EVANS, Ga. (WJBF)- One in three U.S. women will be a victim of physical violence by a partner in her lifetime.
Survivor Merritt Pritchard says for her, it began with small acts that quickly escalated. Growing up in Maine, she says she had a happy childhood.
“Really normal. I played sports, had lots of friends, popular,” she said.
When she was 17, she met a boy who changed her life.
“I felt really really lucky that he wanted to date me,” she said.
But things went downhill–subtly– and then into a bloody freefall.
It started little things at first,” Pritchard said. “If I would ’embarrass’ him, he would squeeze my hand.”
Before the beating started, he inflicted emotional wounds.
“He spent a lot of time alienating me from my friends, my family,” she said.
Isolated from her support system, she was dependent on only him. He would smack her across the face for just saying something, but she stayed with him for nearly a year. The worst incident came one weekend when her parents were out of town.
“He threw me up against the cabinets. He choked me until I passed out. I passed out on the floor,” Pritchard said. “I had bruises all over my neck, black eye, bloody nose.”
She still couldn’t bring herself to break it off.
“My self-esteem was just so low that I guess I thought I deserved it,” she said.
Finally, her mother’s friend put a stop to it.
“She just stayed there and you know I cried and screamed and yelled and she just said, we’re not doing this anymore. And that’s what I needed. I needed an adult,” Pritchard said.
She says it took her years to figure out what real love is. She and her husband Chris celebrate their 10 year anniversary next year. Now, she wants everyone to know that 1 in 3 U.S. women will suffer domestic violence in her lifetime– the overwhelming majority of whom will be in their late teens or early 20s– but we as a society, need to recognize this- and speak up.
“I think that if somebody had said something sooner to me, then it might have been different, but you know like I said, nobody wants to have a talk about it,” she said.
If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, you can the National Domestic Violence Hotline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).
Merritt Pritchard is now a stylist at Modish Salon and Spa in Evans and is holding a purple hair challenge this month. Purple is the color for Domestic Violence Awareness Month– she says it’s a great way to start the conversation about domestic violence.
All the proceeds from dying costs will benefit Safe Homes of Augusta, a local women’s shelter.