A Story About Teen Dating Violence

One winter day during my junior year, I found out that he had cheated on me again. I broke up with him during lunchtime. He became enraged as I walked away to my class but he didn't follow me. After class had begun, I heard the door swing open, which was at the front of the classroom.

My heart sank.

He stayed at the door and looked toward the teacher and said to him in front of the whole class, "I need to speak to that fucking whore right there."

He pointed at me, then he turned to me and said, "Bitch, get your fucking stupid ass out here now."

Everybody turned and looked at me in shock but nobody said a word. The teacher said nothing. I have never been so humiliated in my life. In that moment, I had two choices: I could either sit there and continue to be belittled in front of everyone because he wasn't going to leave, and nobody else was going to say or do anything, or I could walk out and be shamed anyway because I had given into his threats.

I wanted to disappear.

I walked out because I was mortified. I never imagined such shame and at 15 years old, understood it even less.  As we walked down the hall, he spit in my face, pulled my necklace off my neck, threw it in the trashcan and he threw me up against the lockers. He threatened me.

It was in those moments when I felt most alone. It was those incidents that left long-lasting emotional scars.  My dignity was stripped and self-worth eroded.   

My story begins at the age of 14 and continues off and on until I was 22. Mine is a story of emotional, psychological, and physical abuse.

It didn't begin immediately, in fact, there weren't any signs until we had been dating for almost a year. The signs weren't obvious, especially to a 14 year-old, but it began with him telling me he didn't like the shirts I wore, or that my skirt was too short; at the time, it was easy to mistake jealousy and control for adoration. It soon progressed to name-calling, insults, unfounded accusations, degradation, humiliation, and isolation. The first step in domestic violence is to charm the victim; the second is to isolate the victim. Once it begins, it will continue to get worse.

I began believing I deserved the abuse, and thought everybody else believed I was who he said I was. The hell became so familiar that it was easier to stay rather than leave. It was easier to live with the shame and guilt in secrecy. It was easier to stay and suffer in private than to try to leave and be humiliated in public.

I was stuck in a psychological trap and didn't know where to turn, nobody could help me. 

I tried to leave a few times, he would threaten to commit suicide, or worse. The relationship took an emotional toll to the point where I was getting severe panic attacks. I ended up in the hospital a few times and was put in counseling but I never spoke about the abuse. I didn't want anybody to know. I lied for and about him.

I told nobody.

Nobody knew I had been threatened with a gun.

Nobody knew I had been punched so hard I was almost knocked out.

Nobody knew about the head butts each time he didn't agree with something I did or didn't do.  

Nobody knew the reason my windshield had shattered was because he had punched it in a fit of rage over what I had worn to school that day.

Nobody knew about the many deliberate close call, head-on collisions while he was threatening to "kill us both."
 
Finally, after almost eight years of abuse, I knew I had to leave. Not because of some fight or big blowout, I was just done. I was tired.  I can't explain it. I just didn't want to feel that way any longer.  

I knew if I stayed, all of those dreams I had when I was a little girl would never be realized. I knew that if I continued on this path, I might never see the light through the darkness. I was broken and knew only I could fix myself. So I did. I broke up with him and moved out of the state a week later. I knew if I didn't leave I could fall back into the cycle. I knew if I wanted any life at all, I had to choose me no matter what the cost.  

I had to get far away and start over.

It took many years to repair the mental and emotional damage, but I'm here to say that it is possible. I am not bitter or resentful, I forgave him the day I left, but I knew I wanted more out of life. Although I had been stripped of all remnants of self-worth, I found an ounce of esteem that told me I deserved better.

Physical abuse is dangerous but psychological abuse is deeply-rooted.

In those moments, I desperately needed somebody who understood. Somebody who could guide me back to myself, my voice, and my truth. But I chose to keep my secret hidden, I chose to protect the people I loved, I chose to find my own way. It took years to heal, but I did it. I found my voice and rebuilt my foundation on self-acceptance and self-love. I now live an extraordinary life full of purpose, with a grand vision to change the world.  I have married the man of my dreams which would not have been possible if I hadn't worked to change my beliefs about myself.

Today, my mission is to help survivors of domestic violence reclaim their power, forgive themselves, repair their brokenness, heal their soul, and discover their magic.

For all of those times he said I was ugly and worthless, I have made it my mission. For all of those times he called me a tramp and a whore, I have made it my mission. All of those times he felt strong because I looked weak, only made me stronger. And for all those times he tried to strip me of my spirit and I felt I had no value, I made it my mission. Although domestic violence defines you in ways beyond comprehension, I will only allow it to push me further than I ever dreamed, beyond all doubts and fears, and towards my bliss.

Teen Dating Violence is much more common than we think.

* 1 in 10 teens reported being hit or physically hurt by a boyfriend/girlfriend
* Across studies, 15-40% of youth report perpetrating some form of violence towards a dating partner
* Perpetrating dating violence in adolescence increases the risk of perpetrating violence toward a partner in adulthood
* Exposure to dating violence significantly affects a range of mental and physical health problems

If you are in an abusive situation, please seek help.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline
1-800-799-7233
http://www.thehotline.org/help/