At 17, I met the future father of my kids. I had never had any romantic relationships before. I just didn't know that it didn't have to be that way. It was evident from the very beginning that our household was going to be very patriarchal, but I was ready to comply with it for the sake of 'great love'.
I had to be on my best behavior – cook, clean, take care of the kids, not to bother him with talk, not to relax, not to go outside, not to contact my relatives without his permission, not to wear make-up. I had to obey completely, and I didn't have a right to hold a personal opinion. At first, there were bursts of anger, for which he sometimes apologized. Then, his emotional breakdowns got more and more frequent.
He started beating me, setting rules of behavior. For example, when he came in I was supposed to stand up and look down. If I raised my eyes, I was punished. He battered me in front of my two-year-old daughter and four-year-old son. At some point, I realized I had to leave at all costs because I wanted to protect my children's mental health. It was difficult to do because we were living under lock and key. Every time he left, he locked us up in the apartment with no keys.
However, one day he forgot the keys and it was our chance. I took the kids and escaped, but the hell didn't finish there. At the domestic violence crisis center they told me I had to be patient and work on our relationship, reasoning that I had no place to go and that my kids and I could be left out on the street. They tried to convince me that a man wouldn't beat a woman without cause.
I had a broken nose several times, brain concussions all the time. He forbade me to seek medical help. I didn't get any child support payments. He kept harassing us for eight years. We kept changing flats. We often had nothing to eat, even though I worked 14 hours a day. He caught me on the streets of the city and beat me in public. He threatened our daughter after her coming-out.
However, gradually, after many years, he started letting us go. Now we can feel safe. I can live an open life of an agender the way I've always wanted. I can see people I want to see, I can present myself as I wish. The most important thing is that I can protect my children from constant fear and aggression.