Loving boyfriend or worst enemy?
By Senior Airman Heather Hayward, 366th Fighter Wing Public Affairs / Published April 23, 2013
MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
Would you be strong enough to make it out alive?
Staff Sgt. Evon Pretulak, 366th Fighter Wing Equal Opportunity director, was one of the lucky ones who did.
There are many reasons to join the military; however, for most, falling victim to domestic violence isn't one of them.
Never thinking an email telling her she was pretty would lead to years of abuse, Pretulak got into a relationship with a staff sergeant who would later become her worst enemy.
"It began in June of 2006 and I didn't get completely rid of him until almost 2009," said Pretulak. "I don't remember when it started to go wrong, but I do remember the very first
time he hit me."
According to www.futureswithoutviolence.org, women experience two million injuries from intimate partner violence each year.
"Unfortunately, but fortunately, I decided to accept the abuse," said Pretulak. "I say, 'fortunately,' because it turned me into the strong woman that I am today. All the pain, the problems and the abuse molded me to not only know what I wanted for myself, but what I would teach my children to never accept."
Gripping her knees and keeping her voice strong and unwavering, Pretulak recalled some of the vivid details of what she went through during the two years she was with the man who changed her life.
"Right before deployment I had left a bucket of cleaning supplies out, and I remember regretting that because after a fight I found my head being pushed into a bucket of Clorox and essentially being choked," said Pretulak. "Then we ended up deploying together and I thought, 'this is great, my boyfriend and I are deployed together,' but it trapped me again. He did everything from grab me, leave bruises on my arm, push me down, sneak into my room, and hit me because I guess some way, somehow, that was his way to control me."
Despite several avenues in the military, such as mental health, family advocacy, chaplains and Sexual Assault Response Coordinators, many are still too hesitant to ask for help.
"At one point, my superintendent realized that the right side of my ear was bruised and asked what happened," Pretulak continued. "I made up that it had been really icy and I fell down the stairs outside of my apartment, knowing that's not what happened."
Pretulak continued to protect her aggressor by lying and making excuses about what really happened, thinking that he loved her and someday it would stop.
She began explaining her trip home to visit her parents and as she was changing, her mother saw a huge bruise on her pelvis and asked what happened. She lied to protect her attacker, saying she fell on the stairs while loading an aircraft.
Her mother knew she was lying, but didn't want to pry.
After returning home again a couple weeks later, Pretulak finally decided to tell her mother, who instantly began to cry. She began to explain this wasn't something her daughter needed to accept or continue to go through.
"I didn't believe I deserved it, but I thought if I could fix him, he would stop," said Pretulak. "I really thought maybe someday he would change, but as time went on, it became apparent that I had become so accepting to the behavior, and I chose to continually get hit and not do anything about it."
When asked how this time in her life has changed her view on life, Pretulak's voice and lips began to quiver, and tears filled her eyes.
"I look at life so differently and in thinking of how it changed my life, I'm really lucky because there are some people who don't make it out alive," Pretulak said. "Although it was a horrible experience, some parts of me say I'm lucky to go through something like that because now I can help others."