Stories from real women- our friends and our family- who have experienced and survived mental, physical, and emotional abuse. These are their stories.



That loveless place where I once sat,
Won’t be my future perch.
Strands of love connecting hearts,
Grow in me with every encounter.

The threads may break,
Causing pain from the loss.
But my heart is resilient,
Ever growing, always stretching out.
I will expand my reach,
Find the joy of a life fully lived.

A smile is a reflection
Of the bounty inside.
Gaze upon my face,
And discover my wealth.



Glossed over with time.
They change the more I live my life.
As a way to heal wounds,
I pick and choose to survive.

I’m not afraid to visit old memories.
Time really does heal them, I’ve found.
I have learned to love myself,
When others let me down.

For there to be no pain in those memories,
Replace the pain with hope for the future.
Life is happening now.

Don’t miss it. Endure.



Very often friends and even strangers will compliment this big smile of mine. Only a very few of them know how much that means to me. Because once upon a time, I fell for a charming, handsome man that I loved very much, we lived together, and he was the father figure to my young son. I forgave him a lot of things, because I wanted our little family to work: my son, his daughter, he and I. One night he destroyed my smile and he very nearly took my life. It was not the first time, but it was definitely the worst time. I survived thanks to his friend banging on the door and the ridiculous amount of blood. Both provided just enough distraction for me to get away from him. Had we been alone I doubt he would have stopped himself from punching me or choking the breath from my body. I will always remember looking in a mirror, and the terror that my face would never be the same. I owe my smile to a very patient E.R. doctor, who took painstaking care to put my face back together. He sewed hundreds of tiny stitches that repaired the physical damage. And that was the easy part of rebuilding my life.

The trip to the ER was not the end of things with him. I did not involve the police for a million reasons that made sense then. I left, but severing the ties to the life you made with someone is never simple. I got my own crappy apartment, he broke in. My son missed him, he knew how to use that. So I let him in a tiny bit. I never had an extra dollar, so he dangled financial security in front of me. I almost went back so many times. I tried to date, but he’d show up and make a scene. I finally cut him out of my life again – saying this time I mean it. I moved across town, he found my new place, and broke in again. Sometimes it was better to stay in touch, so he couldn’t sneak up on me (you know – keep your enemies close…) but living in fear is not really living.

It took moving away, time and distance,for me to begin to feel safe. My life is not easy and it is definitely not perfect. No gallant hero rescued me from the charming villain I fell for, in fact years later I still haven’t found the love that I think I deserve. It took a long time to forgive myself, and to let go of the shame. But despite it all, I smile every chance I get, because I am still Here, I am Free, I Survived.



//It took me a while to really understand the damage that he had caused me. I had stuck around because my self-esteem had told me that I am not worthy of something better. I never thought I’d be that girl. I’ve seen it happen to other people and thought how can they stick around with someone like that. But I know now that it’s easier then it seems. It took me 5 years to realize it.  There was verbal abuse and a couple of times it was physical. But it was when I had realized my value and the lie that he was going to change when I decided to leave for good. We weren’t compatible. The relationship was destructive. It was a reflection of what I thought of myself. I did not love ME. But I had a deep burning for change inside of me. The truth was that it wasn’t just his fault because I had carried with me my self-esteem from way before I met him. It had been rooted at a very early age and it was a cycle that I needed to break. I’m not saying that it was my fault that it happened but if it hadn’t then I wouldn’t had realized how broken I was.

I learned that I am amazing too and if no one is willing to put me first then at least I CAN. I choose ME. And I chose to learn and grow from it. It was a dark place and there were times when I felt like my existence was a waste. But I kicked those thoughts out and said. NO More.// )



She writes:

”It’s Officially Done half of my life wasted with drama and bullshit he’s moving out.”

To which I reply:

“We don’t know each other well, so hopefully I’m not stickin’ my foot in my mouth here. You have a ridiculously beautiful son who is so eager to do well in this world! He is deserving of all your best and this world’s best. All the drama and bullshit, no matter which adult it’s coming from, is better left outside your home’s door (even if the drama and bs is only effecting you, his mom….Children can especially tell when mom is not doing okay…) You and your family are in my prayers tonight and always.”

She writes back:

“Thanks it means a lot i had been with my kids dad since I was 15 and he was 20 and we just can’t get along and he has been hella abusive over 14 years so I have to be done .”

And I then write:

“Abuse is usually a tremendously vicious cycle. Mostly because it creeps into our young lives before we know any better and sets us up for dysfunction in our adult years. I went through a ton of treatment when I finally left one of the most abusive relationships I was in at age 23 (yes, there have been more than one-there usually is if we’re not careful!) I highly recommend looking into getting any kind of help and support you can. I was broke at the time, so I went to free group DV meetings twice per week and also to a sliding scale therapist once per week (it was intensive care.) Getting help DID help, but the trauma never really goes away, it’s imprinted from younger years. Ongoing help and awareness will be needed for the rest of my born days to steer clear of the dysfunctions I am used to. The proceeds from the fashion show/event I’m modeling in this Wed will go to New Beginnings, which helps people who have been effected by domestic violence and abuse, paying it forward now helps a lot….Even now, my husband and I are carefully aware about how we’ve both been effected by our pasts and why we behave the way we do. It was important for me to find someone who wants to get help and stop the cycle of abuse as much as me. It’s always a work in process, but as long as it’s processing forward and in positive light, then we’re all good. As the daughter of a couple who split up over many things, but primarily alcohol abuse by my dad, I can firmly say that sometimes it really is better for mom and dad to live apart. My heart it with all three of you!

Once I really stopped putting up with the bullshit (and I mean really.all of it. my own included) the floodgates of love and support came flowing through. And let’s face it, stopping the bullshit is an ongoing saga, to which I am always attempting to stop and I am always surprised by what is in store for me at the other end once the bs is all cleaned up.”



Photo by @KyleKesterson

“Please… please don’t do this. I don’t want to die.” I am barely able to whisper my words through the suffocating grip he has around my neck.

If it isn’t me he is trying to kill, it is himself. Twisting and turning a large knife into his stomach, I watch the blood start to run down as he is threatening me to stay, or his death will be my fault and haunt me forever. I believe him.

So many emotions run through me. I’m angry. I’m trapped. I feel so much pity for him. I’m.. I’m just confused. Having just turned 20 years old, finally getting into a deep relationship for the first time, instantly getting sucked into this guy’s web of lies, torment, manipulation, I become a victim of abuse.

At first it is emotional and mental abuse. The name calling, shaming, belittling, accusing.

But it doesn’t last long until it is normal for him to choke me, or dig his fingers into flesh until it bruises, punch me in the head which leaves thick knots, rip chunks of hair by the handfuls, bite me, slap me, shove me, throw scalding hot water over me… I could go on.

Some days are ok though. Some days him and I even laugh. These are the days he is able to get high off of Oxycontin and mellow out. The days he can’t get it? These days are the worst of it.

This quiet voice in my head tells me that because I let him do these things to me, I am weak. Because I am weak, I deserve to suffer, and I don’t deserve help. This causes me to lie, first to myself in that “it is normal”, then to my friends and family who show concern. I am full of reasons for why my eyes are black and blue today, or why I am limping. So much shame keeps me from looking in their eyes and admitting the truth.

How does this become normal? At first I don’t notice myself becoming numb. Physically and emotionally, I stop feeling pain… well, some of it. I certainly stop feeling other people’s pain. I look at my friends and the suffering they endure in their own lives, and I just stare awkwardly like a deer in headlights. I see it, but I don’t feel it. Looking at myself in the mirror, I see this bruised, weak, silhouette of a girl just staring back at me. Who is she? I don’t know her. She doesn’t look like someone I want to know.

Every now and then, I manage to get an idea in my head to leave. But how? One time I sneak out of the house when he leaves to work. I run to my friend’s house. Trying to enjoy life outside of my prison, and just be normal, I spend time with a few friends. That night I witness an argument escalate until a guy shoves another girl, and something in my mind just snaps. In an instant, I see ME getting shoved, and I see that this is absolutely horrifying and wrong! I scream this terrifying scream, run over, and grab my friend away from him.

Afterwards I call my parents to come pick me up. I’m ready to ask for help. All of the pain I have been pushing away from my body, now finds its way rushing to my conscious. I have woken up. Wow, I am in a LOT of pain. I look in the mirror at their house and see my own face, and the suffering I am going through. But something interesting happens. I also somehow see through the suffering, to a strong, beautiful, valuable woman that is waiting to come forward. I reach my hand to this version of myself and invite her to come out.

It is the spark I need that helps fuel me through the next few years of school, seeing it through to the end to obtain an Fine Arts Degree. During this time, I create new habits, surround myself with positive people and even a few Professors who become important mentors. I start to see the world and myself in it in new ways. Having allowed the dishonoring of my body for so long, I feel this deep responsibility to bring it back to life. My obsession becomes my health; mindfully eating, breathing, stretching. It becomes exercise; learning about my bones, muscles, organs, working each area of my body out, paying attention to how they work together and propel me through physical space. Dance and music brings a grace and fun to my movement. With both the education and expression of creativity and art, I learn how to turn my darkness and deep mental, emotional, and spiritual pain and chaos into light and order. I see my feelings come to life on these canvases and I start to have a better understand who I am and what I am capable of. It is therapy.

Today, people know me as a fashion model and actress that cares deeply about the health of our planet, and specifically marine biology, something that has been a part of my early childhood, growing up around the ocean. Some people might say I carry a pure heart that laughs with love and happiness. They wouldn’t be wrong, but I feel this authentic love, happiness, and appreciation for the gift of life, because it is the furthest away from that dark, death grip of despair he once had around me neck. I feel blessed, not only that I survived, but that each day I have an opportunity to thrive.

Follow Lenisa Careaga on Instagram: @LenisaLove



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