I was sweet sixteen, a pretty girl, intelligent and bookish, with very few dates. An outsider looking in saw a girl that had it all, excellent grades, too many extracurricular activities to count and acceptance by all of the cliques because I refused to allow myself to be boxed in. Yet loneliness constantly plagued me. Inside I remained the shy, insecure, only child that was more often than not playing the violin or reading a book instead of learning the latest dance step. I suppose my flurry of activity kept me from finding meaningful relationships. He filled that void.
He was charming, handsome, well liked and known for his explosive temper. Unafraid of confrontation, ready to battle at a moments notice. Knowing that he was an undercover bad boy may have been one of the things that attracted me to him. The romance began quickly and without skipping a beat my world soon revolved around school, homework, and Him. The few friends that I had were systematically detached from me. His ubiquitous presence hindered girl talk with friends and our volatile behavior (fighting –that at times was physical) encouraged the few friends that we shared to simply drift away. We soon become our own private island. Isolated. Utterly and completely wrapped up in our own little world.
I believe our physicality opened the door for true violence. I vividly recall when we reached a turning point. I lay sprawled on the hood of his car with his fingers wrapped tightly around my neck, as my feet dangled off the ground. In that moment, everything changed.
And yet, I stayed. After my first attempt to leave I realized that staying was easier. By ending the relationship I opened myself up to his stalking, he lurked around every corner, wild-eyed and crazy. There was less danger in the possibility of his wrath than the guarantee. At one point I begged a mutual male friend for help but given our history he dismissed my request. It took me a long time to forgive that slight. I later learned that he believed we were up to our old antics but I know fear was evident in my eyes.
Convinced that no help was forthcoming, I resigned myself to play tiptoe in the tulips in my relationship for many months, never knowing what action would incur his wrath. After our “encounters” he would apologize profusely, tears streaming down his face, accompanied by gentle whispers of “I love you.” Gifts of jewelry or flowers were the norm.
This cycle repeated for six months and when he accosted me at school I finally went to the police. They were no help. During our “altercation” I split his lip and he was aways careful to leave no bruises on me. The victim became the criminal, he could have pressed charges and had me arrested for assault. Never mind he’d spent the better part of two hours slapping me repeatedly as I stood my ground. My only recourse was to stop talking to him and continue my life.
Easier said than done.
I suddenly found myself alone, a castaway with nothing and no one to lean on. When he wooed me with the magic words “anger management” and “therapy” I grabbed that lifeline and stayed on for the ride. This continued until the fateful day when he calmly said, “I’ll go to jail for you and no one else will have you.” His words were easily delivered; I believe a tear rolled down his cheek. Comprehension briefly escaped me but his allusion to a girl that lost her life at the hand of a lover placed the writing on the wall. He was ready and willing to kill me.
I tried to formulate an escape plan but it was impossible. I could not tell my mother, after our first visit to the police she believed the relationship was over. He knew my every move. He had people watching me and when a male friend came to take me to the movies for my birthday, all hell broke loose.
Someone saw us at the movies. A phone call was made. He arrived at my house as my friend was leaving and with the vein in his forehead pulsing he asked my friend to “talk” to him at the back of his car. I screamed No! My mother asked him to leave and a crisis was averted. You see my “beau” kept a gun in his trunk, so there would be no ‘talking.”
For the next couple of hours we stayed holed up in my house, I explained the situation as my friend took it all in. Around eleven my mother asked him to go, she didn’t know about the gun but figured He had gone home. Twenty years later the scene that followed is still vivid. My friend took careful dance-like steps to the car and I felt immediate relief when he made it in. My hopes were quickly dashed when I heard shouting and the screech of wheels hitting the pavement. An explosion of gunshots rang out in fast succession. The car whizzed by my door. He ran in pursuit, revolver drawn, shouting “I will kill you Mother Fucker!”
The rest passed by in a flash. Hysteria and mayhem ensued. My life was turned upside down. After taking my statement the police called me at every turn – we’ve arrested him; he turned over like a baby, this event likely the highlight of their career. Meanwhile, with conflicted emotions I knew this could have been averted, why did they turn a deaf ear to my cry for help?
I later learned that a “stakeout” had taken place. His friends watched and waited for the drama to unfold. Crazy. One girl knocked on my door and tried to coerce us to come outside. Funny, today she asked me to be a friend on facebook. The account was reported in the daily newspaper but few uttered a word. In my desperate silence I still remained alone.
When my grades went from A’s to D’s the guidance counselor conducted an intervention and the story came out. The school psychologist provided a sympathetic ear, an unbiased perspective and enabled me to let the healing begin, a welcome respite from the craziness that dwelled in my head. I’d love to be able to say that I was “cured” but I am unable to tell that lie.
Although I have never allowed a man to physically abuse me again, I have experienced relationships that entailed verbal and emotional abuse. I have never been ignorant about it, even when I was 16 I knew I was caught up in battered woman’s syndrome. I hate to say this but knowledge is not always power.
I am married now and the days of abuse are far behind me. I tell my story for several reasons. I hope that young women realize that this type of behavior is not normal, is not love and no matter what “they” tell you, abuse grips you like a vise and never completely lets go. I also implore those of you that have never experienced this to “judge not, lest you be judged.” You can cavalierly say “just leave” but my story and so many others have proven that these situations are most dangerous when you attempt to leave and it takes carefully planning to do so successfully.
Help is available to callers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Hotline advocates are available for victims and anyone calling on their behalf to provide crisis intervention, safety planning, information and referrals to agencies in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Assistance is available in English and Spanish with access to more than 170 languages through interpreter services. If you or someone you know is frightened about something in your relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or TTY 1-800-787-3224.