Emily’s Personal Survivor Story

This story has verbal, physical, and sexual abuse triggers.

I’ve been incredibly moved by the brave stories that so many of you have shared with us. As a Survivor myself, giving a voice to women is incredibly important to me. But I realize and recognize that I have never shared MY Survivor Story. It’s the reason I am who I am today and why WodBottom is so passionate about helping women and children thrive after abusive relationships. Today, I’m sharing my story in hopes that it will help someone else in this community. Thank you, as always, for your support!

A Childhood of Abuse

For as long as I can remember, my Dad was an alcoholic. Like many trauma survivors, I don’t have clear recollections of my early years – it’s mostly fuzzy, with just flashes of memory – but I remember enough to know my house was anything but safe. I remember aggression from my Dad, screaming matches outside my bedroom door, and fear for my Mom’s safety.

I do, however, have a clear recollection of one incident. I was in Middle School, and my father lost his job (he was always in and out of work because of his addiction). My Mom went back to work to make ends meet, which only made my father feel worse about himself. I think he envied my Mom, or maybe saw her working as a loss of control. His aggression only increased, and we were constantly walking on eggshells around him, never sure what would set him off.

One night, as we ate our family dinner, something pushed Dad over the edge. He started yelling and flipped over the table, throwing food into the air and dishes into the wall. He stormed off, leaving my mother to clean up the mess and put the pieces back together.

She was always the one picking up the pieces he left behind.

Standing Up for My Mom

A few years after the table-flipping incident, I overheard yet another altercation between my parents. One night, through the wall of their door, I heard my father trying to force himself on my Mom. She resisted, and he said things like, “you’re my wife. You have to.” I heard a struggle. More arguing.

That’s when I decided to step in. I called the police. They came to the house, and they hauled my Dad away for the night. We never talked about it again, but I know he resented me because I dared stand up to him. But the abuse didn’t stop.

"We never knew whether he would be “sleepy drunk Dad,” “angry drunk Dad,” or “abusive drunk Dad.” "

From Bad to Worse

In the years that followed, the situation went from bad to worse. My bedroom door was next to my parents’ room, and I heard nearly every fight they had. It was a chaotic and stressful adolescence, fearing for my Mom’s safety and trying to negotiate my father’s temper. We never knew whether he would be “sleepy drunk Dad,” “angry drunk Dad,” or “abusive drunk Dad.”

But no matter how bad things got, my mother tried to maintain the marriage. Her religion taught her that divorce was never an option and that she needed to continue “forgiving” and “supporting” her husband. Even as he abused her. Even as he made our lives a living hell.

Finally, I wrote her a letter and asked her to divorce my Dad. I don’t know if that was a catalyst for her leaving, but I like to think it was that encouragement that opened her eyes to the seriousness of the situation.

The Hope and Happiness After Abuse

My father refused to leave our family home when my mother asked for a divorce. So, she packed up all of us kids and moved into a tiny, 3-bedroom duplex where we all shared rooms. It should have been a stressful time – leaving our big house with the big yard and moving into a smaller space where we were practically on top of one another. But it wasn’t.

Instead, it felt like a weight had been lifted. We were free of the fear and tension that living with an abuser had inflicted on all of us. My mother came alive again. I saw her smile and laugh more than I had in my entire life. I saw her embrace her power and follow her dreams. I saw her become an independent woman who had overcome something no woman should have to face.

"Today, I’m thankful to be in the healthiest partnership I’ve ever encountered. My husband Than is kind and patient and understands that my past has impacted my present."

Childhood Trauma and Adult Relationships

Because I grew up in a dysfunctional home, I never knew what a healthy relationship looked like. While I understood that it was unacceptable for a man to treat someone the way my Dad treated my Mom, I also gravitated towards similar types of relationships. It felt normal to me, even if I knew it wasn’t healthy.

My first marriage was a disaster. While my ex wasn’t physically abusive, I did experience emotional and financial abuse. Luckily, I saw the writing on the wall and left that marriage before it could impact my life and the lives of my children.

Get Help & Stay Strong

Today, I’m thankful to be in the healthiest partnership I’ve ever encountered. My husband Than is kind and patient and understands that my past has impacted my present.

However, my past does not dictate my future.

I am strong.

I am a survivor.

You can overcome childhood trauma. And you deserve a healthy relationship and a happy, peaceful life. If you need help, please don’t wait. Reach out to Domestic Abuse Intervention Services or the National Domestic Violence Hotline today.