Stevie Croisant is a writer, leader, proud dog-mom, and survivor of an abusive relationship. She lived through two years of intimate partner violence, also referred to as domestic violence, before being able to leave the relationship with the help of friends and family.
“Even though I knew deep down that I should leave, anyone who told me that too directly would become the enemy. Especially if my partner and I were doing okay in that moment. He made me feel like they just didn’t understand what we had.”
Some of Stevie’s friends had helped her recognize the abuse in a way that did not make her feel she had to distance herself from them. “They would drop hints, draw out details from me. If I told them about abuse that happened, they would ask me how I felt, instead of telling me I should feel bad about it. This helped me start realizing for myself that the things he was doing were wrong. I cannot thank my friends enough who stayed with me the whole time, through leaving him and after.”
When Stevie got a job she was excited about, her partner began to belittle her and use emotional manipulation to try to make her believe she wasn’t capable of succeeding in it. He even harassed her through calls and texts when she traveled for business. It was when she was no longer in his physical presence, that she decided she would leave the relationship.
“Getting distance from him helped me realize how damaging his actions were to me. I realized that I’ve worked too hard and come too far to get where I am today, and I am not about to let him stop me from achieving my goals.”
Together with her family and friends, she made a safety plan for how she would get out of the abusive relationship. She took a vacation day without telling her boyfriend and, with the help of her friends, moved everything out of their house while he was at work.
“With the abuse I had endured, it felt like I was finally getting my voice back after being silenced for two years.”
After leaving the abusive relationship, Stevie experienced flashbacks, nightmares, and feelings of depression and anxiety. “What affected me most were the nightmares. After leaving my ex, I felt like I wasn’t safe anywhere. I couldn’t relax. It felt like there was a threat waiting around every corner.”
Though her family was supportive throughout the safety planning process and helping her leave the abusive relationship, she says that they have sometimes made her feel ashamed for having stayed in the relationship for so long and have not been fully supportive of some aspects of her healing process.
Stevie says that seeing a therapist has been extremely important in her healing process. Her therapist has helped her identify healthy coping strategies and grounding techniques, such as breathing exercises and checking in with her senses. “Learning grounding techniques has been super important for me. Setting healthy boundaries and realizing what I’m worth has been crucial, too.”
When Stevie met with a group of five other survivors, it was the first time she’d shared her story with anyone outside of her close friends and family. “They were the first people who truly were able to understand what I’d gone through and listened to me without judgement. I cried in the shower after because of the incredible release of negative energy I felt.”
It took Stevie a while to consider herself a survivor of intimate partner violence. “I had heard about domestic violence from PSAs that left an image in my head that to be a domestic violence survivor you had to have obvious signs of physical abuse, like a black eye. So I never considered that what I endured could be an abusive relationship. It’s really important to educate people about of all the forms of domestic violence so that we don’t have this one image of what it looks like. Just because I don’t fit the stereotype of what a domestic violence survivor looks like doesn’t mean I’m not one.”
Six months after leaving the relationship, Stevie started a blog where she and other survivors could share their stories. She started by inviting friends of hers who were survivors to write about their experiences, then others began contacting her, hoping also to share their stories. The blog grew into a podcast and eventually, into a nonprofit. The organization, WeAreHer.net, focuses on story-sharing, community building, and education efforts.
“It was important to share my story through writing because I’ve always been a writer, and that’s something he took away from me. He would always make fun of my writing. When we were together, he wouldn’t even let me write in my journal. When I started writing again, it felt so freeing. It made me feel like I had control over my narrative and was able to speak my truth.”
Stevie is passionate about prevention education, especially for young people. She emphasizes how vital it is to teach kids and teens about healthy friendships, setting boundaries, appropriate touch, and other topics that help them grow into adults who engage in healthy, intimate relationships.
“Connecting with other survivors has been incredibly valuable. It made me feel that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t the only person who had been through this, and that I wasn’t crazy.”