The life and struggles of a domestic abuse survivor

The life and struggles of a domestic abuse survivor

Author’s Note: The names in this article have been changed to protect the identity of the persons involved. The name of the expert on domestic violence, Tommie Wilkins, has remained the same. This is a five-part series. To skip to a particular chapter, use the text below.

Editor’s note: This story received the 2016-17 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence regional award  as a finalist in the Online Feature Reporting category this year’s Region 1 Mark of Excellence Awards. This story also received 2016-17 Society of Professional Journalists Mark of Excellence regional award as a finalist in the Photo Illustration (Small) 1-9,999 Students category.

Chapter one: How it all began

Chapter two: Taking a stand

Chapter three: Domestic abuse in the digital world

Chapter four: Why don’t you just leave?

Chapter five: Help is here

 

Photo by Emily Rowan


Chapter one: How it all began

As a freshman in college, the abuse started.

This is not how freshman year is described on a school’s website. Freshman year is described as full of excitement and anticipation as many live on their own for the first time and embark on this life-changing journey. Nowhere does it mention fearing for your life because of an abuser.

At the beginning of Amanda and John’s relationship he would act pushier than most guys. The abuse started off slowly but progressively got worse over the duration of their relationship. The two met during a party in his dorm room. John was obviously drunk, while Amanda was not. John was complimenting her tattoos and pulling her in close. Before she left that night, John added his number to Amanda’s phone. A few days later, she texted him out of curiosity.

John invited Amanda to another party later that week. After a few drinks, Amanda decided it was not safe to drive home. John invited her back to his dorm where the two just laid in bed together and slept. The following Monday John invited Amanda to his dorm again. The so-called “Honeymoon phase” was over before it even had a chance to start.

John started pushing Amanda for sex. She tried to explain she was uncomfortable but this meant nothing to John. “He would pin me down even when I said no and take advantage of me,” she said. “There was only one consensual night and I made him stop, but I couldn’t fight back.” Amanda’s small physique did not have a chance against John, who would go to the gym every day.

“I always felt disgusted with myself after he did,” Amanda said. “I felt completely helpless. He continued this for a while.”

Growing up

Amanda was not immune to facing hardships in life. At a very young age Amanda lost her father, and then her mother two years later. Amanda and her two older brothers were raised by her grandparents.

In elementary school Amanda’s classmates would always ask where her parents were when it came to days parents would visit. This curiosity turned to harassment. By middle school, the harassment turned to bullying. “I would have notes shoved in my locker telling me to kill myself,” Amanda said. “I got called fat a lot. I suffered from bulimia until about 16.”

Amanda was able to find comfort in the isolation through the help of horses. Horses were a sort of therapy for her growing up. “I was a really good rider when it came down to it,” Amanda said. “I would finish between first and fourth.”

“I remember these days like they were yesterday.”

Pregnant

As a first-semester freshman, Amanda found out she was pregnant.

Nov. 1, 2014, John and Amanda attended a late Halloween party at a college in northern Pennsylvania, the school John was attending. Amanda, John and a few friends had gone outside one of the dormitory buildings. It is at this point the abuse turned physical.

Amanda had been nauseous lately. So much so, in fact, that John had become suspicious. “He picked me up and threw me on the floor,” Amanda said. “He said ‘If you’re pregnant this should stop the mistake from forming.’”

Amanda immediately got up, went back to his room and packed her bags to leave. When she went to leave John grabbed Amanda’s arms and threatened to call the police, telling them she was driving drunk. Although Amanda had not been drinking that night, she stayed out of fear.

Dec. 16, 2014, Amanda had gone to the emergency room for the flu. As part of normal routine for women entering the emergency room, a pregnancy test must be performed. Amanda’s life came to a crashing halt upon positive pregnancy results from blood and urine testing. Amanda had planned to transfer from her local community college to Louisiana State University. “I broke down and cried. I felt like a failure.”

Amanda initially considered all her options when she found out she was pregnant. She initially contemplated having an abortion. This thought was quickly laid to rest once she heard her baby’s heartbeat for the first time.

Adoption quickly became her best option. Her only rule was that the parents would have to be a same-sex couple. “We had a couple in mind,” Amanda said. “But I chose to keep [my baby].” Amanda’s grandparents and brothers were extremely supportive of her final decision.

It was not for another two weeks until Amanda told the father she was pregnant. Amanda later said this is her biggest regret. “I didn’t want to tell him at all but my grandmom made it seem like if I didn’t it would be harder on me,” Amanda said. “I found out it was harder on me to have him in the picture than it was to have him out of it.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing a crisis pregnancy, please visit this website to learn more information. Amnion Pregnancy Center provides a variety of non-judgmental services to both men an women. All of Amnion Pregnancy Center’s services are confidential and free of charge.

A new life lies ahead

When Amanda finally told John about the pregnancy, his response was anything but pleasant. John had come back saying that Amanda had ruined his life. “John filed adoption paperwork without my knowledge,” Amanda said. “He offered me five grand to abort the baby. When I said no that’s when the abuse got worse.”

In January of 2015, Amanda would find out the gender of her future child. She begged and pleaded with John to be there for this momentous event in the pregnancy. Reluctantly, John agreed to go.

On the drive to the ultrasound appointment, John repeatedly hit Amanda. It was at this point the abuse turned toward Amanda and John’s unborn child. He began hitting her in the stomach all the while saying he wish she would just miscarry.

What should have been an exciting time in her pregnancy, finding out the gender of her baby, reinforced that this nightmare Amanda was living would not fade away. “It was horrible— terrifying really,” Amanda said. “I felt alone. I was scared that if I told somebody he would kill me. I felt so hopeless.”

Amanda had given up hope on John being there for her or even their future daughter.

A few days later, after Amanda ignored him, John texted her asking to meet him at a restaurant to talk. At the restaurant all eyes were on Amanda and John for two reasons; first, because she had started showing, and second because of the words John was screaming to Amanda.

John refused to acknowledge that their unborn child was exactly that— a child. When speaking about their daughter John would use words like mistake, it and parasite. These terms were not exclusive to being in private. Amanda remembers John saying something along the lines of, “You and that tumor inside of you are causing us to be the center of attention. You ruined my life. I fucking hate you and I fucking hate her.”

Once leaving the restaurant and returning to the car, the abuse turned violent yet again.

“When we got back into the car he locked the doors. He held onto my wrists with one hand and choked me [with the other].” Amanda said that he then started hitting her in the back of the head. Amanda, understandably, became extremely emotional. Having John see the tears of his victim only added fuel to the fire. He started to yell even louder and even laughed at Amanda for being terror-stricken.

“I was 19, scared of having a baby and scared of losing her life or my life at the hands of an abuser.”

Chapter two: Taking a stand

Photo by Emily Rowan

Amanda would often find herself at the doctor’s office during her pregnancy. She explained that she had a very hard pregnancy. The stress and anxiety Amanda went through every single day caused her to be at high-risk pregnancy. She had to be tested twice a week for stress starting at the 28-week mark. She was anemic, was constantly dehydrated despite drinking plenty of water and Gatorade and her Lyme disease came back. Amanda even went into labor early, despite having a 56-hour labor and delivery.

On multiple occasions Amanda found herself in the emergency room. “Emergency ultrasounds were almost every weekend,” Amanda said.

One instance, in particular, stands out to her. “In February of 2015 John hit me so hard in the stomach I thought I lost the baby,” Amanda said. Fortunately, the ultrasound showed Amanda’s baby was fine.

Although the baby’s life was fine, Amanda’s was not. John had threatened to take Amanda’s life numerous times if she ever told anyone about the abuse. Because of this fear implanted in her mind, Amanda felt she had to lie to the hospital staff about what happened; she told them she had simply fallen down.

Amanda was unable to go to her family for support. Her family never liked John. Her brothers told her multiple times to leave him. More importantly, Amanda knew how her brothers would react if they found out what was going on. Hoping to avoid making her situation worse, Amanda turned to her closest friend, Laura.

While Laura was only able to offer a listening ear, she was very helpful. Laura knew everything that was going on. She was even digitally there for one of John’s beating sessions.

One Friday in March John told Amanda she needed to visit him at school. If she did not, John would see to it Amanda and their baby would be hurt. Fearful of what the meeting would entail, Amanda had Laura stay on the phone with her the entire time John was with her. “I had my phone positioned so he wouldn’t see she was on the phone,” Amanda said.

Within a matter of minutes, the situation turned hostile. John pulled out the pair of scissors Amanda kept in her car’s first aid kit. Amanda remembers John making a comment about wishing the scissors were sharp enough to cut her. Amanda’s fear turned to terror as she remembered the box cutter she had in her glove box. She hoped he would not find it. He did.

He grabbed the box cutter and tried to cut the baby out of Amanda’s stomach. Screaming, crying and begging for John to stop, he finally gave in and left. This was not done before he punched Amanda so hard in the chest the wind got knocked out of her.

Amanda drove to Laura’s house where she cried for over an hour. Laura and her father begged Amanda to go to the police. Amanda feared that John would, in fact, try to kill her if she went to the police as he said to her all the time. Out of fear, Amanda kept quiet.

“This is the life of a domestic abuse survivor,” Amanda said.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

After this particular instance, Amanda had extremely mixed emotions. On one hand, she knew it was not safe to stay with John. On the other, she knew it could possibly be as equally dangerous leaving him. In order to get the abuse to end, Amanda attempted to buy his affection with gifts. This idea backfired.

“‘Thanks, but I don’t want this stupid thing from you,’” Amanda remembers John saying. “‘I want that parasite in you gone. Make that bitch die already. I’ll buy you the bleach.’”

The abuse remained consistent over the next months. John would hit Amanda and punch her in the stomach. Amanda would try to ignore him but was unsuccessful each time. John would harass Amanda every night with drunken phone calls. “John would say how he wishes things could work out, but he just has too much hate for the baby,” Amanda said.

July 10, 2015, Amanda gave birth to her daughter. “When I was admitted to labor and delivery I called [John],” Amanda said. “I begged for support and he went, ‘Nah, you’ll be fine. I hope she’s a stillborn, though’ and hung up.”

It was not until the following morning John showed up at the hospital. Him showing up made  Amanda’s situation far worse, and far more difficult.

“I didn’t want him on the birth certificate. I didn’t want him to sign any papers. I didn’t even want her to have his last name but he did it,” Amanda said. “When I called the nurse in to make him leave, he said, ‘Oh no, she’s delusional. She’s still fragile from giving birth. I’ll sign the birth certificate right now so you know she’s just being a crazy, postpartum mother.’ He hyphenated the last name. At this time no one in his family knew about my daughter.”

With the swoosh of a pen, Amanda now forcefully signed onto a lifetime worth of abuse.

A family of three?

For the first six months of his daughter’s life, John was barely in the picture. Amanda was living in the Pocono area and while John was not studying at his college, he lived in the Philadelphia area. Those rare times John would visit with Amanda, he would spend the time catching up on abuse.

“When he would come over he would slap me around and say that I ruined his life,” Amanda said. “He would snatch [my daughter] from me and call her a bastard. He called her a mistake and constantly talked about how we wanted to snap her neck.”

Amanda remembers one time in particular when her daughter was nine month old and cutting teeth. One night, her daughter was crying in her crib just wanting to be held and comforted. She remembered John getting up and walking over to her daughter.

“I figured he’d bring her to me and he’d go get a bottle for me [to give to her],” Amanda said. “I heard my daughter start screaming like something was terribly wrong. I rolled over and saw him smacking her. I said, ‘Get the hell away from her!’ He said, ‘The dumb bastard won’t stop fucking crying. I wish I could just find a way to kill you both.’”

Amanda kicked John out that night.

It was not until Amanda’s daughter was a year old that her paternal grandparents finally found out about her; they did not take the news very well.

John’s parents blamed Amanda for trapping him and ruining his life. His mother would scream in Amanda’s face declaring she is a mentally unstable mother. His father tried choking her. When Amanda tried to stand up for herself and her daughter, John fractured her jaw. Enough was enough. Amanda pulled her phone out to call the police, but John was much faster.

“John wrestled the phone out of my hand while I was holding my daughter,” Amanda said. “He choked me and pinned me against the wall saying if I called anyone and told them he would break my fingers and smash my phone.”

Amanda tried to leave but could not. John had her phone and locked her out of the house without her daughter. For 45 minutes Amanda sat sobbing, not knowing what was happening to her daughter behind closed doors.

After 45 agonizing minutes John returned Amanda’s unharmed phone. She immediately called one of her older brothers. He and his friends arrived within minutes. Together, they recovered Amanda’s car seat and, more importantly, Amanda’s daughter.

“When I got my car all packed up John hung onto the driver’s side window and said that if I left he would kill himself and make it look like look like I did it,” Amanda said. “So I stayed out of fear. I left first thing the next morning and that’s when he filed for custody without my knowledge.”

Chapter three: Domestic abuse in the digital world

Photo by Emily Rowan

John was granted partial custody of his daughter. During the school months, John gets his daughter on Sundays; during breaks he gets her three days a week.

Amanda first filed for a Protection from Abuser, PFA, shortly after her daughter’s first birthday. During this first PFA hearing, Amanda ended up withdrawing her PFA after John and his lawyer made her appear a liar.

Three PFA hearings, one custody hearing and one emergency custody hearing left Amanda in practically the same situation she was in before mustering up the courage to leave John.

The stress of being 20 years old and having multiple court appearances, let alone court appearances where you are fighting for the independent life of yourself and infant daughter, can be enough to drive someone crazy. With the advancements of the digital world, music can now be at the touch of one’s fingers at any given time. Music is the only way Amanda can stay relaxed leading up to each hearing.

“I listen to a lot of  Neck Deep the night before [the hearing] and The Story so Far on my way to court,” Amanda said. Bring Me the Horizon’s new album is also a way for me to keep calm before court too.”

Although the digital world has helped Amanda through her abuse, it has also made the topic of domestic abuse much more difficult. Technology is now considered the newest form of abuse.

Tommie Wilkins has worked in social work her entire life. Most recently, for over 20 years Wilkins has worked with domestic abuse victims. “I have worked with victims as young as 12 and as old as, I want to say, 89,” Wilkins said.

She was brought to Cabrini University as part of of three-year grant to combat domestic abuse.  “Through the Department of Justice and Violence Against Women’s office [the grant is] to look at what we are doing here at Cabrini’s campus, what we can do better and what we are doing wonderful,” Wilkins said. “It’s all around the training of not just students, but faculty and staff. Rape, sexual assault, stalking and domestic violence is everybody’s issue.”

The addition of smartphones has made domestic abuse and stalking much more simple. Gone are the days of physical stalking. An abuser no longer even needs to leave the house to stalk his/her victim. By using locations on one’s phone, an abuser can know exactly where his/her victim is at any given time.

“[Technology has] made it so much easier to abuse you, stalk you, to be a stalker or be an abusive partner,” Wilkins said. “I can install a virus on your phone, which is so easy to do, which will tell me where you are at all times.”

Digitally stalking can be even easier than installing a virus on a victim’s phone. An abuser or stalker can simply download an app which will completely intercept everything that gets sent to the victim’s phone. These “spoofing” apps will intercept texts, phone calls, even emails before reaching the victim’s phone.

“There are spoofing apps that every time you get a text or email, it will duplicate to my phone or whatever device I’m using,” Wilkins said. “There are spoofing apps that will intercept the texts or emails so before you can even read it, I get it first and can then send it on, change it or delete it.”

Wilkins added that these spoofing apps can even go as far as allowing a blocked number to make a phone call. An added component of this app is choosing what number appears on the victim’s phone. Even more, these apps can act as a voice changer.

Digital abuse in a digital world

Amada is not immune to these spoofing apps. Although she was eventually granted a PFA, which is good for three years in all 50 states, this means nothing to John. He has violated the PFA 19 times so far.

“Friends of his text me on texting apps and say how they have someone ready to hurt me,” Amanda said. “A PFA usually states that the defendant can’t stalk or harass the plaintiff via social media, texting or in person.”

Even though Amanda was able to leave John, she still encounters domestic abuse, but in a different way. “John stalks me online as well as his family. They drive past my house,” Amanda said. “During handoffs John winds the window down and yells at me.”

“The thing that scares me about spoofing apps it that they’re relatively cheap or free,” Wilkins said. She added that if an abuser is a relatively frugal person, spending 10 cents a month to know exactly what is going on in the victim’s life is no bad bargain.

These apps can sometimes act as a gateway drug to full-on stalking. With the small fee it takes to know where their victim is, what they are doing and who they are talking to can be enough to push a soon-to-be stalker over the edge.

“So it wasn’t that [spoofing] put [stalking] in me, it was there but I was trying to be a normal person,” Wilkins said. “Well, at 10 cents a month I can know where you are at all times, read all your text messages, it just opens that floodgate to the door [of stalking] for me.”

While technology has its downfalls with domestic abuse, Wilkins notes that there are also advantages to it. One major advantage is the simpleness of caller ID. For many individuals caller ID is helpful to know whether or not to answer the phone. For domestic abuse victims, it could help save their life.

Wilkins recommends to the victims she speaks with to change their abuser’s name to something that will get them to not answer the phone.

“I had one guy put in his phone because his ex-wife was a mess, he changed his to she is going to kill you, don’t answer this,” Wilkins said. “He would see that and realize he doesn’t need to answer it.”

For victims, like Amanda, who have children with their abuser the situation becomes more complicated. In their case, they have to stay in contact with the abuser. However, by still changing the abuser’s name in the contacts, it gives the parent a second to think and prepare before speaking with the abuser.  

Technology is a great advancement in schooling, medicine and, unfortunately, domestic violence. Technology has helped abusers and stalkers have access to their victim at practically any given time of day.

“If I’m doing this right and I have the true mindset of a stalker or an abuser I know you; I know you backwards and forwards so I know whose number you’re going to pick up,” Wilkins said. “Abusers and stalkers know their victims. They make it a point to study them. They’ll know you better than you know yourself sometimes.”

Chapter four: Why don’t you just leave?

Photo by Emily Rowan

Why don’t you just leave? Here is the simplest answer to one of the most complex questions: it is just not that easy.

“[John] threatened me numerous times to take my life if I told anyone,” Amanda said. “He always said, ‘I swear to God if you do anything I will kill you and our daughter and then kill myself. I felt like I had to stay in order to protect my daughter.”

Leaving an abusive relationship does not mean just walking out the door and never coming back. Tommie Wilkins, violence against women on campus grant coordinator at Cabrini University, said that while this type of leaving does sometimes work, for many it does not. Planning must be done ahead of time because where is there to go?

Depending on the situation, friends and family are out of the question. Many have exhausted themselves trying to convince the victim that he/she is in an abusive relationship. Time after time when the victim does not listen, friends and family often shut them out.

“I should’ve told my mom-mom because she worked [for a courthouse] and my cousin worked in the PFA office, but I was still too scared,” Amanda said. “Laura mostly just listened and said I should try and leave or just tell my brothers. Everyone I talked to told me to try and leave.”

Without having friends or family to turn to, where would a domestic abuse survivor go? Many survivors end up going to shelters; however, these are almost always full.

“I worked the hotline for Lutheran Settlement House and the whole time I was on the hotline I never got anybody in the shelter; I could never get anybody in,” Wilkins said. Once a victim is ready to, is all packed and has faced his/her fears about leaving, she (because Lutheran Settlement House is the only place in the Philadelphia area that offers services to male victims) is turned down by all nearby shelters.

This leaves only one other option for victims looking to leave: find a shelter anywhere in the United States that will take them in. This means leaving everything behind.

Survivor on the run

A victim cannot take their car with them because, in many cases, the abuser knows the make, model and license plate number. This means that the victim must take public transportation, meaning packing lightly is a necessity.

Even after having to flee, a victim may still not get a bed in a shelter. Then what?

“Just leaving, on a minimum, you need to give me a check, but in reality needs to give me cash because I can’t access my checking account or my savings account or use my ATM card,” Wilkins said. “You need to give me probably $100,000 [to be able to leave]”

This covers first and last month’s rent for an apartment. Since a victim will have to use cash, seeing as the abuser most likely destroyed the victim’s credit, a bribe would have to be used in order to pay all cash.

“It’s not that people can’t leave,” Wilkins said. “It’s just not as easy as, ‘Why can’t you just leave?”

While John and Amanda are no longer together, there is not a day, at least in the near future, that Amanda does not see John in her life.

“[Leaving] was hard— really hard; one of the hardest things I ever did,” Amanda said. “My baby girl is the only thing that’s helping me cope. She’s the reason I breathe honestly and, without her, I don’t think I could’ve left fully.”

An equal opportunity offender

“These issues are equal opportunity offenders,” Wilkins said. “[Domestic abuse] doesn’t care who you are. Whether you have money or don’t have money, black, white, Hispanic, it doesn’t care. It can affect anybody.”
Celebrities are not immune to domestic violence either.

Tina Turner, Wilkins says, is a domestic abuse survivor who everyone knew was being abused. “She was at the height of her career and everybody knew what was going on,” Wilkins said. “People would go to concerts and go, ‘Tina was wearing sunglasses. Ike must’ve tuned her up.’”

When Turner finally mustered up the courage to leave her husband she did in a frantic manner. “All she had was a Diner’s Club card and 33 cents,” Wilkins said. Thankfully, the hotel manager that she ran to recognized her and gave her a room. “She says, which she’ll never talk about, he saved her life.”

Rihanna, another domestic abuse survivor, is a more modern example Wilkins uses to put in perspective why other victims find it hard to leave their abusive partner. After the news broke that Rihanna was in a domestic abuse relationship with Chris Brown, many were quick to victim blame Rihanna for why he beat her.

Victim blaming is when others justify the actions of the abuser. This is done by saying the victim provoked the domestic abuse or should have known he was trouble before starting to date. Victim blaming, especially with celebrities, leaves other victims feel helpless.

Rihanna, like Amanda and most domestic abuse victims, went back to her abuser more than once. According to Wilkins, a victim will statistically go back to their abuser seven times before truly leaving.

“How do I seek help if she can’t get help?” Wilkins said. “What we have is young people. We have 20s and 17 and 13-year-olds looking at that going, ‘Well, she’s got money and fame and she’s still being blamed, it’s still her fault, than how am I going to leave this?’”

Chapter five: Help is here

There is one quote that particularly stands out to Amanda. One quote that she finds particularly fitting for her life:

“My life kinda like a story that if I told you about it, you probably wouldn’t believe. It would seem like fiction. That’s me.” -Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan

“It’s from a drummer of the band I listen too, the one my chest tattoo is based off of,” Amanda said. “Ever since about 2010 that quote of his spoke out to me. Probably because I’ve witnessed and went through a lot that most wouldn’t believe.”

Amanda has, in fact, witnessed a lot. From the death of both parents as a child to welcoming a child of her own into the world. Experiencing death and celebrating life is unimaginable enough for a teenager. Factoring in the constant abuse Amanda and her daughter face daily seems something more of a Lifetime movie rather than real life.

“[My daugher is] now in a traumatic state of mind. If you raise your voice she panics and starts crying,” Amanda said. “As for me, I’m filled with anxiety. Not knowing what they’re doing to her, it sucks, but I can’t change it. As much as I wish I could go back to when he didn’t want anything to do with her, I can’t. I’m just trying to build a brighter future for her.”

Although Amanda is seemingly stuck with John, she does not let that stop her from trying to live her life to the fullest. She has big plans for herself and her daughter. “I want to move her and I down to Louisiana to get her a fresh start; get her in a better area and continue to work to make her future better,” Amanda said. “I want to send her to Juilliard, but whatever college she chooses to go to I’ll have enough funds to pay for it.”

Each time Amanda gets her daughter back from John, though, she is covered in bruises, has horrible diaper rash, wearing dirty clothes and even stinks of marijuana. With everything that has happened, Amanda still has hope that one day all of the abuse she and her daughter face will go away.

The ups and downs of leaving

Fortunately for other survivors, help is always there, whether that be with the comfort of friends and family or going to the police. A victim no longer has to be a victim; he/she can become a survivor with the help of others.

Going to the police is a must in Amanda’s mind. “That’s the one thing I didn’t do and I regret it so much. If you have a PFA and your abuser still won’t leave you alone, contact the police right away.” Amanda also suggested that going to support groups can be very helpful.

One major downfall with a PFA is that it is so easy for the abuser to violate it. “PFAs are pieces of paper. It’s not Captain America’s shield.” Tommie Wilkins, violence against women on campus grant coordinator at Cabrini University, said. “It’s not that the DA doesn’t want to do anything, they have to, in the phrase of Law and Order, at their preponderance of the evidence.” This means that an average person walking down the street must know, without a doubt, someone is being abused in order to convicted of a crime.

While proving a criminal act can be challenging, it is not impossible. “I’ve recently helped a girl from Philadelphia get her abuser arrested and charged with violation of the PFA,” Amanda said. “She’s got a similar situation as mine where a baby is involved. It’s extremely rough having to parent with our abusers and still not feel safe.”

Both Amanda and Wilkins recommends that the best way to convict an abuser of criminal act is through documentation. “Document stuff,” Wilkins said. “All you can do is document stuff.” Amanda adds to Wilkin’s recommendation. “Keep screenshots of the messages, keep a record of everything and document everything,” Amanda said.

 

“To know that if they’re in a domestic violence relationship, it may seem like it’s super hard to leave, but it is possible,” Amanda said. “To know that when there’s a child involved it’s going to be hard because the other parent, the abuser, can still control you in different ways, but to not give up.”

Amanda says that her biggest regret is ever telling John about the pregnancy. Her biggest accomplishment, on the other hand, was leaving him for good and going back to school. “I finally feel like I have some sense of normality for myself,” Amanda said.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. In honor of this, Wilkins is hosting a day-long event on Cabrini University’s campus. This event, Stop Victim Blaming, will be held on Monday, April 3, in two separate sessions (11-12:30 and 1:55-3:10). All are invited to attend these sessions.

Help after abuse

Help for a domestic abuse survivor goes beyond helping them leave. Many survivors will have long-term if not issues than span the rest of the life of the victim. Amanda needs to see a neurologist monthly because of the severe migraine she gets from the night John broke her jaw. She also suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. “Most of us survivors suffer from PTSD and we’re skeptical of new relationships,” Amanda said. “We flinch whenever someone tries to hug us, maybe not all survivors, I do. I get nervous whenever a guy looks at me. I feel like I’ll always be a victim even if John is out of the picture.”

Domestic violence is an equal opportunity offender. No matter who you are, no matter what you do, you could be next. “It can happen to anyone. You never think it would, but it could happen to your sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, your friends— and it’s always hidden. Sometimes, it ends up being fatal,” Amanda said.

While domestic violence can happen to anyone at any time, there is a simple solution that could put an end to domestic violence for good. According to Wilkins, this is education.

“The number of things education can truly put an end to, this is, for me, the top of [the list],” Wilkins said. “Simple knowledge can just put an end to it.”

If you are a survivor of domestic abuse and would like to share your story, Loquitur Media is here to listen.