“You can’t have friends because they’re hoes, and a flock of birds fly together,” Chad said to Sophie. In the beginning, it was subtle abuse, accusations of cheating, controlling her social life by determining who she could and couldn’t see. But little did Sophie know what was coming.
Abuse in relationships can come in many forms such as emotional, physical or financial. Domestic abuse will affect one in four women and one in six men. It’s a growing problem in society and causes two women each week to be murdered by a current or former partner.
During the time of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, 6,488 soldiers were killed at war. By comparison, 11,766 women were killed as a result of domestic violence.
Sophie, a 21 year-old was born and raised in a small village called Lake Nebagamon, north of Wisconsin, near Minnesota with a population of fewer than two thousand people. At the age of five, her father passed away and her mother went on to find a new partner.
Sophie had helped raise her three siblings and then three more children from the mother’s new partner. “I was often known as the one with a heart of gold, or a second mother to my siblings,” said Sophie. She was always recognised to be good with children in her family.
After graduating high school and completing her first year of college, at 19, Sophie moved out. She met her boyfriend at the time, Mike, who worked a city job in Saint Paul, the state capital of Minnesota. She originally moved there to live with him, however, his job put a strain on his mental health and the relationship.
Mike would self-harm regularly, and she recalls him threatening her in moments of outburst that if she were to ever leave him he would “end it”, referring to his life. Sophie decided to put an end to this toxicity and find a home of her own, a place where she could “feel safe and not on edge.”
She found herself a rundown trailer, a place that she could work on as a little project. There was no running water or heating connected to the trailer, so she relied on her neighbours to be able to take showers and do laundry in their home.
Her neighbours were married with two children. Sophie, having a loving personality, found herself babysitting them. It kept her bills paid so she could remain independent until she could get herself back on her feet and in a comfortable situation.
A couple of months later, her neighbours had someone move in, a new boy to the area named Chad. Sophie described him as “the sweetest, most caring guy I’ve ever encountered, he promised to give me the world, and we talked about having children and getting married all the time.” She didn’t think that she would find herself in a similar situation as she did with Mike.
After turning 20, she began to experience symptoms of pregnancy. Chad didn’t believe her. He thought she was faking nausea, headaches, cramps and the lack of sex drive, making her feel guilty for saying no to sexual interaction which resulted in her being pressured to avoid being yelled at. So she decided to take a pregnancy test. It was positive, and she was seven weeks on.
When Sophie announced the pregnancy to Chad, his response was “well you are the one that wanted it, right?” and walked away. They made the collective decision for Chad to move in, but since then, he was never the same man again. WomensAid state that 25% of women are abused for the first time when they are pregnant.
[pullquote align=”right”]“I have flashbacks of the nights I cried myself to sleep because I couldn’t leave the house other than for work”[/pullquote]Chad insisted that he always had to be informed of Sophie’s whereabouts, she must have headed home straight from her retail job, and if she were late due to working overtime, she would have had a storm of questions being thrown at her and accusations of sleeping around. Every time she would go to her neighbours to take a shower Chad implied she was sleeping with the neighbour’s husband because she was there for too long.
During a heated argument, Chad begged Sophie to get an abortion or to make herself miscarry to prevent him from having a child. He declared the child would be better off because she would be a terrible mother, Sophie responded by breaking into tears to which Chad yelled, “Shut the fuck up!”
Abid, an organisation producing reports on the subject of psychological and sexual abuse, says that victims of sexual or physical abuse are twice as likely to get an abortion.
“I have flashbacks of the nights I cried myself to sleep because I couldn’t leave the house other than for work,” said Sophie with a slight crack in her voice. One day, things got out of control. At work, Sophie made good friends with a colleague, who happened to be male. When Chad found out, he rushed home drunk and high on other substances.
He couldn’t get in the house because he lost his keys so kicked the door until it opened. He ran into the bedroom that Sophie was sleeping in and started yelling. He clenched his fists, went bright red and started punching holes into the walls and then quickly disappeared from the scene, but soon returned.
This time he reached for her arm, pulled her into the living room and called her all the names under the sun. He brought up the neighbour’s husband again and started yelling out the window to the house opposite theirs.
The neighbour’s wife rushed into their home and confronted Chad, but Chad started acting like there wasn’t an issue. He apologised and left yet again. Sophie was unnerved, she couldn’t sleep. He returned yet again then went into her room, grabbed her mobile phone and left. Sophie chased him to get the phone back but he shoved her onto the bed and threatened “If you get up again, you will regret it.” He repeatedly smashed her phone until it was no longer working.
Later that evening he fell asleep on the sofa in the living room. The next morning, she overheard one of Chad’s friends come into the trailer and take him to work. The second she heard him leave she searched the trailer for the iPad and ran down the street to find somewhere where there was Wi-Fi.
“I phoned my friend from home, she jumped straight into her car and drove three hours to pick me up and took me to her place.” She fled the toxic environment, removing herself and her unborn child from the abusive relationship.
Ten million children are exposed to domestic violence every year. If a child is exposed to it, they are 10 to 20% more likely to commit abuse in their relationships when they are older and less likely to succeed at school according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Months on from the altercation Sophie found out Chad has moved on to a new relationship. His new girlfriend is often seen with bruises which she tries to cover up, believed to have been caused by Chad.
“My daughter is my life saver. If I wouldn’t have been pregnant I wouldn’t have had the courage to leave. I left because I wanted to protect my unborn child. And now I have a beautiful almost four-month-old daughter. That’s my story. That’s why I left, I didn’t ‘flee’ with his child. I left. For my safety and for hers.”
Coming up to a year after the episode with Chad. Their daughter and Sophie are “as happy as ever”, however, she states “I still struggle with the trauma that my ex put me through.”
She has now moved on to a new relationship with someone she has known for a few years. Her new partner has stepped up to be an amazing father for her daughter, “I’m giving my daughter the best life I can give her and that makes me happy”, Sophie says contently.
The names in this article have been changed to protect the contributor’s safety.