Domestic violence survivor shares experience, dynamics of abuse


Chris Jorgensen/Iowa State Daily

Corinne Googe, senior in animal science, is a domestic violence and sexual assault survivor. 

Alex Connor

Trigger warning: This content uses language that may trigger sexual assault survivors.

Sexual assault is a complex and horrible issue. It is personal, it is heartbreaking and it is different in every case. But if we ever want to put an end to sexual assault, we have to stop letting its complexity get in our way.
This is the last story in a semester-long series where the Daily will publish a multitude of stories related to sexual assault, including discussions about various resources survivors can obtain if they are comfortable doing so. 
— Emily Barske, editor in chief 

A simple thought runs repeatedly through Corinne’s mind.

Put the car in reverse. Take your foot off the brake. Go.

She’s sitting outside a gas station in Omaha, Nebraska. It’s 3 a.m. Her boyfriend is inside buying cigarettes.

He is going to kill me, she fears. Yet, Corinne sits frozen.

She considers sliding her hand onto the gear shift. She could go home and lock the doors. She could drive anywhere but here – anywhere away from him.

He walks out of the gas station.

She’s going to do whatever she needs to do so that he will calm down.

“It started off fine. Just like any other domestic violence and sexual assault relationship,” said Corinne Googe, now an Iowa State senior in animal science.

Corinne is a domestic violence and sexual assault survivor. It’s not what defines her, but a part of who she is – it’s a part of her package.

It’s summer 2012, Corinne and her friends are in Lincoln, Nebraska, at her favorite gay bar. She’s a senior at Creighton University and tonight, she’s the group mom.

Toward the end of the night, a man slips her his phone number – a piece of paper with four appealing words on it.

“I love your smile.”

Corinne turns around, but she can’t tell who had just handed her the note. She mulls over it in her mind. Should she text him? What’s the harm?

“You were the most beautiful person in the room,” he texts her later that evening.

She’s excited. None of her other friends had gotten anyone’s number. They text for the rest of the night.

Within months the two are inseparable – Corinne usually driving to Lincoln every weekend so that they can spend time with each other, eventually meeting his friends and even family.

He could have noticed a lot of other things about her that night, she jokes. But instead he focused on her smile rather than her chest. He was charming.

Kristen Faisal, director of training and technical assistance with the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that most often, the abuse begins once you’re already engaged with someone to some level.

For Corinne, it was soon after they started dating. For others, Faisal said, it could begin after the couple has moved in together, or even after they got married.

While education surrounding domestic violence may play a factor in helping victims suffering from intimate partner abuse, it doesn’t help serve as prevention. If anything, it helps the survivor understand, name and have words for their experience sooner, Faisal said.

“We focus so much on hitting and physical violence,” Faisal said. “If that’s not the majority or if that hasn’t happened at all, they might not know this is domestic violence.”

In a series on criminal victimization conducted in 2015, 1,094,660 individuals experienced domestic violence during that year, a number down 1.37 percent from 2014.

Faisal proposed two choices many domestic violence victims often face.

“Choice No. 1 is this person that I love is hurting me, will hurt me in the future, and could even possibly kill me,” she said. “Choice No. 2, which is anything else that I could possibly come up with to explain it.

“And people will come up with Choice No. 2 as long as possible because Choice No. 1 is too awful … it is overwhelming. Choice No. 1 makes you afraid and it’s very hard to live your life in a constant state of fear. We are built to manage our fear so that we can survive.”

Faisal said oftentimes, survivors will use clutches or excuses to explain the abuse they are suffering. They may say their abuser had a bad day. They may even take the blame. Their thought process shaping into “if only I worked harder at the relationship.”

For nearly nine months, Corinne chose choice No. 2 and stayed with her abuser, excusing his actions and normalizing the violence against her until it didn’t seem so bad. If she tried to cut ties, he’d always find his way back to her.

Corinne, like many other domestic violence survivors, was sexually assaulted by her partner.

She, like the majority of victims of all types of sexual violence, knew their perpetrators. An estimated 45.4 percent of female rape victims had at least one perpetrator who was an intimate partner.

Sexual abuse was something Corinne experienced over and over again with her partner. He would take her consent out of sex in some form or another – largely through their use, or lack thereof, of protection on his part.

“I don’t want to put on a condom; I don’t have any.”

Corinne remembers it happening almost every time they had sex. You need to put on a condom, she would argue.

“I can’t feel it as good.”

You need to put on a condom, she would say again, countering with the fact that she had brought contraceptives for them anyway. But it didn’t matter, the condom would either be taken off throughout the encounter or never be put on in the first place.

“It was extremely uncomfortable that he wouldn’t [wear a condom] and it was not OK that he wouldn’t,” she said.

But that wasn’t the pivotal moment for Corinne. She knew it was abuse – him taking her right to feel safe during sex and controlling the birth control. Studying social work at Creighton, Corinne was aware that it wasn’t right, but it wasn’t wrong enough for her to leave.

It was an abuse she suffered to be with him. It was the power he had over her.

“It takes away your choice,” Corinne said. “I knew that I wasn’t great about taking my pill on time every day at the time, and I knew that I need that second barrier because I was not ready to face the consequences of unintended pregnancy.”

Faisal said that quite often, the abuser is unable to see what they’re doing as wrong. They may even feel justified in their actions.

“Unfortunately, so many messages [in society] say that’s OK,” Faisal said.

While there is no one typical, detectable personality of an abuser, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, abusers often display common characteristics.

These could range from the abuser often denying or minimizing the seriousness of the violence they are inflicting, objectifying the victim as property or a sexual object, they externalize the causes of their behavior, often on alcohol and drugs, and they are often very pleasant and charming to those outside the relationship.

Corinne’s abuser, she said, would often use alcohol and nicotine as a crutch. If he was having a bad day or something was rocky in their relationship, he would need a drink. If he was stressed, he would need a smoke – an action that hurt Corinne – she didn’t like smoking and he knew it, but would do it anyway.

Using the unprotected sex as an example, Corinne said she and her abuser would have the discussion on whether or not she would get an abortion. For Corinne, it was a no-brainer, she would terminate the pregnancy. It’s something she had already made up ahead of dating her abuser – she knew she wasn’t ready for children.

Her abuser, however, had set a different agenda. He didn’t want her to get one, Corinne said. Instead of offering support, she said, her abuser said he’d threaten to go to the bars – leaving her alone and abandoned throughout the process.

Lindsay Pingel, director of community engagement with the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said that a healthy relationship needs to have respect, honesty and trustworthiness.

All things Corinne’s abuser lacked in regard to their relationship.

She remembers not being able to sit after her abuser raped her. Without warning – during what Corinne described as “regular, consensual sex” – he anally penetrated her. She remembers screaming and crying in pain. She remembers crying alone in his downstairs bedroom.

He had gone upstairs immediately after to smoke a cigarette with his roommate.

Smoking is a habit he said he would previously quit, but this time he brushed it off because of stress. He said he had to talk over the chain of events with his roommate.

She equates the scream she made to that of a dog getting their paw or tail stepped on – a fast yelp. She remembers bleeding.

“I’m so sorry, I would never hurt you,” he told her.

Corinne said she later asked him not to talk about it with his friends. It upset me so much that I hurt you that I needed to talk to somebody about it, he said.

To him it was only an accident. An ‘Oh, I’m sorry. I must have…’ He never saw it any other way.

In the United States, an estimated 19.3 percent of women have been raped during their lifetime, according to a survey conducted in 2011 detailing the prevalence of sexual violence, stalking and intimate partner violence victimization.

An estimated 11.5 percent of women experienced completed forced penetration. And 1 in 4 women, 27.3 percent, were estimated to experience unwanted sexual contact.

Fifty-four percent of people between the ages of 18 to 34 are at the highest risk of sexual violence, according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Corinne fell well within this range.

“If someone is mentally abusing you, sexually abusing you … not showing you any respect … the whole point of being with you is to force control,” Pingel said.

“You shouldn’t fear the one you love.”

It took nearly nine months for that to settle in for Corinne.

But when it did, she remembers the moment as slapping her in the face.

“[He] is a little abusive for my taste.”

Corinne and her roommate Alyssa were having tacos and margaritas in the apartment they shared together in Omaha, when all of a sudden it had reached a boiling point for Alyssa – she had to say something.

“Go get your social work book,” Alyssa said. “We’re going to open it to the domestic violence chapter and abusive relationships. I want you to pinpoint parts of this.”

Alyssa began by pointing out Corinne’s isolation from her friends.

“When was the last time you talked to Luke?” she asks. Corinne can’t remember. Alyssa continues.

“You wonder why this is? You want to talk about the issue of not wearing a condom or do you want glaze over that one?”

The conversation progresses.

“It slapped me in the face,” Corinne said. “I should have been more aware of that.”

Yet, she still put in the back of her mind. It was something she could fix or change. She was just going to have a talk with him later, they were going to resolve it.

It wasn’t the pivotal moment. Not yet.

Faisal said that domestic abuse can be so complex because a lot of times the victim would prefer to stay with their abuser. She described that many victims fell in love with the person, the relationship – they just don’t want the abuse.


A text message from Corinne’s roommate pops up on her phone: Where the f*** are you?

Corinne and her boyfriend are outside her apartment complex at the park. He had just woken her up in the middle of the night after he had gone through her text messages while she was sleeping.

He finds a text from Brandon, Corinne’s ex-friend with benefits. His name has been changed for the purpose of this story. 

“Are you sleeping with Brandon?” he asks.

No, she thinks. I’m dating you, she says.

He begins to cry as his frustration grows. Corinne remembers him raising his voice. It’s 3 a.m. however, and he’ll wake her neighbors in her apartment complex. She recalls that if it’s quiet enough, with the way the walls are built, you could hear casual conversations from neighbors at any normal given time.

“Why were you over there?” he asks.

Brandon helped her fix her computer only a couple days prior, but Corinne recalls her partner not being able to comprehend this. In his mind, the two were sleeping together – he was being cheated on.

The two head outside, she lets him do what he needs to – yell, scream, cry. Just as she will do what she needs to – survive.

She has an important interview in the morning and wants to go to sleep.

“I remember that night I had never seen my partner be so angry and irrational and honestly I thought he was going to kill me,” Corinne said. “I had continued to try to tell him no that wasn’t what was going on … it’s not that big of deal…”

She drives him to the gas station to buy cigarettes. He tells her he is so upset with her he needs to end his quitting streak.

She considers sliding her hand on the gear shift. She could go home and lock the doors. She could drive anywhere but here – anywhere away from him.

“Put the car in reverse. Take your foot off the brake and go. Because this man will kill you,” she thinks.

And it hits her, she can’t do this anymore. It’s the pivotal moment.

Corinne and her abuser break up the next day. It’s 2012, and just the beginning of the next battle Corinne will have to face from her abuser: cyberstalking.

“Stalking itself is a very big concern. Because not all relationships are the same. … We have enough information out to say ‘Hey, what are the warning signs?’ Stalking is one of those top ones,” Faisal said.

The stalking began before Corinne and her abuser ended the relationship. He needed to know where she was at all times, what she was doing, who she was with. If he could go with her, he could. If it was something boring to him, he would guilt her into not going.

It was the trick to his trade.

“Stalkers, they have a number of strategies,” Faisal said. “They gather information and the internet allows them to do that more efficiently.”

For Corinne, her abuser’s stalking began after a fight while the two were still dating. She was at a party with her roommate Alyssa. Corinne said she invited her partner, but he didn’t want to go. It wasn’t his scene, he said.

She remembers leaving her phone in her purse. While she danced, it rang and rang and rang and rang.

But it wasn’t until Corinne saw a friendly but surprising face in the crowd that she realized something wasn’t right. Her abuser had sent his friend to check on Corinne and make sure she wasn’t lying to him, or worse, cheating.

She was appalled. Originally, Corinne said, she was supposed to spend the night at his house, but after realizing he sent a friend to check up on her, she changed her plans. She was going to spend the night at Alyssa’s parents house.

The next morning Corinne woke up to hundreds of missed calls, texts and voicemails. There were roses on her car. She didn’t know how he found her.

And the stalking didn’t end there. He soon began commenting and constantly checking on her private Tumblr. He would text her and leave threatening voicemails about committing suicide. She said one time when she called to warn his friends about his thoughts, they yelled at her for what they heard she did to him: break his heart.

Faisal said that stalkers will use tactics such as intimidating the victim into staying after the break up, which can be done through leaving notes, doing drive-bys, stealing things or can even be framed in the “language of love.”

She used sending flowers to the workplace as an example. To the abusers’ co-workers, they don’t see it as abuse. It also displays to the victim that they know where they are and can be contacted at any time.

Faisal said 26.5 out of every 1,000 people are stalked. In Ames, this equates to 1,563 stalking cases.

“Very few of those are reported,” she said.


Today, Corinne plans to graduate in May.

She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks – and sometimes they are blinding. She doesn’t know where she is or what she’s doing. But thankfully, she has Helena – her service dog – constantly at her side.

Because of Helena and her overall love for animals, she’s changed her career path. After a stint with child protective services, she decided to go back to school at Iowa State.

She also has Tim, whom she met last year online. The two are currently dating long distance as Tim lives in Michigan, but they match nearly perfectly.

That isn’t to say that the three-hour stretch between Omaha and Ames doesn’t still leave a sense of fear about Corinne’s abuser ever making the trip. However, should he ever step foot on campus, Corinne said, the Iowa State Police Department is on her side.

“I’m lucky that I have the cutest dog in the world that people literally ask me where she is if she’s not with me. My suspicion is that if something were to happen and [he] comes to campus and the girl with the really cute dog suddenly were not here, people would notice,” Corinne said.

“I have safety knowing I have really great friends here, I have a wonderful support system.”

And she owns her survivor status, it’s something that Tim loves her for, not in spite of.

“For Tim, one of the reasons why he … one of the things he admires most about me is my strength,” Corinne said. “And that’s something that other survivors look for, is someone who admires that about them.

“Because it’s hard to go through that.

“It’s hard to go through years of therapy or months of therapy, [or] if they go through the legal system, having to go through that and relive that and if their abuser is like how mine is who constantly, repeatedly re-victimizes you.

“It’s hard and it’s traumatic and it sucks… But having support is the best thing and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner in both life and love.”