Courtney Mitchell

Courtney Mitchell

THE POWER OF SELF WORTH

Abusive relationships are all too common in today’s society and often those caught in the cycle feel like there is no way out. This story gives praise to a youth who despite lacking in self worth was able to walk away as soon as her partner became physically abusive.

Courtney, 26, grew up in Malibu, Eersteriver ‘I had a “normal” childhood, lived with my parents who were both caring. They worked a lot and this meant that we didn’t spend much time as a family. I was often left with nannies and despite never lacking any material things, overall I felt a lack of affection and that affected my self worth.’

Courtney was actively involved in the church youth group and it was here that she met her first serious boyfriend, ‘I was 21, I remember he came up and told me he liked me. At the time I wasn’t really that into him and I knew he came from an unstable background. As I think back now, I can remember my gut telling me that he probably wasn’t the best person to start a relationship with. However, I felt flattered because he liked me, he made me feel special and I decided to give him a chance, so we started dating.’

As with many relationships it started well, ‘the first year was great, we liked each other’s company and we spent a lot of time together. We got to know each other and I began to realize that he had been through many tough challenges in his life. I thought that I could help him and show him that despite his past someone could love him. I could sense that he carried a lot of anger, but turned a blind eye as I was sure he would change.’

Courtney and her boyfriend went to the UK for a trip with the church, ‘in the UK, he cheated on me. I was devastated and disappointed in him.’ Despite this Courtney gave him another chance, ‘he apologized profusely, promised that it would never happen again and vowed his love for me. The voice in my head told me that he could change and so we talked it through. When we got back to South Africa things went back to normal for a while.’

Courtney began to notice changes in his behavior, ‘he became a control freak, wanting to know what I was doing all the time. It seemed I was the one that had done something wrong. We disagreed and argued often.  I remember this one time we argued, I cannot even remember why; he had a sack of potatoes in his hand and the next minute he threw it violently on the floor near me. I knew that this was not right but I still kept going back.’

Despite the numerous warning signs, Courtney continued to date him on and off for an extra year, ‘even though it did not feel right. I kept telling myself he had not done anything major that could justify me leaving him. I kept thinking that he really loved me and I might never find someone like him.’

Courtney and her boyfriend attended, once again, a camp with the church. ‘The minute we were alone we broke into an argument. This time, he kept asking me about moving forward in our relationship and what the plan was in a threatening manner. I was confused and unable to express myself. He began to get very upset and agitated. He was shouting and screaming at me and then all of a sudden he hit me. He punched me in the face and spat on me.’

Courtney was shocked, ‘It happened so fast; I didn’t try to protect myself or fight back. We were on a camp and in that moment I couldn’t tell anyone. I hid it and carried on as if everything was OK. I avoided being alone with him for the rest of the time.’

Courtney returned from the camp and a week later she met with her mentor at church, ‘I needed to tell someone, I felt relieved with my mentor’s support.  My mentor supported me to see that I needed to put an end to this unhealthy relationship. I decided to report him to the police to make sure he would not come near me again.’

Courtney went to the police and opened a case against him, ‘I made a statement and a court date was set. I wanted to take out a restraining order against him.’ Unfortunately her first attempt was unsuccessful as he was not notified of the date but this did not deter Courtney. ‘I went back again and set another date making sure he was notified by going to the police station closer to him. Next thing I knew I was in court. I was delighted when the court granted the restraining order. I felt that this was my way of regaining power back and taking control of my situation. I wished that the court case also inspired him to get help.’

Despite the victory, Courtney began to get depressed. ‘The court case was only one step towards dealing with the deepest roots of what I had been through building up to the incident. I started to realise that the emotional abuse I had suffered over the years was hitting me harder than his fist. ‘

‘All the emotions and fears began to surface and I couldn’t deal with it. I spent a year at home doing nothing and despite being supported from friends, I felt alone with no one to turn to. I became isolated and felt worthless.’

Despite her suffering Courtney was determined not to let it rule her life, ‘my faith was a big reason I was able to get out. I also exposed myself to motivational material and became obsessed with reading stories of others who had been in a similar situation. This gave me hope knowing that I wasn’t the only one. I finally was able to let go and to forgive him and myself.’

Courtney got a job that offered counseling to employees, ‘I took the opportunity and I was able to deal with a lot that I had bottled up. My life began to make sense again and I started to re-build myself.’ Courtney began to use her experience to motivate others, ‘this ugly situation somehow set the foundation for my life. I am in the process of establishing an NGO that focuses on gender issues and works with young women. I want to use creative arts to uplift them and make them feel special.’

Courtney ended by saying, ‘if you don’t love yourself enough, you give others the permission to hurt you. Never forget your worth, surround yourself with people who keep reminding you of that and everything will be OK.’

Courtney is a former Salesian Life Choices staff member