I was born on October 8th, 1972. I was raped, tortured, and almost killed on October 18th, 2015.
October being Domestic Violence Awareness Month hits very close to home.
The person who raped me at gunpoint - the one who almost killed me - was the person I loved and trusted for many years. I trusted he would love and respect me. I trusted that he would protect me and our daughter. See, it never starts like this. It begins with a charming, loving, witty, funny guy who woos you, pursues you, and makes you feel like you are the most incredible woman in the world. Although, in hindsight, there were signs… ugh… always in hindsight.
Narcissistic and controlling behavior is tricky to detect right away. It creeps in slowly, and almost always, not in the form of physical abuse, which is too obvious and too difficult to hide. Abusers find women, or men in some cases, with not-so-tuned “antennas.”
I use my words carefully, as some words are used too freely and inaccurately these days, like gaslighting. True gaslighting, in an abusive relationship, is the key for the abuser to succeed. It involves alienating and isolating you from friends, treating you as inferior, as well as economic abuse. In my case, I became the sole breadwinner while he chose not to work because nothing was worth his time, yet he controlled all the finances and expenses. Minimizing, denying, and blaming… I could go on and on… it is a very slow process.
One morning you wake up and you are not sure who you are anymore, or how on earth you got there? Me? A strong woman like me? How is it possible? I found myself doubting every move I made. The main daily goal and focus was to not anger him. But it doesn’t matter because everything you do or don’t do makes them angry. No rhyme or reason. I even found myself scared to use more than two squares of toilet paper for every wipe. At times he stood over me, watching how much toilet paper I used. I constantly made excuses for his behavior to myself as well as to others.
Over the years he became an alcoholic and a drug user, justified by the notion, in his sick mind, that it is healthier than not drinking at all. It was a result and a coping mechanism of mental illness and chronic depression. From a wounded child with many demons, he became a disturbed man. I begged him to get help, but of course, “I was talking out of my ass.”
After eleven years, I finally mustered the courage to leave. It took every ounce of dignity and self-worth I had left. With lots of planning and professional help, I found a way, knowing it was going to be a world war, but also, that if I stayed, I would eventually die.
Once he realized I was serious, he decided to get help from a psychologist named Doug. Trying to convince me that he was a changed man, he professed, “Navigating through this process, I realize now how you were right about me in so many ways.” Even Doug saw through his manipulation.
Eight months after leaving, I allowed him to visit us so that he could have time with our daughter. Unfortunately, I thought it would be okay for him to stay with us. The night before he was supposed to go back home to Canada, having realized I would never take him back, I had moved on, and was in a physical relationship with someone else, he snapped! One of my conditions prior to staying with us was no alcohol, but he drank, gulping an entire bottle of white wine in seconds. Then he tortured and raped me with a gun to my head from 11:00 pm on October 17th until 6:30 am on October 18th, all the while shouting “I am an honorable man”, as his daughter slept in another part of the house. I’ll spare you the gory details, but only two options went through my mind during these hours–
He kills me and escapes to Canada with my daughter.
He kills us all.
Seeing the sunrise and a new day was not even a possibility. I can’t explain why or how I survived this horrific night. I am one of the lucky ones, I guess. It wasn’t my time yet.
Eventually, I gained full custody and sole legal decision making for my daughter, and he was not allowed near us. This night that I will never forget gave me freedom for life. This is how I choose to see it through my lens. Only when he died of a heart attack three years later, did I become free from the fear of his promised return to kill me.
This experience is a part and, weirdly enough, a blessing in my wellness journey. Even though I will never forget, I will not let it define me, nor be ashamed of sharing my story, and I will never be a victim. I am lucky to be born with a passion and zest for life. The night I almost died is the night I was born again. I was born in October 1972 and again in October 2015. I knew from that moment forward that I would live life to the fullest, embrace it, and laugh a full belly laugh every single day. No one will ever have the power to cut my wings again. I was born to fly!
The theme of Domestic Violence Awareness Month of 2022 is Living Into Our Values and Cultivating Joy. Please know that even if you experienced something horrific, of any kind, you can still find joy and purpose.
I am sure we all have bucket lists of some sort. I keep updating mine, but my number one was a safari trip to Serengeti, Tanzania. For my 50th birthday, I crossed that off my bucket list. I am so lucky, blessed, and fortunate to have found true love (they call it the “third love”). He goes with my flow, encourages me to spread my wings big and wide, and even traveled over 30 hours across the oceans to Africa with me and my daughter (now his daughter, too). Naively, I thought I was already healed, but apparently, I didn’t realize I could be healed even further.
Live into your values. Find your joy. You can do it!