Russian Woman Opens Up About What It's Like To Leave A Psychologically Abusive Relationship

"I’ve spent these last two years learning to be alone."

Part of the reason people are so captivated by stories shared on Humans of New York (HONY) is that they are so relatable. From a single mom opening up about the sacrifices she's made for her children, to an insightful teen discussing mental health issues, to a widowed man describing love, these stories bring to light the struggles of those around us and, sometimes, remind us that we're not alone in our own. 

Currently, HONY photographer Brandon Stanton is sharing interviews from his trip to Russia. One woman he met opened up to him about her experience in an abusive relationship with a man — and what's happened since she left him. 

"We were together for nine years. I was completely dependent on him. He was a strong and powerful man and he expected obedience. If he called me at 4 a.m., and told me to meet him in Moscow, I was expected to go to the train station. He had a very strong energy," she said. "It was hard to argue with him. In the beginning of the relationship, I obeyed because of the pressure. But then the pressure just became a habit. It got worse as time went on. Eventually he stopped listening to me completely. I became so lonely. When you're with someone who doesn't care about your views, and has no desire to understand you, it's worse than being alone." 

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Despite how controlling and lonely she felt, she made excuses for his behavior. "I still loved him though," she explained. "I knew that he'd had a hard life. I told myself that I had to make sacrifices to build a family." 

But one day, everything changed. She knew the best choice for herself and her future was to leave him. 

"One morning I woke up and decided that I couldn't do it anymore," she said. "If I stayed in the relationship, I would lose myself completely. I remember it was raining that morning. There was mud in the streets. And something told me: 'Today is the day.' That was two years ago. I've spent these last two years learning to be alone. I'm realizing the things that I like to do. I feel better, I look better, and I've been sharing more of myself with others. I feel like I'm finally learning who I am." 

The woman's confession has clearly struck a chord with people online who are proud of her strength. Leaving an abusive relationship of any kind is often much harder than most realize. For this reason, many commenters shared their own experiences in abusive relationships. 

We often hear about domestic physical violence and, while this woman doesn't specify whether her partner physically hurt her, her story shines a light on another kind of abusive relationship we don't talk about as much: psychological abuse. 

"Psychological abuse involves trauma to the victim caused by verbal abuse, acts, threats of acts, or coercive tactics. Perpetrators use psychological abuse to control, terrorize, and denigrate their victims. It frequently occurs prior to or concurrently with physical or sexual abuse," according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. "Four in 10 women and 4 in 10 men have experienced at least one form of coercive control by an intimate partner in their lifetime." 

This woman's story shows those who are experiencing domestic psychological abuse that there is hope on the other side. It may not have been easy, but it's clear she's proud to have found the strength to leave her partner and find herself instead. Hopefully, by sharing her story, she'll help others to do the same. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, call The National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or go to DomesticShelters.org

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