“I had seen my mum hide her scars. When he started hitting me, I knew it was ok …”
Abby* has not always been this afraid. She is outgoing, social and with high levels of self-confidence. She opened her own cosmetic shop with her little savings and within a few months her business was booming.
“My friends had always pushed me to use my social skills for business purposes but I never thought about it. A close friend of my mum traveled, leaving me in charge of her boutique. Three months later she wanted to hire me as her full time employee.”
After her graduation, she had no plans of her own. She was all over social media, posting her photos of her traveling escapades, getting tons of likes and friend requests from all over.
“My friends always taunted me, saying I was wasting my talent as a social media influencer. I always laughed it off. Some local hotels invited me to eat at their places and post photos online. I did…hey, who can refuse free food…!”
That’s how they met.
“At a four star hotel when my friends and I visited for a weekend, all paid by the hotel management. He was the hotel IT manager, handsome and outgoing. We connected the first day as we sat in his office, selecting the photos to upload.”
The rest, as they say, is history
“The first few months were cozy. Night outs. Traveling. Reading together. I didn’t think anything when he suggested we start doing stuff alone, without my friends. It made sense. They were a noisy lot, come to think of it. I slowly detached myself from them, skipping our dates, always blaming work.”
Then came the first slap
“Every time I went to his place, I would wash his house, iron his clothes and cook. But this time, I failed to iron his clothes. I knew how particular he was with his dressing. And after a long night, I overslept, forgetting to prepare his clad for the next day. He woke me up, roughly pulling. The slap came when I resisted.”
She remembers her first reaction
“I was shocked. The last time anyone had hit me was when I was nine years old. Within minutes, he was apologetic, cuddling me, telling me why it was important for him to look presentable, him being the manager and all that. I saw my fault and apologized. That night he brought me a pizza and we laughed about the whole thing.”
A few months later, she moved in with him
“The slaps changed into kicks and blows. I couldn’t go to work with all my bruises. And he brought me flowers. Bought me dresses, my favorite even. And using the sweetest words possible, he stopped me from going to work. Actually wrote my resignation letter and just handed it for me to sign.”
And that was not all…
“He gently advised me to quit social media. And when I hesitated, he logged into my account, saw my chats with an old male friend and hell broke loose. That was the first time I thought he was going to kill me. He took away my laptop, explaining how it was ruining our relationship.”
Abby had severed all her relationships with close friends. There was no one to talk to. Her social media influence had waned and eventually faded off. And now all her accounts were gone
“I felt isolated. He was my only gateway to humanity. I had beautiful dresses that I wore only for him when he took me out. He ensured I had everything. Except freedom.”
Her friends tried to reach out but she always pushed them away.
“I think they sensed something was wrong. But I kept assuring them I was okay, explaining how we were trying to maximize the little time we had for our relationship. For every slap I received I had a perfect excuse why I deserved it. And when one day they just showed up at the hotel and found I had quit, they forced him to bring them to our place.”
Abby remembers that day pretty well
“One of my friends screamed when I opened the door. After he had left, they hit me with a barrage of questions but I defended him, saying I had been wrong, always giving excuses for all the beatings I had received. I had seen my mum hide her scars. I had once asked her about it and she had brushed me off, saying she was ok. That’s what I told my friends. That I was ok.”
But the tears streamed when they left
“They reminded me what the real world looked like. I envied their laughter. They showed me their social media pages and we all laughed like the old days. I missed me.”
That was the beginning of the end for the relationship.
“It had been almost eighteen months since we met. I started calling my friends more often and slowly I opened up. I had run out of excuses not to leave him. That narrow glimpse of freedom they had showed me was all that I needed. But I was scared. I planned for months. Only to discard all my plans.”
Then one day Abby just walked away, never looking back, leaving all her stuff behind
“I have heard he has been looking for me. I was tempted to change my identity and disappear but my friends said they would report him if he ever showed up in our town. The physical scars are healed. I’m still working on the internal injuries. I know it will take a while but I’m willing to wait. For now, I’m putting all my energy on my cosmetic business.”
It has been a few months since she shared her experience with the Unplugged team and we are proud of her progress. Getting an outlet is the first step to full recovery and listening to other people’s stories enhances survivors’ journey towards healing