“I was warned about my abuser, but I didn’t believe it. I was swept off my feet, only I never got put back down, I got put into a box. The abuse was mental and emotional. He controlled everything: money, outings, get togethers. He made me feel incompetent of doing anything so I would have to depend on him. Making small remarks to people, “She doesn’t know how to cook, so I do it.” Of I had a problem that was related to him, it was never his fault, but somehow mine instead, and that I was acting crazy. thats when I stopped using my voice. He’d get mad at me for saying no to sex. He would try talking me into it, I’d still say no. he then would start making me feel guilty, and how its my fault for saying no. I eventually just stopped and would just let him have sex with me for the sake of not feeling emotionally hurt. I had daily anxiety and crippling panic attacks at least once a week. This ongoing nightmare was affecting our child as well.
I am now divorced from my abuser and have sole custody of our child. I found my voice, and self-worth. I’m dating a wonderful ma who loves all of me, and whom my child adores. He swept me off my feet, and put me back down where I stand freely next to him, as an equal.”
As I searched the TD Project Survivor Stories Facebook page, I knew I had to reach out to the founder. After talking with Kourtenay, I learned about what led her to start the TD project, and was moved by her desire to help others. Her story will also be shared as part of this project, because like many of us, domestic violence has touched her life. I encourage you to take a look at her Facebook page, and read the stories that have been shared. Her project covers all different types of trauma, and I am certain it will speak to you on some level.
“My story and purpose of this project . My story didn’t begin on March 16 , 2013 , it began far before that . March 16 , 2013 was only the spiral that lead to me coming out from other traumatic events .Most don’t know my story , many will be shocked . First and foremost I am not ashamed , and I am okay . March 16 , 2013 my father was shot multiple times along with his friend by his friends ex-boyfriend , who committed suicide shortly after , her two sons escaped through a window . That’s the thing with PTSD , it likes to hide, block , disassociate. It likes to tear you down blind you with depression and anxiety. My story began when I was 4 , I was ” touched ” by a family friend . It was one time , but not the last encounter I would have . At 15 I became an alcoholic, now that doesn’t happen with reason you could say I was dealt those cards as my family history has a long record of both substance abuse and alcoholism. I began to run away , bottle my feelings , my Mother tried her best with mental health facilities and rehab , but I ran . At 16 I was jumping house to house until I met a boy , he loved me and well I loved him ” teen love ” when I found out he was sleeping with someone else and threatened to leave him , he beat me , this happened numerous times , until one day I left while he was at work . He did save me in one way, I no longer needed to drink from the time I was with him . This only led to one unhealthy relationship to another, I didn’t know what love was or what it felt like . At 18 I worked at a restaurant ( my first time waitress) .Six months in I got had gotten fired for not properly ringing out add on salads , they had threatened me with law enforcement ( I never was properly trained working the computer system ) I thought I would need a lawyer, I never had gotten fired from a job , he took care of it ( I trusted him, he asked me to go to his office to sign paperwork and talk about what was going on . I was sexually assaulted , there was no paperwork . He instead have given me a gift certificate upon leaving , that week was followed by indirect threatening calls . I didn’t say a word for 10 years . I finally told my therapist when I was seeking help for dealing with PTSD . I would come home that night crying and told my husband ( no details ) he would be the second person. Then there was quite again until the Me Too movement where I felt triggered , again I went back to therapy but a sexual assault therapist . That was this year, where I would tell my mother what happened as well . It was suggested to get a lawyer before coming out but nobody would take my case. I am not ashamed , but I am scared and that’s okay, I don’t need to come out I just need to be okay with what happened to. I felt shame and disgusted for so long until this year . After my father was shot and killed in a double murder suicide , it brought on such intense feelings I even contemplated life itself . But these last 2 years I have found myself , I picked up a camera and well taught myself everything , it’s like I have came out of the darkness , I have found me again , I have found the light .A spiritual awakening. A few months ago while I lay wide awake I came up with this idea of empowering woman , it took a few weeks to get over the am I crazy part ( Lol ) but the idea wouldn’t leave my mind at night . I wanted to spread a message empowering one another , I wanted to make a statement like ” Hey , this is me I have something to say !! ” so the ideas kept flowing and well one post led to another which led me to create a private group , and well everything else. Everyone has a path , something they are MEANT to be doing , it’s up to you to find it . This is why I am here, no shame , no embarrassment, because I’m not alone , I have a mission to do . ❤ A movement I have created and a vibration that has been felt in all 50 states .
I have photographed several woman in Rhode Island as well for the Rhode Island part of the project and also the first state to start . The project has not only helped me in finding my voice but it has sent a vibration across the country as it travels to now it’s 15th state ( Wisconsin ) ! It doesn’t end with 50 states only traveling once this dress will then go to a number of different countries and I will be also adding two more dresses to travel all over again , we all have a voice and I think we all need to be heard . “
Thank you, Kourtenay, for sharing your story, and helping so many others share theirs. Your project is so important, I am grateful I found you, and the TD project. The world is a better place, when we take our pain and use it for good.
“I was so used to the constant abuse- the fights, the drinking, the name calling, hair pulling, black eyes, money stealing monotony of it all.. that I never thought anything would change, and that maybe.. just maybe I really was as “crazy” as he claimed.. Right up until the second the school called me- concerned (after some testing I had asked be done for my youngest son) that they believed he was suffering from PTSD.. due to being molested. I sent my children to my mother’s where they would be SAFE the very next day and had our abuser removed from our lives FOREVER. We have not seen him or heard from him in over 3 years… the active arrest warrant that I was notified about via the court system ensures that he while he may not have to face the full impact of his actions- My silence.. will NOT be the last thing he hears from me.”
Thank you, Sam, for sharing your story. I admire your strength and you desire to protect your children. Keep speaking your truth.
I remember the first time someone asked me if my then husband had sexually abused me. I gave a quick, “no,” and moved on to the next question. The man asking me was my son’s counselor, and he did not let me change the subject. He had heard my now ex-husband berating my then four-year old daughter. He asked the question again, and explained a husband can sexually abuse their wife.
“Does he touch you inappropriately without permission?” Yes
“Does he make you feel you owe him sex?” Yes
“Does he force you to have sex?” Yes
“He raped you.” As his words reached my ears, I felt nauseous. All that time, I felt that he owned me, and I didn’t have the right to say no. The times he called me names because I fought back played over in my mind. All that time he made me feel like his possession. I started to remember other times and events, like the times he would spy on my while I was in the shower. He wouldn’t let me lock the door, saying the kids might need to get in. Or the times he would grab my breasts, just like my stepfather had done when I was a teenager, even though I begged him not to. He thought these things were funny. Still, after all these years later, I still feel like I am being watched while I am in the shower.
It all boils down to the power and control an abusers needs. My ex-husband knew about my past sexual abuse history. He knew my first sexual encounter as a teenager was rape. He knew all the ways to emotionally paralyze me, to get me to a state of fear, and anxiety. The sexual abuse from him came with psychological abuse. He tormented me, and made fun of my body. He treated me like damaged goods, and tried to take possession of my body. He knew all the things to do and say to hurt me.
Ways a partner may sexually abuse their partner to retain power and control may include:
Forcing you to dress in a sexual way
Insulting you in sexual ways or calls you sexual names
Forcing or manipulating you into to having sex or performing sexual acts
Holding you down during sex
Demanding sex when you’re sick, tired or after hurting you
Hurting you with weapons or objects during sex
Involving other people in sexual activities with you against your will
Ignoring your feelings regarding sex
Forcing you to watch pornography
Purposefully trying to pass on a sexually transmitted disease to you
Sexual coercion lies
on the ‘continuum’ of sexually aggressive behavior. It can vary from
being egged on and persuaded, to being forced to have contact. It can be verbal
and emotional, in the form of statements that make you feel pressure, guilt, or
shame. You can also be made to feel forced through more subtle actions. For
example, an abusive partner:
Making you feel like you owe them — ex. Because you’re in a relationship, because you’ve had sex before, because they spent money on you or bought you a gift
Giving you drugs and alcohol to “loosen up” your inhibitions
Playing on the fact that you’re in a relationship, saying things such as: “Sex is the way to prove your love for me,” “If I don’t get sex from you I’ll get it somewhere else”
Reacting negatively with sadness, anger or resentment if you say no or don’t immediately agree to something
Continuing to pressure you after you say no
Making you feel threatened or afraid of what might happen if you say no
Trying to normalize their sexual expectations: ex. “I need it, I’m a man”
Even if your partner
isn’t forcing you to do sexual acts against your will, being made to feel obligated is
coercion in itself. Dating someone, being in a relationship, or being married
never means that you owe your partner intimacy of any kind.
Reproductive coercionis a form of power and control where
one partner strips the other of the ability to control their own reproductive
system. It is sometimes difficult to identify this coercion because other
forms of abuse are often occurring simultaneously.
can be exerted in many ways:
Refusing to use a condom or other type of birth control
Breaking or removing a condom during intercourse
Lying about their methods of birth control (ex. lying about having a vasectomy, lying about being on the pill)
Refusing to “pull out” if that is the agreed upon method of birth control
Forcing you to not use any birth control (ex. the pill, condom, shot, ring, etc.)
Removing birth control methods (ex. rings, IUDs, contraceptive patches)
Sabotaging birth control methods (ex. poking holes in condoms, tampering with pills or flushing them down the toilet)
Withholding finances needed to purchase birth control
Monitoring your menstrual cycles
Forcing pregnancy and not supporting your decision about when or if you want to have a child
Forcing you to get an abortion, or preventing you from getting one
Threatening you or acting violent if you don’t comply with their wishes to either end or continue a pregnancy
Continually keeping you pregnant (getting you pregnant again shortly after you give birth)
Reproductive coercion can also come in the form of pressure, guilt and shame from an abusive partner. Some examples are if your abusive partner is constantly talking about having children or making you feel guilty for not having or wanting children with them — especially if you already have kids with someone else.
“My mom met him when I was 14. He came to her as her knight in shining armor. He was kind and sweet. We went on vacations and had fun. He played music and was a “good guy” fast forward 2 years. My mother got cancer. Fast moving life changing, kill you in 1.5 years cancer. While she was sick he began to drink. He would bring the woman home from his band and they would “talk” on the couch while my mother lay in her bed mere feet away. One night I guess the friend did not want to “talk” I don’t know. I do know I woke up with him sitting on the edge of my bed with his hand under the blanket. When I woke up it startled him. He said he was just checking on me to make sure I was sleeping ok. He got up and left. I remember laying there wondering what had just happened. Every night after that I moved my bed so the door couldn’t be opened. Let’s hit the fast forward button to 3 months. My mother is now dead. His drinking is out of control. I come home to the house where I grew up to find him and his girlfriend in my mother’s kitchen. I was 16 and in a horrible state. He beat the crap out of me that night. He hit me so hard in the face I saw stars. When I yelled if he was just pissed I blocked the door to my room so he couldn’t get in he hit me harder. He picked me up off the floor and slammed me into the counter. I ran for the back door. I left that night. Barefoot in the snow. I slept in my mom’s car. The next few days I packed all I could and moved into an apartment. He told me I would never be anything. Today I am strong. Today I own my own home. Today I help people live the best lives they can.
Today I am something.
Today I am me.
Today I am a survivor.”
Thank you, Becky for sharing your story. Becky’s story reminds me that you never know what someone is holding on to. The memories stay with us, long after the events take place. When you look at someone walking down the street, you never know what they have been through, or what they will go through.
Imagine meeting this sixteen year old girl, who just lost her mom, and wasn’t given time to grieve, but forced to become an adult, almost overnight. You might have seen her, and thought she had no place having her own apartment, or her strong-will might have made you think she was just a difficult teenager. Without taking the time to put yourself in her shoes, you would not have been able to offer the compassion or love that she needed. We all have the choice to be kind, no matter what we have been through.
Becky’s story reminds us to treat people with compassion, and illustrates again, that everyone has a story. Our stories make a difference. As our words are shared, they lose some of the power they hold when we hang on to them. We should all strive to be the kind of person that builds people up, and not tear them down.
There were seven. Seven people who sexually assaulted me throughout my life. Not all were men. None were strangers. Not one of them was ever held accountable. Some have never been reported, not even to my closest friends –and probably never will be. Some happened decades ago. The first happened before I was a year old.
Just because they were not reported, does not mean they did not happen. It does not mean they did not alter my life. It does not mean that things were not stolen from me. It does not mean that I am a liar. Every survivor of sexual assault has a right to their story. Every survivor has a right to report when they are ready, or not at all.