I was 27 and drowning in debt, having left my career as a well-respected professional, living at home, with no health insurance. In other words, I was completely adrift. I met an man who swept into my life and quickly turned from charmingly quirky and sexy to emotionally and physically abusive. At first I thought he was fun and unconventional, unlike anyone I’d ever been with. I dated and then lived with this highly volatile man for about three months before I became pregnant. I had been having problems taking my birth control and he insisted on not using condoms. Like most abusers, he succeeded in isolating me from my family and friends as the situation escalated.
By the time he tried to kill me a few months later, I felt trapped, alone and completely ruined. I was also close to 13 weeks pregnant.
That night, after hours of fighting that led to him forcibly kicking open the door to the bathroom where I tried to hide, I awoke to him strangling me early that morning, at about 5am. I lost consciousness but fortunately, by the grace of God, I managed to escape and call 911. He fled our apartment and was arrested within minutes. I was in total shock but I knew what I had to do first. I desperately needed an abortion.
Abortion didn’t feel like a choice or an option or however else you could describe it. Instead, it was me deciding, in that first small but important way, to reclaim my life from this violent and dangerous man who had almost ended my life.
I wish I could say that this was the first time he’d tried to hurt me but it wasn’t. While he had never punched or hit me, he did pull my hair, shoved me, damaged my belongings and property, drove erratically with me in the car, and generally acted aggressively in ways that were scary. He controlled my money, my phone, my spirit and my actual physical whereabouts at all times. He was also paranoid, convinced I was cheating on him with men I had never even met or spoken to. Becoming pregnant made his child made him even more paranoid. In his delusional mind, he would no longer be able to tell if I cheated and another man got me pregnant behind his back. He also isolated me when we moved to a sleepy island community in the dead of winter where we didn’t know a single person who lived closer than 30 miles away.
After he strangled me, I was covered in deep ligature marks from where his hands gripped around my neck and dark purple bruises on my arms from where he held me down. But for the very first time since I saw that positive pregnancy test, I had hope.
However, nearing the end of my first trimester, I knew I would have limited options in the area and that the closest clinic only offered first trimester abortion care. Fortunately, I was able to get an abortion in a clinic further away with safety and support.
It is incomprehensible to imagine what would have happened had I not had the option at all, if I had been forced to continue a pregnancy against my will under such horrible circumstances.
For me, from the moment I learned I was pregnant I knew I didn’t want to be. I knew I couldn’t be, at least not if I wanted to ever escape this situation. Even though his abusive, controlling tendencies were only beginning to emerge at that point, my intuition, my gut, told me something was wrong and that I was in danger. Despite having knowledge that the risk of violence and homicide increases for pregnant women, I convinced myself that he was different, that would never truly harm a pregnant woman. Unfortunately, he proved me wrong and his violent behavior intensified rapidly. Within weeks of confirming the pregnancy, he further isolated me – I was never without him. When I mentioned considering getting an abortion he became angry and threatening. And leaving him or hiding it from him was not an option; I could barely use the restroom without him judging, questioning, or otherwise analyzing every step, breath or word uttered. I lived in a cage.
I felt like a ticking time bomb. I knew that with each day that passed, my life was becoming increasingly threatened. And I knew deep in my soul that if I continued this pregnancy, I would never escape him and that even if I lived to give birth, I would spend the rest of my life fighting to keep him away and to protect myself. Life as I knew it would be over.
I felt horrible and hopeless.
But after the abortion, I knew that I had made the decision that was not just best for me, but truly the only decision I could make to go on living.
After I ended the relationship with tremendous support from my family and friends, he stalked me and I finally escaped completely by moving away. I have no doubt that if I had stayed pregnant, whether choosing adoption or parenting, he would have likely hurt me or even killed me. Though my life will never be quite the same, and the trauma I experienced will always be part of my story, nine years later I am here. I am a survivor and in my dream job supporting other women make the best decisions for their lives. I have greater empathy and compassion and have released judgment that I too often inflicted on myself. Today I feel free.