My story of abuse

The story below is shared by Amanda Ramano Gutierres.  Amanda is happy to have her name included and also her Instagram account Amanda Romano Gutierres (@amanda_r_gut) • Instagram photos and videos which she uses to raise awareness of domestic abuse.

My story with the abuser:

I was a victim of abuse. I was emotionally and psychological abused and that left bruises that no one could see but me, and that was an excruciating silent pain. I am sharing my story with the hope that it can be of help to someone else.

It started with an overwhelming feeling of being loved, being desired, being cared for. I was happy our paths had crossed and we were friends (for a short period of time) before starting a relationship. It wasn't overnight that he showed his true colours, in fact he never did show it. It was always there in a very subtle way, and masked by all the things we had in common. It is impressive how the abuser can adapt and mirror their victim. I overlooked how his intentional "jokes" about me not knowing to do this or that really made me feel - after all, he loved me.

I blocked out his negative hints and comments about myself, this man had showed me he loved me like no one else before, he showed me he needed me.

He would tell me to go out and meet my friends, but he would not stop texting me whilst I was out, the messages were very sweet and caring, how could this be control?

Whenever I did something he did not like, he would withdraw any affection from me and make sure I was seeing him being extra affectionate with whoever was round us, most of the times his dog. I was definitely going mad by feeling jealous of his dog... But I remember him saying one time how his ex was jealous of his dog and thinking to myself "wow she is indeed crazy" as he often would say. Until I found myself in this position; begging for scraps and his dog getting it all.

Whenever we would disagree on something he would throw a tantrum and leave the house for hours on end, he would not answer his phone during this time and when back home he would go straight to bed, and I was left with a uncanny feeling of guilt.

At first, when he met my friends, he presented himself as very friendly and an easy going person, but with time he started to point out to me how some of them were trying to take advantage of me, how some were jealous of me, how others were strange, and even made a point of how some of them he was sure that if he gave the time of the day, they would not think twice before being with him behind my back ( I guess there was some truth to that one, as he has done that in the end, maybe also in the middle, who knows).

If I was to go out and meet a friend the consequences were so difficult to deal with, that it was easy to not go all together. Until I stopped being invited to meet by some of my friends, and that was the perfect time for him to show me how he was right about them and how they did not care for me as I thought they did after all.

Another strategy used for the friends who tried to stick around was something sad happening to him on the day I was supposed to go out with a friend, or him feeling sad about his family, which is a whole other story used to persuade me to stay.

The feeling of inexplicable guilty started to take control of me little by little and I stopped going out.

I felt guilty even for catching a cold and not being able to work or worse, not doing something for him.

There was a time when I had to be in hospital for two weeks and he made sure to be with me a lot of the time, to even sleep on an uncomfortable chair in my room. It made me feel protected, cared for and loved. Little did I know it was all a tactic to make visitors uncomfortable to also be there, to make visitors not stay long. During that time I also felt tremendous guilt for being there, as he often would point out how he was not seeing his child or his pet much, because of me being there, despite me saying for him to go. Once he brough a movie for us to watch and before we could I fell asleep (I was on morphine most of the time) when I woke up he was watching it by himself and when I mentioned it, he got angry that I slept and left him all alone there, what was he supposed to do?

I was often accused of being too nice, too friendly and open to others to take advantage of me.

You may wonder why did I stay in that relationship for so long? Well, obviously it wasn't all bad, in fact there were a lot of good moments. Those hard moments I explain here did not come at once, they would come and go, and when they were too much to handle and I was at the verge of giving up the affection given was stronger, the admission of guilt and the desire to change for me would come in strong.

Without realising it I stopped doing the things I loved, I stopped expressing myself how I was used to, I was feeling lonely and isolated and I did not even realise that. I was second guessing myself all the time, I was questioning my sanity, I was a real mess. it took away the little self-confidence I had to begin with.

When you "wake up" from something like this you feel stupid to have fallen for it. I felt an overwhelming feeling of shame, disgust for myself, embarrassment for letting this happen to me. It affected my work, my relationship with my children and my family. By the end of it all I felt I could not be a counsellor anymore, how could I support others when I was sharing a bed, a life, a routine with a predator and I did not see it? As a counsellor I was too hard on myself thinking I should have known better.

It affected my self-esteem so badly that I even thought to myself, how stupid I was to think I could really be loved by someone like that? And that also had a knock on effect on my ability to work, how can I help others to build self-esteem if I feel I don't have any left?

When I decided to share my story with a few people that I know cared about me, the amount of understanding and love that came from them was like a medicine to heal what cannot be seen with the naked eyes. I then decided to call Women's Aid who were of immense support, a listening ear with no judgment and even a reassuring story of how someone that works on their team  and are trained in abuse also fell for it. These stories of other people also falling for it started to show up into my life; whether the person I was talking to lived through something similar or someone knew someone who did. And listening to other's experience on this made me feel I was not alone, and even greater than that, I was not the fool I thought I was. It is indeed truth that no one is immune to it; no matter where you are from, what age, what gender you are... and even when you are trained in some degree to recognise it, it still can be ingeniously masked from you.

In fact I heard a few times how predators are even drawn to people in those professions (lawyer, family mediator, police officer, psychologist, domestic abuser support worker, and so on) as a way of masking their traits.

I consider writing this as being part of my process of healing and finding my voice, as well as a way of overpowering emotional and psychological abuse and hopefully helping others to also come forward.

I am sharing my story and using some, of many more examples to choose from, of what the abuse can look like, in the hope that it may share a light into someone's story, in the hope that it may help someone else to get help and rebuild themselves after going through this.