He was four years my senior and I was in my senior year of high-school. I think it started out like any relationship does , it was young love. I met him through a friend of mine and he had this innate way of making me feel like I was the only girl in the world. We could be in a room full of people and it felt like it was just him and I. If I fell asleep he would cover me with a blanket, he was always doing kind gestures, massages and cooking meals. He was genuine and kind and for me at 17 it was different than the high-school relationships I had had previously.

I started spending quite a bit of time at his apartment and soon became aware that he was using drugs, it was than that I was exposed to the use of crack cocaine. Him and his roommate both shared this habit and often had people in the apartment that made me very uncomfortable one of which at one point flashed a hand gun that he had concealed in his pants. I was terrified, however I told him how I felt and ultimately gave him and ultimatum and he said he would stop and he did. It was a little over a week of hell dealing with withdrawals and mood swings. I associated the behavior with his detox and was forgiving and things were great for some time.

Eventually he started looking through my phone, monitoring my computer access , my phone calls, and what I could watch on the television. He would become upset when I would go out with friends, on one occasion he was hugging me goodbye and he squeezed me extremely hard and I let him know he was hurting me and he didn't stop. If he wasn't upset I was going out I might have considered it rough housing but this was different . This was the first instance of physical abuse that I encountered with him and it progressed from there. The next occasion when I was going to leave he ripped my shirt that I was wearing because he didn't approve. Shortly after this I remember going shopping and buying turtle necks to avoid another situation like this.

Shortly after the school year was completed we moved an hour north to live with his parents, than things progressively got worse and quickly. When we would go out if I spoke to girls he would call me a "dyke" if I spoke to men than I was a "slut". I became so accustom to keeping my head down when we were out, If people would speak to me I was careful in my response or the amount of attention I paid them. I wasn't allowed to get a job or go to school as he didn't want me encountering other men.

After some time I decided I was going to back home to live with my mom and go back to school and it was shortly after this I found out I was pregnant. I thought maybe we could make it work, boy was I wrong this went south and quickly. I missed mothers day with my mom because he didn't want me to go and locked me in a bedroom , his parents demanded he let me out in fear I would miscarry. He would push me down and tell me I didn't need to get "knocked up to get money from him every month', would tell me I should be charged with entrapment for getting pregnant. If I didn't get his clothes ready or do things "right" he would call me a "fat useless C**t" which I became accustom to hearing everyday. If I didn't want to sleep with him he would kick me out of bed once leaving a welt outline of a foot on my bottom. Often than referring to me as a pig and telling me to leave the room as he could still smell "the pig" in the room. If I would cry he would remind me of how old I am and would tell me to grow up often at times screaming in my face until I was physically ill from hyperventilating. The physical abuse started to escalate when my daughter was a few months old my mother had to stage her home and he became angry that my daughters wardrobe was taken apart . That evening he choked me several times at one point putting me in a headlock and pulling my hair so hard that it bled and I could not brush or so much as touch my hair for weeks he muffled my cries with a pillow in fear I would wake up the other members in my home. During this encounter my daughter woke up and was crying so I rocked her and sang to her trying to calm her down, while doing this he was pulling my hair and telling me to "shut up" and telling me I was fat pig.

I did not tell my mom any of this was going on and when my mother sold her home we moved back north to a home his parents provided us. Without anyone else in the home the abuse became more frequent. If I tried to leave he would take my daughter and not give her back, he would take my keys or my debit card, he would often take the phone so I couldn't call for help. His neighbours on several occasions heard my cries and witnessed him drag me in the house by my hair and yet not one of them called for help.

His computer would often restart and everytime it would re-boot MSN messenger would pop up , so when he would come home after a night out and would see this he thought I was on the computer talking to people. He would drag me out of bed often by my hair and force me to log in and tell him who I was talking to. I didn't go on MSN because I knew what would happen if I did but I would often make things up in hopes for some relief. He began choking me on a regular basis if things didn't go the way he wanted them to or he had a bad day, often he would walk by and stomp on my foot , or slap me in the back of the head, sometimes he would pick things up and throw them at me without warning. He started to become abusive even when I was holding my daughter often times slapping me across the face or choking me as she watched. He would always claim the next day he was "drunk" or "blacked out" and the honeymoon phase began, but this honeymoon phase became non existent. I started to confide in a friend about what was happening because she noticed a hand print around my neck, she became my only outlet as he had alienated me from my entire family and I was afraid to tell them.

In my last few weeks in the home there was no break , no honeymoon phase. I wouldn't sleep with him one day so he set my hair on fire and made sure he told me all of the things that were wrong with my body and with my genitals as well as telling me how much of a "slut" I was and that I was sleeping with "the whole town". He than took the phone out of the wall and forced me into the shower to try and hide the damage he had done to my hair, from than on I was forced to wear my hair down so no one could see what he had done. Shortly after this incident I saw a commercial for a Women and Crisis line , I remember laying awake thinking I should call but I was so terrified he would find out. He would often tell me that if I ever tried to leave he would bury me so far underground no one would ever find me but I knew I had to get out , I was so tired of watching my daughter cry as she watched on , I knew I had to get out for her. He would never abuse her often he would go from beating me to cuddling her on the couch , he loved her but the exposure to what she had to witness was so damaging. I finally worked up the courage to call and I called several times after that. They provided me tips in how to get out safely. They said I should start packing things he wouldn't notice are missing and hiding them away. So I did this for a couple weeks. In the four years I was with him I never once hit him back or so much as put my hands on him but the last night I was there he was choking me as my daughter stood there crying , I grabbed his sweater to try and get him off of me and it ripped. He became even more enraged and choked me to unconsciousness , when I came to my daughter was standing over me crying so I picked her up and consoled her. He told me to " put her the f**k down so I can knock you out" in that moment something clicked , I knew that was going to be my last night there. I thought what if next time he doesn't tell me to put her down he just hits me and she gets hurt . I laid awake all night and when he got up to go to work I put everything I could into my car our belongings, my daughter, our cat. I called my mom asked her to meet me at the courthouse and told her I was leaving him. I felt like a robot, I don't think I thought I just did . Once I arrived at the courthouse I applied for emergency custody of my daughter. That's when all of the emotions began to surface , I knew I couldn't stay with any family because he would find me. The judge actually brought me into her office and we called all of the shelters in the area until she found one with room for us.

It was two weeks before anyone knew where we were , I was so fearful he would find us and do exactly what he said he would . While in the shelter Children's Aid was involved as my daughter had been a witness to abuse and although they were amazing in providing great resources for us both they were actually the ones that disclosed my location as the region was in the documents provided to him. He admitted to the abuse and the worker didn't believe that our daughter should be kept from him. So I agreed to meet with him in a public place so he could see her, I told him that I would be going to court to gain full custody of our daughter. He looked at me and said " A judge is going to laugh at you, I never left any marks". I remember in that moment being so angry and so hurt . Not only did he infact leave bruises, welts, and hand prints and so they might have been minor compared to other abuse cases, but the worst marks of all were the ones he left on me mentally and emotionally. The marks that didn't just heal and quite frankly still haven't 8 years later. The physical abuse was the easiest to overcome although I will never forget any of it the marks did infact go away, but there is a permanent mark on me that will never heal and that effects me everyday in every aspect of my life.

I went from being an 18 year old mom essentially living out of my car with not so much as a high school diploma to someone that graduated high school, college, went onto a bachelors degree and have my own home. I went from nothing to something and there are so many amazing resources out there for women and children in these crisis situations. I want women to know they are not alone and everything will be okay in time. I consider myself lucky, I left and never looked back. I know there are women out there that don't ever get that luxury. I am lucky my daughter doesn't remember much I left when she was two so those memories faded into the background. We have done a lot of different groups for moms and children from abusive homes and there are a lot of great therapy options for children as well. I know this has shaped her to some degree those were some of the most crucial years in character building for children, she does suffer with some issues that I do know stem from these experiences but you can overcome it, with lots of love and the right resources.

If there are any women out there living like this please reach out , my inbox is always open. If you are worried about being tracked say something like " I am interested in buying the item you have for sale, when can we meet" or something along those lines! I am more than willing to help in any way I can . The Women in Crisis line is a safe great resource and the number is 1-800-265-7233 it is one hundred percent confidential and does not appear on your phone.

I know this is a lot and I am sorry if it is all over the place this is really the first time I have written or even spoke about it to this extent.

C. Ouellet