[Author’s note: This is really a Teen Dating Violence story. One in three teens will be in an abusive or unhealthy relationship. It is huge, but there is not enough awareness. You can learn more about these issues here.]
I fell hard. I fell fast. I fell into him—in all ways.
I was 13 years old, and he was my first love. My first everything.
I loved him. Just this fact played a tremendous role in why I stayed.
Next time would be different, right? Yes, next time. The excuses were plentiful.
He was tired. He was stressed. He was drunk. I said something to piss him off.
Bobby had a way of twisting everything around. I was so confused that I questioned absolutely everything about myself. I didn’t know what was real or manufactured in Bobby’s head.
I was annoying for asking him where he was last night, right? He would love me more if I just shut up.
Yep. That’s it.
Soon, Bobby’s questions turned into accusations, slaps, pushes, pinches, pulling of my hair and countless beatings.
What stays embedded in my mind the most from this horrific time period was Bobby’s evil smile as he would spit on my face and even threaten to kill me.
Bobby told me that nobody could have me, and that if I left him he would just “kill us both.”
I was a “thing.” His thing.
He didn’t treat me as a human being with valid feelings and thoughts. Soon, I didn’t treat myself as a person either; I followed his lead.
I forgave him. Every. Single. Time.
After his two-week-long alcohol binges, Bobby would show up at my doorstep with those big, watery blue eyes, begging for another chance. He would swear that he would never hurt me again and that I was the best thing that ever happened to him.
That was all it took for me to hop right back on the dangerous roller coaster ride of the relationship we shared.
Our notorious fights typically began with the slightest mention of the opposite sex. We were both so insecure that one can of Budweiser would crack open up a thick, bloody wound inside of our souls. We would stomp on this un-healable gash, willingly pour salt in it and then clamp it open until the violent energy struck us both again.
Yes, I said “both.” I was an equally active participant in the violence. I cut him with my words, and he pounded me with his fist.
I was beaten in front of people at parties. People would eagerly watch the “Sarah and Bobby show” and then have the nerve to invite him to leave the party with them! I was never asked if I needed help.
I was the freak.
Obviously, I had done something to trigger Bobby’s anger. People would turn their heads and hearts away from me as if they were embarrassed to know me. After all, I was the crazy girl screaming bloody murder on the front lawn!
A spectacle. A disgrace.
Why would anyone think it was his fault?
The cycle of violence is really a manipulative b*tch.
I was the one making a loud scene, swearing for all I was worth and clawing at him as he kept hitting me. How dare I claw him, right?
Bobby was charming and sweet to others. I was viewed as a hysterical, out of control girl.
I was blamed, judged and misunderstood.
One night, Bobby’s best friend waited until he left after another round of blows. This friend brought me to his house and gently put ice on my purple bruises. This was one of the kindest things anyone had ever done for me. My shins were busted open, and that cold ice felt so good.
Bobby’s best friend asked me, “Why do you let him do this to you?” It was the first time anyone acknowledged the physical abuse to my face.
I told him, “Because nobody else would want me. Look at me? I’m fucked up!”
Crazy is as crazy does.
Somehow, the perpetrator convinces the victim that it is their fault. When you’re on the road to crazy land, it is hard to think logically even about the most basic situations. For example, Bobby would show up with huge hickeys on his neck from his latest affair, look me right in the eye, and swear that I gave them to him.
And, I would believe him!
Domestic violence dances with seductive highs and dangerous lows.
Doubting myself was a daily activity. I questioned everything about myself right down to whether the size of my boobs would make Bobby not cheat.
He had a way of twisting every word I spoke.
This only solidified my own belief that I was dumb, dirty and bad. Maybe I deserved my boyfriend’s rage for all of my stupid mistakes?
Yes, that was it.
What I really was, was a damaged teenage girl just trying to survive. But, when you are in it, rational thinking goes right out the window.
Here’s the thing, I became him.
I own this. I became just as jealous, violent, manipulative and desperate. After five years of draining physical and mental abuse, Bobby tried to smother my face with a pillow.
I was actually thinking, “I’m ok with this,” until he took the pillow off my tear smudged face and began to cry.
I knew then that if I stayed with him, I might not live another year.
Something inside of me wanted to live. I don’t know what part of me that was, but I am thankful for it today. After that frightening incident, I got a restraining order and left Bobby.
But, I still wasn’t done—done with the cycle of violence. My physical body “left,” but my spirit and mind took decades to heal.
If only the physical damage were the hardest part. The emotional scars are far, far worse.
If it weren’t for the births of my two children, I would be six feet under.
I was an addict.
Addicted to the highs and lows of the power struggle—not only with the guys in my life, but with the battle that raged inside of me too. It was my drug, my pain, my humiliation, my rage, my comfort and my secret hell.
I needed it—just as an addict needs her or his next fix. My fix was the cycle of being built up and broken down.
One in three teens will be in an abusive relationship. Spreading awareness is key!
Today, I can look back on everything that I experienced with gratitude. Every person that hurt me forced me to look inward and heal what was attracting their darkness in the first place. By healing me, I learned how to help others. Connecting to my own pain, allows me to connect with the pain in others.
I wrote this article neither for sympathy, nor for attention. Rather, I wrote it for people who are on the endless hamster wheel of domestic violence and for the family and friends wondering “why” their loved one stays.
Here are five things to remember if you are a victim, survivor or witnessing domestic violence:
1. The confusion the victim feels is similar to being brain washed. Broken down. Give him/her an understanding ear versus a lecture to of why they should “leave.” To understand the Cycle of Violence better, visit this page.
2. If you are a victim/survivor, you are not alone. There are resources, hope and loving arms to embrace you when you are ready.
3. There are many factors that play a role in a victim’s decision to stay or go. Keeping children safe, animals and losing everything are just a few.
4. Be gentle with yourself. No one else is in your shoes. There is no handbook for what you should feel or do. Loving yourself is a process. Forgive yourself. You are doing the best you can. Transforming from victim to survivor is an individual healing journey.
5. For family and friends, remember they are already feeling bad about themselves. Be patient. Be sensitive. Just listen. You can’t save them. Domestic violence is extremely isolating; don’t take it personally. Offer acceptance and be there no matter what. Something within the victim has to shift before they can even begin the road to healing and happiness.
Sometimes falling apart is the one thing that puts you back together again.
Author: Sarah Norwood
Editor: Toby Israel