“According to the CDC, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men will experience physical violence by their intimate partner at some point during their lifetimes. About 1 in 3 women and nearly 1 in 6 men experience some form of sexual violence during their lifetimes.”

How we met.

I met Mandi last year when she came to me about booking a session. Over the past year, we have formed an amazing friendship. After making my post about wanting to start photographing individuals stories, Mandi reached out to me about wanting to tell hers. After discussing with each other she told me she would like to tell her story on domestic violence and sexual abuse.

Now, when first meeting Mandi and even over the past year I would have NEVER known she has been through what she has. She is a beautiful woman inside and out and definitely stronger than most I know. With this blog, Mandi has chosen to write her story, so please read along.

"He was cute but his daughter was cuter. She didn't have a mom and I was told I could never biologically be a mom so to me it was fate. Little did I know that, that fate was actually going to be a special type of hell."

My Story

He was cute but his daughter was cuter. She didn't have a mom and I was told I could never biologically be a mom so to me it was fate. Little did I know that, that fate was actually going to be a special type of hell.

It didn't start at first. He was sweet and attentive and made me smile. His first arrest was for a situation with his ex. I stood by him and protected his daughter because she was perfect and so innocent. When he started going through all of that was about 6 months into the relationship, we lived together and I became a stay at home mother to his daughter. She was my own, called me mom and we were best friends.

The stress of the trial, the cost and the pressure from his work started getting to him and thats when my reality changed. 

He started to be more controlling with little things like when I could hang out with my friends or where I was going. I don't know how it got so bad, honestly it feels like it went from bad to worse over night. I'd wake up to him choking me and when I'd come to he would grab my phone and just laugh as he was walking away. I had back surgery and he would take that as on opportunity to pound on my back with his fists and then take my pain meds to work with him so I would be in excruciating pain. At first I thought it was just because he was in a bad mood or the stress of the first trial was getting to him but bad moments turned to bad days and then it was just bad. 

He would step to me and me being the stubborn and fearless person I am, I stepped back and he did not appreciate it. 

It wasn't until he brought his friends home one day that I felt like I had no way out and my life was over. He was in the army, his friends were in the army. This guy stood 6 foot 2 inches and easily 200lb, his friends were all big guys as well, while I am a 5 foot 5 inch 98 lbs petite girl. They gang rapped me...for months.

Most people ask me "why did you stay so long?". My reply is always the same: I tried leaving once and he started beating his daughter so I came back and promised her I wouldn't leave until I could figure something out. 

The next question "why didn't you call the cops?". Well I did...all the time but he wound up sweet talking his way out of everything. The cops actually started taking his side and treated me like I was unstable.

It wasn't until he tried to kill me that I realized I had to leave. He road raged me in 8:30 morning traffic on a week day. If we stopped at a red light he would get out of his car and bang on my window trying to break it in order to get to me. He would speed up, get feet in front of me and cut me off getting in front of me and then slam on his brakes, trying to get me to crash. He would side swipe my car as we were driving 90 miles an hour to try to get me to crash...all while texting me how he was going to kill me.

I drove to a police station and ran inside yelling at them that he was trying to kill me. He comes walking in as calm as he could be demanding to talk to me as the police opened their door to let me in behind their glass. I fell to the floor and started crying. I knew in that moment that there was no turning back. This was the end of it all, the abuse, the rapes and the relationship. I also had three broken knuckles that he gave me two days before that, that were bruised and swollen that the cops asked about as well. But because the injury was 48 hours old it was considered a "cold case" and no charges were filed. 

He wound up getting charged with three misdemeanors and two felonies. It took two years, him getting rearrested and extradited back to Colorado due to moving without telling his probation officer (yes this is a felony but he sweet talked his way out of that too) to get convicted of three misdemeanors. I went to every court date, gave a victims impact statement every single time and made sure he knew that he messed with the wrong chick. 

The defining moment, that I will never forget, that brought me back to reality and made me get myself together to make sure he paid for what he did was this: my name was on the truck this guy drove so when he got arrested someone had to pick it and because my name is on the truck I had to pick it up. When I went to get it I wanted a police officer to give him a message to let him know Im so sorry and the truck will be at the house waiting for him. The police officer pulled me aside and told me that I seemed to be a smart girl so he was going to give it to me straight. This is what he said "this human will kill you. He is not a man or a boy he is barely even human. I have never seen anyone so cold hearted and narcissistic as him and I've interviewed a lot of people in my 10 years of being a cop. Do not go back or you will die. You are young and have your whole life ahead of you, go live it." All of the red flags I pushed aside, all the excuses I told myself...they were all brought to reality and I couldn't ignore them anymore. That was the moment. This police officer saved my life and I will always be grateful to him for that. 

I was a puppet, you held my strings, until one day I realized I had my own wings.

I got a uhaul that day and with -$40.00 in my account and whatever I could fit in the uhaul I left. 

Like I said I went to every court date and made sure he saw me. I even confronted him before one court date. I told him that he will pay for what he did and I will make sure of it. I told him that he no longer controlled me and Im happy now. He got so mad and tried to get me removed from the court house...it didn't even come close to working but the temper tantrum when someone told him no made me smile. 

I go to therapy every week to deal with the demons I have because of him, and I also take medication to help with the anxiety and PTSD. I get night terrors daily and have triggers. Sometimes the trigger is as simple as a smell or as innocent as a song. 

I promised myself that those years he took from me would not define me but make me. Make me a better person, make me someone I am proud to be and make me someone who can help others. 

I had to be strong when I had nobody and nothing. I had to stand my ground and stand up for myself. I am insanely proud of who I am and thats something the night mares or memories cannot take from me.

In Colorado Springs there are multiple groups for those looking for help and shelter from domestic violence and sexual abuse. Here is a list from this area. If you are not from this city, please either reach out and I will find you the correct contact or look for support groups and shelters in your surrounding area.

TESSA - 435 Gold Pass Heights Colorado Springs, CO 80906 719-633-3819

Haseya Advocate Program- 719-600-3939

National Domestic Violence Hotline - 1−800−799−7233

It was such a pleasure with working with Mandi. I have been able to photograph so much of her life in the past year and meeting her beautiful boys. She always have a smile on her face and we always have a blast talking and laughing. We both have a goal of wanting to help someone in the same situation that she has been through. I am forever grateful that she was willing to share her story. Please, if you are in need of help or shelter please do not hesitate to reach out to the numbers above or to me.