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**Trigger warning** Sensitive subject discussed.

“You start telling yourself, why the hell did I stay so long with him? But it was a love story. It just ended bad.

Every day I said, he’s going to get better. He’s not going to hit me anymore. He’s not going to treat me bad. He’s not going to tell me I’m not good enough. He’s not going to tell me that I pray wrong and he’s the one who taught me the right way to pray. He’s not going to drink anymore. He used to tell me what to wear and if I gained weight he said he wouldn’t buy me new clothes until I lost the weight.

I stayed with him for 5 years and every day it was more violence than before. Until one night I was choked 5 times. He choked me until I couldn’t see anything. It went dark, black. He would then let me go and beat me up, then take me to another room and choke me again. And he choked me so much that night that I thought I was definitely going to die. I could hear my kids screaming in the other room saying they were scared and I couldn’t protect them. It was horrible.

The next day he said he was sorry. I must have punched him in the eye the previous night and he was bleeding.  He said if I called the cops he would tell them that I beat him up and it would be his word against mine. He is the stronger man so my story would die and nothing would happen. So I stayed quiet. The next day he didn’t go to work and stayed home because he didn’t want me to call the police. He told me to text a friend who came every Monday to visit me and tell her not to come so she didn’t see my bruises. He broke my phone. He wanted to keep me isolated from everyone. I used to wear so much foundation all over my face and drop my kids off at school praying no one would notice my blue eye or the fingerprints on my neck. The following Monday I texted my friend to come to my house and told her to delete my texts after reading them. I asked her to take pictures of my face, my neck, my back and I told her if I die, you are going to go to the police and tell them he killed me. This was not an accident.

A few weeks later he beat me up again. I ran to the balcony and held onto the rails. He started choking me and put his hand in my mouth so I couldn’t scream. He told me to go inside or I would become a very big scandal. I said ok I’ll go inside. Just let me go. I promised him and swore to God that I would go inside. That day I lied. I left my kids in the house and I left him in the house and I jumped. I jumped to the street in my pajamas and ran. It was a leap of faith. I wasn’t sure what would happen to my kids or me. But I ended up getting help from neighbors and a women’s shelter. Everything started turning around after that.

I am happy now. I’m remarried to my first love. My kids are happy and healthy. They still have a relationship with their father. He’s better now and we have found a healthy way to co-parent. I have a job that can support my kids. I can buy clothes for myself. And if I gain weight, I can buy myself new clothes. I tell my story to everyone and I try to educate others about their options. They need to know they have another choice.

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