When reading about the Stanford case, I was in tears. Realizing that a case so black and white could still not receive justice, there was no way that I ever will either. Therefore, I choose to tell my story here:
Four years ago, my mom passed away. My seemingly perfect life had been shattered. I felt sad, alone, vulnerable. That was until I met him. We’d gone to school together for two years but had never really spoken before. A few months after my mom died, he and I became very close, very quickly. He got me to open up to him, to feel the feelings I had repressed for so long. It seemed good, at first. He was nice to me, but made sure that he always had a certain power over me – he made sure I remained vulnerable and insecure. He’d call me beautiful, but yell at me when I wore shorts or tank tops. He said he liked my style, but not when my pants were tight and not when my arms were showing. I obeyed these rules in order to keep him happy, but they became increasingly difficult to follow and his moods became difficult to predict. Soon enough, I wasn’t allowed to talk to my guy friends anymore, and gradually, I was no longer allowed to hang out with my girl friends either. Spending too much time with my family was against the rules, and not telling him where I was every hour of the day was an absolute no. He planned strategically for me to have no one to turn to but him. I no longer talked to my friends, and they no longer talked to me. I became distant with my siblings and my dad. He was all that I had and life became very, very lonely. Nothing I did ever seemed like enough and he made it clear to both of us that his happiness took precedence over mine.
One night, I was at a party with friends and had an awkward interaction with a guy I had been close friends with the last few years. The interaction left me in tears because he ignored me, similarly to how I ignored him during the past year of my relationship with ___. I left the party crying to go on a walk, and my boyfriend at the time chased after me. A friend told my boyfriend why I was crying, and rather than ask if I was okay, he started yelling at me and shoving me in the streets. Then, he hit me. Despite the obvious hints that it would eventually escalate to this, I was stunned. My body went into shock – I had an anxiety attack and stopped breathing. As he continued to yell, I fainted and fell unconscious on the side of the road. I woke up to my head on his lap, and him stroking my hair saying “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” He brought me to his house, put Band-Aids on my bleeding knees, and tucked me into bed. I fell asleep feeling lucky to have someone that took such good care of me…I thought this was love. I excused his abusive ways despite the fact that he made me cry every single day – he was all that I thought I had.
The problem with my ex-boyfriend is that he was very insecure, and he, and I, let his insecurities destroy me. He felt so insecure that he had to find ways to crush whatever little confidence I had. He found ways to make me feel more worthless than I could ever imagine making myself feel. But low self esteem isn’t an excuse for someone to become abusive. He would make me feel guilty for not spending all of my time on him, and when something didn’t go his way, he made sure I suffered the consequences. The abuse was constant, with flashes of good moods and somewhat genuine words. But these happier memories will always be tainted by the emotional, physical, and sexual abuse that I endured for almost two years.
To this day, I can never squeeze my hands tightly enough to rid myself of the feeling of him prying my thighs open despite repetitive “no"s, despite tears rolling down my face during the entirety of the acts, despite lying down like a lifeless doll…there were times that I felt so terrible I carved the word “no” into my skin – onto my wrists, my stomach, my thighs, anywhere that he had touched me. For anyone that’s been in a similar situation, you may understand how powerless and desolate these acts of violence make you feel. It makes you feel worthless – which is a feeling that quickly took over during my first year at Phillips Academy, Andover. We were still dating during the first half of the year, and making friends proved difficult because of the restrictions he’d placed on my social relationships. I wasn’t allowed to talk to the boys in my class, and when I told him I was set up by my soccer team with a friendly date for a formal dance, everything got worse. Shortly after, we made the mutual decision to end our relationship because neither of us were happy. Things had been going well until he started texting me about a month later, on Christmas Eve. He told me that he missed me and that he loved me and I spent the night crying alone – I thought I missed him too. The next morning, on Christmas Day (two days before the anniversary of my mom’s death – December 27th) he texted me telling me that he was with another girl, and had cheated on me during our relationship with people. Christmas Day quickly turned in to a trip to the emergency room and I was admitted to a psychiatric ward for about a month (to all those I told I had mono, I’m sorry I was not brave enough to admit the truth). I was anxious to go back to school and in hindsight, I probably left the ward too soon. I was back at Andover to finish winter term, but by the time spring came around, my depression and suicidal thoughts had worsened and getting out of bed became nearly impossible. Worried that I might wind up in the hospital again, I was told I should go home and I spent that sunny spring on the couch in my house.
It took me over a year after our relationship had ended to realize that it was unhealthy and abusive, and I am still learning the ways in which it has affected me. I’ve realized that the worst thing you can do to someone is control them, and how easy it is to give in to someone when you are already feeling vulnerable.
I know that all any parent ever wants is for their child to be happy. I know that’s what my dad wanted for me, and I know that’s what his parents want for him. But I want his parents, his mother – who was like a mother to me – to know that I still have nightmares about him. I still am scared to be at home alone. He is the monster that continues to haunt my thoughts every single day, who wakes me up almost every night. To this day I am still deeply affected. This past year I became so scared of the repercussions of telling someone to back off that I let it escalate to the point where a guy wouldn’t leave me alone. He would try to make moves and ignored my pleas to leave me alone, to the point where I genuinely felt unsafe on my college campus – a place I was supposed to call home. He made violent threats to my boyfriend who was all the way in Virginia at the time, and all I could think of was what he could do to me, for I was only a walk away. I stopped going over to my friends’ dorms in order to avoid seeing him, I wouldn’t leave my room unless it was for class, and I’d sit in the corner of the dining hall and stare down at my notebooks too afraid to even make eye contact with anyone that passed by. But I am done doing this. I refuse to stay silent when I feel uncomfortable and I will no longer protect those who I feel have personally endangered my physical and mental state.
My experiences with depression, anxiety, and anorexia have had devastating effects on my mental and physical health. I have done irreversible damage to my body and there probably won't come a day when I no longer think about what went on during those two years. But this article isn’t about him. It’s about me, and I am writing in order to sort out my own thoughts, to come clean about my past relationship, to explain why I need six pills every morning in order to keep me going, and perhaps most importantly, to help anyone that may have been or is currently in a similar situation. My greatest hope is that this will help some people to understand why it takes victims of abuse weeks, months, years, and decades to come forward with their stories. To understand the fear of backlash and victim blaming. To understand the severe and deep-rooted impact any type of abuse can have on someone. I am both happy and proud to say that I am currently in a healthy relationship with someone I met at Andover, and have been for more than two years. There is mutual respect, he cares about my wellbeing and I care about his, and most of all, I feel free. I feel free to wear what I want, to talk to whomever I want, and I no longer fear the repercussions of saying no, or for standing up for myself. So to anyone that thinks there is no way out, or who no longer believe in trust and love, it's out there and better days are ahead.