As a 22-year-old growing up in Indiana, Erin never guessed one of her boyfriends would beat her, berate her and lock her in her own house. She is now 32-years-old and willing to share her story. After enduring a cycle of psychological abuse and physical violence for almost a year, Erin ended the relationship and moved to Chicago where she maintains a career as a personal injury attorney.
When did you first realize the relationship was abusive?
About two months in he started causing problems for no reason. He locked me in the house all the time and he would leave for periods of time. He would get pretty drunk and would wake me up at five in the morning. He would punch me in the back, and like pin me down, spit on my face. At another poin, he pulled a gun on me.
What did family and friends say?
My friend went with me and took me to the police station. She's the one that finally got me to go. It took me a long time to even report it because I felt bad that I was going to get this guy arrested. We have mutual friends, I work with his friends. I felt guilty.
Were there any red flags?
He was Immediately into saying that he was my boyfriend and telling me that he loves me. Two months into he was causing problems for no reason, always screaming at me.
His friend even warned me about him. She said there's been stories about him and his ex-girlfriends. But you just figure that “something happens” and you never hear both sides of the story. I didn't listen because ex-girlfriends or boyfriends say things that aren't necessarily true.
What happened when you ended the relationship?
We broke up, finally, and then he starts stalking me. He's waiting for me in the parking lot of my apartment building, threatening to kill my brother and calling me constantly. Just call after call after call after call after call. Leaving messages, showing up at my work.
I went out with someone else and he called me and knew who it was because he was sitting in my parking lot and watched me go out with him.
Did you ever speak with police about his behavior?
He was calling me while I was at the police station. Over and over again. So I go to talk to the police and try to file an order of protection. I tell them I don't know what to do, this guy has guns and he's pulled them on me before so I'm scared for my safety.
The cops are like, “Why didn't you come to us sooner? How stupid.” It wasn't a positive experience.
I walked around the building looking for places I should go. They kept sending me to different places. I finally talked to this officer who knew him from high school. He took down the information and called the guy and told him to leave me alone. That was all he did. So he stopped for a little bit but then saw me out on a date with another guy and started all over again, but calling from a private phone number.
Were there any reasons why you stayed in this relationship longer than you should have?
My whole life had been pretty abusive so it's not that abnormal for me to be dealing with that kind of stuff. I never felt like really terrified even though I probably should have. It seems odd now that I look back and see that I wasn't scared.
I felt bad that I was going to get this guy arrested. We have mutual friends, I work with his friends.
He was always telling me how great I am outside when he was abusing me. He was always really persistent. Always calling me, trying to get back together with me. I just stayed with him until I started dating other people.
What advice do you have to give to other girls experiencing this situation?
It's hard not to think that it's all your fault. Just be careful. He wanted to be involved too quickly and wrapped up into it too quickly.
How did you recover from such traumatic experiences?
Eventually, I changed my phone number and I moved here (to Chicago). I was working two jobs and into school full time. I just kept myself busy. I try to be open about it and I don't want to hide it.