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I never could wrap my head around the fact that some women stayed in abusive relationships.

“He fucking hit you!” I screamed at my computer screen, reading the Hollywood Life headline: “Chris and Rihanna: Back Together.” I closed my laptop and walked away, shaking my head. I used to think abused women were just dumb.

That was before I became one.

Back in 2012, Adam was just some guy in my English class.  A scrawny guy with blonde hair and green eyes and a crooked smile—a guy who wasn’t even all that cute, but had something charming about him, something that got me to say yes when he asked me out that April morning.

For three months, he was my Prince Charming—and I never believed in fairy tales. I had big plans ahead of me and never wanted a guy to sweep me off my feet, until Adam did. On our second week together, he stayed up all night making a mix CD of my favorite songs, and left it on my desk with a heartfelt note and a Venti Frappuccino. Next, it was chocolates, and then roses spilling out of my locker. My friends turned red with jealousy as the entire male acapella group serenaded me with a prom proposal, arranged by Adam, of course. For the first time in my life, I was popular, and we were the perfect couple.

Or so it seemed.

As the weather got cooler and the leave began to change, so did Adam. The gifts and kind gestures became scarce, and then nonexistent. Some days he looked at me as though I was an utter annoyance, and he stopped calling me “princess.” One day in August I spilled a glop of vanilla ice cream onto his leather seats. I apologized profusely and began attacking the stain with a napkin.

Adam just turned to me and said, “You should really stop eating those. You’re getting way too big.”

I was horrified. I rushed home and began obsessing over the scale in my bathroom, convinced that this was the reason Adam had become so distant lately. Little did I know that this would begin a long cycle of emotional abuse.

When I made a joke at his family dinner, Adam told me that I should stop trying so hard to be funny. When I wore shorts that were a size too small, he told me my legs looked like cottage cheese. Before we walked into a party together, he told me I looked like a “huge slut,” and then told his friends I was crazy when they saw me crying. If I spent a night out with my friends, he told me I was a “bitch,” and would ignore my calls for days. Yet, it was always my fault, and I truly believed that I had done something awful to lose my Prince Charming. If I could just be good enough, I would bring him back. But of course, I never was.

Then, one drunken night, he hit me for the first time.    

I knew he had done it, but of course, Adam lied, saying I had fallen down the stairs, and that I shouldn’t drink so much.

It wasn’t until the third time, drenched in my own blood, that I realized what my life had become. I realized that Adam would kill me if I let him, and that I had to get out. I ran for the door and never looked back.

Survivors of domestic violence are not stupid, and we are not weak. We have simply tried too hard to love someone who is incapable of loving us back. We have been tricked, caught up in a cycle of abuse, our self-esteem destroyed. We have become devalued, isolated, and in many cases, cut off from our resources and family. We all deserve support, and we all deserve love—the real kind.

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