By Jill Crowner
Rosie Love had her first encounters with abuse at an early age. In the second grade, she was continually chased down on the playground by a boy who she thought to be her friend. He would isolate her on the far side of the playground, pin her to a chain-link fence and assault her. At the time, this behavior was excused as Rosie was told that this was how he showed her he “liked” her. She knew this behavior made her uncomfortable but felt she had nobody to talk to and no way to make it stop. Having been raised in a very strict household, Rosie’s family never talked to her about sex or appropriate touching. There was a culture of shame surrounding these topics and she didn’t have the words to explain what was happening to her. This is how she began internalizing her feelings when it came to sex and abuse.
This pattern continued through middle school and into high school. Rosie was repeatedly sexually abused by a female friend of hers during sleepovers in middle school. Again, she felt she had nobody to talk to and was filled with shame.
Her first real relationship in high school was also wrought with abuse and a lack of respect for Rosie’s feelings or boundaries. Her repeated efforts to stop this behavior or express that she was uncomfortable were ignored and the abuse continued. Her abuser used various forms of manipulation to keep Rosie confused and tied to him. He would threaten to kill himself if she ever left him, and used his own abusive home life to convince Rosie that he wouldn’t be safe if she left. This continued for many months before she was finally able to get out of the relationship.
At this point, Rosie took a break from dating and tried to educate herself about healthy sexual relationships. However, she was still unable to find many resources and became even more isolated with her feelings. Although she didn’t know it at the time, she was also suffering from symptoms of PTSD caused by the prior abuse. As she moved on to college, she would find herself involved with men who only used her for her body. She felt that this was her role in relationships, to please, without asking for any of her needs to be met.
When Rosie met the man who would become her future husband, he seemed so different from anyone she had dated. He was respectful and caring, and understood boundaries and consent. In fact, he didn’t seem interested in sex at all. After the trauma she had experienced, this seemed like the ideal relationship. Nine months into dating, they decided to get engaged. It was at this point he revealed to Rosie that he was an undocumented immigrant. He had been grooming Rosie the entire time in order to marry her and obtain citizenship. She was so deep into the relationship at this point, she couldn’t see how he was using her. They made plans to marry in two years and live together in the meantime. As soon as they moved in together, it was like her fiancé became a different person. He began to treat her as though she belonged to him and pressure her to get married immediately, not wait two years like they had planned. Rosie finally succumbed to the pressure and they were married at the courthouse. It was shortly after this that he began abusing her.
Their home life was fraught with tension and fighting. During a heated argument, he threw Rosie against a wall. At this point, he had been psychologically abusing her for so long she was convinced she had no other options, and had to stay no matter what. They had already started the immigration process and Rosie felt that much of their well-being was contingent upon her staying. She had never experienced a relationship of equality and love, so this abusive relationship—which was all about power and control—was familiar to her.
Rosie’s husband verbally and financially abused her. He would yell and belittle her and kept tight control of their finances, even though much of their income came from her student loans. He didn’t want her to work, and kept a close eye on her in all aspects of her life. No matter how hard she tried, or how perfect she tried to be for him, it was never enough. He was always angry at her about something. He ignored her medical needs to the point where she almost didn’t get care when her appendix needed to be removed.
Rosie eventually got to the point where she felt suicide was the only way out of her abusive marriage. Her self-esteem was so low, and the abuse had become so relentless, she wanted to take her own life. Luckily, people she trusted were able to convince her to see her own worth and to finally look at the abusive situation she was in for what it truly was. Her therapist presented her with a tool, The Violence Wheel (also known as the Power and Control Wheel). This tool helped Rosie see the different ways her husband was abusing and controlling her for so long. It was an awakening for her and propelled her to finally leave.
Although the process of divorce and disentangling herself from her ex-husband was difficult, Rosie started to heal and rediscover her self-worth. She began to reconnect with old friends whom she was forced to cut off contact with during her marriage. One of these people was a friend from high school who became a huge support for Rosie. He would help her organize the parts of her life that were overwhelming in the wake of her marriage. They began to spend more time together. As the relationship started to turn romantic, Rosie was apprehensive. She wasn’t sure she was ready to have a relationship then, if ever. Soon, however, they were inseparable and she discovered what a safe, healthy relationship felt like. Later that year, Rosie proposed to her now-husband. Today, she is happily married to a partner who makes her feel safe and respected. She and her husband are happy to announce they are expecting their first child.
Rosie is grateful for the support she has found with Break the Silence Against Domestic Violence. She first connected with Kristin as a vendor at an event sponsored by BTSADV. Rosie set up a booth featuring The Warrior Project, a series of dolls she makes from clothing and fabric donated by survivors of abuse. She then went on to attend a survivor retreat which was an experience that changed her life. Rosie now works as Kristin’s executive assistant and uses her own experience to help other survivors. It is thanks to the supportive people in her life as well as her own warrior-like attitude that Rosie is able say she has truly found her happy ending.
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 or chat with one of our helpline advocates at 855-287-1777.