was extremely hard and dangerous, and it seemed forever before I felt free. It can happen to anyone.


    March 5, 2009 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Rheanna Cox

    I really do not understand the world today. I was involved with a guy who I had no idea he had a darkside, but i knew he was very jealous. When he finally did show me that side by raising his hand to me I told him that was it because I knew he would eventually hit me.One night he got me and took me to a hotel room and tried to kill me from aprox 9-10 pm until 4 am in the morn.I had bruises around my neck and on my chin from where he repeadedly choked me out over and over again.He now has 2 warrants but they are only charging him w misdemeanors. Do u have to be famous or in some kind of law enforcement for the charges to be a feloney. I mean come on he tried to kill me and admitted it, I have recorded conversations w him stating he would cut my throat cut out my eyes if he could not have me . Kill my kids blow my house up....Even actually came to my house and in my house and had guns and knives on him. I dont understand I am also human I may not be famous etc. but I am human. He still calls my phone and sends messages that he is coming to get me and when he does i will not see Alabama again. Does a regular person have to die before u can get charged with attempted murder??In my eyes that is what he should get. He tried to kill me there is no in between!!!!!So, why am I any different and this state or sity im in only thinks of that as misdemeanor warrants?

    March 6, 2009 at 00:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Carol Swank

    This Chris Brown mess looks to me like the OJ situation in the earliest stages. The law needs to get it nipped in the bud!!!

    March 6, 2009 at 03:57 | Report abuse | Reply
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