SPOKANE, Wash. - Sometimes it's the people closest to us that hurt us the most.
That's something a mother in the Inland Northwest learned shortly after getting married. Anne* tied the knot with her high school boyfriend while they were still very young. At first, she didn't notice anything seriously wrong with the relationship.
"He was my biggest cheerleader," Anne said.
They promised to love and cherish each other to the end. Anne had no idea then that one day, she would worry the end of her life could come at the hands of her husband.
The couple started their life together far from Anne's family. She said she felt isolated.
"The first few years of my marriage were challenging in a way I wouldn't wish on anyone," Anne said.
She remembered her husband telling her she didn't need to get a formal education because she was going to be a stay-at-home mom.
"I gradually had my autonomy taken away and I didn't realize how precious that was until it was gone," Anne said.
Before long, she wasn't making any choices on her own. She had one child and completely relied on her husband financially. She said her days were filled with fear as she beaten, manipulated, and yelled at.
There came a day when she said she couldn't stop crying. So she went to the hospital to see if doctors could prescribe something. At the time, she was pregnant again. She said that wasn't her choice.
The abuse was wearing on Anne's mind and body. She broke down and told a nurse what was going on at home.
Some people close to her gave her the support she needed to leave.
"I packed up everything that I could in my car. I left everything behind," Anne said. "All I had was a suitcase full of clothes and my kid's toys. I don't know how I was going to survive."
Anne remembered begging her family member to turn the car around. She started to doubt her decision to leave.
"I looked at myself in the mirror at the rest stop and didn't even recognize myself because I was so broken," Anne said.
She was flooded with doubt and worry. She would have to raise her three young children as a single mom. There was also worry that her husband would come after her.
All those worries are common among people who leave abusive partners. Experts believe that leaving is the most dangerous time for a survivor of abuse. That's because it's a sign of the survivor "taking control and threatening the abusive partner's power."
The National Domestic Violence Hotline estimated, on average, it takes someone seven times of leaving before they stay away for good.
The days, months, and years that followed weren't easy for Anne. She had some support, but still battled social stigmas.
"Society shames women who get help. You see someone in the grocery store who is overwhelmed with children in her cart . They're loud and they're getting their groceries for free," Anne said. "They think it's so easy. It isn't."
Anne relied on close family and friends to find her way. She said local services also had a huge impact on her life.
"I would not be here if it weren't for the people who were at health and welfare, being gracious and kind and showing me the tools I had available to take the damage away and put in place of it calmness, stability, and hope," Anne said.
Life looks a lot different for Anne now. It's been years since she escaped that abusive relationship.
"There are so many things that I get to do now that I never would have imagined before," Anne said. "My life revolves around food and fun and fine dining and art and creativity."
Anne has since remarried. She's happy now and raising her children in a healthy home. She said her former husband was never charged with any crimes against her. Anne said she never officially reported the abuse because she was afraid of what he would do.
That's a trend among many people who survive domestic violence. That's why some experts believe rates of domestic violence are much higher than statistics show.
Anne said she's started to share her story with others to inspire and encourage them to get help when they need it.
"Being able to be more open and transparent with our struggles is what helps us to change our lives," Anne said.
Hers is an important story to share in Spokane County. This area has the highest rate of domestic violence incidents in the state. That's why 4 News Now joined community partners and other local stations to air a documentary about domestic violence in Spokane. The film featured one woman's story of survival, staggering statistics, and plans to end the violence.
*Not her real name
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