Photography by Winter Freire Photography
Meet Sami. She is Beauty Revived.
I am the survivor of an abusive relationship. The person that promised to love me most, out of everyone in the world, also told me countless times I wasn’t worth it. He showed me countless times I wasn’t worth it. He put his hands on me, countless times, proving that, in fact, he was the one that wasn’t worth it. After he would tear me down, he would promise me the world, showing me the life we could have. He told me that he couldn’t live without me. We had made it through so much, and we had to love each other at our worst. His worst, is what I started to see. Then we realized that I was expecting. Now we had to stay together, for our family. The majority of domestic violence happens during or right after pregnancy. As many others, my pregnancy was a huge reason I stayed. I stayed and hoped that the miracle of life, ‘our life, our baby,’ would change it, would change him.
I thought I was too smart to be in an abusive relationship. I had the money and support to leave. But I “didn’t need to.” He convinced me, with the greatest weapon on this earth, love. He manipulated me to think it wasn’t that bad. Until a couple’s counselor, a professional, called me after our session. She told me that she would no longer be able to see him and I. She feared that I would face the repercussions of what was discussed in council, once we left those closed doors. I couldn’t believe that someone who sees multiple couples, at their worst, thought we were beyond saving. She urged me to get out. Less than a week later, I laid in the fetal position on the floor of my master bedroom, in the house we built together. In fear, that I would never hold my baby again, see my baby again, or smell the sweet smell of my baby again. On average, a victim is abused eight times before they either leave or pass away. I’m embarrassed to say that wasn’t the first time he laid his hands on me. But I am proud to say it was the last.
For the longest time, I didn’t know how to address this with my loved ones, colleagues, or acquaintances. At first no one noticed, and I confided in few. However, over time, it became more and more obvious. I became stronger and more courageous, in telling my story. The state took his criminal case, and I was granted the maximum restraining order. However, at worst, all he faced was a misdemeanor. I began to question, what line had to be crossed for him to truly earn jail time? I learned that I would have had to sustain life-altering injuries. I also learned that I wasn’t my fiancé’s first victim. Then it occurred to me, why don’t we have a Domestic Violence Registry? This isn’t a new concept. In fact, Canada has a Domestic Violence Registry. A few states have proposed bills for a Domestic Violence Registry, to be set into law. Furthermore, I believe that this is a federal concern, as a registry should span every state, and be cohesive. I also believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that I endured all that happened to me, to help others, especially other mothers or expectant mothers. I am fighting for a country-wide registry, along with more protective legislation for victims. I also work closely with my advocates at the city, upon their request, to help train police officers on what to look for, when they enter domestic disturbance calls. After all, domestic violence accounts for the majority of police calls. I plan to represent my city at the Two Days in May, Call to Action Conference on Victim Assistance, hosted by the Ohio Attorney General’s office. Additionally, in October, Domestic Violence Awareness month, I hope to attend the State House on behalf of my city, to voice my opinion, and hear the opinion of others.
Luckily for me, my daughter was too young to know how her mother was abused. Little does she know, she is my motivation to make this world a better place. One day, she will be proud of me. She will be proud not only for getting through such a rough time, but for using that rough time to make sure victims can feel safer, stronger, and more loved. I hold her tight, and promise her that I will keep her safe. In return, she flashes me those smiles that promise me an innocent, optimistic, confidence in a hopeful future. My love, we have the world at our feet, full of so many promises, we will make the most of those, together.