Winnipeg woman shares her experience living in a relationship with domestic violence

This is Part 2 in a four-part series about domestic violence. 

Part 1: Domestic violence continues to be biggest reason why Winnipeg police are called

Jessica can’t forget the first time her ex-boyfriend gave her a black eye.

His temper erupted before they were supposed to meet friends for dinner.

“He told me that day to put makeup on it before we go there,” she said.

“I did and they did notice it was a black eye and he made up a story about how it got there.”

Jessica, which is not her real name, was with her ex for two years, but she said the abusive side of him only was revealed after nine months of dating.

“It doesn’t start off bad. No one would stay with someone when it starts off bad, but he was nice at the start. There was a lot of things I liked about him. Eventually when things got bad, part of the reason I stayed with him was because I wanted it to be the person I knew him for in the start,” she said.

“A lot of it is kind of not obvious. They start off small like ‘Why are you wearing makeup today? Who are you looking good for?’ and things like that. It progresses up to bigger things,” she said.

Her relationship was wrapped up in control and manipulation.

“It’s like walking on eggshells, you never know when the other shoe’s going to drop and things are going to get bad. It’s not always bad, sometimes it’s good and then it switches back to bad. And when it’s good you think it’s going to stay good. But it doesn’t. It’s definitely a cycle,” she said.

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Dr. Rayleen De Luca is a psychologist who said abuse comes in cycles. It starts with some agitation, then the explosive phase takes place and then there’s the final phase, which is when the abuser asks for forgiveness and things smooth over.

“This is very difficult because if you recall, during the honeymoon phase the victim feels like it’s going to be OK, he’s changed, this will never happen again. So it sometimes has to happen over and over again before the victim said that’s enough,” she said.

“Here in Canada, generally every six days that one woman has been murdered by an intimate partner.”

Jessica said she doesn’t remember the amount of times she was abused by her partner because she lost count, adding it was always in the back of her mind that she could one day be killed by her partner.

After the bruises faded, she said the sting of the psychological and emotional abuse remained.

“The physical stuff it healed, it all went away and the verbal stuff is harder. It took me longer to be able to form connections after that,” she said.

“I took him back probably four times in between because he promised he would change, he was different and things would be different.”

What finally motivated Jessica to leave was a friend who reached out and told her something wasn’t right about her relationship.

“A lot of people knew what was going on and no one did anything,” she said.

“It’s not something that’s an open conversation. People are aware that it happens but it’s not something that’s all over. It’s kind of like the dark secret of the dating world.”

Jessica is now out of her relationship and happy. She said she hopes others who need help will access resources available.

“What they’re going through is not OK. You know and they’re worth more than what they’re settling for. There’s people out there who are willing to help you if you take the steps to do it. There are people willing to support you. You’re worth more than what you’re settling for.”

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