I never in my wildest dreams imagined I'd find myself in an abusive relationship. I came from a loving home, with models of a loving relationship. Abuse can happen to anyone at any time.
When I was 16, I was in a relationship that would forever change my life. The relationship started with an attentive, sweet and thoughtful boy.
About nine months into the relationship he started to attack my self-esteem, criticizing my weight, hair, clothes, athletic ability. He called me terrible names and told me no one else would want me. It didn't take long for me to start to believe the things he said.
Hurtful words turned to harmful actions. Pushing, spitting, throwing things, pillows over my face, hair pulling.
He would leave me at places, without a ride, anytime he got mad. I once stood outside of a store holding my prom dress crying because he got mad and just left me. He dumped my purse in the middle of a road, and he left me at a dance because I told him my friends weren't stupid. My abuser threw a book at my face when he was mad. He put toothpaste in my hair. He pushed me into a glass shelf, cutting my back because he heard me on the phone telling my friend about him.
He'd show up with flowers. Say he was sorry and beg for another chance and swear he'd change. I always fell for it. I always told myself he went through some traumatic things in his life and that is why he is the way he is. I'm not a quitter, and I thought I could fix it. I was wrong.
At one point he ripped a necklace he had given me off my neck. When he went to get it fixed, he decided to "upgrade" the chain. The jeweler told me I had such a kind boyfriend. I wanted to vomit knowing the real reason he was getting a new necklace.
The memories are ingrained in my mind, even though it was ten years ago.
At one point my dad asked how I had gotten a bruise on my thigh. I told him I fell rollerblading when actually he had pushed me the day before.
His abuse was always my fault because I wasn't good enough, I wouldn't be sufficient for anyone. I started to withdraw from my friends. I didn't want anyone to know.
I stayed because I was embarrassed, I was ashamed. I didn't want anyone to know. I thought I loved my abusive partner. His neglect subtly impacted me; he stole my self-worth.
Finally, he turned into such a horrible person that enough was enough, and I ended it. He continuously would call and leave voicemails begging for another chance saying he'd "treat me like a princess." I finally told my mom, but I couldn't bear to look my dad in the face and tell him.
My dad is such an important role model for me. My parents never fought in front of us growing up. They are still thoroughly in love, and I genuinely admire their relationship. I hope to one day marry a man just like my dad. Knowing I had such a great male role model and I stayed in such a terrible relationship is something I will never understand.
The first time I saw my dad cry was when my grandpa passed away. The second time was sitting at the police station as he listened to the horrible relationship I finally ended.
Five years after I broke up with him, I started to get calls from blocked numbers late at night. The calls occurred randomly for the next three years. I finally discovered it was him. Five years later and he still called, calling to tell me he was sorry, I deserved the world, and regrets what he did. I'm now happy to say I haven't heard from him in a long time.
Every couple years I look at these pictures to remind myself what I made it through. I wish I could tell my 16-year-old self that in ten years I will be a healthy, educated, independent, happy person with a fantastic family and some pretty incredible friends. Life is good.
Pick yourself up and take your life back. It's important not to give up hope that you will heal or find a healthy relationship. You're in control now.
Every October I go back and forth trying to decide if I should share my story. Only my close friends and family know. After some encouragement, I've finally decided to share my story hoping to encourage others to get out of unhealthy relationships or help parents to recognize the signs of teenage domestic violence. Here are some signs to watch for:
- Unexplained bruises
- An unhealthy attachment to a boyfriend/girlfriend
- A sudden change in personality or behavior
- Sad or agitated behavior