Before Ebony Canion knew what sex was, or how to say “no” to an advance that made her feel uncomfortable, she was molested by a close family member. In the eight grade she was raped in the bathroom of her aunt’s house — a traumatic occurrence she believes led to promiscuous behavior like sleeping with different men for the thrill. Eventually, she met a man who she fell in love with and married. While pregnant with their third child, he died in a fatal car accident. Tragedy seemed to follow Ebony and just when she thought she could take no more, she found a man who she thought was her knight in shining armor. However, Ebony’s story is far from a fairytale and that luminous protective gear was just hiding a monster.
Like many other domestic violence survivors, Ebony ignored warning signs that she was dealing with a batterer ( . Women who dated Ebony’s abuser before they met attempted to warn her that she was dealing with a man who hits women. She didn’t believe them until his true colors flashed before her eyes.
It started as a “mush,” Ebony remembers in her memoir, “Left For Dead.” But soon, her lover turned into who she called a “violent stranger.” During our candid interview, Ebony recounted being beaten with a shower rod until she bled. It was then she decided, no more.
With Domestic Violence Awareness month underway, she opened up to us about her experience in the violent relationship and the warning signs of a batterer.
HelloBeautiful: What is your domestic violence story?
Ebony Canion: After loosing my husband in a car accident, I was at a point in my life where I was lost and looking for something or someone to fill the void in my heart when I met a guy I thought was my knight in shinning armor. Things of course were great at the beginning, but soon the real him entered our relationship. It started from him mushing me in the car and things escalated from there. Things went from the mushing to a slap, to things being throw, punches and being choked. I was warned by some women before any abuse even happened, but I ignored them.
HB: When did you first realize you were in a violent relationship?
Ebony: One day I looked in the mirror at one of the black eyes I sustained from the abuse and had a flashbacks of all the things I watched my mother go through. I knew in my mind that things would only get worse. I saw my mother go from getting knocked down to being stabbed by her abuser. I knew then after so many black eyes that this was beginning to be my new normal. But I still chose to stay. I was in denial.
HB: Why didn’t you tell on your abuser?
Ebony: I didn’t tell on my abuser because I was embarrassed. I didn’t want anyone to know what my “secret.”
I was ashamed that I allowed myself to go through the very thing I witnessed my mother go through and swore that I would never let happen to me. I also didn’t want him to be possibly hurt by one of the men in my family or be jailed for what he’d done to me. It’s a crazy thing how we as women tend to protect the very person who causes us so much pain! But at the time I thought it was true love and there was no way I was going to let the man who rescued me be hurt in any way.
HB: Why didn’t you leave?
Ebony: I didn’t leave because I felt like he would change. I felt like the situations that happened were only temporary, not realizing that the making up we did was only a temporary fix to a problem that started way before I had even entered his life. I had been through so much and I was broken on the inside, not realizing that he was too. I tried to find good in him. I just wanted to believe that it all was a lie.
HB: Describe the violent encounter that you made you realize you needed to leave…
Ebony: My abuser actually broke into my house one night as I slept on the couch with my children. I woke up to him standing over me with a look in his eyes that would scare the devil himself. After I asked him how he’d gotten into my house, he began to yell and I sent my children upstairs. This is when the beating began. He slapped me, then punched me and dragged me off the couch. I finally got away and ran up the stairs to where my children were, but he caught me, dragging me back down the stairs hitting me again. I got away and ran up the stairs and tried to lock myself in the bathroom. He followed me. He came in and knocked me into the shower and the shower rod came crashing down on me. Then began to use the rod to beat me. He wouldn’t let up, calling me names with each swing. I couldn’t do anything to protect myself but curl into a ball and hope he didn’t kill me. He finally grew tired and left the bathroom, leaving me bruised, battered, and bloody. This beating was one of the worst ones and it was the last one! I had two black eyes, bruises all over my back, imprints from the curtain rod all over my body. I finally had enough. I told my family after that night. However, I never called the police and I think this goes back to still believing there was love involved. He ended up leaving town and I was left to heal physically and mentally.
HB: What advice do you have for other women who are in the same situation?
Ebony: I would say to the women who have their hearts and souls tied to an unhealthy situation that you have to love yourself enough to leave. Reach out to someone you know and ask for help. If you don’t have anyone to help you leave, then you’ve gotta come up with an exit plan, think it through and execute it. There’s nothing good that comes from an abusive relationship. It’s not going to change, and most likely things are going to get worse.
HB: What are the warning signs of a batterer?
Ebony: I would have to say that it starts with the abuser being controlling. The need to control someone else is a huge red flag for me. Also the things that are said to you on a daily basis can be a sign of verbal abuse. This type of abuse is often overlooked but it can sometimes do a lot more damage than physical abuse. Pay attention to the things that are being said to you, if you’re constantly being torn down with words, then you may be in a verbally abusive relationship. And last but not least of course being hit. It is never OK for your partner to hit you, NEVER! Even if it’s just a slap, those slaps can and eventually will turn into punches!
One in four women will experience domestic violence during her lifetime which means if you line up your mother, sister, best friend and aunt — one of them will encounter physical or verbal abuse. Women are also more likely to be killed by an intimate partner than men. Fortunately, Ebony left her abuser and lives to tell her story for the women who can’t.
Pick up her book, here.