“When most people read about relationship abuse or see it on social media, a common reaction is “How could anyone allow the person they’re in a relationship with to treat them like that?” or “Why don’t they just leave?” Well, from the outside looking in that’s easy to say, but it’s a completely different story when you’re the victim. I suffered through relationship abuse for 3 years, and I didn’t even realize it.
It began with a boy who I found attractive because he was a “rebel” and seemingly confident, and he encompassed all you could imagine in a “bad boy.” My friends would point out some red flags like the way he wouldn’t treat me well in front of his friends, or me needing his stamp of approval to go see a movie with the girls. The signs of abuse weren’t evident at first, as is for many other people in an abusive relationship.
After a few months into our relationship, I saw signs of jealousy. Any attention I got from a guy would be blamed on me. If I was hit on, it was because I’m a “flirt,” I secretly just wanted other people, or I loved the attention. Jealousy started turning into control – he would do things like take my phone and go through my texts, Instagram, Facebook messages, or anything that offered communication with other people. Once he found flirty Facebook messages from 2 years before my relationship with him and accused me of being a slut and an attention whore.
He wouldn’t compliment me for months in fear that I would get a “big head” and search for more attention from other people. He was constantly trying to tear me down so I would feel like I didn’t deserve anything better than what we had. He would go back and forth between telling me he cherished and trusted me, and treating me terribly. Any ounce of what I thought was good in him and our relationship kept me holding on. I latched onto the idea that I could change him, even after he mistreated me.
He would ignore me for hours or days for something as small as a guy friend asking if I knew of any local parties. That was only the beginning. When I thought it couldn’t get any worse – it did. One time after scolding me for doing something I loved, playing the piano, he told me he would leave if I played any more. Confused and shocked at his random outbreak, I left him for the night to be with my friends. He found me before I was able to go inside. He demanded me to get in the car, and I refused. He promised he wouldn’t drive away if I got in the car, so I stepped in, and he immediately started driving away. He physically held me against my will so I couldn’t be with my friends and have a good time. I managed to get out of the car, miles from the club, and started walking back in the dark. He followed me trying to get me to stay with him, rather than respect what I wanted. I had to call his sister in the middle of the night to pick me up and take me back to my friend’s house. She even had to lend me money because he had stolen mine. He threatened me, and he followed his sister and I back to the club. He was acting crazy.
After that I began realizing how toxic he was. He tried to get me to turn on my friends and family, so I would be isolated and feel like I had no one but him. He would rip up pictures I had of my friends and I. When I began to stand up for myself, he said I was “changing” and “starting to become a bad person.” That’s when the physical abuse began.
I would try to leave and he would stand in front of the door, guarding it, so I couldn’t get out. When I would try, he would throw me across the room or rip my clothes as I attempted to escape. He would pump his fists like he was going to hit me. I put up with this for months, thinking he could change if I worked hard enough. However, it never got any better. Before the physical abuse, it was hard for me to see that the abuse was always there. Control and jealousy are huge forms of abuse that should always serve as major red flags.
All in all, I was blinded for too long. I didn’t realize the mental and emotional destruction he burdened me with. He had me believing that this relationship was the best I was ever going to get. For 3 years, I never listened to my friends and family because I was so deep in denial. As soon as I let them help me help myself, I was able to get out. Denial was hard to overcome, but it saved me from what was becoming an extremely dangerous and potentially life-threatening relationship.”
-Story told anonymously to writer Julia Diaz