By Jenae Noonan: 1233961_10153275146875517_677821400_n[1]All my dreams seemed to be coming true. I had just stepped off the winners’ block at the national MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) Championships where I had won the gold medal.  I was featured on the cover of MMA Sports Magazine with a two page spread and a poster adjacent to the dreamy Georges St-Pierre. And all my hard work and training was paying off as I was preparing to represent the USA at the World Games.

In addition, my dream of being a mentor and inspirational speaker to young girls and women was beginning to flourish. I was speaking at least twice a month, encouraging others and loving life. The only thing missing seemed to be a love relationship – until one day I walked into the bike shop.

I can still remember staring across the shop at this extremely handsome young man with a dark hair and a mystery in his eyes. I leaned over to Brittany, a girl I was mentoring, and told her I was in trouble.  I talked to him and everyone in the shop could feel the chemistry.  It seemed to be love at first site.

It was a whirlwind romance, and he seemed perfect.  Unfortunately, my feelings blinded me from loud warning signs. 6 weeks into our relationship, he had already cheated on me. He came clean, promised to not do it again, and I forgave him. Then, the day before we left for the World Games, he got extremely intoxicated and his true colors came out. He called me every 4 letter word imaginable, belittling me with the most hurtful language, and instead of walking away, my “love” caused me to excuse his behavior as “just drunk.”  While on his free trip to the World Games, more warning signs developed, but I kept sweeping the signs under the rug and hoping to make things work.

But it didn't work.  Slowly, the essence of who I had been was stripped away. First he asked me to stop training, then he asked me to stop modeling.  He even asked me to stop telling my mom about our relationship.  He would tear me down every chance he got, from first thing in the morning to when I came home from work.  Everything negative was my fault, and he made sure to tell me on a daily basis how incapable I was, even as I cared for him and his family (who also lived with me).

On the outside, I was still portraying a strong woman, encouraging others to stand up for themselves, live their dreams, and surround themselves with positive people.  In reality, I was living a hypocritical life of pain and constant mental, verbal and emotional abuse.  I hated the fact that Brittany was also being abused by him, to the point where she said to me, “Why should I listen to you when you live in this mess?”

Finally, one day 11 months later, I had had enough.  I asked him and his family to leave my house and my life. As he threatened me and threw things at me, I feared for my life. So I gathered what I could and went to a safe house.  I changed my phone number and blocked all forms of communication with him.

I wish I could say that he was completely out of my life, and that I don't still worry about him on a daily basis. I can’t quite say that with certainty, but I do have comfort in knowing the darkness is over, and my life is heading in a positive direction. I’m training again with plans to fight soon. I am once again a strong woman in Brittany's eyes, and have shown her how to be strong through hardship and to trust in God. And in the end, I know God has a plan to prosper me and loves me dearly.  Through all this pain, He has given me a story of triumph and victory.

Today, I talk to women about being strong and not putting up with abuse. I speak to women about knowing their identity and not allowing others to rob them of themselves. I define verbal and emotional abuse for women, such as belittling, name calling, blame, and emotional/ physical deprivation.

To all women, know that there is always a way out. You may not see how, but there are places and people that will help you and take care of you. God will provide, for he loves you beyond words. He will take you out of the darkness and heal you, restore you, and make sure you are OK. And from everyone else, you deserve to be cherished, cared for, and adored; nothing less should ever be acceptable.