Melissa was living a picture-perfect lifestyle. With a high-end apartment in downtown Denver, a great job, and what from the outside appeared as a strong relationship, she was living the dream.
Everything was not as it seemed. Melissa’s boyfriend had been verbally and emotionally abusive for years of their relationship.
Melissa had known from the beginning of their relationship that her boyfriend had struggled with substance abuse in his early twenties. He was sober for six years before meeting her. After they met in Charleston, South Carolina, they quickly moved to Florida where he found a party scene and got sucked back into substance abuse.
Her boyfriend started becoming financially abusive, verbally abusive, emotionally abusive, and socially isolating Melissa. One of her friends recognized some signs of abuse and offered for Melissa to move in.
“There was no physical abuse, so I didn’t think anything was wrong with it, so I stayed.”
After moving to Denver, Colorado for a job, Melissa’s boyfriend’s drug habits got worse.
“To anybody that looked at us, we looked like a thriving couple. We were making lots of money. We lived in Downtown Denver in a beautiful apartment, he had a good job, I had a great job, we had new cars, things were good. What they didn’t know is that I was on a budget. I had to pay all the bills. If we didn’t have any money, he said it was my fault. There was behind the scenes things no one ever realized. I had had a miscarriage earlier that year. I got depression and gained weight. He always said things like, ‘You’re so much bigger than everyone else. I am the only one that will love you.'”
Melissa eventually discovered how severe her boyfriend’s substance abuse had gotten after her boyfriend went to the hospital for a drug related issue.
“I had to figure out how to get out. I had no money. He always made sure I didn’t have any money.”
After getting out of the hospital Melissa’s boyfriend promised to never take drugs again. But, he lost his job due to the incident, which caused a lot of stress in their relationship.
One night, Melissa went to bed earlier than her boyfriend. She woke up a few hours later, and he was high and hallucinating. Holding a handgun, he was convinced someone was coming for him. For two hours, Melissa begged him to hand over the gun. He finally did, and she unloaded the gun and put it on her side of the bed. Overpowering Melissa, he backed her up against the window, re-loaded the gun, and pointed it at her chest.
“He ended up backing away and locking himself in our closet.” Melissa packed a bag, got into her truck, and left for a hotel. Later, she found out her boyfriend, thinking there was an intruder, had shot fourteen shots in their apartment after she left. Law enforcement arrived on the scene and arrested him.
“It didn’t hit me until the next day. I had to call my parents and tell them. My whole life turned upside down. Many women and men in my situation would not be alive, and I am acutely aware of that. But, I also went through so much emotional abuse the years before, and that’s what I am still processing. I am processing so much grief. When things were good for us, they were really good. And I stayed because I remembered the good.”
Melissa started attending support group at the Northwest Arkansas Women’s Shelter after moving back to NWA not long after her ex boyfriend was arrested. She also receives one-on-one counseling. She is now thriving with a new job, her own place, and her freedom.
“So many people judge victims and judge survivors. You don’t know what it’s like. It’s different when you go through it. I thought domestic violence was a poor problem or a super wealthy problem. You don’t see it on the media as a ‘middle’ problem. It still happened to me, domestic violence has no boundaries, it can happen to anybody. You should never blame someone for what happened to them.”