She lived in fear, but one abuse victim is now taking a stand in court. And thanks to her courage, her abusive ex-boyfriend was sentenced to prison on Sept. 14.
Sophia Putney-Wilcox, 18, remained silent on the abuse at the hands of her ex-boyfriend Adam Shigwadja, 19, for three years since they met in high school, but said the support of her family empowered her to share her story, according to MLive.
"I literally felt like I was living two lives," Putney-Wilcox told MLive. "Now that everything is on the table it was like I was given the opportunity to have a second chance to be close with my mom."
Putney-Wilcox said she loved Shigwadja at the start of their relationship for his kindness and humor, but that changed over the next three years. He allegedly started mentally, verbally and sexually abusing her, and he threatened to kill himself or her whenever she tried to break up with him.
"He convinced me that I had the control in the relationship," Putney-Wilcox said. "It was always him being so helplessly in love."
Shigwadja was arrested after an incident that occurred on the night of Sept. 15, 2014, when he reportedly broke into her home, threatened to kill her, slashed her chest with a knife, and set her room on fire.
Following the incident, Putney-Wilcox gave lengthy testimonies against Shigwadja in court in September 2014.
On Sept. 14, 2015, a judge ordered Shigwadja to serve 29 years in prison for first-degree home invasion and second-degree arson. The judge reportedly took Shigwadja's prior offenses into account when sentencing him. Because of his sentence, it will be an estimated 350 months before Shigwadja becomes eligible for parole.
"I had such a deep wave of relief wash over me and I couldn't put it into words," Putney-Wilcox said of Shigwadja's sentencing. "It's not like I'm happy that Adam's in prison. I can just finally feel safe.
"And we have a big window of safety."
The abuse, however, reportedly began long before Shigwadja's arrest in 2014.
Putney-Wilcox said things took a violent turn in 2013, when Shigwadja broke into the family's apartment and put a knife to her throat.
Shihgwadja was put on probation in that case and was not allowed to have contact with Putney-Wilcox, but it did not stop him from pulling her back in.
Shihgwadja was still under probation in 2014 when he broke into the family's home and lit Putney-Wilcox's room on fire with gasoline before cutting her across her chest and telling her she was going to die.
Follwwing the incident, he was arrested and charged with assault with intent to commit murder, first-degree home invasion and second-degree arson. However, in a bench trial in August, Kalamazoo County Circuit Judge Pamela L. Lightvoet ruled that while he did break into Putney-Wilcox's home that Shigwadja did not intend to kill her because he loved her and Shigwadja simply went "way overboard."
Putney-Wilcox's mother, Kristin Putney, said her daughter "was as depressed as I've seen" after the ruling.
But the family was able to moved forward now that Shigwadja has been sentenced.
Putney-Wilcox hopes her story will inspire others who are experiencing abuse to speak out.
"It gives me a really big sense that what I'm doing has meaning," Putney-Wilcox said. "I just don't want anyone to feel like they're alone... You can find ways to get out."
Domestic abuse affects members of both sexes. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, An estimated 4.7 million women and 5.4 million men were victims of domestic violence in 2011, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).