• Stronger Than Silence

Katherine's Story

Katherine, 33, Maine, 4 kids.

Can you describe who your abuser was and how the abuse began?

My abuser was my now ex-husband and started 3 weeks after we met when I was 16 years old. Just 3 weeks into our relationship he called me a whore for the 1st time. I remember feeling so wounded and lost because I hadn't done anything to warrant that. He was convinced all women cheat and it was merely a matter of time before I did. From that day forward it was the main theme of his abuse.

Can you share more about your story, as much as you are comfortable?

I had met my Ex at a pool hall through a mutual acquaintance in February of 2005. We had talked hours into the night and planned our date for the following evening. A couple days later he asked me to be his girlfriend and I was elated. My parents were going through a divorce and I was the least of their concerns. It was easy to spend all my time with him. I was a junior in high school and he was a senior at another local high school.

After we started dating, I was skipping school and my grades were suffering. But I was in a relationship with someone who cared for me and school didn't matter to me, the once honor roll student. He already had a daughter who was 10 months old. I fell head over heels for her. As a kid I wanted three things in life, to be a mother, a wife and a teacher.

I recently watched the show Maid on Netflix and it was a very cathartic experience. I binged it in under 24hrs. I was pulled in. It brought to the service things I had long since forgotten about. When the verbal and mental abuse started I was lost and didn't understand how he could treat me this way. My 16 year old brain made excuses that like his daughter’s mother had cheated on him. That he just needed time to trust me. That I needed to try harder to show him I loved him and I wouldn't ever hurt him.

I would constantly reassure him and withdraw further from friends and family. Even though my mother was too busy with her new boyfriend to notice. My dad never asked to see me after my parent’s separation and I only saw him on occasion when he happened to deliver our mail. We moved during that time and I had to commute 20 minutes a day to school in order to remain at my same high school.

During the first few months it started out small things such as "If you loved me you wouldn't do....if you loved me you would do..." when I would go to work he would accuse me of cheating with a co worker. Convinced I hooked up with them in the freezer of the restaurant I worked in. If I spoke to any men it meant I was interested in them. I would literally cringe any time a male paid me any attention because I knew it would lead to an argument that would be held over my head for weeks to come. He would never believe me when I said where I was and who I was with. I would take a picture (on a flip phone) and send it. He would accuse me of having that saved in my phone and it was a lie. If I wore make up I was wearing it for someone else. Never for him or even for myself. I wasn't allowed to attend football games at my high school because he was convinced I was only watching for the players and because I wanted to check them out.

Four months into our relationship I found out I was pregnant. After the constant verbal abuse where he would call me every name in the book. Or threatened to leave me. I broke up with him. It lasted a couple weeks because he filled my head that no one would want to be with someone who is 17 and pregnant. I took him back. In the brief time we were separated he had already slept with 2 other women. He convinced himself that I also must have slept with someone else. Even though I hadn't.

I moved in with him at 17 and finished out my high school year. I had our first son in March and graduated in May. I was so proud to get my diploma and beat the odds. Whenever my vehicle needed anything it was last on the bill list and many times during our relationship I was without a vehicle and stuck home with our son. He would again accuse me of cheating. He was the one working and had all the money. He controlled how and where it was spent. We got pregnant again. And then at 10 weeks I miscarried. He skipped our son’s 1st Halloween because I was being too emotional and unreasonable and needed to get over it.

I rarely went out with friends and always had to prove where I was. Even with my own family he would make my mom get on the phone. He got a standard car knowing full well I didn't know how to drive one in order to keep me home. He started drinking at 21. Alcohol abuse, pee the bed, threaten to slit my throat and watch me bleed out on the floor if he ever found out I cheated.. We had our 2nd son in 2008. He cheated on me with his daughter’s mom. I left and then came back. Then he left me for another woman (2008/2009) while I was pregnant with our 3rd child (our daughter). I ended up in a homeless shelter and he married her while I was still pregnant. He was arrested for domestic violence abuse from her a year after they were together. She informed me he told her the night we had gotten engaged (2007) he had cheated on me with my best friend at my parents house while I was sleeping. I took him back. I was 21 and had three kids.

It took me another two years to break free again. I ended up in a homeless shelter with 3 kids. After being denied housing assistance I ended up coming to stay with him with the kids. We tried again a month or so later. Then I found him talking to another girl. I finally ended it. That was 2012.

What happened or changed to help you get out of the situation?

My local department of health and human services office was really helpful with food stamps, medical insurance, and help with day care costs. Safe Voices, a domestic abuse shelter, helped me with recognizing more of what the abuse was. There was assistance with college as well. There was housing assistance that was 30% of my income. Organizations would help with things around the holidays like Thanksgiving meals and gifts for Christmas. WIC helped with milk and other items like that. There was heating assignable once I was responsible for paying my own heat and at times helps with electricity costs. I never used the free phone services but I've seen that program. My friends and family tried to help when and if they could but it was hard. Having 3 kids was a burden for any of them. Honestly I'm sure there are some things and programs I'm missing that helped along the way. There really is a whole wide variety of help. You just need to ask and research and talk it out.

I think another part that made me stronger was how happy I felt the times when I wasn't with him even though I was homeless many times or I lived in an apartment subsidized I felt like it was mine. I continued to grow as a mother and found peace. Not having someone berate me for my clothes. The way I cleaned or if I didn't clean. I didn't have to share a cell phone with anyone like I did with him. He still used it to talk to other women and then denied it with proof. He made everything my fault. He pressured me into sex even after I had our babies. 3 weeks after they were all born I was pressured.

The biggest factor was when my kids were 5, 3 and 2. I didn't want them to live in a house where they thought it was okay to yell. Throw things. Break things. Drink heavily. In my worse moments I use to wish he would hit me so I would just know. Lifetime movies didn't adequately prepare me for what mental and emotional abuse was. When I started a job at a company that actually allowed me to feel I could afford things with assistance from the state is when I didn't allow myself to be sucked back in. Finally I was the one who made the money and he had been home talking to another girl not doing anything with the kids. That's when I had him leave.

What is life like now that you have gotten out of the abusive situation? How has it become better?

I'm happy. I'm so blissfully happy. My youngest son is 11 months old. And comparing his life so far to that of my kid’s early days. It's night and day. Although I do it alone it is 100x easier than dealing with someone who mentally would put me down every chance they got. On nights I don't do the dishes there is no one yelling at me that I'm not good enough. I do not answer to anyone. I can go where I please. Hang out with whoever I want. I can be friends with men online. I can dress how I want and watch football.

I taught myself how to drive a standard when he was in his heavy drinking (2008) and I have a truck that is a standard. Every time I drive it I'm reminded that I do not need a man. I can drive it. I bought it. Owning a house has had challenges but it's all mine. I recently installed my daughter's flooring in her room and I cried happy tears feeling so strong and capable that I will never have to settle for less than I deserve because I am enough. I'm a kind good person who loves with all my heart.

I shine and I don't need anyone who will try to take my sunshine away. I love my peace every day. I see red flags miles away. Inpatient with my response time ? No thank you. Say something about my thank you. Tell me what to thank you. I have achieved everything I have now and I will never let anyone take my things from me again. I will never be homeless and without money. Now I feel broke if I have less than 5k in the bank. I will never settle again. My kids deserve a happy strong independent mom and that is what I will continue to show them. Life gets better. It really and truly does. I've also found my way back to God. The more I seek him in church and the mom group I go to the more my soul doesn't feel as tired as it once did.

What else would you like to say to any women reading your story who are currently experiencing domestic abuse?

Please know that you can't start your journey to healing and a happy life until you take that step. In the show Maid on Netflix it said it takes woman an average of 7 times to leave for good. It took me around 6 times. But once I did it was quite literally life changing.

Please don't fall into the trap of not wanting your kids to grow up in a separated household if you have kids. It's not the better choice. They need to see happy loving people. They need to see a healthy mom. They need you to be brave and step into the unknown. I promise there are so many people waiting to help you and to see you thrive. Once you find peace and experience it you will never want to deal with someone who disturbs it.

You deserve love and I promise you that a man who needs to hurt your physically, mentally or emotionally does not love you. Because that isn't love. They might think they do. But they are wrong. Love doesn't hurt. Love comforts. Love is a solace in the storm. Love is peace and support. Love is kind and patient. Love yourself, love your kids, and start standing up for your story. You get to write it. You get to decide how it goes and where it goes. It's magical I promise. From one woman to another. I love you, even though I've never met you. I do. I pray you find the strength to take your power back!!

I still worry sometimes that I won't meet someone to share my life with and get to experience genuine love from a man. But I am damn sure that being alone for the rest of my life is far better than being in that cycle of hate, control and abuse. I've been single for almost 10 years since my separation and divorce. With only a few relationships here and there that only lasted a couple months because when they exhibited any signs of domestic violence I left. My ex-husband and I were on and off for 7 years. SEVEN years. And now I won't stand for it at all. I have a zero tolerance policy. You can make it through this storm and there is sunshine waiting for you. It won't always be easy. The dark days happen. But even when the washer breaks and you cry trying to fix it and wish life to be easier... it's still better than someone who cheats, lies, threatens, controls, berates, accuses, hurts you.

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