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Trigger Warning: Violence, Abusive Relationships

Domestic Violence: Lessons from a survivor

  • 4 min to read
Abusive Relationship

“You left scars on my skin that will never let me forget what love isn’t,” quoted from Reyna Biddy’s poem, “10 reasons I could never stay.” I played her poem repeatedly to where it’s embedded in me – and those words saved my life.

I saw all of the red flags, and I ignored them. When you feel like you love someone, it’s the last thing on your mind to think that person could do anything to hurt you, belittle you, to make you feel helpless and even lifeless.

The things he would say and the things he would do made me think that I wasn’t worth anything. He would hide our relationship from people, manipulate me to make me feel like I was crazy, forced me to tell my darkest secret, judged me and held it against me. 

I don’t consider myself one of the lucky ones because I survived, but I do take this as a lesson: Love should not hurt, but it takes being hurt millions of times to realize that to move forward.

I was with my ex for a year and a half. I know it doesn’t seem that long, but it felt like an eternity.

I questioned why he would go out late at night, and sometimes he wouldn’t be back for days. I remember being left home alone most of the time. At the time I didn’t want to admit it, but I knew what he was doing.

That day, I don’t remember exactly how the argument started, but I remember he was angry enough to throw me to the ground, wrap his arms around my rib cage, and squeeze as tight as he could until I could no longer breathe.

While he was still on top of me, he flipped me over, spit in my face and called me a b–––. I saw his right hand ball in to a fist. I cried and screamed as loud as I could until he faked it to where I flinched. He smirked and told me to “get the f–– out of my house.” It was our house, or so I thought.

When he ran upstairs and began to throw my belongings down the stairs, I chased after him to stop him. I realized I shouldn’t have done that. He slapped me, faked a punch toward me then pushed me down and dragged me down the stairs by my legs.

Knowing that I forced myself to stay in the house wouldn't work, so I hurriedly grabbed my car keys and ran out. I was embarrassed to be seen and more embarrassed to contact anyone for help.

I also left without my wallet and had a quarter tank of gas in my car. I drove down to what I still consider my safe space. It was my college newspaper in San Francisco. Though I tried to pretend that everything was OK, I couldn’t hold it in anymore.

I cried hysterically because I felt humiliated. When I thought my friends were going to judge me, all three of them came up with a plan. They put gas in my car, contacted my ex and helped me move all of my things until I had to stay with my grandparents for a few days.

When you’re in a situation of domestic violence, I can admit that I was lucky to have supportive friends. Till this day, we’ll joke about how much stuff I had and how they had to climb two flights of stairs back and forth.

It’s easier to look back and think about how naive I was to stay. There are others who may be with their abusive partners for years and their experiences may differ from mine.

If you’re willing to compromise your dreams for someone, that person isn’t the right one for you. I say this with care because my partner tried everything to get me to stay with him regardless of how he treated me. 

When you’re in a violent relationship, it’s OK to seek help whether it’s from a therapist, friends or family. It took a lot for me to put my pride aside and ask them for help. 

When I was expecting my grandparents to say “I told you so,” I was surprised they didn’t. They hugged me and told me I could stay as long as I needed to, but I didn’t. To me, going back home would mean I failed, so I went on another apartment search and found a cozy little apartment living with six roommates.

At that time it had been two days since the fight with my ex. I was covered in bruises and cuts from his nails, and it was painful to breathe. I began to cry because I felt ugly on the inside and out.

When I was looking in the mirror examining my body, I got a call from an unknown caller. I answered knowing damn well who it was. He apologized and I began to cry. 

Looking back at it now, I wish I had never answered the phone. We ended up working it out and I could tell my friends and family were disappointed, but they loved me enough to support my decision. 

For friends and family who are going through a similar issue, please be patient. Do not make them feel bad about their decision to stay with that person because you will push them more towards them.

When attempting to move on from a toxic relationship, there’s going to be a relapse. But I’ve learned going back to the person who abused you will not change them for the better. In fact, it gets worse.

But this doesn’t include the trust issues that come with being abused. It took me a month to move on. I had to take my experience and made sure I didn’t bring my baggage with me into my new relationship.

For survivors, it’s OK to seek help. If you’re a student at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Pau Violence, Title IX and the counseling center on campus helped me take the baby steps I needed to move forward. See a counselor as much as you need. 

To move on from your abusive ex, honestly, moving to another state really helped me. You don’t see anything that reminds you of the memories you had, you don’t know anyone who has relations with your past, and you get a sense of freedom.

Take as much time as you need to move on. Delete that person’s contact, change your number and listen to as many break up songs as you need to. Cry as loud and ugly as you want. 

Whatever you do, don’t look back.

Managing Editor

Cassie Ordonio double majors in Journalism and Pacific Islands Studies. The former Bay Area native is a transfer student from City College of San Francisco where she previously served as Editor in Chief at The Guardsman.