Written by: Samantha, Survivor
I grew up in a household of strong women, my mother being the leader of the pack and my two sisters and me in tow. “Never depend on a man” was the mantra repeated to us over and over again. We were never expected to be subservient to men. Having grown up in this positive environment, I was not intimidated by many men, and I was ready to take on the world – or so my 7th grade mind thought.
I was a tomboy up until 7th grade, so boys didn’t take the greatest interest in me. All I cared about was trying to become a skater girl just like Avril Lavigne. She was a kick-ass girl who also wasn’t afraid of any man. This fitted with the early teachings of my mother, so, of course, she would be someone to idolize.
Once I entered 7th grade, the boys started to notice me, and I had come to realize that I actually did not mind the attention of these young men. One boy in particular really took an interest in me and was somewhat aggressive about getting me to date him. At the time I thought this was cute and romantic. It was like a game to me. He would ask me; out I would say no.
This happened numerous times. I did have a slight crush on him, but something didn’t seem quite right. So, I did not dive head first and say yes to his advances right away. After a while, I finally agreed to be his girlfriend.
We experienced all the usual things that many young loves experience, such as the first kiss, the first time he felt me up, and the first time we were left unsupervised and let our hormones dictate our actions. We had the time of our lives, but as far as middle school relationships go, I started to get annoyed with him and even bored.
After about a year of dating, we started arguing more so I did what any sane person would do – distanced myself. Once I started to put the brakes on the relationship, the first hints of abuse began to appear. At the time, I had no idea this was considered abuse or what this behavior would eventually become and how much it would rock my world.
The first time I tried to break up with him, he said he was going to kill himself. Once those words were uttered, I felt a weight on my shoulders like I have never felt in my entire life. As a 14-year-old girl, I felt that I had someone else’s life in my hands. After that first occurrence and what I felt like was a successful crisis negotiation, things continued to spiral out of control.
He finally got the first taste of control and saw that I responded to it and ran with it. He then started controlling every aspect of my life including the clothes I wore and the sleepovers I had. Talking to any other males was completely out of the question. I was only given one hour each night to get off the phone with him. If I called back a minute after the allotted hour, I would pay for it by being verbally abused and belittled.
I felt like a prisoner. He would threaten to kill himself almost on a daily basis, and I would get so nervous that I would throw up nearly every day because of the pressure and uneasiness of feeling like I had someone else’s life in my hands. My mom did grow suspicious, but of course, I lied and said I was fine.
I pushed away my closest friends by making it seem like I didn’t want to hang out with them. I would dodge all the invites by saying what they were doing was stupid, and I was too cool for their immature activities like football games, sleepovers, and just hanging out after school. I felt so helpless and weak letting a guy control me like this.
I felt so alone, ashamed, and helpless. No one would understand my situation. Everyone would blame me for being so weak. I couldn’t even imagine what my mother would think. She would think she failed as a parent if I didn’t follow the one rule she drilled into all us girls growing up: “Don’t depend on a man.” So, I chose to stay quiet. I felt almost heroic for sacrificing my happiness and humanity to save his life.
The relationship continued for eight years. The verbal abuse, suicide threats, and controlling behavior waxed and waned. My actions were always thoroughly planned to not upset him because there was always the risk that I would be the reason he ended his life. His tactics for abuse did change over the years. It even got to a point where he inspected my vagina to see if there were any changes from when we were last together (he was seeing if I cheated on him). This act was almost the final straw. The camel’s back had hairline fractures but was not completely broken until he decided to try and control the one thing I wouldn’t let anyone control.
I had known since I was nine years old that I wanted to be a pharmacist, and no one – not even this abusive monster – was going to get in the way of that. I was planning on studying for my entrance exam into pharmacy school with my usual study group which included both males and females. Upon arriving at the study spot, it was apparent that it would only be me and another male studying together because the other group members could not make it to the session. I panicked.
I knew If my boyfriend found out, I would again suffer the slew of accusation of cheating and again come the crossroads of suicide negotiation. I thought being honest with him and telling him up front would be better than if he were to see it for himself or hear about it from someone else. So, I told him, and again, que curtain for the same eight-year-old performance of verbal abuse and threat of suicide. It was normal for me to stay up until three in the morning talking him down, overexplaining myself, and inflating his ego with how amazing he was and how he had nothing to worry about.
I was a pro at this with eight years of experience. However, this time it was different. I had my entrance exam the next day early in the morning and only got two hours of sleep. I took the test, and my performance was abysmal. The only thing I vowed to not let this man control was my path to the pharmacy, and I felt that he had somehow taken that away from me.
The camel’s back had finally broken. I knew I was going to break up with him, but how? I finally figured out that I wouldn’t do this on my own. I finally broke my silence and told my best friends. They helped me out of the trench that had taken eight years of digging. They didn’t judge me for being weak like I thought they would. It was quite the opposite. They applauded me for my bravery in getting out of a toxic relationship like that. I broke up with him, this time for good. I was finally free. I had a life again. I credit my best friends and my bravery for telling my story.
I wanted to share this in hopes of letting others know that they aren’t alone. There are others out there with similar stories who have felt the shame and helplessness. The biggest advice I can give is that we all need help in getting out of these situations, and luckily, I had my friends to help. There are so many resources out there even if you don’t have a close, trusted individual in your life. We all need help and help is out there. Don’t give up. Life is so much better when you are in control.
I also wanted to spread the word to young teens that it’s not healthy. It’s not cute, and it’s not romantic when your partner gets jealous or displays any other red flags for abuse. There is always help for those who are stuck in abusive relationships. You are just a conversation, phone call, or text away from personal freedom.
**If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, there is help. You can visit the Break the Silence website at www.breakthesilencedv.org, chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777, or send a private message through our Facebook page.
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