Salena, 45, Florida, experienced extensive abuse from her first two husbands and several boyfriends.
Please share more about your situation, if you are comfortable.
When I was just 15, I met a little bit older guy that gave me the attention I lacked at home. During our time together he became extremely jealous and possessive and grew up in a family that had some power in that town. He was a huge guy and would use his size and voice to intimidate everyone around us including me. From ages 15-18 he mentally abused me. I learned very quickly to keep things in order and the right way. The food cans were always sorted and labeled outwards. We got into dealing drugs then into doing more than we sold. He had used the fear he placed in me to get me to do anything he wanted. I got pregnant at 17 and gave birth to my 1st born a few months shy of my 18th birthday. I finally got up the courage to leave when my son was about 6 months old. Then abuse didn't stop there. A week after leaving the situation, he and a friend ran us off the road and into a light pole. He went up for attempted murder charges but his family had more money than I did and they threatened to take my son from me if I didn't get the charges dropped. Well...I made it happen. I convinced the courts that I didn't see the drivers well and that it wasn't my ex. Time went on and I tried staying friendly with my ex for our son. It was the worse decision of my life. My health started failing shortly after I gave birth. If I had to do again it would had been different. Three years later, I started dating a guy that I grew up with. Everything was ok for awhile. We were both under 21 at the time. Once he turned 21 everything changed. He would go stay at the bar for days at a time. He would come home and we would get into physical fights. I felt like I was doing something wrong so I stayed and tried to become everything he wanted me to be. I ended up pregnant and then got married because I refused to have another child and not be married. We had no business getting married. We got married at the court house after he got lucky and didn't go to jail on his case that we were there for. I can remember standing at the car after we left the court house al big and pregnant and seriously looking at him and asked him if we should go get a refund because I made a mistake.
Life went on and I gave birth to my 2nd child, a little girl. By this time my husband was sneaking out when I slept and spending days away from home and spending his entire paycheck at bars and gambling. He had learned to speak very soft to say horrible things and start a fight in front of people to make it look like I was the crazy one. I started believing it myself. We had been together awhile now. I was about 21 and our daughter just turned a year when he talked me into having adult parties so he could cheat without cheating. During this period I had gotten pregnant again but this time with a baby boy. My husband refused to have a son and forced me to give him up for adoption or I would lose my little family. He threatened to take our daughter and divorce me and take everything if I kept our son. I gave in and agreed to his terms. By this time his soft talking abuse came to a head. His friends were sitting outside a window and could hear the nasty words he used towards me and heard the physical hits when he struck me. Finally someone heard the truth. I thought I was free. It was a relief that people finally knew it wasn't just me and I wasn't lying. Baby was born and gone and life kept moving for everyone but me. He had stolen and given away a very large piece of me and my heart. The final straw came when I had just put our daughter down for a nap when I walked out of her room, my husband threw a thin blanket over me and started beating the crap out of me. He beat me worse that I had ever been beaten before. I finally called the cops and pressed charges. I packed up my 1yr old daughter and 4yr.old son and left. Between the ages of 22 and 26 my life was in chaos. I suffered from PTSD and severe post-partum depression. I had started going through a divorce anyway no matter how hard I tried to make it work with my first husband, I was fighting for my life due to serious health issues arising and I had no support. My family would tear me down emotionally and every guy I tried dating was just something I was trying to fill this huge void that I didn't realize was there. I came from a broken home, saw my mother abused, I was abused sexually, physically and mentally most of my life. I did not realize what was going on. I just felt like it was me. It was my fault. I was and had become everything they said about me.
When I turned 27 my life took another turn. Since I still was not mature enough to understand my bad life choices, I made the most dangerous choice of my entire life. I felt love = sex, abuse = love. I wanted my forever fairy tale love, a good father for my children and a good provider. I thought I met the man of my dreams. The guy that I had been chatting online with finally got me to agree to a dinner date after some time talking online. We had a horrible date. We didn't click and even agreed we wouldn't move forward with dating. Well, a few weeks go by and a guy I briefly was dating that I really liked dumped me. I was stupid and went out drinking. Unfortunately, I got a call during my drunken state from the other guy that I didn't click with. Well one thing lead to another and he drove across town to pick me up and take me out for remainder of night. I crashed at his house and he was a complete gentleman. Over the course of the weekend this guy became the man I've always dreamed about. He was a prince on a white horse. I even prayed that day asking for a sign if this was the man for me to give me a sign.....I got a sign...I got cold chills up my spine and started crying uncontrollably...I should had taken it as bad and ran but instead I talked myself into believing it was a good sign because I was so lonely and desperate for love, any love, no matter the cost.
This man took my children and I to the Bucs game with awesome seats, spoiled us to no end. He treated us all like we were the best thing to ever walk into his life. Everyone that met him loved him. He had those trusting blue eyes that made people just adore him. Well, the weekend goes by, and the kiddos go stay with my grandparents for the week. The guy asks me to stay. Fourth of july was coming close and he had a surprise and so I stayed. He took me to meet his family and had one of the best weeks you could dream of. Just 6 days after meeting him the 2nd time he popped the question. He took me out and has this huge display of affection and a dream come true date and I said YES. I was so involved in how I was feeling that I completely ignored all of the warning red flags waving in the wind.
The very next day after the proposal was horrifying. I woke up to him on the phone with his boss and they are fighting and screaming at each other. I had decided to get up and get my things ready to go back home and figured now was perfect timing while he’s busy....... When I went to leave the bedroom to take my sleep over bag to living room he reached out and grabbed me by my throat. I was in shock. He was gripping tighter and tighter. He asked where did I think I was going. I couldn't say a word or hardly catch my breath by this time. All of a sudden, he threw me by my throat onto his bed where he jumped on top of me and started choking me again. I was fighting with everything in me. Out of nowhere he lets go just as I am about to black out. I start to run for the front door. When I finally make it to the front screened door, I find it dead bolt key locked, and he has the only key. I am trapped. I start screaming for help trying to get the neighbors to help or call 911 but not one would help. I watched the people across the street turn and look and sadly walk inside their home. By that time my fiancé grabs me by the hair on my head and drags me back into the living room and continues to kick and punch me and beat me literally from one end of the house to the other. I don’t remember how it ended or why I still stayed after all of that. I never moved back home to my grandparents.
Weeks went by and then when I finally got the nerve to leave my health starts declining again. During this time my oldest son was living with us, and I had just had right shoulder surgery and complete hysterectomy all within the same month. After I had shoulder surgery I had to have a pain pump put in. My fiancé at the time refused to let me have any of the meds they gave me after surgery as well as he ripped the pain pump out of my shoulder. I had to call my grandparents to drive over 1.5 hours to me just to go to go across the street from us to pick up my meds because he wouldn't let me have them. When they brought me my meds, they begged me to leave him. They stated he was going to kill me if I stayed. He drove up while they were still at the house crying and begging for forgiveness and all that bull.... I stayed. I stayed because I was led to believe I asked for the beatings. I believed it was my fault.
I took the abuse for over a year before I begged him to marry me. Yes I begged him to marry this “ugly,” “fat,” “unworthy of love,” “useless” woman wanted him to honor me by giving me his name. Yes I believed those lies about me and he was good at playing games and making everyone around us believe my injuries were from me hurting myself. For over a year I endured every kind of abuse you could imagine. Each time I tried to leave it got worse.
I can remember one-time that I was leaving with my son and he wasn't letting us go. His brothers and mother were there this time. I thought I would be safe but I was wrong. As soon as I turned my back to walk out, I felt a strong hit across my back of head knocking me to the floor. Once on the floor they told my son to watch and see how “whores” get treated. They all, his mother, his brothers and himself start kicking me in the head and body in front of my son. They stood around taking turns kicking me trying to encourage my son to help. My son was only 11yr old at the time. He watched me take kick after kick with no end in sight. I don’t remember how it ended or how long it lasted but I was afraid. Cops believed his lies that I was just clumsy and fall and get all the time. When they were finished with me I called the police. When the police came nothing happened. They didn't believe me and left.
Time passes and by this time I am convinced it's all my fault. I was too mouthy, wore too much make up and so on. The abuse didn’t stop. The night of our wedding we got into a huge fight. Of course, for the wedding I went and got my nails done professionally. He held me down and literally broke off each fake fingernail, tearing of even the real nails underneath. My hands and fingers were bloody and in pain. That was our honeymoon. He stated that’s what I get for looking like a whore. I should had run long go after he told me he believed that he was the gate keeper of hell but now I was in a situation that was beyond just leaving.
Not long after this on Christmas eve we had got into a huge fight, and he had beat me so bad I barely remember it now. The next day I was having issues feeling dizzy and light headed and throwing up. He took me to the ER and the doctor immediately called the cops. I had been beaten so bad I was suffering a concussion. They took pics of my body and injuries. Unfortunately, I still had to go home with his mother after he was arrested at the hospital. His mother was extremely upset and started threatening me as we drove off from the hospital. She started hitting me and trying to push me towards the door of the truck. She made the threat of taking me somewhere I will never be found again and I panicked and had to get out of this truck. We were traveling 60 mph down a very busy highway and I saw a chance to get away. I opened the door of the truck while we were driving and I jumped for my life. I rolled into traffic and luckily everyone stopped. I was now covered in bruises, blood and injuries not only from the abuse but now had road rash across my face and followed all the way down my body and feet. When the ambulance arrived I have them take me to a hospital way from the area we lived.
I heal and go back to my husband. Time goes by and we start fighting again. I was done. I came home to find my son standing in the hall with a large board waiting for my husband to walk in. He was going to beat him down when he walked in so I sent my son to a friend's home for the week end so I could plan our escape. My husband found out and started freaking out. He went as far as throwing me onto the bed and smelling me literally from head to toe and everywhere in between to see if I smelled like another man. He took a gallon of bleach and poured it into the gas tank of my truck to mess it up if I left. While he was passed out, I got into the truck and started heading to the door. He woke up and grabbed me. I told him I was only going to pick up my son and bring him home, acting like everything is normal. I picked up my son and took off heading back towards my hometown with nothing but the clothes my son had from his sleepover and what I was wearing. While getting on interstate the truck starts acting up from the bleach. I start praying for the truck to keep going until we were safe and it did. We moved in with my grandparents and started the process of filing restraining orders, filing divorce and getting mental help for me and my children. I still wasn't safe. My husband was now following us. He would show up at places I went just to remind me I could not hide. After a long year of my husband tracking us down like dogs and dealing with him charming a judge out of restraining order, I took my family deeper into hiding. I got my divorce and finally got a judge to give me a lifelong order.
Please share more about how you felt during the time of the abuse and what happened or changed to help you start taking steps to get out of the situation?
I always felt like the abuse was my fault, that I did something wrong. Then one day I realized that I was worth more and I ran.
Unfortunately I did not have any support up until my last marriage. When I got married to my second husband, my family begged me to leave him because while I had a pain pump in my shoulder and was recovering from two major surgeries, he was beating me up and down the street. They told me if I didn't leave he would kill me. I have a restraining order and and I will never be scared of him again. I won't be scared of my first husband either.
What is life like now that you have gotten out of the abusive situation? How has it become better?
Time went on and I started dating a life-long friend and everything was great. The kids and I moved past the trauma until my ex-husband found us and started doing things like cut out brake lines, cut water and power to our house and many other creepy things. He was terrorizing us once again. We had to run. The order wasn't going to stop him. So we moved out of state with my longtime friend and the kids. Since moving out of state, my ex finally left us alone. It took me several more years before I would remarry, but I did and I finally married the right man. My best friend was the man I married and am still married to this day. It was hard trying to trust anyone after what we had been through but we were strong and we made it.
I'm not fully at my peak-best but I am so much closer than I was. I love myself now. I know it wasn't my fault and I hope one day that I can stand up and tell millions of women they can get out, and I hope I can make a difference with my story.
What else would you like to say to any women reading your story who are currently experiencing domestic abuse?
You can do it. It's not your fault and you're not alone!