They Call Us Survivors: What It’s Like To Be In An Abusive Relationship

Trigger warning

They say you’re supposed to call us survivors now, not victims. I am not sure if I feel worthy of either. The only thing I am sure of is that this should not have happened to me.

I’ve always believed in making my own luck. In creating my own universe. In finding my own happiness. In knowing that as long as I was alive, anything would be possible. And that’s precisely how and why I met him.

Less than 24 hours out of a depressingly bad break up with someone whom I’d hoped and thought I’d marry, I was at a convention for work that I’d forced myself to go. My coworker friends rallied around me, and, dressed to the nines in six-inch heels and my hottest Claire Underwood-inspired work dress, I stepped out into the lights with my head held high and welcomed a new beginning. I was alive that night. Heartbroken, yes, but more so than anything else, excited for what could happen. I ended up meeting him through a friend of a friend. I smiled, he smiled, we started talking, and I gave him my phone number.

We spent the remainder of the convention mostly together, texting one another from the seminars and flirting at all of the open bars, and when we kissed in the lobby of the hotel, everything swirled around us and I was certain I’d found someone special. When we got home, everything got even better. Over the first few days back, we must have sent one another hundreds, if not a thousand, text messages. We had our first date soon thereafter, and both of us admitted we were happy-nervous. I had butterflies for the first time in years and, though I tried to be cautious, reluctantly began to let him in. We went on like this for a month, spending weekends together at either of our apartments. He told me I was beautiful every day, and I really felt that way.

Maybe everything wasn’t as magical as I’d perceived it to be; maybe there were some cracks in the façade that I’d overlooked. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but something seemed off sometimes. He was fixated on whether I was seeing anybody else (I wasn’t), but wouldn’t put our relationship on Facebook. He’d tell me he loved me, but it was mostly when he was drinking. We’d gotten into some arguments, partly due to some insecurity on my part and a quick temper on his. It seemed too soon in a relationship for that, but I’d chalked it all up to my having just gotten out of another relationship and not fully being ready for a new one. All normal.

The night it happened was just like any other night. Team USA lost to Belgium, we were at bar by his place with a girlfriend of mine. During the game he bought us both drinks and held my hand and kissed me and I giggled with my friend about how cute he was and how much I liked him. Perfect.

When the game ended, my friend left and we stayed back. I asked him about Fourth of July and he snapped that me he was going to visit his friend out of state and I couldn’t come because it was a guy thing. I had a sinking feeling and fought back tears. We began to argue about it, and he left to go to the bathroom. He came back, visibly angry, started calling me a liar and abruptly left the bar, leaving me alone and confused at table of half-empty glasses. Eventually he answered my calls and told me to come to his apartment to get my things. I was so confused.

When I got to his place he was furiously chugging beers and was, quite literally, furious. He began yelling at me, slurring that he still loves his ex and I am not her and will never be her. He told me he was fucking lots of girls every night that I’m not there and that I was nothing to him. He alternated between calling me a “ugly, lying cunt,” a “stupid bitch” and a “dirty pussy.” He then started saying the same about his ex and he that loved me more. I just cried. I don’t know for the life of me why I didn’t walk out right then and there but for some reason I will never know, I tried desperately to calm him down. At one point he began to cry and told me he loved me, then became enraged again and started up with the degrading names. He screamed that I didn’t want to have children, and I was probably fucking other guys and still in love with my ex. I pleaded with him to stop, and when I told him he didn’t have to be doing this, and it would all be okay, he pulled his pants off, grabbed my neck and pulled it towards his crotch, calling me a bitch and yelling at me to suck his cock. I twisted out of the way and he angrily told me that I was so ugly he couldn’t get it up so he would piss on me instead. I watched, horrified and sad, as he flailed around the room, naked, pissing on his carpet. I still didn’t leave. I hated to see him broken.

My final entreat to him ended with a swift, open palmed blow to the side of the head. Then three more of the same. I fell, and when I got up, he didn’t stop. I covered my face and his blows struck my back, shoulders and arms. I think I heard myself crying, but I don’t remember feeling any pain. They tell me I had been dissociating to protect myself from facing the reality that someone I’d loved could actually be doing this to me.

At some point, his roommate, a 30-something year old who slept in their living room converted into a bedroom, came in. I don’t remember much of what happened after that, but I do know that he denied hitting me despite the fresh pink, red and purple marks that were forming where my blood vessels were breaking. His roommate told me I had to leave because I was causing a scene, and I cried. It was late, it was dark, and I was scared.

I walked out into the night, alone, and over an hour from home. I don’t remember much of what happened exactly next, they say I was in shock, but I called a friend, who took me to the police station and drove me back to my apartment. I was scared to be alone. He texted me the next morning. He said he was sorry for the argument and would never hurt me. He never called. I had, and have no words for him or for myself.

The next two days were a blur. My mother took me to the hospital, and I let her come into the room with me even though I usually hate when she does that. I had a concussion. People asked me questions, so many questions, and I repeated the events aloud, focusing on the words instead of their meaning and watching their expressions go from skeptical to horrified once I pulled down my shirt to reveal my bruised, broken skin. A man bumped into me in the hallway of the courthouse, I dissolved into tears. My mother held me as I sobbed. The police tell me that because of the extent of my injuries and visible signs of abuse, the decision to file charges was out of my hands. They made it for me. There is a warrant out for his arrest and I will be notified when he is released. We have a hearing scheduled for a permanent restraining order. I hate finality and I don’t want to do it.

They don’t tell you, when this stuff happens, that people will expect you to be a ‘good’ victim, people will expect you to be as strong as you usually are and just to ‘do the right thing.’ They don’t know that that’s impossible because they don’t understand that he took your strength. He took your resilience, your excitement and your ability to walk out into the lights with a smile on your face. They don’t tell you that even after all of that you will miss him and secretly wish that he would show up at your door begging for your forgiveness and promising that it will never happen again and then you both would cry and he would get help and you will be the one who caused him to get better because you are that important. But you already know—that you weren’t, and aren’t important. So you press on.

Four days later, I am finding solace in the fleeting moments of strength that flash through me, of my former self that is trapped somewhere where I can’t find her. Sometimes I am angry, mostly I am sad. He texted me last night, and I felt for an instant a familiar thrill at seeing his name pop up on the screen before I remembered that when gets back into town, he will be pulled away in handcuffs. He will be humiliated and broken on the street outside of his home, just as I was that night. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

featured image – Louise McLaren

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