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“I found him with another girl and that’s when he started to strangle me.”
“He was bigger than me, so I couldn’t do anything,” said McKinley Katz, 24, 49th Wing Medical Group outpatient records technician, as she recalls the dreadful details of her past abusive relationship. “I woke up in an ambulance.”
Katz met her abuser at the age of 16.
According to Rosa Ceballos, 49th MDG Family Advocacy program assistant, the average age of domestic violence victims is between the ages of 21 and 25.
“I was 16 when I started dating this guy on-and-off and then in 2012, at 18, we began going steady,” said Katz. “He started getting a little bit aggressive as far as saying rude and vulgar things to me.”
Everything was fine until 2014.
“It wasn’t always like that. So when it started happening, I got a bad, gut feeling,” said Katz. “Then everything went south.”
The abuse began.
“The first time I found out he was cheating on me, I brought it up,” said Katz. “That was the first time he got physical and he threw me into a wall. We stayed together a little longer after that.”
For many victims, staying with their abuser is normal.
“About 98 percent of victims stay or go back to their abusers,” said Ceballos. “This is usually because of financial reasons, lack of social support, isolation and lack of skills of being independent.”
That’s when the fear sets in.
“The fear of the unknown is what makes it hard to leave,” said Katz. “I didn’t know what to do after I left. This is my life, where do I go from here?”
Katz continued to date her abuser, but soon, she began noticing a pattern.
“He would start purposefully planning stuff whenever I couldn’t be (there),” said Katz. “I couldn’t go or do anything I wanted to do. It was a huge deal. I would go to work and go home. I couldn’t even go to my best friend’s house.”
Jerold Wiley, 49th MDG Family Advocacy Program outreach manager, knows the warning signs to look for in potential victims who are being domestically abused.
“Warning Signs for a victim can vary,” said Wiley. “They can include, withdrawing from friends, not participating in activities with friends like they used to, frequent crying, wearing clothing to cover up bruising, or increased alcohol use. “
Katz tearfully remembers the night she was strangled and quickly blacked out, after confronting her abuser for cheating.
“One holiday weekend he went to the beach,” said Katz. “I had a weird gut feeling, so, I went down there, and I found him with another girl. That’s when he started to strangle me. After I regained consciousness, my best friend was there.”
Her best friend always supported her.
“My best friend hated him from the beginning,” said Katz. “She said it needed to end. But, anytime I tried to breakup with him he would threaten to kill himself and would tell me it would be my fault.”
But, each situation is different.
“There are occasions where the victim was the aggressor for a current incident,” said Wiley. “It's later found out, they were fed up with past violence and finally fighting back.”
Eventually, Katz was pushed to a point where she didn’t care anymore. She broke up with him, and he did not kill himself.
Katz attributes her ability to successfully leave her abuser to the support of her friends and her family.
“I told my parents six months after the situation,” said Katz. “I hadn’t gotten over it. I think if I’d told them right when it happened, emotionally, it would have taken a bigger toll on me because I wasn’t ready to talk about it. I wanted to calm down (and) get myself back together, so that I could open up and tell (them), and be able to take (their) reaction(s).”
Katz first sat down with her mother and explained what she had been through.
“When I told my mom she broke down crying,” said Katz. “She had gone through the same thing when she was younger and dating a guy, and then she met my dad. So, she could understand. She cried a lot.”
Katz’s father walked in the room as her and her mom were talking, saw his wife upset and immediately asked, ‘what was going on?’
“My dad hated that I went through it,” said Katz. “But, he wasn’t surprised because he had met (my abuser) before and, he didn’t like him from day one.”
He was upset but he never blamed his daughter
“I feel like it is so easy to blame the victim for what happened,” said Katz. "You’re not expecting someone who claims to love you, to harm you.”
Many victims were in Katz’s shoes, which is why she now advocates for Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
“I didn’t know about Domestic Violence Awareness Month before I went through it. When Mr. Wiley asked if I would speak out, I wanted to help anyway I can. If I can help one person when my story gets published and they see I survived, maybe they can get out too.”
Today, McKinley Katz receives many questions about domestic violence and she has answers, such as:
- What would you tell girls who are in a similar situation right know? Any avenues for them to realize to get out of a situation?
If you leave you’re not going to be alone. At the moment, you’re going to feel alone but it’s better to go through that heartbreak or that fear of not knowing what you’re going to do with your life than to stay in that relationship. Who knows if you’re going to make it to the next year? I know I should have just cut my ties and figured it out because it’s better than going through that. It’s not worth it.
- Why did you stay?
He put me down so much you literally don’t feel like you can live by yourself. There’s a lot of ‘Your family wouldn’t want you if they knew what you did or ‘I’m taking you in graciously.’ You literally feel so worthless.
- How did you “come-back” to life after going through something like this?
My best friend Katie was always super supportive and understanding and always pushed me to not be a victim for the rest of my life. I’m stronger than that. I just had a lot of supportive people helping me not be a victim and be more open and (began) doing stuff that I wanted to do that I hadn’t done in two years. She helped me become who I was again.
- How can victims reach out for help?
At that time I didn’t know about Family Advocacy. If I had known I might have gone for help, but I can’t honestly say I would because it's embarrassing. You want this happy perfect life and when it’s not, it’s a lot harder to open up. But, reach out and find help and eliminate yourself as much as you can from the situation.
- How can people help others who they see in an abusive relationship? What can they do to help without overstepping?
Obviously offer as much help as you can. It is super scary, because they don’t want to step or look the wrong way because they are afraid. All you can do is offer as much help as you can. It’s ultimately up to the person in the situation. So, just making them feel empowered again and in control of their life again and letting them know that they have other options. (You're) re-building the confidence that they had before the relationship.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence please contact the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate at 1-(855) 336-6833, the Center of Protective Environment's Crisis Line at (575) 437-2673 or (575) 434-3622.