This is what domestic violence looks like
It didn’t start with an outright beating. It started with calling me “slut” and “whore” and with outrageous little demands like changing my profile picture and not wearing a certain skirt.
Then he started throwing things at me. But in between all these were precious, intimate moments I would share with him. It’s not all bad, I thought. He just gets angry.
Then he hit my face. Then he hit me again the next week. And then the next. And then he was hitting me now every week. By this time, I had discovered the wonders of Benefit Boi-ing concealer. The bruises were too big to hide, I’d wear jeans or put on a sweater.
One time, I went home to my family looking so black and blue that I had to say I had a wall-climbing accident. Yes, maybe your lips could pop during wall-climbing.
I didn’t tell anyone, not because I was simply afraid, but because there’s a certain kind of shame in admitting that the person you love and trust most in the world hurts you. And I would always think: It’s not abuse, he’s just angry. You don’t understand him. I do.
It didn’t help that he would do grand gestures of love every time he hit me or every time he thought I would leave. One time, he sent over a dozen bouquets in one night; they couldn’t even fit in my room. Does threatening suicide count as a grand gesture of love? I got that all the time, too.
I’m going to leave you, I told him. For real this time. See? It’s not like we don’t try to leave. He exploded on my parents and friends. You don’t get to leave me, he told me again and again.
He first threatened a friend of mine by sending a naked picture of me, with a demand: April must talk to me, or I will spread this online.
Then he sent it to other friends. Then to my family. Then he made a public spectacle by hacking all my social media accounts.
Thank God he didn’t upload my pictures on Instagram. But he did send it to over 30 of my parents’ business associates that week.
It’s not like we don’t try to leave. But I still found myself rationalizing: It’s not abuse; he’s just… out of control.
Now that everyone in my life was hating him, he told me: Come with me to Ecuador (and America) and we can start over there.
Maybe if he sees that I can give up everything for him, he’ll treat me better, I thought. So I agreed. By this time, isolated from everyone in my life, I had lost all capacity to actually leave him. I had no income of my own and was only helping him in his business. I wasn’t allowed to contact anyone in the Philippines. I wasn’t allowed to leave our house without his permission. My laptop had a keylogger, and there were security cameras around me. What I did every minute of the day was reported to him.
In Ecuador, I learned that I would rather be hit in the face, have a big, ugly bruise and not be allowed to leave my room than to be punched in the torso or kicked in the back, because the pain and the bruises just lasted longer and your nose bled more.
Do you know what it was like to have fists for breakfast, then to be brought to your favorite restaurant for lunch? Do you know what it felt like to be beaten up until you were begging for him to stop, only for him to then tend your wounds and bruises and tell you, again and again: I will fix you. I will fix you.
No, no more. You broke me.
I would hear this voice in my head.
This isn’t love. This is violence. This is abuse. But this voice got fainter and fainter. As the cycle continued, I stopped hearing it.
When I got rescued, I had a hard time recognizing there was something wrong in my situation. But I did get rescued nonetheless, because somewhere in this world, someone said it out loud: This isn’t love. This is violence. This is abuse.
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April Gomez (not her real name) is a sexual assault and domestic violence survivor. As an advocate against domestic violence, she dreams of a world safe for survivors of abuse. She is 23 years old, and a graduate of the University of the Philippines Manila. Court cases against her former partner are ongoing, and he is free.
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