I was a good kid. I was the kind of kid who did everything right. I never broke rules and was a friend to everyone. I had loving parents who protected me from the evils of the world. At age 18 I went off to university to get my degree. I was an excited and innocent girl ready to get an education and change the world.
When I met my abuser, he was a very charismatic charming. He was that guy on campus who everyone knew. We dated for three months before getting engaged. At this time I was 19. The next couple of months seemed like magic. The morning of the wedding I felt a little strange. The day didn't feel right, but I convinced myself it was just wedding jitters. After the ceremony we walked out to greet those waiting for us outside. Just before we got to them he turned to me and said, "I don't think I should have married you," then photographers and family whisked us around giving me no time to even process what I had just heard. I felt like I wasn't alive, everything was blurry and I felt dizzy. I got through the photos somehow and we drove away to get to the reception. I remembered the yelling and the anger coming from him as we drove to the reception. I remember fear coming over me. I remember walking into the reception with a fake smile painted on my face. I remember at one point finding myself on the bathroom floor crying. My beautiful dress bunched up as I fell into the fetal position. I wiped my tears put on a fake smile and walked back into the room of the reception. The drive to our hotel seemed like years to me. I could barely hear his yelling over my tears. When we got to our room and he saw my body the first thing he said was, "I always thought my wife would have bigger breasts." He got angry at me for not being as sexy as he wanted and took me in such a painful way I could barely walk the next day. After he had his way with me, I fought the tears and tried to fall asleep. I tried to tell him no and I was in pain the next day, but he wouldn't stop. As he had more of me, it became more and more violent. In the religion I was raised in, men can give blessings to others. He used my faith in this against me. He laid his hands on my head and said that I needed to keep having sex with my husband and that the pain would subside. It didn't. I felt dead. I had been a virgin and this was the first time a man had seen or touched my body. It felt wrong, but I had no experience to know that this wasn't what sex was.
When we arrived at our new apartment on our college campus he ignored me for three days. The only time he spoke to me was to demand me to make him food. After three days the abuse really started. The things he did to me I can barely say. If I said no, it would only get worse. If I did anything wrong, even just burn toast he would yell and take me again. The only thing I could do was stay quiet and go numb. Eventually my body became so sick I was quarantined to my room. Even while being sick, he demanded I walk to the store and get food. I remember walking on the sidewalk just begging God to take me, praying that a car would hit me. I slowly became less and less of a person. I couldn't eat because putting anything in my mouth reminded me of when he pushed himself on me. When I tried to force myself to eat, I couldn't keep it down. I feared that it was my fault and after a while my abuser convinced me that it was my fault. I was too scared to tell my parents, or really anyone, so I was unable to get the help I needed. He would threaten to leave me and tell me no other man would ever want me. One night when he threatened to leave, I just simply accepted it and said he was free to go. He then tried to tell me he loved me and said we would go to our church leader (who was also a campus counselor) to get better. This is how things worked. He would break me and then bring me back in so I felt I couldn't live without him. He became that charming man again when we walked into our church leader's office and did the same thing later on in counseling. I finally gained the courage to go to this leader on my own and share what was happening. I was told that if I left him, all of his sins would be on me and I would be judged for divorce in the next life. I felt utter despair. I had to choose between a life of misery or the next life in hell.
Fortunately, I was able to find a teacher who introduced me to women who had similar experiences. They helped me to see that I could leave the abusive marriage and empowered me to see that the way I was treated was wrong. Soon after I met these women, I gained the courage to escape while he was at work.
The last five years I have struggled with PTSD, anxiety, and depression. It affects every relationship I have in my life, with myself, my family, my current relationship, friends, and anyone I meet. I no longer can easily trust another person and struggle to live a normal life. I spent many years silent. It's hard for me to tell my story because I still sometimes feel like it was my fault. There are still people who don't believe me or don't want to hear me. People ask: Why didn't you tell your parents? Why didn't you go to the police? Why didn't you get help? My answer: I did try to get help from a church leader and school counseling, but they made it worse. It made me fear telling my family. I had done nothing against the church standards and school honor code and was sexually, emotionally, and spiritually abused on campus by this man. Even after I left him and we were divorced the school wouldn't do anything to protect me from him. He broke the honor code and was allowed to finish and graduate from the university. I was too scared to go to the police because I didn't want to get kicked out of school and lose the education I worked so hard for. I lived in fear and silence for a long time.
Through a lot of soul searching, support from family and yoga, I have started to find my voice. I now am with a man whose entire family advocates for women. His whole family marched on Saturday. His sister marched in D.C. and the rest marched at sister marches. I was out of the country and so his brother's girlfriend wore her pink pussy hat for me. The jokes and comments President Trump has made brought me back to that hell I lived in. Getting "grabbed by the pussy" was a reality for me and when he joked about doing it to a woman, my heart broke. Many women have said they don't need to march to be heard, or make the march all about abortion. I say to them, there are women who aren't heard who are crying on a bathroom floor about to get raped again by their husband. There are women who are beaten for wearing a hijab. There are women who can't afford birth control to keep from having a child born into abuse. There are women who are silenced and cannot march. You may be heard, but these women are not. I march for them and I march for myself. The Women's March on Washington has finally made me feel heard. It has made me feel believed. It has made me feel like I am not alone. It has given me the courage to tell my truth. To the women who marched—I thank you. I thank you for being an advocate for women who are still living in the hell I lived. I thank the men who marched for realizing this is your fight too. I thank all those who marched for helping me in my healing journey. You may not know me or my story, but you marched for me.