Sharon's Story

“There was a lot of self-blame for staying in the situation. A lot of self-doubt. I worried about the perception others would have of me.”

Sharon Billings was assaulted, abused, and repeatedly raped by her husband over the course of four years. It started with controlling behavior and emotional abuse, and escalated to increasingly violent physical and sexual assault.

As is often true in situations of intimate partner sexual violence, the perpetrator used grooming, social isolation, psychological pressure, and emotional manipulation to continue the abuse. “I was so co-dependent on him, the thoughts of him leaving terrified me.”

Headshot of Sharon BillingsSharon told a friend about the abuse and requested that she not tell anyone else because she was afraid it would break her family members’ hearts to know. The friend immediately told Sharon’s mother, who confronted her. Ashamed and not ready to share, Sharon denied the abuse. She did not confide in anyone for another three years.

Sharon had been working in victim advocacy for years before she met her husband, which made Sharon feel guilty about not disclosing the abuse. “I would go to work everyday and I would feel like the world’s biggest hypocrite. You can come up with safety plans for everybody else, but can’t make one for yourself.”

At a later point in the abuse, Sharon recalls driving to the hospital for a sexual assault forensics exam. “I sat in the parking lot looking at the doors to the emergency room for an hour. It was hot in the car, but I wouldn’t roll the windows down or turn on the A/C. I wanted to die.” From fear of her husband’s reaction and of losing control of her story, she drove home without receiving an exam.

One of the rapes resulted in a pregnancy, which her husband attempted to sabotage because he did not want a child. “He started hitting me in the head a lot. He would do other things to increase my stress levels, things that were blatantly unhealthy for me and the baby. Smoking around me was his favorite activity.”

The abuser intentionally drove them into oncoming traffic while her seven-month-old son slept in the back seat. “That was a wake up moment for me. That was my catalyst.” She did not want him to be further affected by his father’s abuse. The next day she left with her son, and contacted a lawyer and a therapist.

Sharon reported the abuse to the police, and she and her son are safe from the abuser, who has fled the country. Because of the abuse, Sharon has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and has had suicidal thoughts. She also experiences eating and sleep disturbances, adult bed wetting, nightmares, flashbacks, hypervigilance, and anxiety.

She has found counseling, anti-depression and anxiety medication, and an emotional support animal to be useful during her healing process. “The biggest thing for me was when I got to the point where I could let go of responsibility for my husband’s actions. I held myself accountable for a long time.”

Sharon is busy raising her four-year-old son, and focuses on teaching him about respect, good touch/bad touch, and correct terms for body parts. She wants him to grow up knowing he is in control of his body. She continues to work in victim advocacy, and is considering going back to school for her master’s degree.

“For someone in a similar situation, there’s help out there. Don’t lose that hope.”

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