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Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month – a survivor’s story

{this story was submitted as part of WCASA’s call for reflections on themes related to National Teen Dating Violence Awareness & Prevention Month in the form of writing, artwork, or multimedia production; we thank this survivor for sharing her thoughts and experiences in an honest and candid way; her experiences are unfortunately all too common…}


If you looked at me, you would see an ambitious, accomplished, and carefree twenty-four year old. I have always excelled in school, had a Master’s Degree by the time I was twenty-three, come from a great family, and have an amazing group of friends. It’s what you don’t know about me that would surprise you: From the time I was sixteen to when I was twenty, I was in an abusive relationship.

I shouldn’t even have dated him. I didn’t want to, and that should have been enough. But, I was sixteen and was tired of waiting around for the boy I actually wanted to be with, so I thought I would give him a shot. Within a week, I knew he wasn’t right for me. I even told him that, but then he got sad, and I agreed to give him a real chance. He moved much more quickly than I was used to, especially when I was still trying to decide if I wanted to be going out with him. Within a few weeks he was saying that he loved me and calling me every day. Some of these things worried me, but his last girlfriend had died in a car accident just a year before, so I guess in my mind that made the behavior acceptable.

He seemed completely enamored with me, and I started to like it. For the most part, things went well during the first year. He was very jealous of my ex-boyfriend, who was a still close friend, and he would tell his family intimate details about our relationship, and even though it bothered me, I let it slide. I figured he was just a guy being a guy.

Things started to take a turn when we went to college. Anytime we weren’t together he was obsessed with what I was doing and who I was with. He would call or text me almost constantly, even though I was in class or working. He eventually became convinced I was cheating on him with the same ex-boyfriend he was jealous of in high school. I wasn’t happy with him anymore, but I just couldn’t break up with him, so we continued in the relationship for another year and a half. Because some of my other plans ended up falling through, we ended up living together during my third year of college. We moved in together in May and were broken up by July, but those few months, and the six months that followed until he actually moved out, were the worst.

He was still convinced that I was seeing my ex-boyfriend, and that he was the reason I wanted to break up. He would take my phone from me and read my messages and check my call log. If there was something from my ex, he would freak out. He would physically stop me from leaving or going to a different room in the apartment, either by pushing me or holding me by my arms. He would sometimes force me to hug him and wouldn’t let go until I would “hug back.”

During the last year or so of our relationship I had become disinterested in any form of sexual interaction, because I honestly could hardly even stand to be around him. I tried telling him I didn’t feel like being intimate, but he wouldn’t leave me alone about it. He would practically beg me for sex, or make me feel guilty until I caved, mostly just so that he would finally leave me alone. I would cry the entire time and he would pretend he didn’t notice.

For financial reasons, and because I was too nice of a person, I let him continue to live with me even after we broke up. His behavior toward me didn’t change even though we were no longer in a relationship. He was still jealous, possessive, and emotionally abusive. I remember we had a huge argument because I wanted him to give me his key back when he finally moved out. He just kept asking if it was because I was going to give it to “him.” By this time he had convinced himself, his family, and most of our mutual friends that I had cheated on him, and that as soon as he was gone we’d make our relationship public. It didn’t happen – because I never cheated in the first place.

Over the next few years I ran into him a few times, usually at the bar. Whenever he would see me, he would come up, put his arm around me, and pretend like we were best friends. Meanwhile, I would be freaking out inside and literally shaking with anger, sadness, and panic. I’d quickly explain to my friends that we needed to go somewhere else, and I would try to avoid seeing him again.

Three years after our break up, he started texting me out of the blue. At first he was nice, saying that he was really proud of me for everything I had accomplished so far. He even once said he felt bad about the way he treated me. A few days later, he told me I was a home wrecking whore and that he was the best thing that would ever happen to me, among other things. That was my final straw. I changed my phone number and haven’t heard from him since.

It’s been four years since we broke up, and I wish I could say I’m completely over it, but I’m not. What happened in that relationship will probably be with me for the rest of my life. It took a very long time for me to be able to be in a room alone with a guy and not be panicking inside. I spent a few years trying to ignore my feelings and emotions by drinking and making poor decisions. I was able to get close to people when I was drunk, so I thought I was over the past. I wasn’t, and I’m still not. I still have breakdowns and flashbacks sometimes, and I still get angry about what happened, and angry with myself for not ending the relationship sooner. Looking back, there were many red flags that I either didn’t notice, or chose to ignore, and that’s difficult to deal with. It’s a daily struggle, but I am hopeful that someday the emotional scars will be gone.

It took me years to share my story with anyone, and even now, few people in my life know the real details of why the relationship ended. It is still very difficult for me to share my story, but I know it is part of my healing process, and I know this experience is influencing my prevention work. I am passionate about working with youth to not only teach them about healthy relationships, but also to empower young women so hopefully if they get into a situation like this, they will feel strong enough to get out, or have the strength and encouragement needed to tell someone about the abuse. I’m hoping the girls I work with can avoid a situation like mine.

Last winter, I got a tattoo of a quote that inspires me to keep moving forward and work toward feeling whole again. This tattoo serves as a constant reminder that things will get better, and that I am not defined by what happened to me.

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung


[If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault, find your local Sexual Assault Service Provider; if you are experiencing physical or emotional abuse in a domestic or intimate partner relationship, find your local Domestic Violence intervention service provider]

Posted in Teen Issues.

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