Stories help us to process our experiences, sympathize with the experiences of others, and make connections with friends and family. We maintain a list of popular books, songs and films about intimate partner abuse (you can find it here), but today we’re featuring one survivor’s story. In her own words. This post is part of our 17 Days/17 Ways campaign to take a stand against intimate partner abuse.

hearts like mine
Hearts Like Mine
By Stephanie March

Nearly four years ago I called the police on my partner. He openly shared with them what he had been doing to me, to the family pet, and to other women in the area and this led to his arrest. With very little time to pack, I was taken to a safe house where I stayed for the next several months.

The shelter provided me with food and clothes that came by way of donations. More importantly, they provided safety, a bed to sleep in, and social workers to talk to during that incredibly difficult time. They went with me to court and helped me plan my next steps once my partner was released from jail.

I stayed at several safe houses as I made my way to what is now my home. It was difficult but I am so grateful that these places exist. Without their existence I might not be able to write this to you today.

Following my departure from safe houses and entering back into the real world I dealt with a lot of cyberstalking at the hands of my ex and his family. Many victims of intimate partner violence find themselves being stalked by their partners once they leave. A study done by Norwich University’s Peter R. Stephenson breaks down the different personality sub-types of the typical cyberstalking criminal victims are faced with online.

This cyberstalking activity went on for a couple of years and my frustration with the justice system began to grow. I recorded every incident, contacted police, and obtained a new Protection Order. I wrote to Governors and Senators. I signed petitions. Anything that might help promote an environment of change in the laws surrounding intimate partner violence.

Despite setbacks, I have focused on healing and taking the time I needed to grieve the end of that relationship and my life as I formerly knew it. I write about my experiences to reach out to others and give them hope.

A better life after leaving does exist, it just takes time and hard work to get there.

Social workers, advocates, and regular people like you can make an impact on social change by continuing to spread awareness and break the silence. Donating time, money, and belongings needed by shelters makes a huge difference in the outcomes of lives like mine. Many shelters have wish lists of badly needed items available on their websites. The smallest act of giving can change a traumatized person’s entire week.

Thank you for giving and for caring about hearts like mine.

Stephanie is a writer, survivor, and advocate. You can find her on Twitter or read more at her blog.