At 20, Angelina Howard was well on her way to living the American dream. Married with two beautiful children, she had all the makings of a woman within arms reach of the kind of American dream you grow up watching on television. Unfortunately for Angelina, that dream quickly became a horrible nightmare.
Locked away, inside of her home and isolated from the rest of the world, Angelina had no means of communicating with anyone outside of her home. Her husband, a controlling manipulator made sure he grabbed the phone receiver when he left for work every morning. He sought to control every aspect of her life - from her financials to her spiritual beliefs.
To the outside world, they were the perfect family. Whenever in public, others would envy how “picture perfect” they appeared to be but the masks were ripped off as quickly as Angelina’s husband locked the front door when back inside their home.
When we would go out people would envy us saying, ‘Oh I love this family. You’re always smiling and have a good man.’ Little did anyone know, it was a mask I was wearing - smiling on the outside - dying on the inside.
Time passed on and the abuse continued. Angelina had five more children. Her husband kept her from working and denied her the chance to attend college. He’d verbally abuse and belittle her, telling her how she’d never be anything. She had no access to money. Marital rape became the normal form of payment for any money Angelina’s husband gave her for the kids, household and basic necessities.
I would have to lay there while he performed the act of sex...because all I would do is cry so rape became a normal way of living in my house. I remember one night getting up, running to the shower - making the water so hot I burned myself.
Angelina’s husband even sought to manipulate her into believing God had abandoned her. She recalls her husband taunting her with questions like, ‘Where is your God now?!’. Angelina became angry and began to wonder if God really had forgotten about her.
After her husband moved her to a new state and left her family with his abusive mother, Angelina finally gathered the strength to leave.
His mom picked up where he left off but hers (abuse) was towards my children. It was at that point I got out.
Little did Angelina know, the cycle of abuse would continue long after she left her husband. Every relationship she had after her husband was unhealthy and followed a similar pattern with a big twist. As her anger festered within her, Angelina took on the role of abuser. When relationships would get physical, Angelina was the one “throwing the punches”.
Healing wouldn’t come until many years later, when she came face to face with herself.
I looked in the mirror - something I didn't like doing because I didn't like who was looking back at me. A voice said, ‘you are worth more than this’...I stopped loving myself after my first abuser took my self esteem from me. Anger, hate, and bitterness settled in where love once lived and I believed everything he told me.
Angelina’s moment of reflection sent her on a path of healing. Therapy sessions helped her to confront the demons of her past and acknowledge that she had been living a life full of hurt. She was able to release and forgive all that had hurt her.
I was able to release and forgive not only him and all the others. More importantly, I forgave myself. Now I am healthy, happy and in love with the woman I see in the mirror.
Now an advocate for domestic violence, Angelina hopes to encourage others going through similar situations. She has a special message for anyone who may be experiencing domestic violence:
You can escape domestic violence but not alone. You'll need a foolproof plan. Please don't let the abuser know you plan to leave. It could turn into a matter of life or death - YOURS.
After you leave please get therapy and educated on domestic violence. At that point healing will start. Remember your healing process has no time limit. I'm still healing. Just hang in there. Trust me - there’s no better feeling in the world like being free...GOD never left me. He was with me through my entire journey, preparing me for this moment to share my story and help my sister as she starts her new journey on the road to recovery.