I was interviewing for a position at Target in 2009 and my ex-partner is the employee who first greeted me that day – he had a really inviting smile. After working together for a couple of months, I fell for his charming personality, and we started dating in January of 2010. He was funny and made me laugh. He also made me feel special and beautiful. The abuse began a few months after we started dating. He pitted me against his ex-girlfriend – who was also not over him – through, what I now know as, manipulation tactics. The emotional and verbal abuse started about a year into the relationship. So much name-calling, gaslighting, and flipping things around so it appeared as though I was always overreacting. Even with all of that, there were good times and nothing physical at this point. We ended up getting married in 2012 and within two weeks of living together the physical abuse started, followed quickly by sexual abuse. Unfortunately, the emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse were much worse during this time as well. I knew I had to leave when one day I was walking out the door and he hit me from behind, while threatening to snap my neck if I screamed. His actions and threat terrified me, so as soon as I could, I snuck out of my home to a friend’s house and called the military police. Thankfully they believed me, and he received an Article 15* and was punished for his actions and threats. *An Article 15 is where the commander (who is normally not a lawyer) hears the evidence, makes a determination of guilt or innocence, and imposes punishment as they see fit. I was unable to leave for a couple more months after this terrifying incident, but that day was my wakeup call – if I stayed, he was going to kill me. I left in July 2013! The process was extremely confusing and hard. It is truly a miracle I was able to leave, and I really can’t tell you how it was possible. On top of the process itself being confusing, difficult, and scary, I lived in Guam at the time – halfway around the world from everyone I knew and any support system. I was terrified…but I left anyway. I don’t know how I would have left and divorced him without the support system I had. My friends (not mutual – those who were just mine) and family were extremely supportive and encouraged me to leave him. My dad handled everything so well. He never doubted me. He never judged me. This is the support that is needed when you’re trying to be free. My grandparents took me to the lawyer to divorce him. Standing strong alongside me. My journey started with reading countless self-help books because I learned that working on yourself is as essential as taking care of yourself. Both new concepts to a survivor of domestic violence. After being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) two years after I left, I finally started therapy. I was extremely lucky in that I did not have to work for an entire year and could focus my time on healing and therapy. And while I had that year of dedicated time, healing from domestic violence is a lifelong endeavor – I’m still in therapy now and on doctor prescribed medications. It truly is a journey and with a good therapist and a variety of treatments (such as Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapy and Eye Movement Desensitization and Processing (EMDR)), you will continue to heal.