How does this work?

You submit your story using the form below.  I have prompted responses that will help tell a comprehensive story of your experience. When filling out the form, you will also choose a name for your Hero.  Once I have your story, I will edit for spelling, grammar, style, etc. and send you a draft to review, followed eventually by an illustration of your Hero.  Victims often browse for stories and information without necessarily interacting on the web, for safety reasons typically, so just having your story published will help immensely anyone who may be struggling.

Why is it important to share?

Coming out of the fog, as you probably remember, is a process.  Sharing helps not only the victims to understand that their experience is most likely not unique, but also helps friends and family understand that there is hope for their currently “lost” loved one. For survivors, the benefit is clear.  Your strength and bravery empowers others to share as well!  In my experience, there is a lack of accessible tales of survival.  Perhaps there are brief stories confirming abusive behavior, but not many stories of success and happiness, because survivors tend to leave this horrible experience in the past forever.

My abusive relationship was not physically violent.  Should I still share?

YES.  Abuse is not qualified by physical violence.  This is what makes abuse tricky, and is what many abusers use as a way to normalize or justify their behavior.  Abuse goes beyond striking and battery.  As a reminder, here is a wonderful resource which outlines the various forms abuse can take.  None of it is healthy or OK:

Abuse Indicators

You may be experiencing physical abuse if your partner has done or repeatedly does any of the following tactics of abuse:
  • Pulling your hair, punching, slapping, kicking, biting or choking you
  • Forbidding you from eating or sleeping
  • Hurting you with weapons
  • Preventing you from calling the police or seeking medical attention
  • Harming your children
  • Abandoning you in unfamiliar places
  • Driving recklessly or dangerously when you are in the car with them
  • Forcing you to use drugs or alcohol (especially if you’ve had a substance abuse problem in the past)
You may be in an emotionally abusive relationship if you partner exerts control through:
  • Calling you names, insulting you or continually criticizing you
  • Refusing to trust you and acting jealous or possessive
  • Trying to isolate you from family or friends
  • Monitoring where you go, who you call and who you spend time with
  • Demanding to know where you are every minute
  • Trapping you in your home or preventing you from leaving
  • Using weapons to threaten to hurt you
  • Punishing you by withholding affection
  • Threatening to hurt you, the children, your family or your pets
  • Damaging your property when they’re angry (throwing objects, punching walls, kicking doors, etc.)
  • Humiliating you in any way
  • Blaming you for the abuse
  • Gaslighting
  • Accusing you of cheating and being often jealous of your outside relationships
  • Serially cheating on you and then blaming you for his or her behavior
  • Cheating on you intentionally to hurt you and then threatening to cheat again
  • Cheating to prove that they are more desired, worthy, etc. than you are
  • Attempting to control your appearance: what you wear, how much/little makeup you wear, etc.
  • Telling you that you will never find anyone better, or that you are lucky to be with a person like them
Sexually abusive methods of retaining power and control include an abusive partner:
  • Forcing you to dress in a sexual way
  • Insulting you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names
  • Forcing or manipulating you into to having sex or performing sexual acts
  • Holding you down during sex
  • Demanding sex when you’re sick, tired or after hurting you
  • Hurting you with weapons or objects during sex
  • Involving other people in sexual activities with you against your will
  • Ignoring your feelings regarding sex
  • Forcing you to watch pornography
  • Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to you
Sexual coercion Sexual coercion lies on the ‘continuum’ of sexually aggressive behavior. It can vary from being egged on and persuaded, to being forced to have contact. It can be verbal and emotional, in the form of statements that make you feel pressure, guilt, or shame. You can also be made to feel forced through more subtle actions. For example, an abusive partner:
  • Making you feel like you owe them — ex. Because you’re in a relationship, because you’ve had sex before, because they spent money on you or bought you a gift
  • Giving you drugs and alcohol to “loosen up” your inhibitions
  • Playing on the fact that you’re in a relationship, saying things such as: “Sex is the way to prove your love for me,” “If - I don’t get sex from you I’ll get it somewhere else”
  • Reacting negatively with sadness, anger or resentment if you say no or don’t immediately agree to something
  • Continuing to pressure you after you say no
  • Making you feel threatened or afraid of what might happen if you say no
  • Trying to normalize their sexual expectations: ex. “I need it, I’m a man”
Even if your partner isn’t forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, being made to feel obligated is coercion in itself. Dating someone, being in a relationship, or being married never means that you owe your partner intimacy of any kind.
Reproductive coercion is a form of power and control where one partner strips the other of the ability to control their own reproductive system. It is sometimes difficult to identify this coercion because other forms of abuse are often occurring simultaneously. Reproductive coercion can be exerted in many ways:
  • Refusing to use a condom or other type of birth control
  • Breaking or removing a condom during intercourse
  • Lying about their methods of birth control (ex. lying about having a vasectomy, lying about being on the pill)
  • Refusing to “pull out” if that is the agreed upon method of birth control
  • Forcing you to not use any birth control (ex. the pill, condom, shot, ring, etc.)
  • Removing birth control methods (ex. rings, IUDs, contraceptive patches)
  • Sabotaging birth control methods (ex. poking holes in condoms, tampering with pills or flushing them down the toilet)
  • Withholding finances needed to purchase birth control
  • Monitoring your menstrual cycles
  • Forcing pregnancy and not supporting your decision about when or if you want to have a child
  • Forcing you to get an abortion, or preventing you from getting one
  • Threatening you or acting violent if you don’t comply with their wishes to either end or continue a pregnancy
  • Continually keeping you pregnant (getting you pregnant again shortly after you give birth)
Reproductive coercion can also come in the form of pressure, guilt and shame from an abusive partner. Some examples are if your abusive partner is constantly talking about having children or making you feel guilty for not having or wanting children with them — especially if you already have kids with someone else.
Economic or financial abuse is when an abusive partner extends their power and control into the area of finances. This abuse can take different forms, including an abusive partner:
  • Giving an allowance and closely watching how you spend it or demanding receipts for purchases
  • Placing your paycheck in their bank account and denying you access to it
  • Preventing you from viewing or having access to bank accounts
  • Forbidding you to work or limiting the hours that you can work
  • Maxing out credit cards in your name without permission or not paying the bills on credit cards, which could ruin your credit score
  • Stealing money from you or your family and friends
  • Using funds from children’s savings accounts without your permission
  • Living in your home but refusing to work or contribute to the household
  • Making you give them your tax returns or confiscating joint tax returns
  • Refusing to give you money to pay for necessities/shared expenses like food, clothing, transportation, or medical care and medicine
Digital abuse is the use of technologies such as texting and social networking to bully, harass, stalk or intimidate a partner. Often this behavior is a form of verbal or emotional abuse perpetrated online. You may be experiencing digital abuse if your partner:
  • Tells you who you can or can’t be friends with on Facebook and other sites.
  • Sends you negative, insulting or even threatening emails, -- Facebook messages, tweets, DMs or other messages online.
  • Uses sites like Facebook, Twitter, foursquare and others to keep constant tabs on you.
  • Puts you down in their status updates.
  • Sends you unwanted, explicit pictures and demands you send some in return.
  • Pressures you to send explicit video.
  • Steals or insists to be given your passwords.
  • Constantly texts you and makes you feel like you can’t be separated from your phone for fear that you will be punished.
  • Looks through your phone frequently, checks up on your pictures, texts and outgoing calls.
  • Tags you unkindly in pictures on Instagram, Tumblr, etc.
You never deserve to be mistreated, online or off. Remember:
  • Your partner should respect your relationship boundaries.
  • It is ok to turn off your phone. You have the right to be alone and spend time with friends and family without your partner getting angry.
  • You do not have to text any pictures or statements that you are uncomfortable sending, especially nude or partially nude photos, known as “sexting.”
  • You lose control of any electronic message once your partner receives it. They may forward it, so don’t send anything you fear could be seen by others.
  • You do not have to share your passwords with anyone.
  • Know your privacy settings. Social networks such as Facebook allow the user to control how their information is shared and who has access to it. These are often customizable and are found in the privacy section of the site. Remember, registering for some applications (apps) require you to change your privacy settings.
  • Be mindful when using check-ins like Facebook Places and foursquare. Letting an abusive partner know where you are could be dangerous. Also, always ask your friends if it’s ok for you to check them in. You never know if they are trying to keep their location secret.
You have the right to feel comfortable and safe in your relationship, even online.

It is also important to remember that physical violence is typically a last resort, and violence of all kinds escalates as victims come out of the fog and attempt to leave.  It is critical for those struggling to hear about situations of abuse which they themselves may be experiencing and not qualifying as abuse because they have no visible scars and bruises to prove it.  I remember hearing frequently things like “I’m not abusive, I never hit you.” and “Who would believe you?” This perpetuated abuse for years, and when things did get physical, it escalated more quickly that I could have imagined.  If you can help save someone who is not currently experiencing physical violence, you could very well end up saving their life (or days, months, and years of it) by empowering them to take back control before it gets more difficult.

Do I need to make myself available for questions and support?

Absolutely not.  Simply sharing your story is an enormous help to those who are currently struggling.  If you would like to make yourself available, though, there are a variety of ways you can.  On each hero’s page (which will populate as a blog post I manage), you can elect to have a contact form added which will allow victims to email you directly without having to publish your email address, or require victims to login to potentially unsafe email clients.  Some victims will not have safe access to email, and may elect for their question (and your response) to be published on the page, which I will also manage for you.  You will let me know how much you feel you are able to manage, and if you are not available for questions or contact, that is 100% OK!

I am ready to be a Hero!  Where do I share?

To share your story, fill out the form here.  I will be in touch shortly thereafter!

IMPORTANT NOTE:

The purpose of sharing in this venue is not to perpetrate hate, resentment, or directly attack former abusers.  While it is important to convey these feelings, should you have them, in your story, the intent is not to bash an individual – its to empower victims to end their victimization and take back control.  I am a firm believer that abusers inherently have even deeper-seeded issues, which I can not even begin to try and remedy here.  It does not justify their behavior, but publicly bashing an individual does nothing for the victims we are trying to help.  Read my article on victimization to get a better idea for what I mean 🙂