By Lisa Battaglia
I recently attended the March for Our Lives in Niagara Square with some friends and was so moved by the students who got up and spoke about gun violence and how these school shootings are affecting them. This compelled me to write about another form of violence that does not get enough news coverage but happens on a daily basis, it has many names but the end result is the same. This violence I am talking about goes by domestic violence, intimate partner violence and teen dating violence.
I can write about this topic because I am a survivor, so I would consider myself an expert.
My experience started when I was 18 years old and living in Arizona. I had just moved into an apartment with my cousin and she and her boyfriend introduced me to his friend and we started dating. Everything was wonderful for a while as it goes in new relationships, but after a while the mind games started. This is the part most people do not understand so I will do my best to explain.
The abuse starts by chipping away at your self-esteem, at this point it is all mental. This goes on until you start believing every negative thing said about you and eventually you have no self-confidence and no self-esteem. You become like a robot and do as you are told. Once the abuser gets you to this point, he starts getting physical and blames you for his actions. It is always your fault when he gets physical because you made him act that way because of something you said or did or didn’t do. The bottom line is if he feels like getting physical, he will, even if you do or say nothing.
I experienced all of the above and even got threatened with death. We lived in Arizona and at the time the state's gun laws were very lax. At 16 years old, you could buy a rifle and at 20 you could buy a handgun. My abuser had both and threatened me with both.
Now I know what you are thinking: Why didn’t I just leave? But go back to the mental part I talked about and understand my mind was not my own and the times I did leave, he would tell me he was going to change and I would go back. I also was told that if I left for good he would find me and kill me and I totally believed he would.
Eventually we moved back to Buffalo because he told me things would be so much better because our families were there. Again, I know what you are thinking: How stupid could I be? Nothing got better; it only got worse and one day, by the grace of God, I made an appointment with a therapist and unbeknownst to him, I started going to therapy. I eventually got my confidence and self-esteem back and started planning to leave. He didn’t like the new me so he left with someone else.
I am one of the lucky ones who got out alive not all victims are that lucky. Some 4.8 million women experience physical violence by an intimate partner every year, according to the American Psychological Association. Statistics show it takes a woman seven to nine times to leave for good. New York State just passed legislation that prohibits anyone convicted of domestic violence from having a gun. This will save lives; an abuser’s access to a gun significantly increases the chances of victims being killed.
My greatest hope is that someone reading this will recognize themselves and seek help. There are 24-hour places you can contact for help.
Lisa Battaglia struggled to get out of an abusive relationship.