October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Resources

One of the effects of domestic violence, not just the physical, emotional, mental, financial, and sexual components, is isolation. Often, abusers isolate their victims so that they don’t have a support system or a means of escaping. This can be detrimental because then, these victims feel as though they don’t have anyone to turn to. A lot of society has a difficult time comprehending abuse, and a lot of myths abound, but I want to restate this for anyone who is or has experienced intimate violence: you are not alone.

  • Be prepared. Hide an extra car key, have the gas tank filled, and have a secret stash of emergency clothes, cash, and phone numbers you might need.
  • Practice. Practice your escape plan so you can do it even in challenging circumstances. If you have children, include them in the practice.
  • Memorize emergency contacts. If you have any resources or supports that you might be able to rely on, don’t count on having the list of phone numbers you might need. Memorize those numbers.

This article has good, practical advice for those who are looking to leave or individuals who think it best to stay.

“The Hotline” is a great resource available for victims 24/7/365. They provide confidential support. You can call at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text by texting the word START to 8878.

They can provide you with

  • Assistance with a safety plan.
  • Domestic violence education.
  • Direct connections to local shelters.
  • Agency referrals.
  • Crisis intervention.

Online, you can visit The National Resource Center on Domestic Violence, The American Bar Association Commission on Domestic Violence, the Battered Women’s Justice Project (their phone number is 1-800-903-0111), and finally, for the LGBTQIA+ community, there is Community United Against Violence. These are just a few resources, but hopefully, they will help you if you need immediate assistance. This, by no means, is an exhaustive list – always make sure your phone line is safe before making a call and your Internet browsing is secure.

I am not an expert; I am merely a survivor wanting to make sure others escape these terrifying relationships with as little negative repercussions as possible.

Also, these resources are only resources available in the States. If you need resources in another country and I can be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out. My email address is isabelle DOT palerma AT gmail DOT com.

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Part III

Trigger Warning: This post is about sexual abuse and domestic violence. If these topics upset you or you don’t feel comfortable reading about these topics, please do not continue.


Things moved very quickly; I didn’t know how real love worked, so, even though there was an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach, I somehow felt charmed and taken by him. He started visiting a lot. He told me horror stories about abuse – how an ex threw a pan at his head, how his stepdad stabbed him with a pencil. He told me how he felt uncomfortable living with his roommate because he had recently started shooting up heroin.

I felt sorry for him when he said his roommate kicked him out because he didn’t support his friend’s habit. This guy seemed sweet, kind, funny. Listening to him tell stories felt like a stand-up act in the beginning because he was such a fantastic storyteller.

I was, for lack of a better word, enchanted.

He texted me asking me who I was with or what I was doing. He felt clingy, and for once, it felt nice to be the one being clung to, instead of the clingy one. We quickly started dating. Things happened so fast – in a matter of days. Slowly, the clinginess devolved into possessiveness and jealousy.

He no longer asked who I was with, but instead he demanded to know who I was spending my time with. He felt he couldn’t trust me. He told me he was scared I would cheat on him. He told me he loved me a few days in. I trusted him; I could have sworn I saw absolute sincerity in his eyes.

We had moved in with each other soon (too soon), and he worked at a restaurant, I worked at a pharmacy. Things were fine. My best friend came over and had dinner with us. Things were good.

Then, we had our first real argument.

He screamed at me and called me names. Then, he tore open the front door in a blind rage and stormed out. I followed after him. He stood at the top of the stairwell, I scrambled a couple of steps below him, trying to block him from leaving. In a flash, I was tumbling down the stairs. I curled into a tight ball as I fell and smashed into the wall near the front door of my apartment complex.

He told me that I had fallen. That I had lost my balance and fallen backwards. Later, I remembered he pushed me. I sobbed from the pain, stood up, and looked behind me. The drywall was smashed into a perfect dent from the impact of my body colliding into it. I hobbled up the stairs, and that was that.

That was the first time.

Person in Blue Denim Jeans

Any time he got mad from then on, he used my head as his punching bag. I was a feisty girl, so I’d fight back verbally, sparring with him with my words. He began to isolate me from my friends and family, forbidding me from going anywhere without him except work. Eventually, my moxie weakened. I’d flinch at seeing his curled fist. The sound of glass shattering made me wince.

One night, I did something to upset him, and he threw a glass bottle at my head. It shattered against the picture frame behind me. I spent days brushing the glass shards out of my hair.

Another night, I asked him to clean the dessert plates for me because we were having company over. I was busy cleaning house – dusting and vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, getting the house in order. He ended up cornering me against the closet door and throwing glass dessert dishes at me until they were all broken.

But intermittently, he’d shower me with love. He’d make me biscuits and crispy bacon. We’d dance together in the kitchen. He’d make me laugh. He’d cook for me and bring me flowers and jewelry.

He’d shower me with drawings he made me. Then, in a heated rage, he would confetti the drawings and make his sketches rain down above me, laughing as I frantically scrambled to scoop the pieces of art up.

He gave me gifts, then broke them. I’d go to work and he had ransacked my apartment one day because I refused to give him a key. When I relented and gave him the key, my apartment was totaled.

For months, I lived this way. He’d punch holes in the walls and the doors. He’d scream, force sex upon me, put razor blades to my throat, call me awful names, stalk me at my job, frighten me with suicide and murder comments, and more.

Man Hand Oppressing a Hand of a Woman on the Wall

Finally, I was tired of living in fear.

I had tried to leave before, but it wasn’t easy when it was my apartment he was living in. It wasn’t easy when he was controlling where my money went and only allowed me a paltry allowance of my paycheck.

One December night, he was out with friends, and something in me snapped, and I told myself I needed to get out, regardless of the consequences.

The night before he had choked me, and according to a peer-reviewed journal article by Nancy Glass, PhD*, “women who were the victims of completed or attempted homicide were far more likely to have a history of strangulation compared to the abused control women.” I knew the facts: I knew abusers who had escalated from strangulation moved onto homicide or attempted homicide.

I locked myself in my bathroom, told him not to come home, and texted my parents, begging them to come get me.

Shockingly, it worked. The threat of the police being waiting there for him scared him off, and I haven’t seen him since.

Caveat

I know I make this sound disarmingly simple, and there are a lot of details I do not choose to include in this part of my story. I don’t describe the attempted escapes, the nights down by the train tracks where I was scared we were both going to die, the drugs, etc. etc. I don’t even describe how I got out of this situation in great depth.

This is, by no means, a prescriptive essay; this is me giving a broad overview of my experience with domestic violence. It capitalizes on a few experiences but does not explain the nuances or describe the aftermath – I do not talk about the nightmares or the extreme vigilance or the physical side effects. This isn’t the full scope of what can happen in an intimate partner violence-based relationship.

That being said, I will tell you what one of my counselors said when I called a hotline that went a long way with me. She said, “What a lot of people fail to understand is it is a relationship; it still has its ups and downs. He is not a monster. He is a flawed human being, and you are trying to love him, but love should not hurt. He might be loving you the best he can, but that might not be the love you deserve.”

This meant so much to me. It is easy to paint abusers as monsters, but hose of us who have loved an abuser know that they are deeply pained human beings. There would be times I’d look at him when he was sleeping, and I’d see a little boy – a hurt, sad little boy who was lashing out because he was scared.

Thank you for reading my story. Be sure to keep checking back – I will be posting resources later this month and a few more poems.

*Glass N, Laughon K, Campbell J, et al. Non-fatal strangulation is an important risk factor for homicide of women. J Emerg Med. 2008;35(3):329-335. doi:10.1016/j.jemermed.2007.02.065

October: Domestic Violence Awareness Month – Part II

Trigger Warning: This post is about sexual abuse and domestic violence. If these topics upset you or you don’t feel comfortable reading about these topics, please do not continue.

His flashing eyes and the bridge of his nose were exposed; he had a black bandana wrapped around his mouth like a bandit. He wore a pair of tight cigarette jeans and a thin cotton tee. He tossed ropes of fire around his head, his eyes glittering mischievously. Later, he told me that when he first saw me, his concentration shattered, and he burnt his hair. He blew plumes of fire. His kisses would later taste of kerosene.

I don’t know what it was about him, but I was hopelessly addicted to him when I first saw him. I couldn’t take my eyes off him. As he strolled past me, his lean, lanky body called out to me. I grabbed him, and the words poured out of me. I told him about my brother’s wedding and made up some story about how maybe he could perform with his fire poi at the wedding.

He grinned at me, scribbled down his name and phone number on the back of a business card, and inside of the small hookah lounge my best friend and I were, he sat down with his friends. I went back to my drink and my best friend, but every once and a while, I found myself stealing glances at him.

Sitting only a few feet from him, I sent him a text message. I giggled as I watched him read it. Then, I went back to my falafel and drink.

That night, when I got home, drunk on mixed drinks and the high of giving the cute performer my number, I grinned when he sent me text message after text message. We texted all night until I fell asleep, my phone battery drained.


I was just getting settled into my new apartment, unpacking, when my phone buzzed. It was him. The fire performer I had met last night. He texted me insistently that night. At the time, I thought it was cute. Now, I know better: he was love-bombing. I had low self esteem, so his relentless compliments and begging me to let him see me felt like flattery.

I had just gotten out of a relationship, and though it ended amicably, my heart hurt from it. This cute guy was interested in me; it was very obvious. My best friend was at my place, helping me with my boxes, and she encouraged me to invite him over. At her insistence and with the assistance of a cerveza, I suggested he stop by.

My best friend and I took a break from unpacking boxes when he arrived. We sat on the new, used couch I had bought, he slumped on the floor, his back against the couch. We chatted for hours, laughing like we had known each other for years. Each time I went into the kitchen for more cerveza, my best friend would whisper into my ear, “He’s so cute.”

Neither of us knew any better.

To be continued.