I’ve been a freelance writer for 12 years. I’ve written on topics ranging from heart stents to luxury watches to toxins in the home. When I started writing for DomesticShelters.org, I saw it as an assignment. An important assignment, mind you—a way to bring awareness to a worthy topic and a chance to help someone. But still, an assignment nonetheless.
It wasn’t until three months in, as I was conducting the interview for "Survivor Story: Jessica Houston," that something clicked that I had never been conscious of before. I completed the interview and hung up with Houston. And I sat in front of my computer and sobbed. I had just realized I was a domestic violence survivor.
While the relationship with my abuser had ended more than five years prior, I had never labeled it domestic violence. It was bad, sure. He was possessive and controlling, interrogating me every time I left the house. “How can it possibly take more than 30 minutes to get an eyebrow wax?” he’d ask. “Who did you sit next to in your meeting today?” He made me feel so guilty about doing anything that didn’t involve him that I sacrificed relationships with my mom and sister even though, previously, we had been close. I was not allowed to have friends.
Even when he stood over me and clapped loudly for 45 minutes one night to prevent me from going to sleep, threatened to kill one of my loved ones or abandoned me during a trip in the middle of downtown Chicago (his hometown and a place I’d never been), it didn’t occur to me that what he was doing was abuse. After all, he’d never hit me.