We went to high school together, the prom, etc. My first love. 9 years after HS graduation we reconnected at a wedding and were married less than a year later. I liked our childhood connection, and how he liked to fix things. Everyone said it was “meant to be.” But there were many red flags. He abused me in every way. Mentally, by undermining my dreams and hopes (telling me I would never finish my degree). Financially, by spending money we didn't have, hiding major purchases from me, quitting jobs impulsively if he was ever “disrespected.” Physically, by spitting on me, shaking me, throwing me down on the floor. He lied to me, called me names, called me fat, threw away my cherished items then mocked me for picking through the garbage to find them. He also cheated on me and gave me an std then denied it saying I must have cheated on him when I hadn’t. He undermined my sense of reality. The tipping point was finding my 13 year old daughter's diary and reading about what she had heard and witnessed when I thought she was asleep. I couldn't raise her or her brothers around this anymore. The hardest thing was navigating custody. He had never once cared for our 3 children by himself–not even for an afternoon. He had connections in both police and social service agencies and was a former CPS worker so accusations of abuse never stuck to him. He dated and briefly married a lawyer so he had free and unlimited legal representation. He neglected our children, drank heavily (he is an alcoholic) and scared them many times with his rage and outbursts. Not being able to shield them from him was and remains the hardest part. My family is Catholic and takes marriage very seriously as do I. Right before I filed for divorce my mom was telling me how things weren't that bad. I told her that she could 1) either ask me to stop talking about my reality with her or 2) accept my reality–but that I would no longer accept her denial of my reality. She heard me, apologized, and has been fully supportive ever since. Please do not assume because someone is a social worker, calls himself an advocate, or a feminist, or even works as an advocate that he lives out these values in private. My ex was given an award by the police department for his work with homeless people the same week that he locked me outside of our house during a tornado (I had to ride it out in my car in the driveway). Obviously knowing that I'm not alone, that even though more than a decade has passed and that I'm very happily married to a kind and loving man, that this pain stays with me. On my children's birthdays I always struggle remembering how he abused me while I was in labor and recovering from childbirth. That is something very hard to share. Speak Your Truth allowed me to not be alone with those memories for the first time.