When It’s All Said & Done


Being a survivor isn’t a one-and-done thing. You don’t survive the experience and get to call it quits later. Unfortunately, it follows you everywhere. The experience is etched into your cells, your memories, your everyday actions. You may never be a victim again, but you will always remember why you’re a survivor in the first place.

I remember when I first started dating my abusive ex-boyfriend, he said he used to date a girl who used to “flinch every time [he] moved [his] hand too fast.” He laughed because he said her old dude “used to beat her”. I can’t remember how I responded then, but I will always think back to that first red flag. In that moment, he was letting me know that intimate partner violence was acceptable, perhaps even humorous.

But what did I know about red flags, then? When I was 16-years-old, I was blaming victims for not leaving their abusive partners. I didn’t know what to look out for when dating ruthless boys and rebellious girls. What I did know was that I was too smart to get caught up in some abusive relationship–Nope! It would never happen to me, because I would just leave, duh! Because it would be that easy…right?

The truth was a hard pill to swallow. I choked on it. I didn’t want to believe I was a victim, but I wasn’t in denial of what was happening to me. I just didn’t know how to make it stop. I still loved him with my entire being – I was convinced he would change. I believed he would changed even after he ghosted me for months, held a shotgun to my chest, physically dragged me by my hair multiple times in public, called me out of my name, left me with bruises, and forced sex with me.

I covered for him everytime, calling his fits “anger issues” because that’s what the courts and the hood called it. I knew it wasn’t my fault he was always in a rage. Truthfully, I love the banter. And I loved to play rough with my boyfriend. I could control my rage in a healthy way, why couldn’t he? Several tough years later, I’d learn it was never about anger, or rage, or being mad. It was always about having the power and control in the relationship (and over me). He didn’t have an anger issue, he had a supremacist issue.

Though he didn’t explicably say it, being white and being a man had its advantages. He was the center of every conversation. Guys like him are the center of what we learn in public school. It didn’t matter that he was a stoner, considered himself liberal – dare I say, a feminist. But what feminist believes women should be “put in their place?” (A very wrong one, for sure). He used his power in society to keep me scared, powerless, and under his control. Every time I tried to break up with him, he’d threaten my family. I believed him because he had a very powerful support system backing up his every move.

Our friends and family knew him as a “nice guy” with temper issues. But “abusive”? No. He would never. He would never raise a fist to me or an open hand. He never hit me. So, why would I say that about him? Obviously, it was me causing his outrage and provoking these fights about what I should be doing with my life. Because the fights were usually about me and what I was doing wrong. I could never point a finger at him because he was “one of the good ones.” He was gaslighting me and I was on fire from the inside out.

When the relationship was finally over, I started to take inventory of what was left. What did I have left to give? He had taken my power, my friends, my integrity, my hope, and my innocence. I’d never see the world with the same bright eyes as before.


I met him when I was 16 years old and just out of a complicated, toxic relationship that ended with me having an abortion. He was supportive of my decision and helped me get my mind off of what happened. Full disclosure, he was a good friend before we started dating. He was a family friend, the nicest and funniest guy I had ever gotten close to –  a real gentleman, so I thought. I fell in love so fast, I completely forgot I was *this close* to becoming a mother months before. But I also knew something was off. After we had sex for the first time, I lied about how many people I had sex with. I told him it was just my ex-boyfriend because I didn’t want him to think I was a slut, or dirty. I wanted him to think I was pure and worth keeping around for a long time. Looking back, I always regret that moment.

This was another red flag I should have noticed. In all sincerity, I just wanted to be loved and love in return. I wanted stability, normalcy, and a romantic, healthy love. I thought I would get that with him. I was so blinded by my wants that I forgot about what I needed: safety. I grew up in an unstable, unsafe, unhealthy home and something about him felt familiar. He felt like my Mom and Dad all at once. I should have ran until my feet blistered, but instead I stayed until the very last ounce of dignity was squeezed from me.

But no one warned me about these red flags. And when things were bad, no one talked to my partner about stopping the abuse. They all turned to me and just expected me to leave. As if it was that easy. As if I hadn’t already tried before. As if I had any energy at all to entertain the thought of another fight. As if.

It’s been almost 10 years since the relationship ended, but I still wake up scared some days. There are only so many ways people can take power away from you, but there are so many other ways to gain that power back. On days I feel most helpless, I start to write another piece of this story. And on days I want to take my power back, I share resources to prevent this from happening to someone else. (I also go back to scenes where the abuse took place, but that’s another essay.)


I am a survivor of IPV and sexual assault. And I am not alone. There are hoards of us and even more young and innocent victims who don’t know how to read flags like 16-year-old me. As survivors, it is sacred our duty to protect them and help them get out of these abusive relationships. As survivors, it is imperative we teach others not to make the same mistakes.

In the same breath, the young man who abused me was also a victim of physical and emotional abuse. The world let him suffer in silence and allowed him to channel his trauma into violence against a romantic partner (me). The world sat back and watched as I was pushed, shoved, and pulled at hands of a troubled young man. His friends did and said nothing. His family did and said nothing. My family tried to help, but ended up blaming me (the victim). All of this happens all too often. We let abusers go unnoticed because they’re our friends, our family members, our loved ones. But that’s not okay. And we shouldn’t keep doing that.

There’s a call to end toxic masculinity as it’s been linked to all kinds of fucked up shit (if I may say): rape culture, intimate partner violence, dehumanization of women and girls, homophobia, transphobia, among other things. But it’s not enough to end these cycles of oppression within ourselves. We have to call people out when they are being less than neighborly to our loved ones. We can’t be scared of being disliked for calling out toxic behavior. Actually, people may even stop talking to us the more we speak up for victims’ rights and the end of toxic behavior.

Right now, we live in a world that allows men to use power + control + violence to make a point and unfortunately, most of the world is run by those people. Fortunately for us, we live amongst the people that that behavior directly affects, meaning we have direct influence to make changes within our homes and within our communities. We can’t let abuse happen period. When the abuser is committing these acts, call them in. When the victim is experiencing these acts, get them out. You can’t sit on the sidelines for this one (or at all), you have to choose a side. You either support abusive and toxic behavior, or you act to end it. Period. There is no inbetween.

While I would love to label all abusers monsters, I cannot. I am a humanitarian and to me that means showing compassion for all, even the worst of the worst. The actions that abusers commit should be punished to the fullest extent, but I stand by actions not defining us. I am not what happened to me and he is not what he did to me. In the end, we are all humans trying to make the world work for us. People like my ex-boyfriend need to realize that they can’t make the world change for them. They need to change for themselves and do better. They need to be better and we have to give them a chance to do so. (We don’t have to be around when it happens, tho.)


So no, this isn’t a story about why I stayed or how bad things were. No. This is a story about survivorship and all the moments it took for me to get here. This is a story about how to get through and still have something left over when it’s all said and done.


Relationships 101: Getting Out of A Toxic Relationship

Let’s face it. This is no easy task. There is no other way to sugar coat it, no “get rich quick scheme”, and absolutely no easy way out at all. People coming out of an abusive relationship almost always come out a little broken inside.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. Think of the phoenix – it has to die to rebirth itself. Personally, I felt like that’s what my experience was after getting out of a 3 year abusive relationship. It wasn’t always hurricanes, but it wasn’t always rainbows either. I felt like the ending of that chapter served as a catalyst for a new, less apologetic me. I had learned to be so subservient in that relationship just for the sake of not arguing, that the parts of me I muted for [him] were now raging to get out and play. When I let out those parts of me – I was dramatic. It was like letting my hair down for the first time. For the first time, in a long time, I was unafraid to be my true self.

I tell my experience because I’ve been there – abusive fuckhead telling me what I can and can’t do with my life, telling me who I should be, getting mad at the things I did in the past, putting me down for who I was, literally dragging me on the floor, pulling my hair, telling who I can’t and can be friends with. This fuckhead controlled almost every part of my life. When I wanted to overthrow his authority, he would threaten my family. Seventeen year old me was scared. Seventeen year old me thought she was doing her family a favor by giving this twenty year old what he wanted.

I left this boy so many times, only to find him back in my life. I either let him back him, or he forced his way in. When I moved 700 miles away from him, I was finally able to cut the cord, but not everyone has that luxury of moving far away from the people that abuse them, so I put together this list of things one can do to get away from the abusive relationship.

  • Tell yourself every day (or multiple times a day) that you do not deserve abuse and that you are worthy of a healthy and non-toxic love.
  • Label the abuse when it is being done. Often, people who perpetrate violence are in denial that they are abusing others. By labeling the behaviors (calling them out), you put the responsibility on your partner to change. Let them know that you are not attacking them, only that you care enough to help them unlearn their unhealthy behavior.
  • Talk to a counselor, or a trusted & mature adult about your relationship. Let the people who are around you the most know about what is going on in your relationship. They can help you when you need it most.
  • Set up a code word or phrase between you and your close friends/relatives. If anytime you feel unsafe and the person who is perpetrating violence is [insert nice word for holding you hostage], you can casually call, text, or talk to this person and this person can come and intervene.
  • Do not detach yourself from anyone – this is the time you need the most support. Make friends, keep in close touch with your family. Do not let yourself stay in isolation.
  • Create a plan for breaking off the relationship. Break ups are never easy and your partner may not let you leave the relationship easily. It helps to involve other people in your plan to leave, so that they can help keep you accountable for following through, and to help keep you in safe in case any violence occurs.
  • Detach yourself from the relationship little by little. Start hanging out with your partner less and less. Say no more often. Try not to text/message/call them so often. Stay off social media. It might help to go “M.I.A.” for a bit until you feel safe.

Don’t be ashamed; it’s not your fault.

Here are some stats:

  • Intimate Partner Violence, or abuse, can be perpetrated by anyone at any time in their life and affects everyone in your community.
  • Between 85-95% of intimate partner violence survivors are women.
  • On average, a person who is in an abusive relationship will go back to their abuser 7 or 8 times.
  • Reportedly, 51% of LGBTQ intimate partner violence survivors are women, 42% are men and 7% are transgender.
  • Intimate Partner Violence isn’t just between men and women, and men aren’t the only ones who are committing the violence.
  • An average of 14% of women and 18% of men reported being emotionally abused by an intimate partner at some point in the last year.
  • Without help, children and adolescence who witness intimate partner violence in their homes are more likely to be abusive towards, or be abused by, their intimate partner.





When you do leave the relationship, you might be broken. Make it a priority to put yourself back together. If there was anything that relationships should have taught you – it should be to be there for yourself, show up for yourself, put yourself first, say no, defend yourself, own your power, learn about your power and to be unapologetically you.

Thank you.


Compassion After Abuse

It is no secret that after experiencing trauma in the form of being a victim of abuse, you start to wonder why you ever trusted anyone. It’s extremely difficult to muster up the thought, “After all this trauma I have experienced, there are still good people out there.” It’s even harder to think about forgiveness – especially in the form of forgiving yourself, even after you keep convincing yourself it wasn’t your fault.

Related imageAbuse takes many shapes – physical, emotional, mental, sexual. These shapes often occur simultaneously, meaning abuse is never an isolated incident. Abuse is generally committed to gain power because the person committing the abuse feels powerless, or feels like they want to exert power over you. Abuse is also committed when people are mentally and emotionally unhealthy and unstable. These “abusers” have learned this behavior from people who probably abused them, or people close to them who are also “abusers”.

I quote “abuser” because it’s important to point out that the people committing acts of abuse are people, too. This is not to say abusers are still good people, just to say that they have souls, too and may also seek repentance, may also feel guilt, or may also be suffering.

This is key when trying to find compassion after you’ve been abused – you have to try to find the humanness in someone you once seen or currently see as a monster.

Related imageWhen you name someone to be a monster, or even as abuser as I just did, you are essentially dehumanizing the person. They no longer have feelings, a personality, a family, a life – they are just what you deem them to be – a monster or an “abuser”. People who commit acts of abuse often use this tactic to manipulate their victims, as well. They will dehumanize you to the point of normalization. They will take what they can, including your personhood. In a fucked up way of looking at things, when you deem someone a monster, or an abuser, you are essentially doing the same thing.

After I cut ties with the young man who abused me, I became what I was afraid of. I became him in some aspect. I sent him really nasty messages on social media – calling him terrible names and things. I mocked him in person and online. I humiliated him in front of family members. These were very small acts in comparison with what he did to me, but the fact still remains, that I was being a bully. I felt powerless, so I felt I had to exert power over someone else [my abusive X] and take it however I needed to.

People who are abusers, however won’t stop at social media when it comes to taking power from others; most of those power hungry assholes don’t know when to stop.

Most people who abuse will take what they can when they can to feel powerful.

Please excuse the casual shade towards abusers. But my point can best summarized by my best friend Priscilla Marconi, “It’s easier to stoop down to [that person’s] level and become what we so greatly loathe.” But the question still remains, how does one find compassion for the person that abused them? How does one find compassion for all of those that have abused someone at one point?

I believe forgiveness of the self comes first, then understanding of the behaviors and situation that ensued, and then maybe, you will be able to see a broken person who committed acts of abuse. This does not come easy. We like to cling to our baggage, however heavy it may be, we like to use it as a weapon in case some new fuckhead tries to do the same shit. And rightfully so! But first, you must learn how to separate your feelings from your experiences.

You must learn that humans are terrible creatures, and you are also human. You must learn that humans are not smart and we do not learn from mistakes easy. You must learn that living life does not come with a handbook and our teachers our sometimes very shitty adults who commit acts of abuse. You must learn how to take all of that and find some compassion.

According to the English Oxford Dictionary, having compassion means to have sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others. So, how do you feel sorry for someone to who took so much from you? How do you learn to have sympathy for the person who physically hurts their partner, for the person who bullies others, for the person who sexually assaults others? These are questions I ask myself everyday, because in all honesty, everyone knows someone whose committed acts of abuse. I know many.

I will leave you with this: compassion does not mean forgiveness, but I believe compassion is directly linked to forgiveness. If you can learn to forgive, you can find compassion. If you can find compassion, you can learn to forgive. If you learn how to forgive people who abuse and find compassion for those people, you will achieved something not a lot of people can do. Rise above. In your quests for solace, I wish you well.

www.nomore.org: resources for intimate partner violence + sexual assault
www.loveisrespect.org:  resources on how to maintain healthy relationships