October has come to the end. However, that does not mean that discussion of Domestic Violence and the awareness of the topic should. My battle with the long lasting affects of Domestic Violence will never truly come to an end. In hopes to bring more attention to the topic, I share my story so others will become educated and hopefully not experience what I have.
I knew Alpha Chi Omega was the right sorority for me on philanthropy night. I witnessed how passionate the girls were about Domestic Violence Awareness and raising money for battered homes. However, I’m sure my sisters have never thought twice about why I choose Alpha Chi. Since I’ve been at college, I rarely mention where I am from or my high school experience. I’m involved in a lot of activities, I have a thriving social life, I maintain a healthy lifestyle and I always, always wear a smile on my face. It’s hard for people to believe that I was a victim of Domestic Violence.
Now days, freshman year of high school seems like a lifetime away. At the time, time moved by so slowly and everyday with an abusive boyfriend was like walking on eggshells. It wasn’t always like that though –when I first started dating Paul* he was so charming and he was the perfect first boyfriend. As the year went on, it progressively got worse. I started slinking away from my friends and family, neglected my self and my schoolwork, and lost ahold of reality. He was telling me that none of those things mattered, only our love did. I finally realized something was wrong when I was on the phone with a Domestic Violence Hotline during a family vacation.
The first time I was wrongly laid a hand on by a guy was at the age of sixteen. I can’t even remember the first time Paul hit me because it hadn’t been that traumatic; Paul always screamed at me and I’m sure the first time he hit me I honestly thought I deserved it. After that, I can recall many occasions that I had been abused. He had slapped me. He had pulled my hair. He had kicked me. He had punched me. He had thrown me. He had pushed me. He had even bitten me. If I had tried to get out he’d let me know that he was the best I was ever going to get and no one would ever love me like he did.
The relationship finally came to an end when he had publically hit me during a school pep-rally. There was no way to hide it anymore. (Even though, I’m sure people noticed before.) I was taken to the school’s office and signed a “Cease and desist” waiver against Paul, which meant he was not allowed to contact me nor mention my name. Eventually, Paul was expelled from our high school. However, he continued to harass me with whatever chance he got until I grew up and moved away for college. Far away from him.
I am so thankful for the people who stood by me during my lost year. (That’s what I call my time with Paul because it was a year of wasted time.) It can be difficult to love a friend who is going through an abusive relationship because the on-looker may not be able to grasp the concept of why he or she stays with their partner when their partner hurts them. Domestic Violence is a difficult experience to explain unless you have gone through it, and I pray no one else has to. It’s a shocking statistic that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence during their lifetime. Be aware that the college-age group (20-24) is at the highest risk of becoming victims. Knowing the signs of an abusive relationship can help prevent and/or save someone from domestic violence. It is important to be informed and be willing to be an ally.
Relationships are everywhere in college and point blank: there is no way to avoid them. Since high school, I have forgiven my abuser and realized not all men are going to treat me like he had. My experience has given me the opportunity to help others and stand up for myself in relationships because I know I am worthy of the best. Everyone (male or female) is worthy of a healthy, devoted relationship. Love shouldn’t hurt.
Some people are always going to think my story is just an “over-dramatic tale of a teenager who is still bitter over her ex-boyfriend”. However, for my family and the other people involved, this time of my life was very real and very scary. As for Paul, I am thankful no other physical violence has come from our experience. Paul has friends who think highly of him and I can only wish him the best in life. I’ve come to the understanding I am not at fault for his actions and I have come a long way.