Breaking the Silence: Terry Loerch’s Journey Through Domestic Violence

Breaking the Silence: Terry Loerch's Journey Through Domestic Violence

CEO/Advocate/Tech Innovator/Founder/Dad

June 26, 2024

Domestic violence is a silent epidemic that affects millions of lives across the globe. It knows no boundaries of gender, age, race, ability, or socioeconomic status. Today, I’m breaking my silence to shed light on this pervasive issue and to offer hope to others who might be trapped in similar situations.

My name is Terry Loerch Loerch, and I am a survivor of domestic abuse. My story is just one of many, but by sharing it, I hope to challenge the misconceptions surrounding domestic violence and inspire others to seek help and healing.

The Beginnings of Abuse:

Like many abusive relationships, mine began with love and hope. We met in college, young and full of dreams for the future. The early days were filled with laughter and shared ambitions. I never imagined that the person I loved would become the source of so much pain and fear.

The changes were subtle at first. Small comments, put-downs disguised as jokes. “You’re ugly,” she’d say, or “No one else would ever love you.” But she’d say it with a smile or follow it up with a kiss, so I brushed it off. It’s easy to make excuses, to tell yourself it’s just playful teasing. But over time, these “jokes” lay the groundwork for more serious abuse.

This is a common pattern in abusive relationships – the gradual erosion of self-esteem and the slow normalization of harmful behavior. By the time I realized what was happening, I was already deeply entangled.

Escalation and Vulnerability:

In 2003, my life changed dramatically when I suffered a spinal injury. Suddenly, I was more vulnerable, more dependent. This change in our dynamic led to a drastic escalation in the abuse. Instead of being a source of support, my partner began blaming me for “ruining her life.” The verbal attacks intensified, and soon, they turned physical.

I still remember the first time she hit me. The shock, the pain, the taste of blood from my split lip – but more than that, I remember the overwhelming feeling of disbelief. How had we gone from being in love to this? She cried afterward, promising it would never happen again. But it did, again and again.

This pattern of escalation, especially during times of vulnerability or major life changes, is unfortunately common in abusive relationships. Abusers often seize upon moments of weakness to assert greater control over their victims.

The first hit

The Impact on Children:

When our son was born, I hoped things would improve. For a brief while, they did. But as the reality of parenthood set in, things began to deteriorate again. Our son became another tool for manipulation and control.

My partner would threaten to take him away, saying no one would believe a disabled man if I claimed abuse. “Who do you think they’ll give custody to?” she’d sneer. “A cripple who can’t even take care of himself or the baby’s mother?”

She would interrupt moments when our son and I were bonding as if she couldn’t stand to see us happy together. She’d snatch him away, telling him, “Daddy’s too tired to play with you,” or “Daddy doesn’t really love you like Mommy does.”

Children in abusive households often become unwitting pawns in the abuser’s game of control. They may be used to manipulate the victim, as in my case, or they may suffer direct abuse themselves. The impact on their emotional development can be profound and long-lasting.

As our son grew older, he began to understand the dynamics of our household. I remember one day, he tried to reassure me, saying, “Dad, I can handle this for 3 more days.” It broke my heart to realize that my young child had learned to brace himself for these periods of tension and violence.

The Escalation: Fear for My Life:

As time went on, the abuse escalated to frightening new levels. There were nights when I’d wake up at 3 AM to find her standing over me, just inches from my face. Sometimes, she’d just stand there, silent and menacing. Other times, she’d hiss threats or insults, her voice low enough not to wake our son in the next room.

The constant state of fear took its toll on my physical and mental health. I lost weight, developed insomnia, and was constantly on edge. Even when things were calm, I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Then, after a week-long trip, my partner returned home in a rage. She spent the entire day yelling at me. That evening, as I was giving our son a shower, I suddenly felt dizzy and disoriented. The room started to spin, and I could barely keep myself upright.

I was having a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA), often called a mini-stroke. The stress had finally manifested in a terrifying physical way. I was rushed to the hospital, leaving our confused and frightened son behind. For four long days, I lay in that hospital bed, worried about our son and my own health. My partner never once came to visit me or brought our son to see me. It was as if I had ceased to exist the moment I left in that ambulance.

When I was finally released, I had to take an Uber home. As I walked through our front door, our son ran to me, his face lit up with relief and joy. But then came my partner’s chilling words: “I was just getting him to like me more.”

This incident was a harsh wake-up call. The abuse wasn’t just affecting my mental state anymore; it was literally endangering my life.

The Breaking Point:

The situation reached a breaking point shortly after. It was a day like many others, with my partner yelling about everything and even getting upset over using the wrong water cup for our son. But this time, the violence erupted twice in one day.

The first incident occurred when my son and I returned home from getting tires on the car. We heard smashing sounds coming from the master bedroom upstairs. When I investigated, I found her throwing things, breaking my old family’s oak dresser and the TV. When I asked why she was doing this, she denied everything, saying, “I didn’t do it; it was like this.” Our son, who had followed me upstairs, spoke up, saying, “You did it. I saw you.”

As I picked up our son to carry him downstairs, she attacked. She started punching me repeatedly while I was holding our son. I turned my back to shield him and take the brunt of the blows. She pulled my hair and bit me, nearly causing us to fall down the stairs with our son in my arms.

The beating continued until I managed to get outside. Even then, she didn’t stop. She followed us, biting me in the back, hitting me, and ripping my clothes off. I made it to the neighbors’ house, where they called 911.

Later that same day, after the police had come and gone, she emerged from the room and started beating me again. This time, the assault was so severe that when the police returned, they arrested her.

What haunts me most about that day is not my own pain but the fear and confusion I saw in our son’s eyes. Watching his mother attack his father and seeing the violence escalate to such a degree – I knew then that something had to change. Not just for me but for our son. I couldn’t let him grow up thinking this was normal, that this was what love looked like.

One of the small bruises from her biting me.

The Struggle to Leave:

Leaving an abusive relationship is never simple. There are practical considerations – financial dependence, shared children, and fear of retaliation. But there are also powerful emotional factors at play. Years of abuse had worn down my self-esteem. I had begun to believe the lies my abuser told me – that I was worthless, that no one else would want me.

For male victims, there’s an added layer of shame and disbelief from society. When I started to reach out for help, I faced skepticism and ridicule. “Man up,” they’d say, or “You must have done something to deserve it.” One person even laughed, assuming I was joking when I first tried to explain my situation. These attitudes only added to my isolation and made it harder to seek help.

My disability added another layer of complexity. I had become dependent on my partner for certain aspects of daily life, and the prospect of managing on my own was daunting. She had isolated me from friends and family over the years, so I felt like I had nowhere to turn.

The journey to freedom is different for every survivor, but it almost always requires careful planning and support. I reached out to a domestic violence hotline, speaking in whispers when my partner was out of the house. They helped me develop a safety plan and connected me with resources I didn’t know existed.

Finally, with the help of a friend who believed in me and offered support, I was able to leave. The day I walked out that door with my son was both terrifying and liberating. I had no idea what the future held, but I knew that whatever challenges lay ahead couldn’t be worse than what we were leaving behind.

The Ongoing Battle:

Unfortunately, leaving an abusive relationship isn’t always the end of the struggle. Many survivors, myself included, face ongoing battles in the court system, especially when children are involved. Abusers often use the legal system as a new arena for manipulation and control.

As a male victim, I faced additional skepticism in the family courts. I had to fight not only for my rights but also to be believed. I’ll never forget the first day in family court. I had gathered all my evidence – photos of injuries, audio recordings of threats, medical records. I felt nervous but hopeful, sure that once the judge saw the truth, they would understand. But as soon as I started to present my case, I could see the doubt in the judge’s eyes. There were questions that made it clear they were struggling to see me as a victim. “Why didn’t you just leave?” “How could she overpower you?” It felt like I was on trial, having to justify and explain every aspect of my abuse.

My ex played into every stereotype, presenting herself as a devoted mother afraid for her child’s safety. She claimed I was the abusive one and that she had only ever acted in self-defense. It was surreal to sit there and listen to her twist the truth, to see how easily she could cry on cue.

Even now, years later, I’m still dealing with the aftermath through the legal system. Each court appearance, each custody dispute, brings back painful memories and creates new stress. It’s a stark reminder that for many survivors, the impact of domestic violence doesn’t end when we leave the abusive relationship.

This experience highlighted for me the urgent need for better training and awareness in our legal systems about the realities of domestic violence, especially as it pertains to male victims and victims with disabilities.

A Message of Hope:

Despite the challenges, I want other survivors and current victims to know that there is hope. You are strong, you are valuable, and you deserve to be safe and loved. It’s not your fault, and you don’t have to face this alone.

Domestic violence thrives in silence and isolation. By speaking out and reaching for help, we begin to break its power. Whether you’re a survivor, a friend or family member of someone experiencing abuse, or simply someone who wants to make a difference, your voice and actions matter in this fight.

Remember, domestic violence is not about anger management or relationship conflict. It’s about power and control. It can happen to anyone, regardless of gender, physical strength, or social status. By broadening our understanding of what domestic violence looks like and who it affects, we can create a society where all victims feel empowered to seek help and find support.

Today, I’m rebuilding my life and my relationship with my son, free from the shadow of abuse. Every day, I’m grateful for the safety and peace I now have. The road to recovery isn’t easy, but it’s worth it. Your story doesn’t have to end with abuse – it can be a story of survival, strength, and hope.

Resources for Help:

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)
  • Local women’s shelters and men’s support groups
  • Legal aid services specializing in domestic violence cases
  • Counseling and therapy services for both survivors and children affected by abuse

If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, reach out. Speak up. Take the first step towards a safer, healthier life. Your story matters, and your voice deserves to be heard.



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