Survivors' Truth | Battered love
"The relationship started so fast that I had no time to think about it or even to tell my best friend. My new-found love was the sweetest, smoothest, most amazing person I had met in a long while. By the end of our first week, we were fully convinced that this was a lifetime kind of love," she expressed.
*Shelly, 31, felt happy and complete. Two months into their relationship they were inseparable. After moving in together, a hint of control started to appear, with her whereabouts being restricted and being taken to her destinations only by her partner. Four months in, Shelly started asking questions. Her partner even went missing some nights for 'business'.
On one such occasion, her partner left her cellular phone and the messages came pouring in. Knowing that she was crossing a line that she never felt comfortable with, she checked the messages. The messages were from the alleged best friend, and based on the responses she realised they were having intimate relations. Betrayal was the resounding emotion.
Overwhelmed with emotions, Shelly confronted her partner. She admitted that the relationship was only sexual, promising to end it.
Shelly wanted to believe and knew better but still forgave her after all her pleas. The friend called later, and as her partner spoke on the phone she started to shout for them to end the call, without a sound or warning, she felt the once loving hand smack her across the face.
"I felt my entire body crumble. I couldn't understand why she would do something like that," sighed Shelly.
Her face was bleeding because of the ring that the partner was wearing. When the partner saw the bruise she hugged and tried to comfort Shelly. Her apologies continued into the following day with flowers and messages.
HIDING THE ABUSE
Shelly opted not to tell anyone about what happened because she felt ashamed. After a few months, she watched everything change. Her abuser was still sweet, but whenever displeased, there would be an instant change. She went to work with bruises and bite marks on her face and neck almost every day.
"Most times I was in fear and didn't have the courage to leave. I was afraid to mention it to friends or family, as by now, I was distant from most persons. I couldn't even go out without them," she said in sadness.
There were mornings she was constantly beaten, sometimes even by a machete, slammed into furniture and tossed about. Her partner threatened to take both their lives. Shelly felt drained of self. She lost herself and dignity.
One Sunday morning after having her dog thrown over the balcony, her abuser entered the room with a bottle of kerosene oil and a lighter in hand. Her partner threw the keys over the balcony, took all their clothes from the closet and laid everything in a heap on the bed. Though Shelly screamed and tussled with her abuser, she was not strong enough to keep her from pouring the oil over the clothes. She managed to convince her to stop. That morning Shelly vowed to leave.
When her abuser left for New York , Shelly reached out to her best friend, who helped her to find an apartment and became a tower of strength. She moved out of their apartment after four years of abuse, changed her phone number and job.
"After a few months, I got the courage to start going out and socialising again. I stopped allowing fear to control me. I forgave her and I told her I did when she contacted me. As I continued on my journey to self-healing, I saw a health and wellness flyer that WE-Change circulated on Twitter. I contacted them and made arrangements to join their aerobics sessions," Shelly shared.
Just being in a new environment with new people was enough help for her healing regime. She changed her diet, and her confidence level began to rise steadily. She was soon invited to WE-Change Support Group for women. This space was exactly what she needed, and though she was still ashamed to speak of her abuse, she slowly opened up and spoke about the hurt she endured.
"I believed everything I endured was preparing me for this moment. Every tear, every bruise, every scar, every pain prepared me for my life now," Shelly said with a smile.
* Name changed
Next week, Survivors' Truth will tackle the underlying issues of abuse and how citizens and victims can start influencing change.