“He would treat everybody else like they were a ray of sunshine, but he treated me like I was garbage,” Susan said.
She stayed with him for seven years.
“I thought it was normal,” she said. “If that’s all you know, you think abuse is normal.”
When the emotional abuse turned physical, Susan’s sister urged her to get help. So she reached out to Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton’s Providence House Domestic Violence Services in Burlington County.
The ugly roots of abuse
There, she attended weekly domestic-violence education classes for two months, where counselors helped her identify a pattern of abuse in her life suffered at the hands of male relatives and partners going back into her childhood. She also learned to recognize red flags in a partner’s behavior to help her avoid falling back into that pattern.
“As women, we try to look past the abuse, because you think your abuser will change,” said Susan, 53, a mother of eight. “But abuse is not normal. Abuse is just that – abuse. It’s not right, it’s not normal, and nobody should have to go through that.”
She continued healing in weekly support-group meetings she attended at Providence House for six months. Catharsis came as she learned how to love herself again.
Learning to laugh again
“Before him (her partner), I was very outgoing, outspoken, jovial. I was always laughing,” Susan said. “But he took away my self-worth, my self-respect, my self-esteem. He took away my laughter. I had to learn how to be that person all over again, because when I was with him, all that disappeared.”
“I don’t see myself as a victim anymore. I’m victorious,” she said. “Now I know what to look for. If I don’t feel right about something, I won’t take it. I’m not going to let someone else define me. I define myself.”
For more information, contact Mary Pettrow, Providence House’s associate director, at at (856) 824-0599, ext. 8609.
For help: Providence House offers free, confidential services in Burlington (pictured at right, above) and Ocean (pictured at right, below) counties. To connect with care, call our toll-free hotline at (800) 246-8910.
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