by Maria
(Kennewick, WA)

For a number of us, domestic violence and sexual assault can begin much further back than we're willing to think about. The earliest memory that I have is of my father holding me down while he performed oral sex on me. When I finally summoned up the courage at 8 to run to my mother and tell her, she informed me that God told her she didn't have to have sex with my father anymore - that was my job. He didn't stop until I was 14, when I got my first period. By the time I turned 15, I ran away from home and never went back. I actually felt safer sleeping behind a dumpster than in my bed back at home. I cut myself off from people altogether, thinking that if I could suffer such horrors from the people that gave me life and were supposed to protect me, how in the hell would I be treated by strangers off the street?

For most of my life, I felt as if my mother and father killed me, and I was just an empty corpse still stumbling through the daily motions. I felt as if they killed my spirit, my ability to trust and make friends, my ability to look in the mirror and not curse seeing the reflection of the two sick parents that destroyed me. I spent the next 5 1/2 years being a workaholic so I wouldn't have to focus on dating and relationships. Needless to say, I didn't have the healthiest of radar when I finally decided to start dating.

I wound up marrying the first and only man that ever asked me out on a date. A thirteen year mistake that kept me locked indoors, asking for permission to get a job, to go to the grocery store, to breathe. I wound up taking college courses for him to lessen his workload...which only freed him up to have an affair. I wanted so badly to prove that I was a good person, and not a monster because I came from two very sick parents. I got a divorce and took a year before I jumped into the dating pool again...and married the second man to ever ask me out on a date.

I learned too late that he had lied about his past (during his earlier years, he was a teenage gay male prostitute), his health (he was a paranoid schizophrenic and addicted to crystal meth) and his sexuality (he wasn't bi. He was gay and too ashamed of the fact to live freely.) I'd wake up in the middle of the night to find his hands around my throat, pummeling me with his fists or pulling the hair out of my head.

When I tried to run, he'd grab me and lock his arms around me as I tried to run and begin to weep, rocking me back and forth, telling me that he thought I was his mother coming to beat him like he said she did throughout his childhood, begging me not to give up on him. I eventually secured a job out of state and ran for my life but made the mistake of keeping in touch with his family. Three months later, they contacted me to inform me that he tried to kill himself. Instead of realizing this as a manipulative ploy to make me feel guilty for leaving him, I went back, feeling responsible for his actions instead of taking care of myself.

I cut off all contact with him last November and rented a room and a P.O. Box so he'd never know my true address. But I knew that I still needed help to break this vicious cycle of self-hate and refusing to place the shame and responsibility on the abusers.

I found SafePlace and realized that I didn't have to live like that. I am learning to respect myself, set clear goals and be independent. It wasn't until I lost everything that I finally felt free to do anything. Thank you, SafePlace. You saved my life, and for that I am forever grateful.

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