My 12 years of hell


The story is all mine and all true. This post is part of a sponsored campaign with The Allstate Foundation and MomSelect. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

There were some okay times, but for the most part, the shitty, horrible person made our lives hell. I wonder how we all came out on the flip side of it okay. For 12 years, my sister, mother and I lived with an abusive man.

Mom and the girls

{We hid behind smiles often. Most people would have never known.}

He was an alcoholic.* Not the fun kind. He said mean and horrible things. He insisted on drinking and driving and nobody could do anything about it. He drank himself into a stupor and embarrassed us and himself many times. He occasionally hit. But we couldn’t leave. He financial trapped us.

My mom worked for him for a measly $1000/month. That money was her money for all of our expenses (clothes, car, gas, insurance, groceries, extracurricular activities, etc). If we left, that meant there would be no job and no money. We had nothing of our own. She didn’t know how to leave (and yes, my sister and I asked to leave many times). We had no money. No real income (I was waiting tables at 15). 

Somehow, she finally got us out of there. I don’t remember all of it, but I know it was bad. And, for a while, my mom sister and I were all living different places. 

We ended up with a place to live together. What we could afford? A one bedroom apartment for the three of us. With my mom and I in bunk beds and my sister in a makeshift room without a fourth wall.

Oh, and all the “joint” bank accounts were cleared out. Yep. To zero. So, no job (mom found one quickly, thank goodness), a one bedroom apartment for my mom and my sister and I (both in high school) and no money.

By some miracle and the grace of God, we all made it through, stronger, smarter, better and with little baggage. Had we had help? Things could have turned around much quicker for us. 

Forgiveness came eventually.

Several years ago, I wrote a letter and sent it to him letting him know I forgave him. He was an addict. Once an addict always an addict and forgiving him helped me to heal. It wasn’t easy, but I knew I had to do it.

We made it out, but not every women or her kids are so lucky.

Domestic violence affects one in four women in their lifetime

That’s more women than breast cancer, ovarian cancer and lung cancer combined. Most people think only of physical abuse when they consider domestic violence. Yet, financial abuse happens in 98 percent of all cases of domestic violence. It is one of the most powerful ways to control a survivor. Domestic violence and financial abuse often go hand-in-hand, but nearly 8 in 10 Americans have not heard much about financial abuse as a form of domestic violence. The number one reason domestic violence survivors stay, leave or return to an abusive relationship is that they don’t have the financial resources to break free.

Financial abuse is just as effective in controlling an abused victim as a lock and key. If her credit has been ruined or she doesn’t have income, she can’t get an apartment. If her abuser constantly harasses her at work, she can lose her job. It could take a survivor and her children years to fully recover from abuse.

Purple Purse

Had we know about Purple Purse, maybe those years of hell could have been much shorter.

The Allstate Foundation responded to those staggering statistics by creating the Purple Purse program – the Foundation’s national symbol for domestic violence and financial abuse to raise awareness and get people to openly talk about this important issue. This is me. Openly talking.

The program ignites fundraising for more than 140 national, state and local domestic violence organizations. 

Purple Purse

What can you do?

Be a friend. Know your friends. Spend time with them. I probably would have guarded you and you would have never known, but having a friend to hang out with, to escape with? That’s huge. Having a friend who let me crash on their floor? Huge.

Supporters can visit Purple Purse starting September 2 to make a donation through October 3. 

If you or someone you know needs immediate help, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.

*When it was finally time to leave, he showed my mom his “chip” from the 12-step program. Too little too late.

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  1. Wow, Krystyn. Thanks for sharing this. Financial abuse is something so simple and so sneaky that it’s easy to see how it slipped my radar when thinking about abuse survivors. No one wants to be out on the street and it can be scary to think of taking your kids there with you. It’s understandable how this could so easily trap survivors and fool them into thinking there’s no other way but to stay. Your story is inspiring though and it’s an eye-opener. Thanks for sharing it and a way to help these folks.

  2. I just want to hug you right now. This couldn’t have been an easy story to tell but you are such an amazing person for sharing it with others so that maybe, JUST MAYBE, someone will reach out and get help.

    Sadly, many of us also share in these sad stories in one way or another but as long as we keep talking about it we are giving a voice to those that haven’t quite found the strength yet to leave or speak out.

    BIG VIRTUAL HUG & thank you for taking such a big step in fighting to end domestic violence and financial abuse!

  3. Powerful storythat I know all to well. Thanks for sharing some of yourself with us.

  4. Thank you for sharing this. It’s nice to know there is help for women in this situation now. When I was a teen, my mom left a very unhealthy relationship, and we all lived in my grandma’s one bedroom apartment for months. (5 people!) The scary part is the amount of time we stayed before she actually left him, and pretended everything was normal. It just wasn’t something you talked about. I would actually lie when people asked me if everything was alright at home.

  5. You have the chance to touch someone else by sharing this, so thank you. Purple Purse is a fantastic organization. I’ll share this to help raise awareness.

  6. Your brave for sharing your story. My mom was abused by my father also which made her leave when I was a baby. She moved my across the country and Settled down with another man that did the same thing. My only memory of my grandmother is her coming over and slugging her in front of me. She was an alcoholic also. I didn’t forgive her before she died last year but when you never really knew a person I guess it’s much easier to forget about them then forgive them. I have forgiven my father and started a relationship with him though now that I have a little brother.

  7. Alcoholism is such a nasty beast. It permeates everything. I agree that forgiveness definitely is a key to moving forward for those of us who have been there. What a cool organization/fundraiser. You are so right that many do not think about financial abuse and control and it can be such a huge element as to why people stay.

    Lots of hugs. I know these stories aren’t easy to tell.

  8. It was definitely a rough 12 years. You are right…we are strong as Hell! I am also glad we both broke the cycle and married men that love us and our children. That picture was from the California trip, and although it was fun, I remember the horrible fighting the whole time as well. Definitely not something anyone should go through. SO PROUD of you for sharing becuase I don’t think I could. And the letter you wrote him…that’s powerful stuff and I think quite a few of us can learn something from that.

    1. Yep, California. And, yes, I could write a whole post about that horrible fighting, the scenic routes, the freezing AC (ALWAYS) and yeah, all of it!

      Thank you. Didn’t share for people to be proud or feel sorry or any of that!

  9. Wow Krystyn, thank you so much for sharing your story, You are going to help so many families because of your willingness to speak up and share. Lots of love to you.

  10. Such a powerful post, Krystyn. Thank you for sharing it for us and everyone who it will help.

  11. I’m so sorry that you and your mom and sister had to go through this. I hope that others can find solace and the fact that the purple purse is helping out is amazing. I know some women that could benefit and start a way out because of it. Hugs.

  12. I’m really proud of you for writing this. That might sound weird, or condescending, or something, but I have an idea of how hard that mist have been. Good job!

  13. I’m SOOOO glad you shared this story! Maybe, it will inspire someone to do what you all did! Amazing and glad this issue is finally being talked about across the board!

  14. Major kudos to you for sharing your story! I can’t begin to imagine how hard it was to struggle then or to remember it for this post. My husband had an alcoholic father who was very verbally abusive. He (my hubby) quickly learned to just accept things but I’m so glad he is now the complete opposite of the man that raised him.

    I’ve never realized financial abuse is such a problem but it totally makes sense. Hopefully this program will help those that are in a dangerous situation but feel they don’t have the resources to get out.

  15. Hugs. I’m glad people are seeing the other sides of domestic violence to help people get out too.

  16. Thank you for sharing your story of strength and survival, Krystyn. None of us knows from the outside who is affected by what, and your story proves that. I like knowing that there are programs available and corporations listening, both of which help those in need. Thank you.

  17. Such a sad story and so beautifully written. So many of us hide behind a smile and others never know of the pain. Thank you for sharing this story.

  18. I know that this was hard for you to post… But thank you for doing so…
    I never really thought about it before.. So glad your mom had the courage to do so. (She is pretty awesome!)

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    I know that this was hard for you to post… But thank you for doing so…
    I never really thought about it before.. So glad your mom had the courage to do so. (She is pretty awesome!)

  20. I’m so sorry you had to endure this for 12 years. Thank you so much for opening up and sharing-I’m sure that was no easy feat. Talking and sharing information is so important for others dealing with something similar. Amazing that you were able to forgive him- you are an incredible person.

  21. I understand the pain of abandonment and the scars it leaves. Forgiveness is a gift that we give to ourselves to set us free and moving forward is like getting out of quicksand.

  22. You were lucky that your mom got out but she should have left it at the 1st sign of abuse. My mother never did and made our lives a living hell by choosing to stay with her abuser over and over until he died and then my brother took his abusive place. We live in free country where there are many social services offered, women are free to work. I left on my own @ age 18 with the $1,000 I had saved. I made it through college, paid for my own wedding, raised four sons with my husband who treat their wives and significant others extremely well. I have resented my mother my whole life. She was not a weak “victim” I tried to help her from the time of I was 3 years old but she always sided with her abuser whether my father or brother. She was strong and feisty and often provoked both my father and brother. When I hear all the stuff in the news media about women victims I think the children of these crazy women are the victims. The pick these men and then choose to stay with them. I don’t care what the women’s movement thinks of me. I am almost 60 and this has been my experience with a so called “victim” of domestic violence. With the court system I had my brother put in a mental hospital when he was abusing her and stalking another woman and her family-my mother hired an attorney to get him out. I had him put in a half way house after a stint in a mental health facility when he abused again. She got a relative to get him out. He abused her in every way and she always sided with him over me. She thinks she is right and I am wrong. She damaged every one of her children. It was easier to forgive my father who was an alcoholic. She was the mother. It was up to her to protect us.

    1. I’m sure her mom wishes she had left him at the sign of abuse. It is easy to look back with the would have/should haves. For most women, the man doesn’t abuse until he has her trapped financially. Leaving without a plan can be VERY dangerous. Majority of women killed in these situations are killed when they leave.

  23. I’m so very sorry you went through that. What an awful experience. I too had a rough childhood and I’d like to say that it made me stronger but I’m not certain that’s the truth.

  24. i am so proud of you, your mom and your sister.

    three amazing women!

  25. I read this post this morning and I didn’t even know how to comment. This is the best that I can come up with… Thank you. Thank you for being brave enough to share this part of your life with us. I couldn’t imagine being able to write that story down- much less publish it. I am so happy that your mom got you out. What an empowering story.

  26. Thanks for sharing. 🙁 I’m sorry you went through this.

  27. There was a time when my mom, brother, and I lived in a one bedroom apartment. Not for the same reason, but still. I know the mixture of pride and shame that comes from living that life. I think we both turned out stronger for it.

  28. Krystyn –

    I applaud your openness about what was obviously a very tough time in your life.

    I too survived an abusive relationship – my ex-hub often said “I don’t know why you’re unhappy, it’s not like I beat you”, but his emotional manipulation and words were powerful enough. It wasn’t until the very end that he got physical – luckily for me, once he crossed that line I knew it was time to get out. I was 3,000 miles from home & family, but his friends and sisters knew he was troubled and did their best to help me move forward.

    It was a terrible time in my life, but I have forgiven him (I hope he has found some peace & happiness in his life), and value the lessons I learned from the experience. That time in my life makes me so thankful for the wonderful man I am married to today, for the marriage that we have and the father that he is to our boys.

    It is so true, abuse doesn’t necessarily leave bruises, and being trapped (by a lack of financial resources or other options) is a horrible feeling. What a great thing the All State Foundation has started! I will definitely support their efforts!

  29. Tamra Phelps says:

    Very true. Been there, done that. And when I called the police to report my dad driving drunk, some family were horrified I would do that! I’d rather deal with that than deal with the guilt if he had hit & killed someone, though. So…shrug, you know? Like you guys, we survived the hell and my parents divorced.

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