I’ve alluded to experiences before. I’m not sure if I have ever actually come out and said it so if this just sounds like a broken record, forgive me. In High School, I was involved in two relationships which were highly abusive. One was 100% emotional abuse. I scoff at people who say that their significant others emotionally abused them pretty much on a daily basis. A lot of the time, it’s definitely applied too liberally. “He called me stupid,” for instance, doesn’t really do it in my book. Maybe I’m being too harsh and judging too quickly. But dear lord, I have not heard of a single unsuccessful relationship where that definition of “emotional abuse” can’t be used. Most of my female friends have thrown the term around when looking for pity. God forgive me, I couldn’t give it. The definition of abuse at a local Victim’s Advocacy service is “a pattern of behavior used by an individual to establish and maintain coercive control over one’s intimate partner.” I don’t think being told you’re stupid occasionally really qualifies. My own “emotional abuse” came in the form of some extremely personal, perverse things that I’m not ready to tell the internet world. He told intimate details to his friends, most of them outright lies, and insulted very intimate parts of me to my face. He used it to control my actions, like who I talked to. He made me distrust my own friends. He convinced me that I had no real friends. I believed everyone was using me for something or that they just tolerated me. I didn’t think I deserved better than what I was getting. Especially since intermittently, he told me he still loved me and wanted me back.
The physical abuse, while sucky, didn’t hurt nearly as bad. All it did was confirm what the emotional abuse had me believing to begin with. Twisted wrists, being pushed against walls, being shaken, those were just little things, really. There were other levels of emotional abuse in this relationship, too. For instance, the guy would drive his car at 100 miles per hour because he was pissed off. He knew it scared me. He wanted to scare me. He blamed me for the evening turning out badly and he wanted to punish me.
Anyway, we wound up parked in the high school parking lot because he wasn’t ready to take me home yet. He was fuming with anger, banging his fists on the steering wheel. I was wearing a dress that came to maybe halfway down my thighs and three inch peep-toe heels that hurt like you wouldn’t believe. He was yelling at me. I don’t remember what he was saying, but I remember hearing my heartbeat in my temples. He got out of the car and paced around it for a little while. When he got back in, I’d removed my seatbelt and, in my club-going outfit, was about to make a break to run the half mile home. I didn’t get a chance to leave the car.
I managed to get the door open a few inches before he grabbed me by my hair, yanked me back in, and closed the door with his other hand. He was screaming in my face now. I began sobbing and telling him that he was scaring me, that he hurt me, that I was sorry I wanted to go out that night. Eventually, I was deposited back home and he peeled away from the house the second the car door shut.
That was the worst of it. After that, I became quiet. Demure. I believed he was cheating on me left and right. I spoke out about it, but the fights that ensued were so terrible, I’d be begging his forgiveness and for him to take me back. I found out later on that he didn’t really want to be in a serious relationship so young. And hey, I don’t fault him for that. We were kids. But I wanted something serious. So when the very next guy came along, you’d better believe I was on the first train out of there.
He got help. He apologized to me. Sincerely. I forgave him for his actions and I believe he forgave me for the things I did back to him. Let’s be honest. I’m not the kind of person who would take that crap lying down. I lashed out sometimes when he wasn’t doing anything abusive in any way. We were both victims of trauma and it caused both of us to act out. The relationship was unhealthy because we were unhealthy. Now we’re both on much better footing and I admire him for getting help. Confessing to him that I was Bipolar was like telling him I liked cheeseburgers. The response was “Yeah, kinda figured” and on to the next subject.
With Tom, I was so messed up that I was too scared to confront him on any issue. Our first fight was like a therapeutic breakthrough. We were watching some kind of report on Rhianna being beat up by Chris Brown. He joked that she had it coming. I insisted that no one deserves to be beaten up. He asked me if I’d heard her song “Disturbia” and I lost it, shaking hysterically, repeating that NO ONE deserves it and it wasn’t funny. Then I didn’t talk. At all. Instead of going into a rage and yelling at him, I was too scared to say or do anything. He felt so bad, immediately apologizing. He didn’t touch me until I told him it was ok. He said he’d forgotten that I’d been through what I had. He never made jokes like that ever again. He supported me in my volunteer work as a victims advocate and was extremely patient with me when I began working through my baggage later on in our relationship. Let’s just say that I was the curl-into-a-fetal-position-and-cry kind of person when we argued.
I still carry around some emotional scars. I feel insecure eating around people, for instance. I have trouble enjoying certain activities without that voice entering in my head telling me that I am disgusting. I still doubt my friends from time to time. I feel isolated and vulnerable when I need to reach out for help. The moral of the story? I’ve just been thinking about it a lot. I wanted to come out and be honest about it because I know there are women out there going through so much worse. People really ought to be aware of how Domestic Violence looks. Whenever someone tries to manipulate you or control you, you need to realize that you are being abused.