ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — Mariah Prussia says she wouldn’t change her past.

This is despite the fact that her past includes being a victim of domestic abuse, and also becoming the statistic of 1 in 4 females being sexually assaulted or raped during their freshman year of college.

She wouldn’t change it because it helped make her become who she is today.

Prussia, who now lives in Fargo and is the owner of MPX Fitness, a motivational speaker and Fargo’s first sanctioned professional mixed martial arts fighter, told her story in Alexandria, Minn., Wednesday, Oct. 14, for the virtual 20th annual Domestic Abuse Awareness Luncheon. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

Prussia also is a single mom to her two sons, was the 2020 North Dakota Mother of the Year, a nutritional coach, freelance writer and fitness model.

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She didn’t start fighting because of her experiences, she said. She began down that career path because of the challenges it presented and because it helped her grow in her confidence.

She is thankful for all the support she had along her journey and thankful for being able to step out and away from an abusive relationship.

Her relationship, like many others, started out on a high note. But then things started to change. Jealousy played a large part in the relationship, but interestingly in the beginning, Prussia said she viewed his jealousy as love. She thought she meant that much to him and that the attention was because of his love for her.

“It wasn’t love and jealousy, it was control,” she said. “He was holding me back from my own personal growth. When I look back, I can see the signs now.”

She recalled a time she was gone for a weekend to play sports with her team of women and she received well over 200 texts and calls from him in the two days she was gone. She said he thought if she wasn’t with him, she must be with another man. But, she wasn’t. She was with her friends, her teammates.

From there, it escalated and things started being thrown at the wall or at mirrors, which would break.

Accusations would continue anytime she was gone. She recalled a time when he wrapped his hand around her throat and she could feel her feet lift off the ground.

“I thought to myself, ‘Is this actually happening?’ I just froze,” she said.

When those things happened, which weren’t every day, she said, they would just get swept under the rug and it was like they didn’t happen.

He wouldn’t let her be around her friends anymore. It was as if he was trying to keep her secluded.

“I became isolated from my friendships because I wanted his love and his approval,” Prussia said. “It came to a point where a friend sat me down and asked me how many friends I had. I said one or two. She then asked how many I had a year or two before that and it was in the double digits. It was really eye-opening.”

But she said it wasn’t as eye-opening as after the couple had children. Her husband raised his hand to her while she was holding their son and she knew she needed to stop the cycle or her boys would fall into the same cycle as their dad and his dad, their grandpa. She remembers hearing stories of her ex-father-in-law and how abusive he was.

Finding herself

She finally got out of the relationship, noting that it takes on average seven attempts for a woman to leave an abusive relationship. And although she was on her own, he would still stalk her, oftentimes circling around her home at night. She said he would show up with guns and tell her that if he saw a man entering her home, he would shoot him and he would shoot her.

She lived in fear for two years before he finally stopped and when she let her faith become stronger than her fear.

Shortly after, she met with a life coach, which she said brought the biggest change in her life. She finally started to see her real beauty, and not just the superficial beauty, but the depth of her beauty inside her soul was finally coming into view.

“I was finding out who I was and who I was wanting to be. I saw the beauty,” Prussia said. “It was a true epiphany.”

When the stalking finally stopped and her healing began, Prussia said she actually called her ex-husband and thanked him.

“When he asked 'why?,' I told him that if I wouldn’t have had those experiences, I wouldn’t have been able to connect to myself,” she said. “I told him that he helped me empower my voice and the ability to help people in the same situation.”

She loves to be able to help women, children and men to be able to see the light inside the darkness and to teach them to not stay in the fight, but to release and grow.

“You are strong enough and you will always find the light,” she said. “It is empowering and will arm you for the future. You should fear nothing and stand for something.”

Prussia provided some tips that included using your words to empower, not take power. She said to be patient in the journey. People need to find their worth and establish boundaries.

She said people need to put value on themselves and not let someone else dictate a value for them.

And one of the most important pieces of advice she had was to reach out and ask for help. Call someone for help because, she said, “Your life is essential.”