Episode 01: Carla
In the inaugural You Matter! podcast, Karen and Sabah speak with Carla, a NYU alumna and domestic violence survivor, as she shares her journey and the resources that assisted her, both on and off campus.
Intro Voices [00:00:05] Where do I go? It only happened once. I think I was singled out. The phone calls began about one month ago. What is hazing? Something happened to me when I was younger. I'm worried about my safety. He said he was sorry. Can someone help me? Where can I get help? Can someone help me?
Intro Voices [00:00:31] This is You Matter!, a podcast for the NYU community developed by the Department of Public Safety.
Karen Ortman [00:00:38] Hi everyone and welcome to You Matter! I am your co-host Karen Ortman, Assistant Vice President of Field Operations at the Department of Public Safety and a retired law enforcement professional.
Sabah Fatima [00:00:50] And I'm Sabah Fatima a premed graduate student here at NYU's College of Global Public Health.
Karen Ortman [00:00:55] This is our inaugural episode and it will speak directly to our podcast purpose to teach inspire and motivate members of the NYU community who have been victimized in some form or fashion.
Sabah Fatima [00:01:08] If any information presented today is triggering or disturbing please feel free to contact the wellness exchange at 212 443 9999.
Karen Ortman [00:01:19] A warm welcome to our guest Carla, an NYU alarm and domestic violence survivor.
Carla [00:01:26] Hi guys. Thank you for having me. So I'll get right into it. I was in a domestic violence relationship.
[00:01:35] In my case there were four incidents of physical violence; two in the summer of 2018 and the last two in March and April of 2019. And it started out as a very normal very loving relationship beginning in 2017 and we were together you know for an entire year without there being any signs of verbal or physical violence. So after that year we decided to move in together in the summer of 2013 and a couple weeks into that happened. You know the first incident and we had just come back from a party. We were drinking and having a discussion about trust issues and I think that you know we because we were drunk and because we were in the privacy of our apartment the conversation started to escalate very quickly and. In that conversation he pushed me for the first time. He grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me down to the sofa. About four or five times. He also grabbed me by the head and pushed me to the sofa and while I was trying to leave the apartment he wouldn't let me leave. He would corner me or push me against the wall or against the door. And so once he finally let me leave the apartment I I just ran outside and the first thing I did was call my sister and tell her everything that happened and immediately after that the second thing I did was Google on my phone. Domestic violence relationships and what to do you know in my shock I hadn't considered like calling the police in that moment. I just didn't know what to do. And so I what I read on my phone was that I needed to take pictures of the injuries and to basically just remove myself from the situation. And that's what I did. I took pictures but because of my state of shock and because my partner was you know immediately and constantly calling me and texting me apologizing I eventually went back to the apartment. He was immediately very apologetic crying you know swearing that he would never ever hurt me again. And he even said that if he would ever raise his voice at me again he would immediately leave the apartment. So I was very hesitant. I. I try to be smart about it and I knew that this will not be a one time occasion. But I also loved this person and there were obviously feelings and now we had an apartment together.
Karen Ortman [00:04:35] Can I ask a question? So you said that you shared this information with your sister and that you did some research on your own at any time did you seek domestic violence resources through the city. You were an NYU student at this time yeah. Did you seek resources through the wellness exchange.
Carla [00:05:00] So I wasn't NYU student at this time. I was going to my senior year but I did not immediately look for any type of resources at all with the first incident.
Karen Ortman [00:05:16] Were you aware that resources existed.
Carla [00:05:19] I was aware of the Wellness exchange center. I was aware that there were resources out there if I had you know set myself to look for them.
[00:05:30] But at this point I think I was in denial of the situation and believing that this person could change and that maybe this would be an anomaly and it in my case it would just be a one time thing and so. I decided I would deal with it on my own. A month went by and we were both visiting our hometown and the first night we were there he got really drunk and was quickly picking little fights with me while we were out that night and I decided just to let it be and ignore it and that we would talk about it the next day. That night we were staying at my parents apartment alone just the two of us and when we got back he was just passed out drunk and I found something on his phone about him joking about wanting to cheat on me. So I woke him up and I confronted him about it and he started screaming at me insulting me and the whole time I was just trying to get him out of my parents apartment but he was just getting increasingly verbally aggressive and not wanting to leave. And so he grabbed me by the shoulders and with all his strength he pushed me towards the ground and I got up and I told him that he would never step foot in our apartment in New York City ever again when we got back and the entire time he was just laughing at me and insulting me and I remember very clearly the image of him just like laughing at me throughout the entire time and he pushed me again towards the ground. And at this point I said I would call nine one one to get him to leave. And so at that point he pushed me a third time and this time there was a metal bench behind me. So my back hit the bench pretty hard and I was on the floor and I had a dialed 91 1 and I called and he saw me do that and that's when he finally left. So after that I called one of my best friends and he came over to my apartment and said that the police were downstairs. So I went downstairs to meet them and I told them what happened but they told me that they would immediately go find him and arrest him. And obviously in the state of shock that I was in and hearing that it really scared me and I felt like I was losing control of the situation and I wasn't ready to make that decision to report. So I told them you know thank you for coming here but I will think about it and make a decision in the morning.
Karen Ortman [00:08:15] Were you thinking at that point that he would change. Even then.
Carla [00:08:22] After the second incident immediately after the second incident. No but I was in a state of just. Like devastation like physically and emotionally. And I was not ready at all to let go of this person.
[00:08:46] I want space and I wanted to be alone in my apartment when we got back.
[00:08:53] But I was not thinking of this as the end of the relationship forever. You still loved him. Yes. Yeah. And you thought it could work. Eventually yeah. There were still a lot of feelings involved. You know even when there's violence like the love doesn't just go away.
[00:09:14] So you know after that we didn't speak for a while. He even met with my parents to talk about what would happen with the apartment. We went back to New York and he what would happen with what apartment with our apartment together in New York City. Since we were sharing the lease together.
Karen Ortman [00:09:32] So when you were at your parents apartment it was not in New York.
Carla [00:09:36] No. It was back home in our hometown.
[00:09:39] So when that vacation ended and we had both gone back to New York we weren't seeing each other he was staying at a friend's place and I was alone in the apartment. And at that point we were trying to figure out what to do with the lease. If someone was going to move out or if someone needed to find a roommate. But during all this time he was still taking advantage of the fact that I still had feelings for him and trying to constantly apologize and say all these things he would do to get better. You know he said he would start seeing a therapist which he did. He stopped drinking. He was trying to be more open and help me with trusting him and all these things and so eventually it seemed like he was getting better. And so that led to us you know starting to see each other again and eventually him moving back into the apartment. And so during all this time you know a few months went by and he was being the perfect boyfriend. He was not drinking. He was being very respectful of my space and was never verbally or physically aggressive with me. And. It wasn't perfect between us. Obviously I was dealing with a lot of like PTSD in many different forms. I would have nightmares almost every single night where I would wake up screaming or crying because I had these like scenarios in my head where he would be abusing me again or lying to me again.
Karen Ortman [00:09:32] Were you seeking help from anybody at this point?
[00:11:25] I was. I had decided a few months after the second incident to go to the ones exchange center and I was seeing a therapist about every two weeks. But since I. Had in my mind this idea that things were getting better I think that that's what I was projecting and focusing mostly on and so. It although it was very extremely helpful to talk about all these issues with a therapist at NYU I was not in the mindset of ending this relationship or reporting or anything like that at all.
[00:12:16] After the fall semester came winter break and I was going back home for a month and he was going back home for 10 days and he went back about three days before I did and I was getting really anxious. I felt like something was going to happen. And so this is second night back home. While I was still in New York he got really drunk and hooked up with someone at a party in front of everyone including all of my friends and I at that point like couldn't even fathom how I had taken this person back and they would be capable of doing this to me on top of everything that had already happened. So surprisingly this was the incident that made me finally decide that enough was enough. And during my month back home I was not talking to him. I was I had blocked him on my phone but he was trying to contact me in every way possible either through my parents or through my friends or through email or if he would see me in person. He would come up to me but I was trying to just stay away as much as possible but it was an entire month of this person trying to convince me that they would change and that they loved me and that that would be it. You know that nothing else would ever happen again. There would be no more pain.
Karen Ortman [00:13:54] And did you want to believe him.
Carla [00:14:00] I always wanted to believe him. I always wanted to have hope that he actually did love me and that he actually could change.
[00:14:11] And even though I tried as much as possible to be rational and to think about everything that was going on from a third person point of view I know just the feelings clouded my mind and the hope of him changing I think at that point was stronger than. What had happened.
[00:14:33] So when I got back to New York City after winter break we were discussing you know him moving out of the apartment and me finding a roommate and every option that I found you know fell through somehow. And he was obviously he wanted to stay in the apartment and basically he convinced me that he could be living in the living room and I could have the bedroom to myself and he would give me as much space as I needed but that that way he could show me and prove to me that he was changing. And while while I was very firm about not wanting to get back together with him I thought you know.
[00:15:23] It's five more months of this living in this apartment. He'll give me my space and it'll be fine. Why only five more months because the lease would end in five months in the summer.
[00:15:38] So that's how things started out in January and February and he was being respectful of my space. He was not drinking. He kept seeing the therapist and it seemed like if he could keep that up that you know eventually there could be a chance. Between us in the future and so during that time one of the things that he wanted to do for me was invite me on a trip abroad for my spring break.
[00:16:08] And I thought a lot about it. And you know. Two months have already gone by where he was being again this perfect partner. And I thought you know what. Like I can go on this one week trip with him and it'll be fine and everything's been going OK. So there shouldn't be a problem. So I hadn't told anyone about that. I didn't tell any of my friends. I felt ashamed and embarrassed to even be considering getting back with this person. So I was very secretive about everything that was going on. And the only person who knew about the trip was my mom.
Karen Ortman [00:16:51] And she was also someone who believed that he could change it and compare that to the response you got from your friends. What was their position immediately after the second incident?
Carla [00:17:11] Where I had finally opened up a word about what was going on. They hated him. They didn't want him in my life at all. You know they were worried for me.
[00:17:28] They weren't supportive of me being with him or giving him a chance or wasting any more time on him at all.
[00:17:38] But at the end of the day they just want to be happy and they thought you know she's telling us he's changing. She's telling us that she has hope. So you know we're gonna be there for her. But after. The incident of him cheating on me in December I didn't even say anything at all about considering getting back together with him to any of my friends.
[00:18:10] So. Spring break came around and we went on this trip together and a few days in I found something on his phone again and he was lying to me again and I immediately was angry I was insulting him I was screaming at him saying that he would never change and he started getting angry at me and so he grabbed me from behind and he picked me up and he forcefully tried to throw me out the door of the Airbnb that we were staying in he did that twice or tried to forcefully kick me out twice and when I finally got out of his grip I tried to go out the door and he wouldn't let me leave. And so I sat down in a corner and I was just crying and screaming at him not to touch me.
[00:19:15] I think that he was just in denial that after so many months of not hurting me physically he had hurt me again.
[00:19:26] And when he finally let me leave the room he was apologetic. He was constantly calling me trying to reach me and begging me to come back and forgive him.
[00:19:40] And basically I just told him that we would spend the rest of the trip as separated as possible and that when we got back to New York City it would be over for good this time but at this point he was going to be traveling for his job every week and I would only have to see him during the weekends.
[00:20:04] And I thought you know it's only two more months until this lease is over. He said he will agree to give me my space. And that he would be traveling constantly. So I thought when we get back we'll still be in the apartment living in separate you know staying in separate rooms.
Karen Ortman [00:20:25] After the third incident were you convinced that he wasn't going to change at this point.
Carla [00:20:29] Yes I think it was finally with that third incident. That it clicked in my head that this person is not going to change no matter what with with physical with the physical violence with the lying. Yeah. That was a incident that finally it finally I finally processed that he wouldn't change.
[00:20:57] So we were back in the apartment and he was respectful of my decision that the relationship was over. I was I almost wasn't seeing him at all in the apartment. We were very much keeping our distance and it was a week after that trip where the fourth incident happened. I was one morning getting ready for work. He was also in the apartment getting ready and I was looking for my vitamins I couldn't find them. And I asked him about it and he just called me a bitch and I said Don't ever speak to me that way. And I just got in my room and I just locked the door and was getting ready and he was knocking and knocking knocking on the door like screaming at me saying Come outside let's talk.
[00:21:49] Talk to me talk to me. I said once that I didn't want to talk to him and just to leave me alone. And after that I just ignored all the knocking I ignored all the screaming and I went to the bathroom again locked the door finished getting ready and when I went outside to put my shoes on and get my bag and finally leave for work he was still screaming at me and.
[00:22:16] I just looked at him like I just not believing that he was still being this person just looked at him and I turned around and left and at that point he followed me in the hallway of our building and he screamed or shouted my name very aggressively and I looked back and I just said Go to hell.
[00:22:45] And I kept walking and then I hear someone running behind me and he had a run towards me and he pulled me by the ear and took my earphones out and he said Oh give me my hear my earphones then they're my earphones because he had given them to me as a gift. Almost a year back and he goes back inside the apartment and I follow him and he immediately shuts the door and is cornering me and is not letting me leave. He had the earphones behind his back to keep me there. And I eventually convinced him to give me that earphones and then I would talk to him. And so he gives me the earphones and he saw me like go towards the door and he just shuts it in my face and is screaming at me and I just tried to not escalate the situation and can't calm him down. And he was just in complete denial of what he was doing. But finally let me leave the apartment and I just ran until I got outside and I went to work as if nothing had happened that day and it was finally then. That I could not deal anymore with the anxiety and the fear of being in that apartment of thinking about the apartment of thinking of being in my own home. Then I decided to go to the Wellness Exchange Center at NYU without even an appointment or anything. And finally do something about this.
Karen Ortman [00:24:25] When you went to the Wellness Exchange the second time. How was that experience different from when you went to the Wellness exchange the first time.
Carla [00:24:33] My second time going to the Wellness Exchange was more out of fear and really high levels of anxiety that I was feeling right after that fourth incident. So it was all very fresh and. The therapist that I spoke to was the person who finally made me process that my life was in danger and that I wasn't safe anywhere near that apartment or near this person.
[00:25:13] Also the second time going to the wellness exchange I was asked if I wanted to be put in contact with different resources at NYU that would help me through this process. And since this was when I finally process that I was in danger I was more open to contacting these resources.
Karen Ortman [00:25:36] And what were those other resources that you are speaking about.
Carla [00:25:39] So they referred me to someone at victim services at NYU Public Safety and they advised me that this person would know more about the legal process of dealing with the lease and taking someone out of the lease. They would know more about the process of reporting and what the legal options were. In this case and the very next day I was able to meet with this person and I remember this was on a Friday and the following Monday they accompanied me to report to the NYPD.
[00:26:17] So when I met with this person from Victim Services I was completely lost and asking all these questions like what could realistically come out of this. What were the legal process look like. What are my options. And I felt really empowered to.
[00:26:39] Report and to do something about my situation to finally get some peace of mind and feel safe so that Monday when we went to the NYPD I reported and immediately got an order of protection. And after that I was able to get my ex out of the lease and finally have a home where I didn't have to feel scared 24/7 or having to lock my doors or you know living in fear basically. And I finally feel safe and happy.
Karen Ortman [00:27:29] That's wonderful. I'm very very happy for you. Very proud of you.
Sabah Fatima [00:27:33] Thank you for seeking help.
Carla [00:27:37] If I met someone who was going through the same thing that I was going through I would tell them that there is no easier moment to do something about it than right at this moment because the longer that you delay the situation the longer that you stay in it the stronger your feelings of vulnerability and weakness will get and the harder it will be to finally make a decision about it.
[00:28:11] Finally make the decision to reach out to someone to report to seek resources. So if you feel like you don't have anyone in your personal life who you feel comfortable opening up to then I think that a resource like the wellness exchange is going to be a place where you can finally feel comfortable and open to let it all out and feel like they are going to be there for you and they will help you.
Karen Ortman [00:28:47] Well I'm happy you sought those services and you are in a better place now. Thank you so much for sharing your story and to all of our listeners for joining us for today's upset of You Matter!
Sabah Fatima [00:28:58] If any information presented today was triggering or disturbing please feel free to contact the wellness exchange at 212 443 9999.
Karen Ortman [00:29:09] You can also get in touch with NYU's Department of Public Safety and their victim services unit by calling 212 998 2222.
Sabah Fatima [00:29:20] From our podcast like these you could find us by searching for You Matter! on Apple podcast or Google Play.