It was young love, and it felt exciting. Looking back, there were red flags early on, but I didn’t see them at the time. He didn’t want me to hang out with my friends or family. He wanted to be around me at every point and time. Little did I know then, that the control was just beginning.

But then he became more and more controlling. I didn’t have a degree, and his insults built up so much that I began believing they were true. I became pregnant for a third time after two miscarriages. He insisted the baby was not his, and verbally abused me. I was so alone. I didn’t have a cell phone back then, and he wouldn’t give me a set of keys to our home, so I literally couldn’t leave without him. I had no independence.

He was arrested for domestic violence after a particularly bad fight at our apartment, when my neighbor heard the screaming and called the police. Once he was released on bail, he kicked my neighbor’s door down and threatened to kill her if she ever called the police again. I was so tired of living with his volatility. I realized this was going to end with one of us being killed, and it couldn’t be me. I had so much more to live for. So I made the best decision of my life and I moved out. I gained the courage to leave, and we lived with my mom until I was able to move into an apartment of my own.

Today, I am a strong and empowered survivor. My children are thriving, and I’m beginning a first-time homebuyer’s program as I plan for our future. I earned my high school diploma in March 2018, and I am currently enrolled in college, earning a bachelor’s of science in criminal justice with a concentration in criminal crime and behavior. I’ve been married for eight years now, and have four amazing, beautiful children. I am living my best life.