Aubrie Mindock

Professional skier, author of "When I Saw Heaven" and "Back Up On Skis," Olympic hopeful

Rebuilding after Domestic Violence

My ex, Eric ended up to be my worst nightmare. He was a parents worst nightmare. He was a woman's worst nightmare. The violence, rage, and control was insane and because of Eric my world has been changed forever. My life will never be the same as a result of September 14, 2016. 

Women usually do not survive what I survived. When an extremely intoxicated ex comes to your home with a gun with the intent to kill you usually the women are caught off guard and they are shot because they were not expecting a visitor. I however, was not caught off guard. I had my boyfriend with me that night and he was on the lookout for danger. I only survived because my boyfriend intervened. 

Being in a domestic violence relationship took a toll on me. It usually does take a toll on survivors. Yes, we survive but surviving is just the first step. Rebuilding your life after surviving domestic violence is the next step and it is the hardest thing to do after you have been through hell. 

For me it was 2 years of telling Eric to leave me alone. It was 2 years of playing games with Eric to keep Eric happy so he wouldn't hurt me or my family. It was 2 years of doing whatever it took to live. Those years are no more. Eric is no longer around to threaten me or my family. Eric shot himself on my doorstep that September night so he is no longer around to do physical harm. 

Although Eric is gone his memory is not. The pain he inflicted on me and my family still lingers. Those 2 years of grief and fear still hold strong in my mind. Those years of being controlled and told how to live my life might be gone but the effects are lasting. 

After we survive domestic violence and stalking it is at first a relief. Often, survivors have a ton of support and help but we are also expected to move on and immediately rebuild our lives. I understand why people tell us to move on right away and rebuild. It is exciting to be free. Our new found freedom is a time to celebrate. Truly, it is a great feeling to not be bound by the chains our stalkers bound us with. Our friends, family and society is right by celebrating us being away from the threat but with all that joy and happiness and celebration comes confusion.

I am happy that I am free. I really am. It is the best feeling to know that I will be able to walk down the street without being stalked. My first few days of being free from Eric I went out to my favorite Mexican restaurant, alone! The last time I was there, Eric had followed me and walked in and literally sat next to me. It was such a freeing and exciting time for me to be able to do what I wanted to do when I wanted to do it. Those first few days and weeks of my new found freedom was a huge celebration.

However, I am confused. like many survivors of domestic violence I am having difficulty accepting my new freedoms. It was 2 years of Eric telling me what I can and cannot do. It was 2 years of Eric telling me that I belong in the home and that I do not need to work or have a career. It was 2 years of being told that the world is a man's world and women are best at being homemakers. It was 2 years of being controlled completely. 

Now what? I am 29 and have to figure out what I want to do. I have been told what to do every day for the last few years. Now I have to learn about who I am and what I want to do with my life. I am no longer being forced to listen to Eric telling me how to live. I have the world and I can do whatever it is that I want to do but what is it that I truly want to do? 

Survivors who have been controlled and told what to do for years often feel like me. After we are freed we start off happy and celebrating and feeling like we can do anything and everything but when it comes right to it we do not really know ourselves. 

Those violent men who overpowered us took away our dreams and our goals. They made us feel like we cannot be successful. I remember Eric telling me, "I know who you really are. I know the real Aubrie." He constantly said, "I know you better than anyone." When I would challenge him he would get upset. I decided that it was best to stay quiet and let him have his words and thoughts. This however, dehumanizes us. By being forced to stay quiet and not be able to talk back, we are silenced. When we are silenced that is when we are stripped to nothing. 

Now that I am free I feel that I have a voice. I am now allowed to speak up. I am allowed to be heard. I am allowed to tell the truth about what was really going on. I no longer have to hide it, any of it. I am now in control and I am slowly gaining my power back. I am slowly getting my life back.

I want you to know that if you are recently out of a domestic violence relationship that you need to take time for you. Take as much time as you need. People will tell you to get back out in the world and they will want to share in your new freedoms and happiness. That is great. Allow them to celebrate and be happy for you. Just remember, you went through a lot and you lost a lot during your experience. Finding yourself will not be easy. It could take months to years to figure out who you really are. 

Eric told me who I was. At first I told him that he was wrong and that I am not that person that he says I am but eventually I became tired of fighting him. It was exhausting to constantly talk to the wall so I gave up. Today, I have to find myself all over again. Doing so will take time but I will one day know who I am. The same goes for other survivors. It takes time to find yourself again after you were stripped to nothing and silenced. I suggest to first find your voice and start speaking. Once you get the courage to speak out that is when you will gain the confidence to slowly step out in the world.