“It took four years to escape. I started out in what I thought was the ideal relationship. My boyfriend was perfect. He would do anything for me, and he made me feel great about myself. He helped me in any way he could, but he also helped strangers the same way. Everyone seemed to love him and think he was a great person. No one knew who he really was. If I had known, I would have never moved in with him. It was a gradual change, just slow enough I wouldn’t realize what was happening.
It began with him always helping with anything I needed – car problems, living expenses, books for college, etc. He always offered to help. This help turned into him being ‘thoughtful’ and helping before I even said I needed anything. When I worked during meal time, he would surprise me by showing up at my job with food. He bought me a phone so we could talk whenever we wanted, which turned into him having to constantly be talking to me whenever we weren’t together. I never thought of these actions as red flags. I was convinced he was just being sweet because he loved me.
Then one day I found out he had been cheating on me. Somehow he was able to convince me it didn’t really happen and he would go back to being the perfect guy. It became a cycle I couldn’t escape. It started with the perfect guy, gradually turned into the biggest jerk on the planet and then right before my breaking point, huge apologies and back to pretending to be the perfect guy. It took awhile for me to realize it was a cycle. At almost four years of dating, I was able to see who he really was and what was happening. These cycles became shorter and shorter, coming to the point where we fought a lot, and he would always threaten to break up with me. I finally realized he was saying that to get me to stop bringing up our problems.
I ended the relationship. It was the middle of the semester and my family lived over an hour away. He convinced me to stay there until school ended. He was going to move into his own bedroom, and we were no longer going to act like a couple. I agreed to these conditions. It was going to be the easiest and least stressful decision on everyone. He never moved out of the bedroom. I was drained from the fighting, so I chose to stop bringing it up. He was gone during the week for work anyway, so I could deal with having to be around him a couple days on the weekend. This is when I started realizing a lot of things. I found out he had the neighbor – who was the fire chief he worked under – watching me and reporting back to him during the week. He was trying to control where I went and who I saw. This is when I realized I was in an abusive and controlling relationship, and even though we had broken up, I wasn’t out of it.
One day he came into the bedroom. He started hugging and kissing me. Next thing I knew, he was trying to get my clothes off. I pushed his hands away, but they went right back. He unbuttoned my pants and was pulling them down. I pulled them back up and told him to stop. He continued pulling on them. I held the waist of my pants in a tight fist. Why does he keep pulling on them? He’s stronger than me – a lot stronger. He picked me up and laid me on the bed. My pants were pulled completely off. I realized then he wasn’t going to stop without having sex. I was in shock. I was confused. Clearly I didn’t want to do this. Maybe somehow it isn’t clear to him. I pushed on his chest as he was on top of me and said, ‘No, I don’t want to.’ Nothing. He’s still doing it. I froze. I thought maybe if I stop fighting he’ll finish faster and leave me alone. I’m still frozen and tears start dripping down my face. This wasn’t the first time he raped me, but it was the first time I couldn’t help but to feel raped.
The end of the semester came. I was still stuck. My car was in his name. Once the semester ended, he had a reason to need to drive my car to work every week. He would drive me to my parents’ every Sunday before he left for the week, and he would pick me back up on Thursday when he got off. He still had me every weekend. This is when my family started seeing red flags. I still was unable to get him to move rooms on the weekend. I tried sleeping on the couch. He would always pick me up and carry me to the bedroom with him. I learned how to remove myself from sex. Once I realized it wasn’t going to stop, I decided to use it to my advantage to keep the peace because I mentally couldn’t take anymore.
Telling people what had been going on was the most embarrassing and shameful thing I had ever done. I was scared for people to find out. How dumb was I not to be able to leave the first time something went wrong? I was heartbroken, confused, scared, depressed, and anxious all at once. I was having panic attacks multiple times a day. I even woke up nightly from panic attacks while I slept. These exhausted me. My body was so tired all the time. I was so depressed. I would wish to die in my sleep. My stomach and head always hurt. I couldn’t concentrate to study. I always felt like I was in a dream. Nothing felt real. Every time I was alone I couldn’t control my tears. Every time I slept I had nightmares. I grew to hate my body. Changing clothes and showering became extremely difficult because I absolutely hated seeing my body.
I had just finished my bachelor’s degree, and I didn’t even care to fill out the graduation application. My life was gone. I wasn’t living anymore. This awful time in my life caused depression, anxiety, and PTSD. I moved back home with my parents. The next year was just as awful. When I moved out, I reported to the police. A few months later I decided I wanted to go through with pressing charges. My original report was lost. I was devastated. How could a police station lose a report? I had to start over. I had to explain everything that happened and relive it to a second man for a new report. I waited on a call to schedule an interview. I finally got tired of waiting and called. I called so many times. I would either have no one answer, or I would leave a message and no one would ever get back to me.
After a few months I was finally able to get an interview with a detective, who was another man. The interview was so hard. Being asked for details was extremely difficult, but I made it through. There was a period of time with more constant calling to try and get things done. My case was never sent to the D.A. The detective took it upon himself to decide I wasn’t raped because I had learned to use sex to keep the peace after being raped multiple times. I cannot begin to describe the anger, hurt, and disappointment I felt when I realized nothing was going to happen to him. Coming out with my story has led to the loss of close friends. Nasty comments have been made to me, and many people have made insensitive comments or asked insensitive questions. Some made comments without even knowing my story. ‘Why didn’t you tell me this happened?’ ‘Were you drinking?’ ‘Was he drinking?’ ‘If this really happened, you wouldn’t have stayed.’ ‘Why didn’t you just leave?’ ‘Bet you weren’t even raped.’ ‘Stop being drunken whores.’ ‘Don’t wear yoga pants.’ ‘Don’t go to bars.’ ‘Cover up.’ Talking about what happened has also led to conversations with many girls and women about themselves. Some had never told anyone their story. Some were unable or uncomfortable with speaking publicly about their rape. They were never able to get the healing they deserved. This is why I speak up. Not only does it help my healing, it also helps those who feel they can’t tell their story.
It has been over a year since I escaped my old reality. It has been extremely hard, and I am still working on rebuilding my life. Each day I get a little closer to who I’m meant to be, and everyday I heal a little bit more. It does get better. It is a slow process, but it is in reach. For anyone else going through these struggles, be patient with yourself. It is okay to feel all of the feelings that you are experiencing. We can all get through this together.”
Read more from courageous women leaving domestic abuse relationships:
‘It’s fine. It’s fine.’ His words replayed on a cruel loop after he left. I sat on a table in a dark room, bleeding and trying to make them mean something like comfort. This stuff did not happen to ME.’
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