My name is Tracie. I am a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an employee, and a survivor. I endured emotional and physical violence by the hands of my ex-husband. I’m going to begin by telling you my story.I was married to my ex-husband for 4 years. Within a few months of us being married, he became physically abusive. I remember the first time he ever hit me, we were arguing and he back-handed me straight across the face as I got out of the bathtub and was wrapping myself up in a towel. He slapped me so hard, I hit the ground. He was immediately apologetic, telling me he loved me, he’d never do it again and that if I hadn’t made him so angry, he wouldn’t have had to do it in the first place. To this day, I don’t remember what the argument was about, all I can remember is that I wanted some peace and quiet and to stop arguing, so I went to take a bath, but he followed me into the bathroom and continued to yell and argue with me while I was trying to relax in the bathtub.

I knew at that very moment that the violence wouldn’t stop there. You see, he had been arrested on average twice a year while he was married to his first wife for 10 years. I knew about his history, but chose to dismiss it when he told me he loved me, that he had changed and that all of those arrests were his ex-wife’s fault.

The beatings became more frequent as time went by. He would get angry over the smallest things…If dinner wasn’t cooked the way he wanted it, if his pants weren’t ironed just right, if I took too long grocery shopping, if I didn’t want to have sex at the very moment he did. It got to the point that we couldn’t even go out and socialize with friends and family, because he was so jealous and would always abuse me when we would get home. He would hit me across the face, punch me, choke me, literally pick me up and throw me across the room like a rag doll, shove me into things, even physically kick me out of the bed when I wouldn’t have sex with him after he had come home in the middle of the night drunk and high and beaten me. He even raped me. He had no limits, and he was proud of that.

One night, he got drunk, we had family over earlier that day and he had been drinking all night. He was insistent on having sex and I was trying to clean the kitchen…he pulled me into the bedroom and started hitting me, I tried to run to the living room to get away and he started picking me up and throwing me across the house. So, I ran back to the bedroom to try and get some clothes on and he took my dresser drawers out of my hands and threw it across the room, then he tried to kill me, and almost did…he threw me on the bed and began choking me, he choked me so bad I blacked out and it ruptured the blood vessels in my eyes. As soon as I came to, I ran straight to the neighbors, no clothes on whatsoever, and had them call for help. He was arrested that night, although I begged and pleaded for the officers not to arrest him, they did anyway and I bonded him out of jail the very next morning. I was out of work for a week because of the damage to my face and neck. After that night, he promised to attend counseling and never lay a hand on me again, we made an agreement that if he did, I was pressing charges and leaving him.

Unfortunately, neither one of us held up to the agreement, within 2 weeks, he was hitting me on a regular basis again. One night while he was beating me, I decided I had enough, I ran to my dresser drawer where I kept a handgun for my protection, only to find it in pieces and him laughing at me, he knew I would resort to that for my protection, so he had already disassembled it. That’s when I knew that I needed to figure out a way to leave because he was going to kill me one day, if I didn’t. I did finally press charges and leave him one night, after he had beaten me for the last time and fractured my wrist and I didn’t look back. He was prosecuted for felony strangulation, violating a protective order, misdemeanor family assault and federal gun charges. He is currently incarcerated in a Texas prison.

Domestic Violence goes beyond physical abuse. It is mental abuse as well. I can remember him yelling at me, telling me I was nothing, I was worthless, I was stupid…you name it; he would say anything he possibly could to break me down. He would tell me that I couldn’t leave him because nobody else would want me or that if I did leave, he would hunt me and my family down and kill us. He would even go as far as to empty the bank account so I couldn’t leave him, so that I was completely dependent on him. This type of abuse has a dramatic effect in your daily life. You feel worthless, depressed and broken down, you withdraw from your loved ones; don’t perform to your fullest potential at work and in most cases end up sick more often than usual.

What the majority of the population doesn’t understand is how difficult it is to leave an abusive partner and to prosecute them. 1 in 4 women will be victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives and every 9 seconds in the United States a woman is beaten by her partner. Every 9 seconds! That’s a lot of women that have been abused, just since I began this story! Every day in the United States, more than 3 women are murdered by an abusive husband or partner. The problem is that it is difficult to leave an abusive relationship, so it goes unreported in most cases until somebody else is forced to step in, until someone is seriously injured or until someone is killed. The average response time for a 911 call is 10 minutes, I don’t know about anyone else, but for me, that was just enough time for my ex-husband to finish me off. It’s not law enforcement’s fault that the response time takes that long, its just the simple cold hard truth. For anyone in that situation, that’s a scary thought…so leave an abusive partner the first chance you get, the first time he hits you!

There are many resources available for domestic violence victims nowadays, there is help out there for them, they just usually don’t know about it. Just in my area alone, there are many aids and avenues available to crime victims.  Both the sheriff’s office and police department have crime victim liaisons as well as the prosecutor’s office. There are many counseling centers available at no cost and you may also ask for financial assistance to relocate or get back on your feet.

What many victims don’t realize is that it is their decision to leave, their decision to start fresh and their decision to prosecute. That being said, it requires effort on their part. You can’t just leave and put it all in the hands of a victim liaison, a police officer, an investigator, a prosecuting attorney or even a family member. You have to follow it through to the end. Just like any other life altering decision, it requires effort and participation. You wouldn’t expect to get a college degree without attending college, so don’t expect law enforcement to repair the months or years of damage from the relationship that you chose to stay in. Time and time again, women have their husbands arrested and start the prosecuting process with every intention of following it through, but it is rare that they do. It is because of this, that law enforcement may not take it as seriously as you would like. It’s because of this that men are still out there beating women, I know, I was one of those women at one time. As a victim that is looking for justice, you have to fully cooperate with the justice system. It is set up to protect victims. But you have to help yourself as well. The only way to stop domestic violence is to stand up to it! Leave your husband, press charges, follow up with the investigators, with the prosecuting attorney, make your presence known, show up at every court hearing, arraignment and sentencing, follow up with the parole board. Take a stand! If they are behind bars, they know someone got tired of the abuse, maybe they will think twice before doing again!

I will admit, it is stressful, standing up to anyone who has hurt you. I attended hearing after hearing for all of my ex-husband’s charges. I even had his attorney in my face on the witness stand a few times. It seemed like it was never going to end, they would just keep getting reset to another date for this or that…one time I left the court house, got in my truck and just bawled my eyes out, instead of going back to work like I should have, I went to spend the day with my dad. I felt like I couldn’t take any more resets, I just wanted it to be over with….and then it happened, a few court dates later, we didn’t even have to go to trial, he pled guilty to everything. After he pled guilty, I exercised my right to stand up there in that courtroom and give what is called a Victim Impact Statement; it is a statement, off the record, to the court and the offender of how the crime impacted mine and my family’s life. It was the first time I had ever got to stand up to him and tell him how much turmoil he put me and my family through and how I have learned from the situation. I would go through every single court hearing all over again to have that moment…it was justice in and of itself. I was finally free, free to be me, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a sister, an employee and no longer the abused!

The only way to stop domestic violence is to stand up to it. If you see the signs in a loved one, offer help, let them know that whenever they decide to do something about it, you’re there for them. Contact your local law enforcement, counseling agency, hospital….they all know the resources to help you or a loved one get out of an abusive relationship. But don’t stop there; use your knowledge to help others who are going through it. Remember that it takes time and be patient.

Look for these warning signs and offer help:

  • Frequent jealousy

  • Constantly putting their partner down

  • Checking on their partner’s every move

  • False accusations

  • Possessiveness

  • Isolating their partner from family and friends

  • Rarely attending social gatherings

  • The abused partner calling in sick to work to avoid showing signs of abuse

  • Mood swings

  • Controlling personality

  • Withholding money or hiding money from their partner

  • Preventing their partner from reaching their goals (job, school)

  • Not allowing their partner to make any decisions on her own

  • Drug and alcohol abuse

If you see any of these signs in any loved one or family friend, please offer help, it may be the one thing that they need to hear in order to take a stand, stop the abuse and leave!

Now, it is time to give credit where credit is due. My family, friends, co-workers and bosses were absolutely wonderful through everything for me. If anybody deserves applause, they do. They stuck by me, when it was easier to walk away; they were there for me to lend a shoulder and helped me get out of the abusive relationship. Especially my family, just knowing I had somewhere to go when I finally decided to get out and knowing they would be there for me through every step of it all was an amazing feeling and a true blessing. My sister, in particular, although she may live miles away, has been a rock! She was in an abusive relationship at the very same time I was, and we both left those men almost simultaneously, so we completely understood what we were both going through when we went through it. We no longer talk about the details of our tortuous past, we just tell each other we love each other and we are thankful to be out of that and close again. We understand each other and how precious our lives are. She is an amazing woman and I can only hope that someday, she too will be on a stage with me advocating for domestic violence victims.

And to end my story on a happy note…Since I left my ex-husband and followed through with prosecuting him, I have found myself again. I have figured out what it’s like to think and act for myself again without worrying about any repercussions. I’m able to enjoy time with family and friends and socialize. I believe that everything happens for a reason and always have. That being said, I went through that abuse for a reason, and my belief is that I went through it so that I may be able to reach out and help others who have been abused or are being abused. I am a stronger person today, because I stood up for myself. We all have a past, and some of us have worse than others, but it is ultimately up to us to determine our futures…make yours a happy one, I know I am.