Escaping Detroit: a narrative essay by Sarah Dick

Escaping Detroit

I was bruised. I was bloody. I was hanging out of an eighth story window of my apartment in Detroit, Michigan. Sean, my then boyfriend was on a drug and alcohol fueled rage and had once again taken it out on me. This was normal in our relationship. He would get angry, I would get hurt, and then he would apologize as if nothing had happened. I would forgive him and go on myself like nothing had happened. This night however was different. As I hung there cold and scared, I saw my savior shining brightly in the night across the street “Go Army.”

It had been two years since I left my parents’ home quite abruptly with a note saying I wanted to be an adult, and I was moving in with my boyfriend. I had packed my things and just left without warning. Looking back now I can see how cruel that was and how much I must have hurt them. Sean and I moved into our apartment together in downtown Detroit. He was a DJ and said this location gave him the best opportunity to book clubs, and I followed blindly. I was 19 and Sean was 26. In those early days Sean was a normal nice boyfriend. He brought me flowers at work, watched sappy girly dramas, and was really attentive to my every need. Slowly things started to go wrong, very wrong.

It all started at a party. Sean got very drunk and thought I was dancing with another guy. He dumped his drink on my head then threw the glass in my face. I still have a chip in my chin from where the glass hit. From there things just progressed and got worse. I was hit with beer bottles, baseball bats, anything that Sean could get his hands on. All the while I was completely cut off from my family. My parents took my car back and Sean did not allow me to speak to them. I had no friends and was completely isolated from everything I had ever known. I even had to report back to Sean after work and tell him everything that happened that day to keep him informed. I was not to talk to men at all. Then, at 20 I found myself pregnant. Upon telling Sean he was thrilled. He bought me flowers and loved on me so much. I actually thought things might be okay. Then he came home from a friend’s house drunk and high and threw me down our apartment building’s stairs. I was in the hospital for three days. I lost the baby, cracked two ribs and had a fractured a tibia. This was not how things were supposed to be.

However, I had no idea how to escape. He would find me. He knew where my parents lived and knew where all my friends lived, so I was at a loss on what to do. Then about a month later he had me dangling out that window over Jefferson Avenue and I saw the “Go Army” light. That was it! The Army would be my sanctuary. “I lived near no Army base so it would have to take me far away from Sean and all his horrors, wouldn’t it, “ I thought to myself. I held on tight and climbed my way back into the window. A plan began to form in my head on what I was going to do.

The next day while Sean was at work, I walked over to the recruiting station that housed that Go Army sign. I spoke with a recruiter and lightly explained my situation. They understood and promised to help me. We got everything done we could that day. My next step was to call my parents and ask for their help and forgiveness. My mother was in tears, and my father was speechless. They knew something was wrong but did not know what. I explained I had a plan to leave Sean, but I needed them to come and get me and help me pack, quickly. I did not want Sean to know anything; I just wanted to leave him. I was still scared of him even though taking those initial steps to leave him left me with a sense of power. I was sure to keep my plans secret and continued to act normal around Sean, but my departure was fast approaching.

The day had finally come when my parents would drive that 47 miles into downtown Detroit and pack up my life to escape Detroit and Sean. The recruiters from the Army showed up to help me evacuate the apartment and help me pack up. I cried tears of utter joy and gratitude for those that were around me supporting me in this endeavor. When the last box was tucked away in my mom’s car, I knew this was it. We drove to Troy, Michigan, another 45 miles away for me to take the Army placement test. From there we went home.

It took two weeks to finish all the paperwork and get me officially enlisted in the Army. I was going to be an Intelligence Analyst and train in Arizona. I was thrilled it was far away. I had not heard from Sean, but I was still scared of what he might do. I left on April 16, 2003, for Fort Jackson, South Carolina, for Basic Training. My parents were so proud. From there I traveled to Arizona for advanced training and then on to Germany for my first duty station. I met my husband in Germany, something I never thought I could have because I never thought I could trust again.

Three years later I got a call from my mother saying I needed to look at the local Detroit news and that it was important. The headline read “Local DJ in ICU after being thrown out window.” I read the article; it was about Sean. Someone had thrown him out a three story window, and he landed head first on the pavement. He was in critical condition and not expected to survive. I contacted some of his old friends online and found out that he had been with another girl and was beating her as well. The theory was that someone was seeking revenge for what Sean had done to her. A couple of days later Sean died. I felt nothing except relief. He was gone, forever. The boogyman could never get me ever again.

At 19 I learned that just because you may think you are ready for adult situations does not necessarily mean you are. I wanted a life that was all my own, and I got a life that was full of pain and anger. That is until I saw the Go Army sign while I was forced to hang outside a window in the cold. The army saved my life, and I can truly call myself a survivor.

From Instructor Jones:

I nominated Sara’s narrative essay because it is one of the most compelling narratives I have ever received. She not only shared her personal experience as a victim of abuse, but she also shared how she overcame this terrible experience. Her essay was well crafted from beginning to end, and I believe her story is inspirational. I have to say that I was completely surprised when I read her essay since she was an intelligent, self-confident military veteran when she was in my English 101 class. I am happy to say that she is now continuing her education at USC


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