Maria’s Story: “The Center helped me to get my life back”

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Photo of Woman as illustration for story about surviving a violent relationship

(We are using a stock photo in this story to preserve our client’s privacy.)

From paralyzing fear of her abuser to determination to end the relationship, Maria made a plan that put her on the path to a violence-free new beginning

Maria felt hopeless, scared, and powerless in her relationship with a verbally abusive partner who often made threats to harm her if she ever attempted to leave him. She met her partner, George, in 2020 on a dating app online, and when they first started going out, he seemed like a great guy.

“He was very nice for a month,” she said. “Then he started yelling and screaming.”

Over the next few months of the relationship, Maria, who lives in Kentuckiana and works in Education, said she was constantly on the receiving end of a barrage of hurtful remarks from her partner.

“He said I was overweight, and he told me that I wasn’t pretty,” she said. “He tried to shame me about my looks.”

Maria said George also exhibited controlling behaviors, including attempting to tell her where she could go and what she could do. She said he flirted with other women and told her that he cheated on her with someone at work who was also named Maria. Because of his abuse toward her, she lived in a constant state of fear.

“He said he could do what he wanted because he was rich and his family was well known,” she said.

Maria told no one about the abuse. “I kept quiet out of fear for my safety,” she said.  She wanted to tell her family, but she was worried that George would find out and retaliate against them.

“I didn’t tell them anything that happened because I was afraid he would hurt them.”

Four months into the relationship, however, as her partner’s abuse began to escalate, Maria broke her silence and introduced him to her mom, but she remained silent about the abuse. She allowed the introduction to take place so that her mom would know who she was dating in the event something happened to her.

Despite her silence about the abuse, Maria said she picked up on her mom’s worry about her. “She knew something was wrong because I had never waited that long to introduce her to someone.”

After George met Maria’s mom and family, she said he plotted to sabotage her relationship with them and to turn her mom against her.

“Not that anything he said or did could ever turn my mom against me,” said Maria.

By the time Maria had been dating George for five months, she said she knew she had to get out of the relationship, but when she tried to end it, she said he terrified her by making a threat to kill her.

“I begged God for my life, and I begged that he wouldn’t follow through with the threat,” she said.  Paralyzed by fear, Maria did not end the relationship.

Six months into the relationship, Maria was living a dual reality. Her partner proposed to her, and she accepted the proposal. At about the same time, however, Maria was more determined than ever to take steps to get out of the relationship.

“The verbal and emotional abuse were destroying my sense of well-being,” she said.

Maria’s first step in her plan to leave the relationship was placing a call to The Center for Women and Families. She said that among the things she learned from an advocate at The Center was that there was a lethality risk for her. She met with a case manager who helped her make a personal plan to keep herself safe. She began secretly saving money. She learned about legal options. She started attending counseling and support groups.

Six more months passed, and in late winter of 2022, Maria ended the relationship. “For every step along the way, I am grateful for everything The Center did,” she said. “Without The Center, I would not be alive today.”

Maria is now excited about new beginnings. She is healthy, and she recently started a new job. She said she is in a good relationship that is a stark contrast from the abusive relationship she survived.

“He is very loving,” she said. “He is my soulmate. He is supportive and caring in a healthy way.”

Maria said she hopes her story will help other survivors. “The Center helped me to get my life back,” she said. “I want to inspire others to know it will get better.”