I Need Blue

Escaping the Cycle of Domestic Violence: E'ala's Journey to Empowerment

January 09, 2023 Jennifer Lee/E'ala Season 3 Episode 1
I Need Blue
Escaping the Cycle of Domestic Violence: E'ala's Journey to Empowerment
I Need Blue
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

“Break the cycle of abuse - Don't believe you are trapped, you are stronger than you think.”

E'ala decided to break her silence after 3 women she personally knew were murdered by their boyfriends. Ashley Perala, Nadine Cavalier, and Gabby Petito. She is hoping  by sharing this story, it could help someone else who might be in that position right now.

E'ala has escaped three abusive relationships throughout her life. At 15, she was in a relationship with an older man  who was a drug addict and physically abused her. Even when she found the courage to leave, he lured her back in. 

Her life took a turn when her mom was diagnosed with cancer. It led to a long-distance move ultimatley ending one abusive relationship and sadly beginning a new one. 

E'ala's story is one of resilience and hope, showing that despite being in an abusive pattern, it is possible to break it and find a loving and supportive relationship. She wants to share her story and resources to help others find the strength to leave abusive situations and save their lives.

 Today we discuss:
1. E'ala's experience
2. What are the signs of an abusive relationship that victims should look for?
3. What is isolation and gaslighting?
4. How did E'ala break the cycle of abusive relationships and end up in a loving, supportive one?
5. How can victims of domestic violence protect themselves from predators and abusers?

"The devil doesn't come with horns and a pitchfork. He comes dressed as everything you've ever wanted." ~E'ala

Brevard County, FL resources:

National Help hotlines:
Stay safe tips:

Purchase  my book:
Why I Survived:  How sharing my story helped me heal from dating abuse, armed robbery, abduction, and other forms of trauma by Jennifer Lee

 “In Why I Survived, Jennifer pulls us into her hair-raising traumatic stories and helps us understand the physical, emotional, and mental toll trauma takes on us. Simultaneously, she reminds us we're not alone and encourages us to listen to our intuition, which helps us avoid pain and stay on the right path. On the edge of our seats, we get to see how Jennifer triumphs over her adversities and finds the gift of helping empower others to begin their healing journey by speaking her stories. This book is unputdownable.”
Julie Jacky- Author of On the Other Side - A Spiritual Memoir of healing and forgiveness 

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Jen: Please note I need blue does contain sensitive topics, which could be triggering. Please seek help if needed. And remember, you always come first. I would like to thank Shar, good for composing and performing the introduction music to find additional information about Shar. Good. You can visit my website www.ineedblue.net.

 What made you ready today? What happened that you wanted to share your story with us? 

Eala: The reason that I became ready to share my story is because in the past year, Three women that I personally know were murdered by their boyfriends.

And it's horrific to think that the person who says they love you, the person who's supposed to be there with you to help you through life and to make things better, is the one that is taking that life from you. So I'd like [00:01:00] to just take a moment of silence for Ashley Parla, Nadine Cavalier, and Gabby Petito.

These women, they were all beautiful women who were good at what they do, who were alike to people's lives, and they spent their last moments terrified and their lives were ended by the person that was supposed to love them. And I'm sorry, it's a little hard to talk about because I was in that situation.

I, I've been tied up with a gun to my head. From the person who said they loved me for years, and I'm very lucky to be alive today, and I'm just hoping that by sharing this story and by sharing some resources and some things that I wish that I had known to look for, that it could help someone else who might be in that position right now.

Help to save their life, help them to, to get out of the situation [00:02:00] that they're in, because nobody deserves to die like that. And of the three beautiful women that you just mentioned, who lost their life to an abuser, did you have any idea what they were struggling with? Because so many times it's what I call a dirty secret.

I wasn't close enough on a personal level to any of these women. Ashley was someone who I worked with. She was one of my store managers. I would never have guessed that by knowing her. I knew her for the past year and she was always supportive and welcoming, and I, I, I didn't know what was going on at home with her.

Nadine was an acquaintance. She was part of a business group that I'm a part of, and she always seemed so happy they'd flock to her to say hello. I mean, she was infectious. And, and Gabby is actually my direct manager's daughter on the other side of it. I mean, I may not have known Gabby, but I have watched her father going through [00:03:00] this.

And watch him trying to turn this trauma into something positive by creating laws and meeting with senators. And he is out there literally trying to change the world right now, making it safer for women, making sure that when someone is unfortunately killed, that their names are going on to a registry.

Because right now, believe it or not, they're not. But you're absolutely right. I mean, abuse, it's, it is a dirty secret. It's something that people hide. They hide from their friends and family and just from kind of what I've seen with my friends who have been in abusive relationships over the years, it's the people that are posting the most that make it seem like everything is wonderful and I love him so much or her so much.

And the ones that are constantly posting about their spouses that tend to have issues going on behind closed doors, and they're trying to make themselves feel better about it by putting out this, this outwardly happy and loving face when it's [00:04:00] just not the case. I have a question for you because I, I know Nadine as well.

 I was shocked. Nadine, I wasn't close with, I didn't know, but when it happened it was like, this is someone who I see every month, and even though we don't hang out, like we're not best friends or anything, like I see her every single month and now I'm never gonna see her again.

And that's just, it's crazy to think that this person is just gone. And with Gabby Petito, I mean, I got a phone call from my boss saying, Hey, just so you know, before you see it on the news, this is what's going on. And you know, getting updates from him directly with everything that happened throughout those months and months and months of that whole situation going on, it was heartbreaking to see someone lose their child.

Each situation is definitely unique, and the, my reactions to it were different, but either way, I mean, the loss of [00:05:00] all three of these women is just, it's so sad to be killed by the person that you live with that loves you, that you cuddle with, that consoles you, that you, you share your life with. And they're, they're taking someone else's life because they're unhappy with their life.

And it's not fair. It's not fair that these people don't know how to manage their emotions, and it's affecting so many people because they decided. But because they're unhappy, someone else should pay for it. Right. You know, there is a pattern with domestic violence and what is interesting in your situation, and I appreciate you coming forward with us, is you ended up in three different relationships, which is not unusual because you tend to gravitate back to what you know and what is just comfortable, even though it might not.

Be healthy for you. 

Jen: So can you share then, if you're comfortable, the the first relationship and how graduated into another [00:06:00] one and then another one, and how you broke that cycle, because I really want us to focus on that as well, cuz there are women who are gonna be listening that wanna break that cycle.

Eala: I was 15 years old when I entered into my first relationship. In the beginning it was not abusive. It was the most wonderful thing in the world. I met a, a older gentleman. He was three and a half years older than me. I was 15, he was almost 19.

This was when I lived in Hawaii. It's a fairly small town and everyone knew him and everyone loved him, and he had a big truck and a big speaker system and he was just so cool to a little 15 year old me. You know, we met and we hit it off right away and he was interested on in me, and I thought, oh wow.

How lucky am I that this guy likes me out of all of the girls in town? So immediately I jumped into that relationship [00:07:00] and he was loving and giving and caring, and he would pick me up and take me out to dinners and take me shopping. It was. Obsessive and explosive and amazing, and the love that we shared was infatuation.

And that's usually how it goes for people in their first relationship. If you've never experienced love before you, you dive in the deep ends at 15, like you haven't experienced a lot of the emotions that an adult would traditionally go through in, you know, their early twenties and whatnot. Yeah. And as a 15 year old, I never should have been in that situation.

I never should have been dating someone who is almost 20 years old. And that's something that I wanna touch on real quick here is we talk about grooming, and it's a term that's used for sex trafficking victims, but it's not just for that. Older men groom younger women all the time. [00:08:00] And I mean, the reality is you are not mature for your age.

He is a predator. A lot of younger women think, oh, this older guy's interested in me. It must mean I'm cool. It must mean I'm ahead of my time. It doesn't mean that it means that he sees that you are young and vulnerable and you are someone he can take advantage of. Was your relationship a secret? No, not at all.

I was very open about it at that point. I, I did already have not so great of a relationship with my family. I kind of roamed around and did my own thing. Didn't come home for days at a time cuz I was out partying in the south side of the island with my friends. Hawaii's a different world than the mainland, so I mean, that was pretty common out there to just you, you hit 13, 14, you start partying and everyone just leaves you alone.

 My mom owned a business and she worked full-time trying to pay the rent, which was like $3,000 a month. We didn't have a good relationship cuz quite honestly, I never saw her. [00:09:00] She was always working. So I just, I live my own life. My brother is three years older than me, so he was the same age as Tyler and he told me, this person is no good.

You need to get away from him. He does drugs, he is not a good person. And of course I didn't listen to him and I wish with all my heart that I did cuz it would've saved me a lot of trouble. But you're 15. Yeah. I mean this. Relationship ended severely. Tyler is dead now, and if I had stayed in Hawaii, I would have been as well.

And he was involved in drug deals, he was involved in chicken fighting. He was involved in a lot of shady, sketchy stuff. And as a 15 year old, I didn't know that my partner was smoking drugs. I didn't realize that I was with a drug addict. I didn't know what signs to look for. I didn't know. What gaslighting was or what was going on.

 I was a child and I was with this person for four, almost five years. I was trying to have a kid with them and [00:10:00] everything and, and I was trying to make myself happy by thinking about marriage and thinking about having children with this person who was regularly cheating on me and abusing me. He would come home and just be absolutely livid at me for stupid little things like his friend came over to visit one day.

He wasn't home and he came home later and thought that I had slept with his friend who came knocking at the door for him. And I was absolutely beaten to a pulp. I have a severe back injury to this day from Tyler because he would beat me so badly that I couldn't move. I've been. Kicked across the kitchen with a steel toe boot to the stomach.

I've been tied up in the bathroom with a gun held to my head and threats that if I ever left, he would kill my family. And that's ultimately why I stayed. I was afraid for my life. I was afraid for my family's life. I left this person [00:11:00] dozens of times, and every time I left, he turned into the knight in shining armor.

He would be the perfect boyfriend. As soon as I left, he would be doing all the things I asked him to do and being kind to me and picking up his phone whenever I called, which was rare. And that's what gets you to keep going back to these relationships is when you do find the strength to leave, they lure you back in.

I heard a quote last week that I really wanted to share because it resonated with me. The devil doesn't come with horns and a pitchfork. He comes dressed as everything you've ever wanted. Isn't that interesting? Wow. Yeah. And that's exactly what reels you in and gets you to stay. And then they change.

Once you're locked in, that's it. You're done. So true. Let me ask you this before we move on now as an adult. 

Jen: Looking back, if you had a friend who had a teenage daughter who was thinking maybe she was in [00:12:00] an abusive relationships, what signs would you tell her to look for? 

Eala: The most important thing is abusers always try to separate their spouse, their loved one, from their friends and family, and it doesn't happen quickly or all at once.

It happens little by little. Tyler would tell me that certain one of my friends was no good for me, that they were talking. Bad things behind my back and he'd get me to not hang out with them anymore. And then he'd tell me another one. You know, all these problems with them. And then another one, oh, he didn't like them.

Oh, they said this to him. And then after I had no more friends to turn to, he turned on my family and he said, your mother's trying to separate us. Your mother's no good. And he was trying to separate me from my family. And he did. He successfully did. So if someone's child is in a relationship with someone, a major sign to look out for is, are they isolating [00:13:00] you?

Are they telling you bad things about your friends and family to get you alone so that they're the only person that you're with? If you're isolated, you have no one to turn to, and then they can be the only one you have in your life, which keeps you from leaving. Thank you so much for sharing that. So at this point you are what?

19, 20 was 19 years old, and my mother got cancer. It was severe. It was a seven pound tumor, and after the surgery, she couldn't walk for close to a year. So we knew it was gonna be bad. We sold the business and my mom told me, look, I know you're in a bad situation and I want to help you. I will buy you a ticket to move with me to Florida.

Let's leave. I helped her sell everything and we moved all the way to Florida, you know, outta nowhere. I didn't give him notice. I didn't tell more. I was going, I was just, you know, gone one day. Okay. So that was your way of leaving. Tyler then is your [00:14:00] mom became ill. That was the only way for me to leave him was to completely leave the state because he came and found me every time I left, no matter where I went, whether it was with friends or family or to another island to see my other family, he would find me every time.

And I knew I had to leave and I knew that I had to help my family at the same time, so it was a no-brainer. So I was able to escape because I literally moved halfway across the world. Yes. So once I got here, I helped my mom recover for a little while. I went traveling the country because I met up with a sales team.

They were involved with nascar. It was a company called Smart Circle, and it was essentially a cult. There's really no other way to put it. They convinced me that the only way that I could ever have a good life was to leave with them and leave with them right now and go across the country. So I got in a car with four guys who I didn't know, never really met before, except for a couple of times at an interview packed two suitcases and [00:15:00] drove to Chicago from Florida.

And lived in a hotel for months and through that experience I met Bruce. He's before and he's after my other abusive relationship because it was a drama all of its own. But we were living in a hotel together. Everyone had their separate rooms. Eventually the company stopped paying for my room. I needed a roommate.

There was no one else. So he came to room with me and you know, we just got together from there. We moved down to Florida together. When we left the company, he had a daughter down here. She was a very sweet little girl. She was eight years old when I met her, and I essentially helped to raise her until the end of our relationship.

Bruce had a different, Abusive tactic. So Tyler was very physically abusive. I would get beat quite often. He cheated on me all the time. Bruce was more neglectfully, mentally abusive. He would say nasty things to me. He knew I was very conscious about my fitness, so he would [00:16:00] tell me, oh, I could run laps around you every time.

He didn't wanna do anything with me. To make me feel bad about the fact that he didn't wanna do anything with me, like it was my fault cuz I couldn't keep up with him. If we did wanna do something, he would basically treat me like I didn't exist or like I was a roommate or a babysitter really, more than anything.

And I spent every dollar I had saved, helping to raise his daughter because there was no food in the house because again, he was doing drugs and I didn't know. And I, I, I don't know how, I didn't see it. He was like passing out in his chair. I knew he smoked weed, but I didn't realize that he was doing heroin.


When you're in a relationship like that, you find ways to like reason out the behavior. 

Eala: Absolutely. You make excuses for them and you go, oh, he's just tired. Oh, he worked so hard. I faced extreme neglect with that relationship and I was forced to raise someone else's child while basically being told that [00:17:00] I was worthless and nothing, and that I didn't deserve his time of day basically.

That's abuse in itself. You know, a lot of people think that abuse is just, you know, oh, you're in the hospital with a broken leg because he beat you. No abuse can be someone consistently not paying attention to you and not giving you any love or support or forcing you into things that you don't wanna do.

It can come in many forms, and I think that's something that we don't talk about enough. 

Jen: I absolutely agree. Just cuz there's not a bruise, then people are like, oh, you're making that up. Or there's all of this doubt behind it. But when you've lived through it, you know the scars and you know the pain. I was in a mentally and emotionally abusive relationship.

 I look at him as like a coward because he didn't hit me, because if I had a bruise, other people would know. So he did it silently. 

Eala: . Yeah. I, I heard every word of that. [00:18:00] I couldn't agree more. So I wanted to talk about gaslighting for a second, because gaslighting is not something that I learned about until after.

Years and years and years of abuse. And it's something that Bruce did to me a lot. And I wanna share with people what it looks like so you know what the signs are that you can look for. Gaslighting. Basically it, it's someone manipulating you psychologically into questioning your own sanity, into questioning if you are the bad one.

And this happens in so many abusive relationships that it's just crazy. So here's the things that you need to look out for. If you have doubt about what you're feeling constantly, if you've lost all of your self-confidence and you're constantly worrying about what decisions you need to make or if they're right, if you feel like you can't do anything right and everything that goes wrong is your fault, that's a big one that a lot of people deal with.

Feeling anxious around your partner, but not really knowing why you feel anxious, being [00:19:00] distrustful of them. Apologizing and taking the blame all the time when something goes wrong. Questioning yourself and whether you're a good partner. And then most importantly, keeping how your partner treats you a secret from your family and friends.

Because it all comes right back to isolation, and that's the key thing that every abusive relationship faces is isolation. If you are going through things in your relationship and you don't feel that you can share it with your friends and family, either because you're embarrassed or you think it's too bad, or you're afraid they're gonna judge you, it means that your relationship has gotten to severe abuse, whether it's mental or physical.

And if you're hiding that, it means it's time to leave. You need to seek help. You need to go to therapy. You need to go speak to someone at a women's shelter. Start the process and figure out. How bad this relationship is. And if you can leave right now or if you need to take smaller steps towards preparing to leave, because sometimes you can't always break [00:20:00] away immediately if you're with someone who's extremely violent.

There are small steps that you can take that I can share as well, that'll help you to leave without facing the risk of, and I hate to say it, but the risk of being killed by your partner as you're trying to leave. Cuz it's a very real risk. Absolutely. You know, I'm so glad you said that because I was gonna go back to when I said we have ways of justifying their behavior.

Part of that justification is also we blame ourselves. I must have did something wrong. I must have said something wrong. And so by sharing that gaslighting information, that was perfect because we do get to self blame. When you were with Bruce, did you recognize the self blame? I felt like I was going crazy, and that's exactly the purpose of gaslighting.

You know, whether these abusers are consciously doing it. I think a lot of them are unconsciously doing these things. They don't know [00:21:00] specifically what they're doing, they just know that it benefits them to do this. And if you feel crazy and you're constantly doubting yourself and going like, well, well did it, did it really happen like that?

Or did I say something to make him mad? I must have done something. Like, why is he not talking to me? Why is he not paying attention to me? What did I do? And then you start retracing your steps and you start to go crazy. You start to go mad because your brain starts spinning in and you're going like, no one would treat someone like this if they didn't do something wrong.

So I must have done something wrong. And that is the deadly spiral of gaslighting is, is self blame, self-hatred. They want you to think that it's your fault because if it's your fault, then it can't possibly be their fault 

Jen: this was a unique situation and that there was a child involved. You were attached. Loved that child, which makes it even more difficult. 

Eala: Still do love her. Yep. Which makes it even more difficult for you. To leave.[00:22:00] 

Jen: How did you leave? 

Eala: Oh, that's a, that's a tough one. My mother at this point was in a really bad situation in northern Florida. She was very sick and on the verge of dying.

I was living with Bruce and his daughter, of course, cuz we were a family at that point. And I told him that I need to bring my mother down here because if she's only got a couple months to live, I need her to spend time with me. And I, I got her a U-Haul and she came down here and he lost his mind. We talked about how abusers need to isolate you because they wanna make sure you have no one to turn to.

When my mom got here, I. He went crazy. Something snapped in his brain. So he brought in his brother, who was a meth and heroin addict to sleep on our couch because he felt that if I had someone, then he should have someone. His brother had done horrible things to our family multiple times in the past, so obviously that was bad.

He would load his guns at night [00:23:00] and try to scare us. And then one day I had started looking at apartments for rent. He came into my room and the apartment happened to call my phone, and he saw and everything exploded in that moment. He took off all his clothes that night. And ran around the house naked.

He put on rock music as loud as it could possibly go, like heavy death metal. He was trying to terrorize us. He was trying to scare us, and I told my mom, we need to get boxes and we need to leave. He heard me say that I wanted to call the police, so he called the police. And he started throwing my things onto the grass in the front yard, and he loaded his guns and he told me and my mother, who was literally on her deathbed, her skin was gray.

She looked like an alligator. I mean, her kidneys were in failure. She was [00:24:00] dying. She couldn't even process thoughts or emotions at that point. She was in the hospital with anxiety attacks all the time. So here we are. And he gave us nine minutes to get all of our shit and get out. I'm sorry if I'm not allowed to swear on here, but that was his words.

I, I told my mom to sit on the step because she was so weak that she couldn't help and I threw everything that I possibly could out on that front yard and the cops came and they believed him. They told me that we should go and sleep in the Walmart parking lot. They didn't know what resources were available in our town.

They didn't know how to help us, and I fully support law enforcement. I love our officers. I think the police officers do a wonderful job in so many places, but when it comes to abuse, they believed my abuser and they believed that there was reason for him to be throwing me out because again, who would do that to someone they [00:25:00] love unless they did something wrong?

So I tried to get help. I tried to call a multitude of different places. I called the U-Haul and put all my stuff into a storage unit for the for the night because that's all I could think to do. And all of these shelters and all of these centers that are supposed to be there to help people, they focus on helping people with children.

And I didn't have any children. My mom didn't have any children except for me, and I'm a grown adult, so we received no help. We were told try calling somewhere else. We were told We have no space for you. I ended up calling my manager and telling her I don't know what to do. She had known about the abuse, so she had an idea of what was going on, and once all of the shelters denied us, I told her, look, I, I have nowhere to go and I'm wondering if I can just sleep on your couch for a couple of weeks with my mom until I [00:26:00] can sort something out.

And I was very lucky that she made space, even though she had two of her own children and all of her own life going on. She made space for me and my mom. And we slept on an airbed for a month until I could find us an apartment. Everything that I had been able to throw on the front yard, I sold to pawn shops and, and garage sales to try to come up with money for rent for a deposit.

And my manager lied for me about my income just so I could qualify for the apartment. And wrote me a letter because I mean apartments qual, you need three times the amount of income, and if rent's $1,200, who makes that? Especially someone who just came out of an abusive relationship. I had 80 cents in my bank account because all of my money went to buying his daughter food and clothes and field trips and all of the things that she needed because he didn't take care of her.

He was a neglectful father. He was a neglectful boyfriend, and unfortunately, me and his daughter bore the brunt of that, and thankfully she's [00:27:00] in a better situation now. She got taken away and she's with her mother up in New York. Oh, that's good. Once we got into that apartment, I mean, The breath, the dec sigh of relief when you leave an abusive situation and you finally get your own safe place for the first time.

I couldn't possibly explain to anyone the feeling of that. It's enormous. And just feeling safe for the first time ever in my life, because I jumped from abusive relationship to abusive relationship repeatedly, having a place to call my own was life changing. And I stayed single for three years after that.

I wanted nothing to do with anyone. If you had a friend who came up to you and said, I'm in an abusive relationship. I wanna get out, but I have nowhere to go, what would you tell them? I would immediately offer to drive to that house and pick up all of her things, [00:28:00] and she could stay with me. Anything. It doesn't matter if she's sleeping on my living room floor, we'll buy an air mattress.

You have to give support to someone if they are strong enough to come to you and say they're in an abusive relationship and they need help. Don't make suggestions, take action. Get them out immediately and then you can figure it out from there. There's resources in our community and I think what's important to do, and something that I wanna talk about is how to leave a situation before it gets to that point.

If you are in a situation like where I was and I used my cell phone, and that's what sparked this whole thing, I wish I had known to use public phones. Go to the library, use the library phone, use their internet. Because even if you clear your search history, if he knows that something's up, he's gonna be looking.

So use public phones, use public internet, go to your friend's house, use their phones, use their computers, and like you were saying, [00:29:00] say something to someone. You, you have to tell someone what situation you're in. And don't be embarrassed. Don't be ashamed. Understand that you seeking help and you telling someone could literally save your life.

And a lot of people like to go, oh, well, he'd never do that to me. Like it's bad, but he'd never hurt me. Yes, he would. Yeah. Or you witnessed them saying things that are just so hurtful. And then their response is, well, they apologized. That's the pattern. 

You had three years,

Jen: where you were alone. What did you do for mental health? Because I know within that time, even though you felt good, you felt safe, doubt those negative thoughts are so ingrained in your mind. How did you work through those? Did you get therapy?

Eala: I didn't, and I hate to say that it's the only reason I didn't is because therapy is so expensive.

I wish that there was free counseling, and now years later, I have found that hey, there was counseling that I could have got, but this information isn't [00:30:00] openly spread. It's not openly shared, so I didn't know anything about that, but I focused on my family, I focused on my mother, I focused on my job. I focused on how can I make my life better from this?

I'm not gonna let him destroy me. I'm not gonna let this be the end, and I'm certainly not gonna keep this pattern going anymore. So I screw myself into work. And that was what I did, is I got so motivated to accomplish all of my goals, to prove to myself that I didn't need a man, I didn't need someone to help me.

That I can make enough money to support myself, to take care of my mom. I. To buy a new car, to put a down payment on a house. I needed to show myself that I could do it alone without someone. And that's the reason that I chose to stay single for so long. I mean, I had people ask me out, I had offers and I, I was not any [00:31:00] little bit interested at all because I knew that I had some major trauma and that I needed to be able to heal from that.

So I took that three year period as. A time of self reflection more than anything to think about all of the little things that have happened in not only that relationship, but the ones before, and think about, well, hey, I, I know that self blame is wrong, but I also know that nothing is ever one-sided. So what things did I do that possibly could have triggered him into acting like that?

What things can I fix in my next relationship and what things really were his faults that are issues that I need to look out for in the future? And separating those two things into what can I work on in myself and what were things that I never could have fixed? Because as an abuser, there's no fixing them there.

There's nothing that you can do. There's nothing you can say. You can never be good enough. To fix someone who is [00:32:00] internally damaged. Absolutely. Now, during this time, did you reconnect with old friends or make new friends? How did you combat the isolation of your past and surround yourself with great people?

I. I made so many new friends. That does not surprise me. Does not surprise me. I've always been a social person, so isolation was really hard for me. And, and you know, I lived here for three years and knew nobody and I didn't realize it until I got out of the relationship. I went, I have. Nobody, how do I have no friends?

And I've been here for years. So I joined the American Business Women's Association because I thought, Hey, I wanna meet other business women. I wanna get motivated and find people who could help me in my career. I went to the gym. I met some friends at the gym through CrossFit and just, I mean, I went and lived my life again and through going out to dinner and take, I would take myself out to dinner because why not?

I deserve it. [00:33:00] Yes. So, and, and you'd meet people while you're out at the restaurant. I'd go to events and I'd meet people there. The ladies from my business organization were just wonderful and supportive. It was such a nice time of just being free and not worrying about. Coming home to someone angry at me anymore.

It was the best. Yes. And that's how you and I met was through a a networking event and you saw something important in my message. And from there you connected me to other groups. And for that I am forever, forever grateful. And so I do my best to follow your example that you taught me and connect other people as well.


Jen: Now it's been three years, we discussed in the beginning there were three relationships. Can you share with us what happened in this last relationship? And of course, we always wanna talk about how to safely get out as well. 

Eala: About halfway through my relationship with Bruce, we broke up. And I moved to Tampa.[00:34:00] 

Just needed to get away and clear my head and I really thought that was the end. And it was for about a month and things were going great. I met a man and he was a country boy. He liked hunting and he reminded me so much of home. He always wore his cowboy hat and he was just fun and happy and smiling all the time.

And I thought that it was gonna be perfect, so I moved in with him. Almost immediately, within two or three weeks of knowing him, which in hindsight, you know, obviously not a good choice, but we had so much fun together and we were always laughing and going on adventures and it, it didn't seem like an abusive relationship.

And, and even looking back on it, there was a point that he snapped. And it became an abusive relationship. Ironically, would like to point out that again, it was when my mom came to stay with us for a couple of days between her, she [00:35:00] was moving, so she needed a couple of days between her lease ending and her new one starting.

So she came to stay with us for two days and something snapped in his brain and he essentially raped me with my mother in the next room because he said that I was his. And he could do whatever the hell he wanted to me. I was just crying and didn't know what to do because I couldn't make a big scene because I, I, I had nowhere else to go and neither did my mom because she was just waiting for her new apartment to get done.

It's horrible that, that's the truth of it. But she went into her new apartment. I stayed with him for some stupid reason. He used to work over the road, so he would work three weeks out of town outta state, and then he'd come back for one week. So I was alone essentially most of the time, and I loved it.

It was great. The last straw was that after that happened, I realized this person's probably pretty dangerous. I got a phone call [00:36:00] from, I don't remember who it was, and. FBI agent, a police officer, some, some kind of investigator saying that they were investigating him holding a gun to someone's head in the hotel room that they were staying at with their workers.

And he had called me saying, I need you to lie and say that you have the gun. And I went, oh God, I'm gonna go to federal prison. That whole situation happened. And he told me that when he came home, he was essentially going to take whatever he wanted from me, and he was talking about sodomy and rape.

And I immediately called Bruce because Bruce had always been there, sending me email, sending me text, telling me he still loved me and he would do anything to have me back. So I thought, well, that's better than this. And [00:37:00] maybe he really has changed because at this point he had been keeping in contact with me for a year while we broke up.

I'm like, well, obviously he still loves me. He's offered to still be there for me. I'm in a bad situation and I need somewhere to go. So I called Bruce. I told him, I need you to come here right now and get me because I am afraid. So he did. He drove all the way across the state. He grabbed all my things and we left.

And that's how I ended up back with Bruce. You just went back to Bruce because that seemed like the lesser of two evils. That was your escape. Yeah, and I think that's the pattern for a lot of women who end up in multiple abusive relationships is instead of looking at the relationship for what it is, they look at it in comparison to their last one, because that's what I did.

And I went, you know, oh, he's. Ignoring me, but at least he's not hitting me. You know? Or he's doing this, but at least he's not doing that, and you can't compare one relationship to [00:38:00] another. Abuse is abuse, and you have to look at your relationship for what it is and see if it's something that perhaps you're overreacting about.

And by you changing the way you do something, it can become a good relationship. Or if it is legitimately, Just the way the person is, because if that's the case, there's no changing it and there's nothing you can do. Communication is key in all relationships, and if you cannot communicate with your partner, then it means that they don't wanna communicate with you and that it's not the right relationship for you, regardless of the life that you've built in your head.

It's not real. 

Jen: What a great point about not comparing relationships, cuz basically you're comparing the degree of abuse and what you're willing to say. The line is, okay, this is okay, but this is not, what a great point. I love that. Now you wanna talk about something that's really important and that's how to leave.

Eala: Yes. So [00:39:00] obviously there's different degrees of abuse in a relationship, so some relationships are easy where you can just tell them, Hey, I, I'm not happy. I'm leaving. Pack your stuff and get out. And, and they'll allow you to do that. Some relationships specifically where there's a lot of physical abuse going on, it's not that easy.

You can't just pack your stuff because they will pin you against a wall. And those are the situations where women do end up getting murdered because. They, they can't control themselves. And I've said it a couple times here, something snaps in their brain and I don't know psychologically how to explain it, because I am not a psychotherapist, but there's a change and they can't stop themselves.

And in hindsight, they're gonna be regretful of it, I'm sure. But, Like Gabby pet, Tito's boyfriend who killed her, he ended up killing himself. Same thing with Nadie and Cavalier. He killed her and then he killed himself. They don't want to do it, but they're gonna do it [00:40:00] anyway. So you need to know how to be prepared to leave.

If you are in an abusive relationship like this, we talked about sharing your relationship with a friend or a family member. Make sure someone knows if you are being physically abused, you need to keep photos. There are apps that you can get that will hide things. Something that you're gonna have to Google and figure out what works on your service provider.

Keep photos of any abuse that you have. So that you can be believed if the time comes to that. If they have threatened you by text in any way, save screenshots of those as well and to make an escape plan. A lot of abusers don't allow their girlfriends or wives to use money. They control the finances, and what you need to do is if you're grocery shopping, get cash back every time you go out.

Keep it in a separate bank account. Create a bank account at a different bank that he knows nothing about, perhaps in the next town over. You know, you might have to go to extremes to get this done, sign up for a credit card, [00:41:00] but register it to a friend or family member's house so that it goes there. You need to be able to have some sort of funds so that when you leave, you have somewhere to start at.

I didn't know that. And so I started from ground zero and I couldn't even afford a hotel room the night that everything happened. So I wish that I had known. To keep some funds separately so that I had that in an emergency. Have a getaway bag. And essentially you wanna have it basically a hurricane bag.

And that's what you can tell them. If you're being abused and you live in Florida, tell them it's your hurricane bag. Important documents, clothes, medication. That's crucial. If you have diabetes or if you need any other medication, have that in bag. Personal items that are very meaningful to you, like photos, special jewelry that perhaps are, were handed down in your family.

And the most important things that you need to put in this bag are an extra car key. And a prepaid phone. And here's the reason why I say that. If he gets any hint [00:42:00] that you're gonna leave, he's gonna take the car keys away because that's your means of leaving a prepaid phone because you wanna leave that phone if you guys are on a plan together, or even if you're not, you need to leave your phone behind because there are tracking apps, there are ways to track a phone, even if you have that phone turned off.

I get it. Phones are expensive. It doesn't matter. Get rid of the phone. You don't want him knowing where you are, if you are in a physically abusive relationship, and then planning to leave during a safe window of time, so you have your getaway bag, you have perhaps your credit card or your extra bank account that he doesn't know about.

You have someone who knows about the abuse. Figure out when he's not gonna be home for at least a few hours so that you have some time and leave during that time. Do not leave him a note. A lot of women when they leave, they wanna leave a note to explain, to make themselves feel better as like they're, oh, you made me feel like this, and I want you to know it.

And I completely understand the desire to do that, but all it's gonna [00:43:00] do is trigger him and put him in an angry swirl of now I need to find her to respond shelters if you're going to a women's shelter and know what services are available in your area. Even if you are not in an abusive relationship, because you never know when it's gonna turn into one, or if you'll need it in the future, or if you have a friend that's gonna come to you and need help, you have to know what's available in your area.

So in Brevard, here we have Serene Harbor. Important thing with Serena Harbor is they take pets. Cuz a lot of times people stay because they don't wanna leave their pets behind. So I think that's a really important thing to bring up as well. Absolutely. Genesis House, I mean, there's a multitude of different organizations in our area and just, just knowing about them, just for your own knowledge is really good to have.

Because you never know when you would, could have the chance to help somebody. Yeah. Just by knowing about these places. And those are listed on my website under the get help [00:44:00] tab,. There are several local shelters listed on www.ineedblue.net.

And then the last thing that I wanna say is leaving is the first step. Once you leave, be prepared for a mental warfare. Because he is going to try and find you. He is going to blow up all of your friends, all of your family members, block him on all of your social media or her, because let's face it, some women are just as abusive as men.

This isn't just going one way here. Just prepare for the fact that they are going to continuously try to contact you for months after you leave. Try to create as much separation as you can and don't respond to anything. If he shows up where you are. Do not wait for the confrontation. Call the police immediately.

Do not open the door to talk to him, because that's just putting yourself in danger. Don't even speak to him through the door. Let him knock. Let him yell. Let him go the hell away, because that is just how you deescalate that situation. And [00:45:00] understand that at some point the phone calls and the tracing will stop, but you need to be strong through it, and he's going to go from angry to perfect boyfriend.

In a heartbeat. That's the hard part, is when he turns from angry guy into perfect boyfriend again, and he's saying all of the things that you wanna hear, it's not true. It's not real. It's the call of the siren luring you to the deep. So don't listen to it. Thank you for sharing that. And those are all things that Ayella has learned through her experience in, in doing research.

Every relationship is different. There are basic characteristics like the isolation and the the gaslighting, but I always encourage that if you feel you are in immediate danger, call 9 1 1. Sometimes there's not time for a plan. Your safety is your priority and kick scream, whatever you have to do to get yourself out alive.

Absolutely. I couldn't agree more. If you [00:46:00] feel unsafe besides calling the cops, get out of the house. If you can't take anything with you, that's fine, but just leave, walk down the street. It doesn't matter where you go. It doesn't matter if you're just standing outside. It means that people can see. Leave the house, call 9 1 1 if you're in immediate danger.

And once you leave, do some reflecting. Do some self-growth. Stay alone for a little while. Being in traumatic relationships like this, it takes a long time to recover from. If ever a lot of women who've been through abuse and trauma, they're gonna carry it with them for the rest of their life, as I know I do.

There's triggers. Yeah, there's triggers that you're not even aware of. I've been away from my last abusive relationship for about four years now, and after three years of being alone, I decided I was ready to date again. So I went on a few dates and immediately saw red flags that I went, Nope. I've not even given this person a second chance.

I [00:47:00] don't care how good they say they are. Not answering my phone anymore because at that point I had just realized what I am willing to accept and what signs are very clearly going to turn worse as things move on. I was lucky enough to meet the love of my life and this whole story in the most loving, amazing, successful relationship that I.

Honestly, literally never could have imagined. And anyone that told me that, oh, there's gonna be a good guy out there, I was truly convinced that they didn't exist anymore. I met David two years that I've been with him, and he has been a blessing. It's important to never look at the person you're with and put them on a pedestal, because that's how you can end up in bad situations.

And the nice thing about David is that we view each other as equals. And we contribute things equally. Our communication is fantastic. If there's ever an issue, we just talk [00:48:00] about it. We bring it up to each other. We say, Hey, I didn't like the way you said that. And then the other person apologizes and we talk through it, and there's, there's been no arguments at all in two years.

It was hard for me at first to accept being in a healthy, loving relationship. I kept looking for things that were wrong with him. I went, there's no way. Mm. Nope. This is just, this is just his, his first portion phase, and he's gonna change, and I wonder what bad things are gonna come out a year from now.

 He is just genuinely a nice man, and when you've been in a cycle of abuse, it's crazy to even imagine that someone can treat you kindly and lovingly and be patient and just be a wonderful person to you in general. I had lost all my hope of love. I didn't believe in love.

I didn't believe in good relationships. There are definitely great men. Now, let me ask you this. Looking back what positive. Came from those situations that that you carry with [00:49:00] you today? I think that my drive for success, to me success has always just been having enough money to live comfortably and go do nice little things when I wanna do it.

And having someone by my side who loves me. And accept my family more than anything is I, I, I want an integrated family. I don't wanna find someone and be separated from them. My ability to look inward. Also dramatically changed because now I do a lot of self-reflection, even on a daily basis.

Self-reflection and motivation were two of the most positive things that came out of everything. How is your mom? She's fantastic. She is fully recovered. She has told me multiple times that it was love that saved her and it was my love for her. And just knowing that someone wanted her that made her fight to be alive, so she is, is fully recovered.

I just [00:50:00] bought a townhouse earlier this year so that we always have somewhere safe for the rest of our lives. Because you never know what's gonna happen. And it's really, it's great to have my mom here still and and be able to go out to dinner with her and we go roller skating together and she's got hula hoops so we take to the park and it's crazy to think that I was grieving my mother's impending death four years ago and now she is my best friend again.

Jen: I am so happy to hear that. That is wonderful. There are so many positives that have come from your story, and I love it, and I know that it'll provide inspiration to other people. When we originally talked, the biggest takeaway that you wanted people to get from your episode was that the abuser, they're not going to change no matter what you do.

Eala: That's absolutely right, and that's why a lot of women in abusive situations feel like, why can I never do anything? Right? It's not about what you do. It's about who they are, [00:51:00] but I think it's important to be friends with someone for years before you date them. And that might sound excessive and ridiculous to some people, but.

You can't have a relationship with someone without actually knowing who that person is on a fundamental level, knowing how they act around their friends, how they are with their family, how they handle stressful situations, what they're like when they get angry. So building a friendship with someone is the first thing that should be on your mind.

Jen: Absolutely. I, I'm gonna end on a couple of things you just said that are so important, and number one is setting those healthy boundaries, making sure they're respected by everyone, boyfriend, friends, family, whatever. And then the other is, Start out by being friends and get to know them and how they react to different situations.

I think those are some really important points that you just brought up. Thank you for being my guest today on the I Need Blue Podcast, and I am happy to call you my friend. 

Eala: Thank you for [00:52:00] having me, Jen. I'm so grateful that we met and I appreciate you letting me come on here and sharing my story, and I just, I hope that it can help someone out there to find peace, to find understanding, and, and to get themselves into a healthy situation.

Jen: Thank you to my audience for listening. Please share this message now that you have heard it. It is a valuable resource. This is generally with the I Need Blue Podcast. All of my episodes can be found on my website, www.ineedblue.net. And remember, you are stronger than you think.[00:53:00] 

Ashley Perala, nadine Cavalier, and Gabby Petito
Age 15, the abuse began
I'm not going to let him destroy me
The different degrees of abuse
Reflect and recover