As told to me by Ieshea.
I always remembered him as the person I met in the beginning; quiet, easy-going, and compassionate, but over time things changed. He was my first love, we’re both from the same area in New Orleans. I thought I knew him so well. We dated for a few years and I saw the signs then, but I tried my best to overlook them, I even convinced myself that he would change. But he never did, it only got worse. The most traumatic memory was the one day I decided to fight back. After six long years of dealing with domestic violence, I finally found the courage to fight back. I came at him with a knife, then he struck me with a gun over my head. I was unconscious for I don’t know how long. I woke up in a pile of blood, and he was still there just letting me suffer. He even finally escorted me to the hospital. I don’t even think he wanted to go with me, he only did because his cousin told him to. When we arrived, I had to tell a lie and say I had a fight with someone else when he was actually the person who did it. I felt horrible.
He was physically, emotionally, and mentally abusive. I would go to work and when I got home, he wanted to fight, for no reason. During the relationship, we had two children together and he even fought me while I was pregnant, on both occasions! I don’t think it was anything I was doing, he had a bad drug addiction, which was apart of the problem. I reached out to his family, his mother told me to leave because she knew I could do better. I confided with my friends and tried my best to hide it from my family, but eventually they figured it out. My friends encouraged me to get out of the relationship but it wasn’t that easy. I learned that no matter how much you’re told, you have to make a personal decision to determine when you’ve had enough.
Thankfully, my oldest daughter was too young to remember what all went down. She is curious to know where all the burn marks came from on my body, or why I have a gash in my head, but I try my best to keep it concealed. About three years ago, I was diagnosed with a disease that affects my brain functionality called Pseudotumor Cerebi. There are signs and symptoms of a tumor, but there’s none present. I have to take medications twice a day, for the rest of my life. I also have to see a neurologist once a month to monitor the brain disease and if not treated properly, there is a strong possibility that I could go blind. All from him striking my head with a gun several years ago.
Currently, he is incarcerated for a different offense, but is definitely paying for what he did to me. He went to jail when I was pregnant with my second child, my son, and they have never met. My children write letters to him in prison from time to time, but my son doesn’t want to have much to do with him. The most valuable part of this experience was finding God and building a relationship with Him. I walked around for so long holding this stuff in but when I got to a point where I let the baggage go, I was able to move on. I eventually forgave him for what he did. When I got to the point to forgive him, I asked my husband to take me to the jail so I could forgive him in person. Once I did, my husband saw a huge change in me. I would take the anger out on my husband and all I knew was to fight. My husband would hold me, and he understood the pain I was going through. I prayed, a lot. At first my husband couldn’t understand why I wanted to forgive this man who put me in such dangerous situations but now he knows, he understands.
I was inspired to share my story to help the next person. By living to share my testimony, I hope to give someone else the courage to get away from a situation like that. No matter what choices we make, or fail to make, there are consequences; especially in cases of domestic violence. I have to walk around with a disease and take medications for the rest of my life. However, it has made me stronger because I’ve learned from the consequences.
My advice to any person experiencing domestic violence is to leave the situation and make sure you seek help and try to get help for the abuser. Obviously, there’s something going on with the person too, that person needs help as well. I am thankful God has sent me a loving husband. He’s assumed the father role for my children and most importantly, he has shown me what real love looks and feels like.
Ieshea Hartwell started a non-profit organization in 2011, Agapé Christian Counseling Center, to inspire all people to seek God through difficult times. You can learn more about her organization at http://www.agapecccinc.org.