I’m a Survivor, Not a Victim

I have known my abuser for roughly ten years. We have dated on and off since I was in high school. I was seventeen, he was twenty one and I fell for him hard and fast. We were living together by the second month of dating and by month three he had me isolated hundreds of miles away from anyone I knew. And, of course, that's when the abuse started.

At first it was just a slap or him spitting in my face or dumping a beer over my head. But then I got pregnant, and things got worse. He'd choke me until I would pass out, punch me in the face, throw chairs and other objects at me. And I was well aware that he was cheating on me with a girl named Mindy who worked at Applebee's with him. Still I “loved him” and tried to make it work.

After our daughter was born, I left. Not because of the abuse necessarily, but because of Mindy. And that's when he ran to her. I warned her that Duane was dangerous, but she didn't listen. So one night they fought and he took off with her in her own car, beat her then left her on the side of the road and took off. He was charged with multiple felonies, but signed a plea deal which gave him five years in prison.

He spent the first four years of our oldest daughter's life in prison for aggravated kidnapping, and when he got out on parole I tried to make things work again…but only ended up pregnant and terrorized by his abusive ways once more. He ran from parole, and I kicked him out. Nine months later, I had our second daughter. He was already in a relationship with a new girl, Patrice.

I thought he was happy with her. I thought maybe we could co-parent better now. He did ok for a while, but then I started getting weird texts from him. Like why was I ripping his family apart? Why was I “letting” him get engaged to Patrice? And then the stalking started.

Eventually, I ended up in Houston with Duane and his mother where he held us captive for three days. Each night we got a worse beating. The last night, I ended up unconscious from a glass ashtray to the head. I woke up on the living room floor, bloody and certain that he would kill us both if this was to continue. He made me lay down in bed and refused to take me to the hospital. The next night, just as he began his drunken rant, his brother showed up and put it to a stop. I ran back home to Denton where I'd left our daughters with my mother and sister. Still, covered in bruises, cuts, and bite marks, I didn't report him to the police. But I did seek a protective order. I was denied.

Five months later, in August, we attended court for child support. Unable to talk directly to me because of the domestic violence flag on our case, he tracked down my car in the parking lot and left a note: “I've never been sorrier. I love you.”

I fell for it, again. He began to live by himself instead of with his new girlfriend Patrice. And we began to see each other once more. By September I was practically living with him. And then the abuse started…again.

He was mad about being on child support. He demanded I take him off of it, or marry him and move back in so it would be taken off by the state.
I refused to marry him while he was dating both myself and Patrice and because the girls get state benefits there was no way the state would let me take him off of child support.

What happened next was the scariest night of my life. He waited until his roommates were gone or in their rooms before he began attacking me. I tried calling 911 discreetly, but he caught me and hung it up before I could connect to the operator. I screamed out for help, but none came. He proceeded to beat and choke me until I fell unconscious. Then he'd wake me up by throwing me around by my hair. By the second or third time I woke up, the police were knocking at the door. One of the neighbors heard my screams and called them.

He immediately stopped. He begged me not to get him thrown in jail. I ran for the door, begging him to just let me leave. He didn't stop me, and I didn't tell the police what happened. My mother came to pick me up that night. The next morning I woke up covered in bruises. The worst of them on my face and around my throat.

I took one look at myself in the mirror that morning and burst into tears. I knew I'd almost died. If the cops hadn't shown up, he would have strangled me to death. He almost had. I went back to the city and made a police report. Pretty quickly I was granted the protective order I had been trying to get for months. The police report became an active felony investigation, which led to Duane running from a felony warrant for domestic violence strangulation.

Fast forward six months or so later, and a friend of mine informs me that his girlfriend Patrice has changed her last name to Duane's on Facebook and there's a new profile picture of them both. I informed the detective, and about a week later Duane was arrested at her place by the Texas Marshalls.

From what I understood at first, he was facing a third degree felony charge which could carry a sentence of two to ten years in prison. I just recently found out that because this is not his first violent felony, they enhanced the charge to a first degree felony. The minimum is twenty five to life. They first offered him thirty five years, but he hasn't taken a plea deal yet. He's currently sitting in Denton County Jail on two charges, the second of which was his violation of the protective order. His bonds are set at $450,000 for the felony and $150,000 for the protective order violation.

I was shocked at first, to know that the father of my children was facing twenty five to life because of me. And then my therapist reminded me it's NOT because of me. It's because of the choice HE made. He didn't have to get violent. He had other options.

He married that poor girl Patrice. I feel bad for her, married to a man who not only abuses his partners but is facing twenty five to life. I can't warn her, I tried with Mindy and it didn't work. She's better off with him behind bars. He needs help, and I need justice. I don't think he'll get better behind bars, but I know I'll feel safer at night. And I'll know that Patrice is safer too, even if she doesn't see it that way.

I spent over a year in domestic violence therapy and I still feel guilty, shameful and helpless sometimes. But I'm beginning to see my own worth, that I don't deserve to be abused, ever, no matter what the reason. Before, I felt in a way that I deserved it. I'd been brainwashed to think that my actions made me responsible for HIS actions.

We're in the court phase of this debacle, and it's dragging out. I don't think he's going to take a plea. I think he's gonna take this to trial. And I'm scared. Of facing him in court, of him getting out. It's all very up in the air right now. Despite my fear, I am going to stand up for myself this time. I'm going to make sure that he is held accountable for his actions.

Submitted by: Samantha Jones

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