CLEVELAND, Ohio — Each year, ten million American adults experience domestic violence at the hands of an intimate partner — that's according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. With many people staying home because of the pandemic, some victims are not able to get the help they need right now to escape their abuse.
For nearly twelve years, one woman in Cleveland found herself in a series of abusive relationships. We're not sharing her name out of respect for her privacy and safety, but she wants anyone in an abusive situation right now to know that there is help for them.
"The first time I ever came in contact with an abuser I was 25 years old and it was something that caught me off guard — something that I wasn't used to dealing with, so I didn't really know how to react to it at the time," said the survivor.
Watching her mother be abused growing up, our survivor knew that's not the life she wanted for herself, but at 25 years old, the survivor was smacked across the face so hard her contact flew out her eye. And that was the start of violence against her.
"I was stabbed. I was choked to the point to where you couldn't tell my chin from my neck, everything was so swollen. I believe my jaw was fractured at one point, but I never went to the doctor to see, but I couldn't open my mouth to eat."
But it wasn't just physical abuse that she experienced. There was also emotional, mental, and verbal abuse as well.
"You're weak. You're spineless. You're nothing. You wouldn't be nothing without me. Your family doesn't love you. Nobody wants you. You have nobody."
The survivor was in the abusive relationship for a year before being able to escape.
"The last straw was when I was stabbed and then I had told him 'hey, you know, it's time for you to go. You've overstayed your welcome. I'm working. I'm doing everything I'm supposed to do. You're not helping, so at this point it's just time for you to go.'"
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, in Ohio alone, 35% of women and 30% of men experience domestic violence at the hand of an intimate partner. Though she escaped that relationship, she soon found herself in another abusive relationship.
"He slapped me in the face in front of his two daughters. And his two daughters was looking like 'dad, I can't believe you just did that'. They were crying and after that I was just like, you know what? That's enough. It's time for me to go. Like, I can't do this, so I left."
The survivor said she stayed in her abusive relationships because of fear, but once she decided to leave she had a plan. She said anyone experiencing abuse right now should do research, make a plan, and find resources to help them leave.
"Get help while you can because the next time there may not be one. There may not be a next time."
The survivor has been working with the Journey Center in Cleveland. They help domestic violence survivors leave their situations. She said now that she's back on her feet, she's focusing on herself to give her children a better life.
"I will not be a victim. I am a survivor. So, I do not think of myself as a victim. I think of myself as a survivor."
If you are experiencing domestic violence and need help, you can call or text the 24-hour hotline at the Journey Center at 216-391-4357 (HELP).