For a long time, I could never wrap my head around the fact that some women stayed in abusive relationships.
“He f*cking hit you!” I screamed at my computer after reading the headline: Chris and Rihanna: Back Together. I closed my laptop and walked away, shaking my head.
I used to think abused women were weak, powerless, dumb. But that was before I became one.
Back in 2012, Adam was just some guy in my English class—a scrawny one with blonde hair and green eyes and a crooked smile who wasn’t even all that cute. There was some something charming about him, though, something that got me to say “yes” when he asked me out one April morning.
For three months, Adam was my Prince Charming, and I’m not even the fairy tale type. I’ve always had big plans for myself—for my career and my life apart from any man. I’d never dreamed about a guy sweeping me off my feet. But then, Adam did.
During our second week together, he stayed up all night making me a mix CD of all my favorite songs. I found it first thing in the morning on my desk at school, along with a heartfelt note and a Venti Frappuccino. Next, it was chocolates. Then roses spilling out of my locker. As the entire male acapella group serenaded me with a prom proposal (arranged by Adam, of course), my friends all burned with jealousy. For the first time in my life, I was popular, one half of the perfect couple.
Or so it seemed.
As the weather grew cooler and the leaves began to change, so did Adam. The gifts and kind gestures become scarce, and then nonexistent. Some days, he looked at me as though I was an utter annoyance. He definitely stopped calling me “princess.”
Some time in August, I spilled a glob of vanilla ice cream on his leather car seats. I apologized profusely and began attacking the stain with a napkin immediately. Adam turned to me as I scrubbed, and said: “You should really stop eating those. You’re getting way too big.”
Horrified, I rushed home to step on the scale and began obsessing over my weight, convinced I was responsible for driving Adam away. Little did I know that this was only the start.
A few weeks later, I made a joke at his family dinner. That night, Adam told me to 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 when I cried in response, he told everyone who saw that I was “crazy.”
If I spent a night out with my friends, he called me a bitch and ignored my calls for days afterwards.
Every incident was my fault, every punishment deserved. I truly believed that I was to blame for losing my Prince Charming. If I could just be good enough, thin enough, kind enough, funny enough, smart enough, he would come back to me, I thought.
But of course, I was never enough. And the Adam I’d first met never returned.
We were both drunk the first time he hit me. Adam told everyone I’d fallen down the stairs, and that I shouldn’t drink so much.
It wasn’t until the third episode, drenched in my own blood, that I realized what my life had become. Realized that Adam would kill me if I let him, and that I had to get away to save my own life.
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, lured into a cycle of self-esteem slaughtering cycle of emotional and physical abuse. We have been devalued, isolated, and in many cases, cut off entirely from our friends and family.
We all deserve support, and we all deserve love—the real kind.