ONALASKA, Wisconsin (WXOW)-- Domestic violence is one of the most under reported crimes. Victims are often afraid of retaliation from their spouse or partner if they call police. Or, victims are afraid they cannot make it on their own.
Chelsey Nichols, is a mother of two and she suffered verbal and physical abuse from her partner for more than two years.
"He got off his snowmobile and hit me so hard that my helmet went flying back and took my key and chucked it in the snow bank," Nichols said. "And that was the start of a downward spiral."
Still Chelsey wanted to work with her partner. He had sustained a traumatic brain injury as a teen, something she says contributed to his anger.
"I found the correlation with a lot of the things that were giving me red flags in our relationship, that corresponded and came back to the traumatic brain injury," Nichols said.
So Chelsey and her partner got help from doctors and therapists, but the abuse continued.
"I was trying to shut the door in the bedroom, and he pushed through the door and held me down on the bed and choked me out," Nichols said. "And I just remember sitting there like, can you please let go? Can you please let go? And he let go and he smashed my phone."
The next day Chelsey told the couple's psychiatrist what happened.
"I still had the choke marks on my neck and my hand still had his teeth marks," Nichols said. "He just sat there in the chair and when the psychiatrist said, ‘Is this true, is what she's telling me true?' He's like ‘Yeah, she deserved it.'"
Chelsey left the session and took her two sons out of town to get away and figure out her next move.
"One of the things that always set me back was how am I going to do this for my kids? How am I going to make it as a single mom? How am I financially going to provide?" Nichols said. "All these things go through your head because you're scared of the unknown. Each state I crossed and the further we got away, the more I knew I was going to be ok because I was doing it. I was by myself, and we were doing it."
When she returned home, Chelsey decided not only to leave the relationship but to report the abuse.
"I took a deep breath, and I went to the police station and I filed the report."
Her partner faced a series of charges, but Chelsey didn't want him to just sit in jail. She wanted him to get help.
"It wasn't my intent to ruin his life. It was my intent to hold him responsible for his actions. He was still someone that I really cared for. He's still the father of my children. He's still a life, he's still a person and he still has potential."
So, using her undergraduate degree in criminal justice, Chelsey proposed a kind of treatment program to the prosecutor.
"I made sure they heard my side of the story and what I wanted as the outcome. And the DA was very supportive that way."
But Chelsey also had to heal herself, so she sought help at New Horizons Shelter.
"It would be like 12 at night and I would be having like a mental breakdown and crying and I wouldn't have no one to talk to. And you could call and there was an advocate that was assigned to me," she said. "I think I always held on to that hope that it's going to get better. You just have to take a deep breath and know that it's just one day at a time."
Now the theme throughout Chelsey's home is hope, strength and courage, and the reminder that you can make it a wonderful life.
"I guess it correlates back to that being scared. Like, you don't know what's going to happen, especially leaving a relationship like that. You're jumping in to the unknown without know what's going to pan out, but what ended up panning out for me, is a lot better than anywhere I've ever been in life."
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