October 2020: My name is Brandy. I am 42 years old. My history of abuse is a long and complicated one. I was the victim of domestic violence from multiple partners for most of my adult life, beginning at age 18. My last incident of domestic violence occurred at age 32.
Because I wasn’t educated on what domestic violence was; for a long time, I wasn’t even aware I was being abused. I experienced physical and sexual abuse in varying degrees of severity; as well as emotional and verbal abuse, during every relationship I was in, including two failed marriages. After the final incident of abuse, in which I nearly lost my life, I received the proper counseling and education about domestic violence; and now, I can say with absolute certainty that I won’t ever allow myself to be abused again.
I am a survivor of domestic violence. I will never again be anyone’s victim.
My first perpetrator was my first boyfriend in college. I was eighteen years old. I was living in the dorms; on my own for the first time, and I was just starting to figure out who I was as a young woman. I was in college on a music scholarship; I’ve played piano since I was a very young child. During my first year of school, I met a man.
He was older, very handsome, and very charming. He completely swept me off my feet. Before too long, he was the only thing I cared about. He was wonderful at first, but then he started verbally abusing me, which I didn’t realize at the time was even abuse. The verbal abuse started out subtly; a comment about my weight, or my outfit, or how he didn’t like my friends.
It soon progressed to emotional abuse, gaslighting, and then finally, physical abuse. This was my first serious relationship; I didn’t know anything different; I didn’t realize what I was experiencing was domestic violence, and I thought it was all my fault. I believe this first relationship established the pattern of abuse that would follow me throughout my entire adult life.
The abuse I experienced with my first relationship made my self-esteem plummet down to nearly nothing — I really believed I was everything my perpetrator had said I was – ugly, fat, stupid, boring, etc. I thought I deserved to be yelled at and hit; I was convinced that no one else could possibly love me.
Because of my low self-esteem, I sought attention from men wherever I could get it.
And I settled for unfulfilling relationships with men who didn’t care about me and abused me. That relationship eventually ended, and I dropped out of college in my second year, a decision I’ve regretted every day since. I would earn my diploma years later — but it was a long and arduous road getting there. I had several other relationships, one more disastrous than the next – all of them were abusive in one way or another.
Many people have asked me how I could go from one abusive relationship to the next; why didn’t I stop it? The answer to that question is that I didn’t know I deserved any better, and because “it wasn’t so bad” – meaning I’d never had to go to the emergency room, I didn’t think I was “really” being abused. I didn’t have a name for what happened, but knew it felt awful, and I wanted it to stop.
August 23, 2010 was the last day I lived through domestic violence.
This was also the night of the incident that nearly took my life. Up until this time, the physical abuse I’d experienced had been relatively minor, and only resulted in bruises, small cuts, and the occasional black eye. This time was so much worse. This time, my perpetrator strangled me and beat me nearly to death with an aluminum baseball bat.
I remember him coming into the bedroom at 3 AM, as usual he was blind drunk, and yanked me up out
of bed by my hair. He was yelling, accusing me yet again of cheating on him, even though of course I had never done anything of the sort. I decided I had had enough of him, and told him so. I told him I was leaving. And he answered by balling up his fist and punching me in the face, breaking my nose. He punched me again, breaking my jaw.
Then he picked up the bat.
I had kept an aluminum baseball bat in the closet for years — ironically, it was supposed to be for protection from intruders. My perpetrator picked the bat up and hit me in the head as hard as he could, and I saw stars.
He hit me again and again — I couldn’t count how many times. He brought that bat down over and over, while I tried to curl into as small a ball as I could, trying to protect my head. I didn’t know it at the time, but my skull was fractured, and there was a subdural hematoma on my brain.
I remember being dizzy, like I was trying to balance on a floor that was moving and tilting like a ship deck in a storm; my ears were ringing, and I couldn’t seem to think straight. All I felt was fear. He threw down the bat, which was bent now in the middle from hitting me so hard, and he got on top of me, wrapped both hands around my neck, and squeezed.
I struggled for air, clawing at his hands, realizing in confusion that my hands wouldn’t work. That’s when I noticed — my fingers were mangled, my arms, bent at odd angles – he had broken both of my arms and crushed my hands. All but three of my fingers were broken. He kept choking me, over and over — he would squeeze until I felt like my head and chest was going to explode, then let up for a
fraction of a second.
Before I had chance to draw a breath, he’d squeeze again, harder. He looked me right in the face while he did this – I looked into his eyes, and they were black, as if he had no soul. He knew he was killing me, and still, he kept strangling me. I think I lost consciousness, because the next thing I remember, I was laying on the floor, and he was crouching like a child in the corner, crying, and mumbling incoherently in his native language.
I think he must have thought I was dead, because at some point he just got up and left the room. In that moment, I looked over and saw my cell phone on the floor. I managed to crawl to it, and somehow, with my destroyed hands, dialed 911. Unable to hold the phone, I laid it next to my head, and begged the
dispatcher to send someone to help me.
I remember begging her to please don’t hang up.
She promised she’d stay on the phone with me until help arrived. My perpetrator came back into the room then, and was standing over me, while I begged the dispatcher to please send someone fast. It seemed like just moments later when the police arrived, took one look at him covered in my blood, and immediately placed him under arrest.
They loaded me into an ambulance, and took me to safety. I was pregnant at the time of this incident, and my unborn child did not survive. Not a day goes by that I don’t think of that lost baby.
I still get chills when I think of how close I came to death on this night.
It was a long road, but I survived. I required surgery to repair the damage that my perpetrator did; and had several months of physical therapy, but every day I got a little bit better. Because of the numerous metal plates and screws used to repair my broken bones, I have chronic pain and nerve damage in my hands and arms. I have migraines due to my head injury, and I’ve been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.
In the years since the incident, while I still have a number of residual effects from the injuries I sustained, I try not to let them get me down; and with the help of some wonderful counseling and an amazing support group, I’ve healed physically and emotionally, and made great strides in the ongoing process of recovering from my past abuse.
It took two years of going back and forth to court, but fortunately, I was able to see justice for this terrible act of violence. My perpetrator was out on bond awaiting trial, which means he was out on the street for two years after trying to kill me, and he swore if he got hold of me again, he would finish the job. I lived in fear every single day of those two years.
My perpetrator was eventually sent to prison, where he is serving a fifteen year sentence. Even though he is in prison, I am still vigilant about keeping myself safe. I adhere to a strict safety plan; keeping myself alert and aware and taking every precaution to ensure my personal safety.
People might consider taking such precautions “paranoid,” but until they’ve lived in fear for their lives, they don’t know how important taking these steps are, and how they can make the difference between being alive and being taken away in a body bag. Women are killed by abusive partners every single day, many times it is after they’ve left the relationship.
My abuser is behind bars now, but I remain in a state of cautious anticipation for the day he gets out. Another way that I work on my healing is by giving back to the community. I’ve become an advocate for survivors of domestic violence — I have participated in various community projects to educate and raise awareness, and help survivors.
I also volunteer with Family Violence Prevention Services, and helped start a music program for the children at The Battered Women’s and Children’s Shelter. It is very important to me to be of service and have the opportunity to help raise awareness however I can.
I’ve also been able to use music to help others. Even though my perpetrator tried to take my music away from me when he crushed my hands, I still enjoy a wonderfully rewarding career in music — I teach piano for a living, and I play music daily.
I am part of an organization called The LGSM Foundation, which provides assistance to disabled students in private music study. I volunteer my time teaching piano lessons for children, some of whom have special needs, and it is one of the most rewarding parts of my life. Every time I have the opportunity to give back, it makes me stronger. I continue to empower myself and work toward helping empower others who have lived through similar situations.
I’ve come a long way from “that night.”
And, I’ve walked through the minefield of emotions.
- I’ve felt the physical pain of healing from traumatic injury.
- I’ve overcome crippling fear, depression, and the overwhelming task of rebuilding a life from ground zero.
- I have discovered an inner strength and learned things about myself that I never imagined were possible.
- I’ve met amazing fellow warriors on this journey that inspire and encourage and empower me every day.
- I’ve met mentors who have guided me, and lifted me to heights I never thought I’d reach. I’ve shed a thousand lifetimes of tears.
- I’ve yelled and screamed and cussed till I was blue in the face. I’ve laughed. I have reclaimed
my joy. I have found the wisdom in the things that have happened to me, and I’ve used it
to help others.
- I’ve learned that I DESERVE BETTER.
- I’ve even found love again. I married to a wonderful, caring, loving man — a man who would never dream of hurting me, who has shown me what it truly means to have a real partner in life. I am truly blessed to have found someone who knows what I’ve been through, and knows that sometimes he will have to love me a little differently.
This journey has changed me in ways that only those who have lived it can understand.
I used to think a life of heartache and abuse was just my lot in life — I didn’t think I deserved better, or that anything would ever be better. It has been a long journey getting where I am today; and I know I’ve still got a long road ahead of me, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Domestic violence did NOT break me – I am walking talking proof that it IS possible to come through the nightmare and find the light on the other side. I am so thankful for every day I am granted in this life. I was almost killed by domestic violence, but I was given a second chance at life.
I want to pay that gift forward by helping anyone who is experiencing abuse in their lives come to the understanding that abuse of any kind is not okay and that they can escape and build new lives for
Click here to discover Brandy’s music classes.
Click here to read the letter she wrote to her attacker.