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Our Stories Don't End the Minute We Leave

by Amanda Preston

Did you know that a staggering 1 in 3 women have experienced physical and/or sexual abuse in their lifetime? Violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread human rights violations in the world.

I am a survivor in more than one incident. I am both a survivor of sexual trafficking and sexual violence and abuse that occurred during my teen years.

I would like to share another part of my story as we close in on the end of #WomenAbusePreventionMonth, and mark the 4th day of the 16 days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence ending on December 10th - Human Rights Day.

I believe by sharing this, that I can help raise awareness to the fact that as victims and survivors that our stories don't end the minute that we are able to leave an abusive situation. We need immediate and continued support and this is why sharing resources with each other is so important.

In my late teen years, I found myself in a vulnerable place in my life again due to the trauma that I had suffered a couple years prior from my trafficking experience. At the time, I was easily manipulated into a relationship with an individual that turned abusive.

During this time, I would be charmed by what appeared to be loving behavior in turn to be torn down by words and psychological manipulation. I remember one time like it was yesterday when he was angry with me and spat in my face. I felt like I was worthless at that moment.

I did leave one day, but returned again to the relationship. Now please don't judge - victims often cling to their abuser despite repeated abuse. When I returned, he was going to let me know what consequences there would be for my having left the first time. I was literally forced to stay in his basement bedroom for a period of time, and could only leave if he was present with me.

Then the relationship began to turn sexually violent. While I fully understood the feeling of having to engage in sexual acts without my permission from having been a victim of sexual trafficking in the past, to have things done to you and to be made to do things against your will by the person you believe you love is a different horrifying feeling.

During this time, he would allow me to come upstairs on occasion to mingle with his friends when he would have a party where he would openly grope me and show me off like I was his "possession." He would always make sure to tell me if I left him, that he would find me this time and I would be sorry.

One day when he had left to go and be with another girl, I knew I just couldn't do it anymore. I snuck upstairs when I was certain he was gone and called someone I knew to meet me and while I was terrified leaving that home, I