Through my personal experience, I learned domestic violence doesn’t have to be a black eye or a visit to the hospital. Domestic violence can be a lot of things and it can happen to anyone.

I was in an abusive relationship for about two years. The first time I realized something was odd was when he pushed me against the wall. I was thinking this isn’t normal but this isn’t really abuse, right? It was. From there, things escalated.

My ex-fiance slapped me, spit on me and tried to rape me. He would push me around, pull me off the bed by my feet and threaten to kill me. But, the relationship didn’t start that way. It started off good for a few months then there was a lot of yelling and name calling, intimidating me and trying to control me. He would grab my arms so tight that he left bruises.

I kept it a secret as long as I could until my family noticed I was acting weird. I’m extremely close with my family and very open with them about my life. During this relationship, I didn’t share much and even being engaged, I never planned for a wedding because I knew I didn’t want to get married. Happiness radiates and they didn’t see that from me.

There was always a justification from my abuser. He would say, “You can’t poke a pitbull and expect him not to bite you.” After he slapped me, he said I ran into his hand. And after he spit in my face, he said he didn’t. I started to write things down so that I wouldn’t feel like I was delusional about what was really going on. Either way, it just wasn’t healthy and started bringing out the worst in me. I was constantly stressed, constantly unhappy. It’s so hard to fake happiness; I realized that firsthand.

I, finally, told my mom what was going on and started going to counseling. When I first started going, I went probably about three times a week. As I started to feel better, I would go less often but I went for about six months until I stopped going all together. I left the relationship while I was still going to counseling and kept going to counseling even after I left my abuser.

It was only after my own experience when I realized how prevalent domestic violence is, yet we don’t hear about it. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1 in 4 women (and 1 in 7 men) have been the victim of physical violence by an intimate partner in their lifetime. But, how often do we hear about this in the news? There’s a lot of shame and embarrassment associated with domestic violence for victims and survivors and most of that is from people who just don’t understand.

“They’re stupid.”
“They’re weak.”
“Why would you stay?”
“That could never happen to me.”

I heard those comments too and they’re completely wrong. I didn’t grow up in a violent household. My parents have been happily married for 37 years. My parents are amazing so you don’t have to be around violence for it to happen to you. And as much as people would like to think it could never happen to them, it could. And if not them, 1 in 4 women means someone that everyone knows. That’s the sad reality that we don’t talk about. We all know someone who has been in an abusive relationship; they just haven’t told you.