Getting My Power Back:
A Domestic Violence Survivor Tells Her Story
Domestic violence thrives on silence. To break the silence, a volunteer from the Asian/Pacific Islander Domestic Violence Resource Project (DVRP) has agreed to share her story about her abusive marriage.
Leaving an abusive relationship is never easy. Immigrant survivors face additional challenges including unfamiliarity with the legal system, immigration concerns, language barriers, lack of financial resources, and cultural and religious barriers.
DVRP is the only pan-Asian organization in the D.C. metropolitan area that provides services culturally and linguistically designed for Asian/Pacific Islander survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
For safety reasons, all identifying factors in this article have been removed.
People thought of us as the perfect couple.
During social events and get-togethers he would show off his love for me.
But when it was just the two of us, he acted like I was his enemy. He hurt me verbally. He hurt me physically. He was from another country and I sponsored his green card. He told me his ego was bruised because I was responsible for bringing him to America. He was an engineer. I paid his MBA tuition and took active interest in his course work. But the more I did for him, the more insecure he became about his manhood.
At the time, I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was domestic violence. I never thought I would end up in an abusive relationship.
“The more I did for him, the more insecure he became about his manhood.”
I come from a professional and educated upper middle class family. I have a graduate degree. I was the breadwinner in my marriage. I thought domestic violence only happened in lower-class communities. I know better now. Domestic violence does not discriminate.
The abuse started immediately after we were married. He demanded I give him all of my attention, even while I was at work. He called me at my job and forced me to be online so he could check up on me. His constant phone calls made it difficult for me to advance in my work and I ended up having to switch jobs.
He also kept tabs of my phone logs so he would know who I was communicating with at all times. He discouraged me from keeping in touch with family and friends. He isolated me from my support system.
I lived in chronic stress. I never imagined the man I married would end up abusing me for seven years.
“I never imagined the man I married would end up abusing me for seven years.”
Slowly, the violence escalated. He started intimidating me by crushing lampshades, throwing dishes full of food– shattering them into pieces. He would throw whatever he could get his hands on. Shoes. Windows rods. Sometimes in the car, he would break unexpectedly or speed just to scare me.
He often woke me up in the middle of the night just to argue. He loved to hear me apologize. He wouldn’t behave normally until after I had apologized multiple times. Some of our fights stemmed from his desire to be with other women. He wanted me to agree to an open marriage so he could have one-night stands. He told me about his fantasies of raping me.
“I kept hoping for things to get better, but they only got worse.”
I kept hoping for things to get better, but they only got worse. Once, he slapped me so hard my earrings broke. On another occasion, he tried to choke me. That was the turning point for me. I knew saving my marriage was not worth losing my life.
For years I kept quiet and suffered in silence, but that night I called my parents and brother and told them everything. They immediately supported me. My parents were with me when I told my husband I wanted a separation. My support system was back and it empowered me to face him and ask him to leave. It wasn’t easy, but I was persistent. He moved out.
Life after our separation was tough. It’s easy to think that getting your freedom back would immediately make life better, but it was hard at first. As unhealthy and abusive as our marriage was, I was used to having someone to go out to restaurants, share a bed, and travel with. I was not used to having so much freedom. There was no one to report to anymore. I could do whatever I wanted, but what was it that I wanted? For seven years, I had served someone else. Slowly, everything started to come back to me. I was free. I rebuilt my friendships and spent more time with my family. I traveled alone and it was some of the best times I’ve ever had. I focused on my career. I meditated and exercised.
I hadn’t just gotten my freedom back. I got my power back. And for that, I have never loved myself more than I love myself now.
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance, you may contact DVRP here: