Every time I see a victim of sexual/emotional abuse on a TV show, on a movie, or in a book, they all have one thing in common: They knew they were abused when they were abused. Because how could someone possibly go through an entire cycle of abuse without knowing they were a victim? Even on the occasional SVU episode where the victim didn’t know they were abused, I would always sit and watch and say “they know. They’re just too afraid to speak up.”
Then it happened to me.
I fell for him (hard) after I broke up with my longest boyfriends to date before junior year of high school. We went to countless movies, ate tons of food, cuddled, kissed, hugged, discussed politics and religion, shared secrets, and I fell in love. He lived five hours away from me (coincidentally in the same town my sister lived) so we decided not to get into a “committed” relationship. Just hanging out, being best friends, while occasionally hooking up.
We were the teen version of Friends with Benefits, except he wasn’t nearly as awesome as JT.
The summer was a great time, and it probably should have ended there, but like I said, we both had family living where the other person lived so it seemed easy enough to keep up our friendship/makeout system. However, two incidents ended everything.
• It was Christmas and he was about to head back to his home town 5 hours away. I cried endlessly, proclaiming my love for him and begging him to commit to me. I don’t know how commitment would make in easier but somehow it made me feel better when he said he wanted to be my boyfriend. He even said the words “will you be my girlfriend?” Fast forward to February 15. I went to visit my sister (not really, I was only there to see Dick). He picked me up, we went to breakfast and a science museum, and then it happened. He made an offhand comment about how no girls wanted to date him and I looked at him and said “am I your girlfriend?” He said he thought we hadn’t really come to any decision at Christmas. I cried. I screamed. I hit him. All of this while we were parked in some random parking lot near the science museum. We agreed to be friends still and I said I needed time.
• He told me he’d be in town on a specific day at a specific time and that we would hang out that night. I stayed up till midnight. He never called or texted or replied to my calls or texts. In short, he stood me up. I saw him the next day and made him get on bended knee and apologize. These two incidents put such a strain on this already weird relationship that he decided to end it by ignoring me for two months. Poor method on his part but I accepted it and moved on.
It wasn’t until my current boyfriend, almost a year after Dick left me that I realized what he had done to me.
I was sitting in the car with my boyfriend, let’s call him Jordyn. Jordyn and I were making out and he started feeling me up. I didn’t want to. I didn’t want to. I kept saying in my head, no no no no. I couldn’t breathe because I was afraid he’d know how scared I was if he heard me gasp. Then I said it out loud. “No. Stop.” And he did. I smiled and tears rushed down my face and I was so happy because he did what any decent human being does. He listened to me and stopped. This has happened at least three times in my 7 month relationship with Jordyn that I have said stop and then cried because I realized that I finally had a choice.
Let’s rewind to my relationship with Dick. We lived 5 hours apart and at some point in our nightly phone calls he would always ask for me to talk dirty to him or he’d call me his “little slut” and describe aggressive things he wanted to do to me. I would say “no, I don’t want to” or “I don’t feel like talking about this right now.” His response would always be to beg and beg and if I said no enough, he would claim he needed to go. This was the emotional aspect of the abuse. I loved, or thought I loved, him so much that I needed that time on the phone. I needed him. He had me around his pinky.
February 15th, the day my relationship turned out to not exist: I got in the car when he picked me up. He kissed me, hard. He moved my head down and asked me to give him oral sex (I’m pretty sure his exact words were “suck my cock, you little slut”). I said no. He grabbed my hair and pulled me closer to him. I was so scared of this guy who I loved so much. As he kept grabbing my hair, I pinched him and screamed NO. I hit and I pinched and I prayed internally that I could hurt him. He laughed, either at my failure to actually do any damage with my fighting or maybe he was trying to laugh as if it were a joke. But it wasn’t a joke and I knew it. I continued on that date and later that day we hooked up after he dumped me because I was too emotionally abused to realize that he manipulated me and my need to feel validated in our messed up relationship.
These were not the only incidents, but I don’t have the heart to write all of his misuse down.
Let’s return to Jordyn. I didn’t even know how damaged I was until I started dating Jordyn because I didn’t have any normal relationships to which I could compare my abuse.
But Jordyn loves me.
He kisses me gently when I get in the car and has never pulled on my hair to push me to do anything.
He never demands anything sexual.
He holds me when I cry because something reminds me of my abuser.
He tells me how strong I am and how I light up his life.
He doesn’t let me drown in my memories.
He never brings up my past.
He has never physically, sexually, or emotionally hurt me.
I didn’t know how deeply Dick had hurt me. I guess the lesson to walk away with is that sometimes you don’t know when you’re being abused. I didn’t know that I should have walked away early on. I got so caught up in teenage dreams of love and forever that I didn’t notice the hate and the here and now. Had he slapped my across my face, I’d like to think I would have left but I know I wouldn’t have. He started it on our (his) terms and he ended it without my consent.