Feminism

my abusive relationship was typical

while a student at PCC
[in PCC’s Student Commons, taken during the relationship]
{content note: abuse, sexual violence}

Last week, I wrote an article for xoJane and I shared some things about my past that I haven’t shared on the internet before. I don’t enjoy talking about my abusive relationship at all, and I especially avoid thinking about my last semester at PCC, which was nightmarish with exceedingly few good memories. I was extremely vulnerable in that piece, knowing that there would be people around the internet that would shit on it.

And shit on it they did. Thankfully xoJane actually moderates their comment section and they don’t allow rape apologia, so most of the truly horrific comments have been removed. However, several people expressed confusion about the events I had related in the story, and I was slapped in the face, again, with how much people just don’t know about what abusers do and how abuse functions in relationships. Most of them thought that the events, as I related them, falsified my story in some way and opened the door to some “other side” that could offer an alternate explanation.

Before I start talking about what these people don’t understand, I’m going to share a brief timeline so that the basic facts are clear.

  • I started officially dating “John” in February 2008, although we’d been casually dating since September 2007.
  • He’d always used emotional manipulation and coercion, but he escalated this in March.
  • The physical and sexual abuse began during summer break.
  • He proposed in August 2008.
  • He raped me in January 2009.
  • He raped me again in July.
  • We had a rather significant fight during the first week in September, and then another. On September 14 I told him that he could not call me a “goddamn fucking bitch” anymore.
  • He ended our engagement on September 25.
  • He began calling my dorm room/cell phone repeatedly, even after I told him to stop.
  • He began physically stalking me.
  • I was assigned a chapel seat near John at mid-terms.
  • I went to Student Life in early November, requesting a seat change. They refused.
  • I stopped going to the cafeteria for meals, afraid that he would be there.
  • He stalked me for six straight hours on Thanksgiving. The last two hours was a constant barrage of “why won’t you just talk to me?!” that ended with me screaming at him.
  • I started spending most of my time in my friend’s apartment.
  • I graduated in December 2009.
  • He sent me a facebook message on New Year’s Eve, which I ignored, which led to him sending me another dozen messages saying “Sam. Sam. Sam. Sam. WHY ARE YOU IGNORING ME.”
  • He sent me another facebook message during the summer of 2011, saying “I was thinking about you, if you ever wanted to talk…” I told him to never contact me again, then blocked him (again, not sure how he became un-blocked), blocked his entire family, and blocked  any “mutual” friends we had.

To anyone who has escaped an abusive relationship, or to someone who knows how abusive relationships operate, this will all seem very familiar. There isn’t a single thing about this timeline that isn’t shared by thousands of other intimate partner abuse victims. However, to commenters on xoJane and reddit and other places, this timeline makes me seem like a liar.

He broke your engagement?
Why didn’t you break it off with him if he really raped you?
Why would you be engaged to someone like this?
Seems like you’re just a bitter bitch because he dumped you.
Why would he want to talk to you if he broke it off?

All of these comments revealed that an awful lot of people have absolutely no clue how abusers work. Which, in one sense, I suppose is a good thing. I learned first-hand, and I would never wish this experience on anyone. However, the one thing that these people desperately need to understand is that my story is typical. There is nothing unusual, or in the words of one commenter, “fishy” about it.

There’s plenty of amazing resources already written on things like the Cycle of Violence/Abuse (first written about by Lenore Walker in Battered Woman Syndome). We also know that it can be extremely difficult for people, especially women, to escape intimate partner violence– and that many women have attempted to leave their abusive relationship six or seven times. Complicate all of those factors with the ingrained belief that you are literally ruined for any other relationship and no one else will ever want you, and you have something close to approximating my situation.

Most of the commenter’s questions oriented around what happened after he ended our engagement, though– if he broke it off, why would he follow you all over campus begging to talk to you? Couldn’t it be possible that you were exaggerating how bad things really were and he’d had a change of heart? That he really did want to be with you? That he’d changed?

First of all: there’s a reason why the Cycle of Abuse is so damn effective, and that would be it. Women don’t start believing in the Cycle of Abuse because they’re in an abusive relationship– they already believe it before the abuse even begins. Every single time the abuser apologizes and they enter the “Honeymoon Phase,” that is exactly what the victims says to themselves. It’s not actually that bad. Look, see, he’s trying. I just have to make sure he doesn’t lose control again [hint: abusers don’t actually lose control]. And we believe those thoughts because they are given to us by our culture.

Second, abuse is about dominance and power. Abusers abuse because they want to control other people. Just because John had ended our engagement does not mean that he no longer wanted to control me– in fact, it was the exact opposite. When he broke it off, his justification was “I just can’t trust that you’re going to be a godly, submissive wife.” He ended our engagement because I was finally only beginning to realize that I could stand up for myself. I looked him in the eyes and said no and enforced that no. That was why he ended it– it was a tactic in order to re-assert control.

For a month, it even worked. For four miserable weeks I was eager to prove to him that I could be submissive. That I could obey. That I would be what he wanted. For those weeks he manipulated me– encouraging those thoughts, telling me that he didn’t really want our relationship to end, that he’d consider getting back together.

But then I got angry. Furious. It was like I woke up from a dream and I finally saw all of his fucking shit and I got mad. I was angry at him, angry at my parents, angry at my friends, angry at the world, but mostly I was enraged with myself. How could I have let him do that to me! I didn’t understand anything I know now– that I’d been groomed basically my entire life for an abusive relationship by complementarianism and biblical patriarchy. So, one night, when he called my dorm room at one o’clock in the morning asking if we could have a “do-over,” if we could just “erase everything that happened,” if we could just get back together like nothing ever happened

I told him no.

I said fucking hell no.

And that’s when he started stalking me.

Because he’d lost control.

He knew that I’d woken up– that I knew who he was, and he was desperate to make sure that everyone believed that he was the victim, that I was the stone-hearted bitch that wouldn’t take him back, that I was the crazy one, that he was doing everything he could, but, well, I was the problem because I didn’t “want to make it work.” I became the bad guy, and he made sure everyone knew it. He’d lost control of me, so he’d control what everyone else thought of me. He would not allow anyone to believe me.

That’s what abusers do.

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  • Yes ma’am. That’s exactly what abusers do. *hugs*

  • <3 I'm so sorry you're getting that kind of pushback. But I really hope that this helps people see the cycle of abuse for what it is.

  • iona

    Yes, once they’ve lost control they do everything in their power to make the victim the irrational one.

  • marciepooh

    “All of these comments revealed that an awful lot of people have absolutely no clue how abusers work. Which, in one sense, I suppose is a good thing.” I have pretty much this exact thought about some of the advice I’ve seen/heard about depression and anxiety.

    My cousin-in-law left her husband about a year ago and finally revealed the emotional/phychological abuse (I actually don’t know if there was any physical abuse or not, the the first two are bad enough). My second thought when my husband told me was ‘damn, and I liked him. I should have known no one truly nice is that charming.’ Unfortunately many of their former mutual friends believed him and not her. Fortunately she is learning not to care about that and rebuilding her life (and their kids lives) far away from him.

    • marciepooh

      Also wanted to add that it’s so important to keep telling these stories, as hard as I’m sure it is to do. Because too many people don’t understand and maybe reading these stories will eventually open their eyes. Your story rang true, but I learned about ‘battered wife syndrome’ a long time ago (maybe in health class or psych 101?).

  • People can be truly terrible, but you are being truly un-terrible to use this as an opportunity to educate people on the cycle of abuse. Your words are important.

  • I thought that article told the story so well. I literally roll my eyes when I hear that “why did she stay” crap! It makes me think that people are just not paying attention or don’t want to know. Good for you for presenting the situation clearly. Hopefully I’m just cynical and some people are really open to learning some important lessons.

    • derored

      Well the obvious reply is “look how bad it was when she DID leave!” Take out a few steps of the timeline, and there is the exact story of me and my abusive ex. Who broke up with me, I am convinced, as a ploy to force me to 1) go back to conservative fundamentalist religion, when I was exploring other religious options, and 2) crawl back to him and do what he wanted again.

      He didn’t like that he was losing a good tool over me, the religious language, and was trying to leverage every bit of guilt involved in losing a fundamentalist view of the world, to maintain control over me. Thankfully, I’d seen through it– it was astonishing the moment of clarity, when I allowed myself to consider all possibilities not only the ones limited by “he means well” and instantly everything clicked into place, it had an explanation. It was only because I had been trained all my life not to allow that question to be asked until that moment.

  • Absolutely agree. In the beginning of my legal career, I did a good number of DV restraining orders. (I still volunteer for cases like this – particularly for low income women who otherwise would be vulnerable socially and economically.) The stalking, the need for control. It’s all there. And yes, far too many women go back. Or, as we lawyers say with our gallows humor, she finds the same guy with a different face.

    Also, “no one truly nice is that charming.” YES! If I can teach my daughters one thing…

  • Katie S

    Yes. I was the crazy one because I would get angry every day when he wanted money for drugs. He would be nasty to the point of me screaming at him and then say, ‘well you aren’t very nice, I’m never mean like that’
    The last time he told me “you’re mean” I said, ‘not mean enough, you are still here’
    Be strong.

  • I commend you for being so brave and sharing your personal stories online, knowing ignorant, rude, annoying people would be “shitting all over it” before long. Sharing your story as you did is certainly appreciated by plenty of people, and I hope you know that. 😉

    Thanks for the links to things about how abusers work, the cycle of abuse, etc. It’s so striking to me whenever I see just how similar being raised by an abusive mother was, too, to people in these types of romantic relationships with an abuser. I only ever come across people like you referring to domestic violence, I don’t see people treating child abuse as at all similar, but gosh in so many ways it *can* be indistinguishable, and it was, for me. Some children have much different experiences, I’m sure. It is a different beast in some ways. But still…

    My mother was such a classic abuser, abusing all 3 members of her immediate family: her two children and her husband (even *after* she and my father were “separated” in their marriage for YEARS) in these well documented ways (well documented for how domestic abusers act, at least). And all 3 of us in many ways were just as typical in our actions/thoughts as “victims” of her abuse.

    The cycle of abuse lasted *my entire childhood*, although of course it escalated over the years, and once we realized that she is definitely abusive and decided THAT IS NOT OKAY, she’s has doing FOR YEARS what your ex “John” would do – stalker-calling repeatedly despite us begging her not to call anymore, calling up my university just to find out my email address so that she could stalk-email me, wanting me back in her life, saying how much she loves me… etc.

    • I wish there was more information available on child abuse– and that the money was available to start doing research. Unfortunately, our culture doesn’t see child abuse as an actual problem, and there’s far too many people/orgs that would fight against anyone looking into it in the name of “freedom of religion.”

      But yes, I can see how DV and CA would be similar. Abusive tactics don’t seem to change that much, no matter what the relationship is.

      • Thank you for that reply. I certainly, as a survivor of child abuse, feel frustrated by the way our culture… far too often ignores it, or when it is brought up, how it is painted.

        As passionately as I feel about it, I also feel surprisingly helpless in terms of how to even begin trying to prevent more children from going through what I went through! I want there to be more awareness, more ways to protect children, more money going toward this cause.

        You’re definitely right about the “Freedom of religion” defense, and that makes me mad on a-whole-nother level… lol. It really does upset me.

        But even in my own personal case where the abuse was um, for lack of a better term, “secular”, and never once was the abuse even attempted to be framed as excused by religion, the truth of the matter is that I *was* utterly trapped in an abusive parent/child relationship.

        I’m writing my own post on my own blog about this because I have so much I want to say, way too much for a reply on this blog post of yours.

        Check it out on my blog: http://luvtheheaven.wordpress.com when I post it in a few minutes. 😉 It should probably ping-back here too because I’ll link to this blog post.

    • When I wrote “she’s has doing” I meant: “she has been doing” or “she’s been doing”. Whoops. 😛

  • DCFem

    Stay strong. Don’t let the haters get you down. It is so important that you continue to speak out. Maybe someone, somewhere will see just why so few women actually report their rapes to authorities — because middle class, white women like you get treated like pariahs for speaking up. If they shit on you, what will they do to the rest of us?

  • You are being completely, 100% honest with the world. That kind of truth terrifies people, especially investors in “the system.” You’re scaring people, so they react. Good job.

    BTW, these reactions have nothing to do with you. It shows how desperate a person can be to hide. Because truth is more powerful than abuse. Liberating, isn’t it?

    Keep up the good work. The rest of us are cheering for you.

  • Thanks for this post, Sam. The nature of an abusive relationship is not taught nearly as often or well as it should be, and our culture pre-loads us with a bunch of terrible assumptions. People who ask “why didn’t she just leave?!”, or other questions of that sort, pivoting the blame back on the victim in subtle or less subtle ways, may be ignorant idiots, or they may be full blown rape apologist brodude types.

    For the first kind, this kind of explanation may help them rectify their ignorance, if they are wiling to let go of the assumptions that underlie it. I speak from personal experience. I am still trying to not be the first type, and to my shame I’ve definitely been the first type even in the not so distant past. I can’t imagine that any of this is easy for you (to say the least), but I’ll join everyone else in saying: Thanks.

    • Divingwithsharks

      I am in the same boat. I was a terrible friend to my best friend when she was trying to break up with her abusive bf.
      I kept pressuring her to do it, but i missed the signs he was abusive (i knew he was an asshole, but not abusive). I made her feel weak for not just dumping him. Now i completely understand why she was so scared. We were 18 when this was happening. I was just plain ignorant and once i learned how these things work, i realized how wromg i had been. I wish adults in our lives had taught us these skills, so i could have recognized the issues and then helped her more. Instrad she felt alone with no network to tell her that yes, her ex had really abused her and no it wasnt her fault.

  • Reading your timeline brought back some really painful memories for me. At age 15, my daughter started dating a young man several years older than she was. They were on and off throughout her high school and college years. So many terrible break-ups, with him manipulating her back to himself, the “honeymoon phase” and then the control. My daughter would be with a friend for lunch, and he’d call to make sure that’s where she was. Gradually, he manipulated her into spending less and less time with other people, wanting her all to himself. He stalked her on campus, to make sure she was not with anyone he disliked. It took years for her to see what he was doing to her. We were all thankful when the last violent break-up was indeed the last one. Today she is happily married to a wonderful man, who treats her with the love, dignity, and respect she deserves. Telling your story is so important. People need to recognize abuse when it is in their lives, and need tools to get out of it, too. Thanks for sharing.

  • Samantha, I’ve been following you for awhile and I want to encourage you. Your story NEEDS to be heard. Especially, by the religious folks who think that God, (or, their interpretation of God), trumps our real experience. You wrote, ” but mostly I was enraged with myself.” PLEASE! Don’t be! You have nothing to apologize or feel bad about. You were manipulated by a system that LIVES on manipulation. Please, stay strong and keep telling your story. I know young women who have been in similar places that really need to be encouraged. Love ya lots!

  • So painful to see.. Oh Samantha, I’m so sorry you went through that.

    This is almost exactly what happened to me in my abusive relationship with my preacher husband Biff, almost down to the timeline’s sequence of events. He never broke it off with me, but that’s about all that was different. He did the same spin-control thing with our families, mutual friends, people from his job (on a military base–he was active duty, which just made things way worse) who had never even met me and would never meet me, ANYBODY who would stand still for thirty minutes to listen to his litany of his STBX-wife’s insanity and cruelty. Thankfully, my family didn’t like him anyway, his family already didn’t like me because I wasn’t posh enough, and most of our friends (unfortunately not all) were well aware that he has only the very faintest relationship with reality. But egad, it got so OLD dealing with those few friends who didn’t realize what was going on. One of them, a very old and dear friend who didn’t even know Biff, was absolutely convinced of what he’d said–and was quite angry with me and held against me that I’d dumped him for no good reason and was being so meeeeeeean to him. I hadn’t realized until then just how deep Biff had gotten into lying to everybody he could get his hands on. I briefly told the friend what had actually happened and he was blown away–both at Biff for his abuse, and at himself for not asking me first before making a judgement against me.

    But that’s what abusers do: they not only try to make their victims doubt their sanity, but they want control, utterly, of not only their victim but of the thoughts and opinions of everybody around both of them. And they can be very charming, wily, and manipulative–that’s about the only way they can get anybody to put up with them! I ended up making a blanket announcement among my friends, since I didn’t know who he’d gotten his hands on and manipulated, and that more or less fixed things for me, but I wasn’t running with church crowds anymore by then so I know I got off easy. (HUGS) to you, oh my dear Samantha, and thank you for sharing what you have. It’s such a searingly honest self-examination, and you have a real gift for making things understandable. We need people to speak out against abusers. Thank you for opening yourself up like this.

  • I was abused by my mother and sexually abused by an older sister. The control issues worked much the same in my situation. I never go into particulars about the sexual abuse because I’m afraid of those ignorant reactions. I’ve only just now recognized it for what it was and started using the right words. Thank you for sharing your story, it’s very brave. Also, youve helped me get to the point where I can recognize it and start to heal, and I’m sure the same goes for other victims too.

  • Thank you for sharing. I know how difficult it is. I don’t share details about the sexual abuse I suffered from my older sister because I fear those ignorant reactions that could take away what it’s taken years for me to realize- that it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t want it, and that it was, in fact, abuse. I’ve only recently been able to get to this point, largely from reading your blog, so thank you and please know that your difficulty in posting these horrible events is not lost on me and your honesty has helped me in a very tangible way.

  • Margaret

    Thank you for sharing, and making the effort to educate. We need to hear. ((hugs))

  • Don

    I saw some comments that appalled me and I’m not exactly a sensitive new-age guy. And just before I came here to comment (from my news reader) I saw this about life at a Christian college.
    http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/2014/04/16/noble-character

    • Wow. Just…wow. I know this is from an evangelical college, so views like that are much more common, but at a grad student office? I don’t know whether to laugh or go into a frenzied rage. I suppose I’ll go with laughing, as the rage would eventually give me a migraine. Thanks for pointing me to such a great site – somehow I’ve never stumbled across it before today. 🙂

    • Loved the link.

  • Man, it’s difficult to explain something like this to someone who’s never been through it. That’s all the more reason why it’s important to do it.

    Keep plugging away. The world NEEDS to hear this.

  • The saddest thing is that the majority of people just don’t want to know about abusive behaviour of any kind. Until it happens to you, no-one believes it can really be this way. We’ve been conditioned to believe there’s another side to the story which must be equally true and valid. It’s only when you experience abuse first-hand that you realise the lie.

    Those of us who have experienced abuse ourselves hear the truth in your words and stand with you in speaking out. I’m applauding your bravery!

    • There is another side to the story, and it goes, “The only way I can control her is by abusing her, so I’m only doing what I have to do.” Usually it’s dressed up in different words, though.

      • Sad. But while this might be ‘true’ for the abuser, I certainly don’t call it valid!

  • I don’t know how many of you are following the Oscar Pistorius trial, but I find it extremely frustrating that the people reporting on it don’t seem to understand about the nature of abusive relationships, either. The prosecution’s case is that Pistorius shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on purpose after an argument when she tried to leave. He claims he shot her by accident because he mistook her for an intruder. I don’t pretend to know whether Oscar shot Steenkamp on purpose or by accident, either, but I know that his behavior in the courtroom (crying, throwing up when presented with graphic evidence) is as completely consistent with that of an abuser as it is with that of a man who actually shoot someone by accident. Also, the defense tried to counter text messages and emails from Reeva to Oscar saying that she was afraid of him and talking about some of his scary behaviors by saying there were just a few messages like that and many in which they talked about how much in love they were, plus, she sent him a lovely Valentine’s Day card. So what? That’s what abusers do. It only takes one text message saying, “You scare the hell out of me” to outweigh all the “Baby, I love you messages” IMO.

    Fortunately, the judge in this case, who will render the verdict with the help of two assessors (no jury), is said to have extensive experience in domestic violence cases. I’m afraid a jury would look at Oscar’s courtroom behavior, and decide, “He’s so sorry, look at the poor man, he couldn’t have meant it.”

  • Jacquie S.

    I’m so sorry this happened to you. The abuse was bad enough but, for some people to completely understand, they would have to have attended “bible college”. That just made matters worse. God Bless.

  • Thanks for speaking out, Samantha. I’m often discouraged by how many people seem to be completely clueless about the cycle of abuse and how hard it can be to free yourself from an abusive relationship. When supposedly God-ordered inequality between the sexes and shunning are both thrown into the mix, I can only imagine how much more difficult it is to escape. Please don’t let the ignorant and the cruel get to you! I hope you know how big a difference you’re making and how much your thoughts help people like me.

  • Karen

    Thanks Samantha. This post was a big help to me today. I’m still going through it. I’m in the process of divorcing my abusive husband. People I’ve known for years don’t get it until they have an aha moment. Others just blame me. Demonic attack on our marriage, other demon related stuff, lots of spiritual shaming. He says I am damaging the institution of marriage. The worst was when my mom said he had been good to me (financially) and I should stay with him for the sake of my daughter from a previous marriage and my grandsons. My daughter is 30. After a particularly violent incident, his therapist said she had never seen that kind of anger in him. Way to blame the victim.

    Sorry for the rant. What I wanted to say is that today’s post made it easier to communicate with my attorney about my situation. Thank you.

  • Stephanie

    I’m sorry you are still facing so much disparagement. You have helped so many people.

  • Yes, that is how it works. I am sorry, for what you have been through and for what others still don’t understand.

  • Chibi

    I worked for a domestic violence shelter for nearly 9 years, so I can say, yes, this does fall in line with standard abusive behavior. Many callers/clients would report that they were told to leave (or even physically forced to leave!), only for the abuser to tell them they wanted them back after they actually stayed gone for a while. Abusers can do this because they trust fear (religiously-motivated fear, as in your case, fear of being unable to support themselves, fear their children will suffer for not having a father present, etc.) will make their victim return so they can continue to control and abuse them. When that doesn’t work and the victim stays gone, they start to panic and try to regain control somehow, hence their threats/stalking/trying to get people to not believe the victim/etc. There is a reason why they say leaving and staying gone can be the most dangerous thing an abuse victim can do.

  • Thank you for this post. I always enjoy your writing but this one really hits home. My daughter has broken it off with her abusive boyfriend but still denies that he was abusive. His latest was trying to destroy her reputation, he can’t control her any longer but wants to control what others think about her. I plan to have her read you’re post, maybe it will open her eyes to the truth. Thank you again

  • Keep fighting Samantha. There is some really good insight in this post. Thank you.

    Here’s what’s funny about complementarianism… The Church uses Ephesians 5:24 to justify wives submitting. But Ephesians 5:21 says that we should submit to one another equally first. And 5:24 says that men should love their wives like Christ and give themselves up for their wives.

    So, all men should shut the fuck up about wives “submitting” until they’ve tried loving their wives like Christ loved. Wash their feet, heal their wounds, feed them, bleed for them, die for them… And even then, don’t tell your wife to submit because you shouldn’t have to if you have submitted to her in the love of Christ

  • Kristin

    This is my story, too. Especially about finally getting angry.
    Thank you for sharing because it makes me feel less like the “crazy one” (yes, I will still feel that way sometimes). 🙂

  • You are so strong. It is amazing to read what you’ve been through and how you were able to break out of it. Your writing is very powerful, and vivid, and we feel like we’re right there with you. For those of us with no experience with abusive relationships, you teach us what it is like, and why we must be careful. You break our hearts, move us nearly to tears, and awe us with hope. Bravo, Sam. Thanks for being awesome.

  • I believe you.

  • Divingwithsharks

    My best friend had an incredibly similar experience (right down to blocking mutual facebook friends). During the relationship i didnt know he was abusive (she had moved four hrs away, and i was too immature to spot the subtle signs from when we talked/visited).
    But yea, he broker up with her. One of the reasons: she was afraid to dump him. So she let him “find” a text mesage from another guy. But even then, she felt bad about “hurting him” (f*cker raped her, he could have used a little more hurting).
    But for years he did the same b.s. Where hed randomly text her. Like once he sent a text with a photo of a gift she gave him, like two years after they broke up. Thats just so irrational and designed to manipulate.
    I am thankful you write about all this. There needs to be more education. When she was in the midst of planning to dump him, i was terribly unsupportive. She was essentially having an “affair” with her current bf and i couldnt understand why she wouldnt just dump him. I told her she was being cruel and pathetic and that cheating was wrong. In hindsight, and not just “hindsight is 20/20” but also “now i get how abuse works”hindsight, it was obvious she was afraid. And yet it took me a long time to realize he had abused her (ex: i scoffed at her when she said she wouldnt go on fb for like a month if it put him in recommended friends or he messaged her or liked a mutual friends photo. I thought she was being dramatic, but she was scared of even seeing his picture. It made her feel like he was too close when she wanted to forget him).
    In short, i am glad people like you are brave enough to talk about these things. I regret my ignorance during high school/early college bc it meant i couldnt fully support my friend. And she couldnt communicate her needs until she came to terms with what it really was.
    And also, something i think many ppl dont realize that abusive relationships can also be so normal. He got her romantic vday gifts. He took her dancing. He tried to get along with me (i hated him from the start, but not for his abuse bc i didnt see it, but i thought he was a total POS for other reasons). They has plenty of good sex bw the rapes. Abusive relationships are t always terrible, thats what makes them so confusing, especially for outsiders. Id never thought he had raped her bc she talked about positive sexual experiences with him. And in my head at the time, if he raped you, hed always rape you. It was an either or when in reality its so complicated. And not enough young ppl have the vocabulary to discuss these things. I know neither of us did, which isolated her and made me cruel.
    Now that we’ve learned how to talk about these things, i can understand that “ex just sent me a pic” isnt just some guy tryimg to win back the girl he lost, its a tactic designed to terrorize the girl who “belonged” to him. So now, instead lf saying “oh just ignore it” i can validate her feelings of fear and upset and be a real friend instead of a complete ass.
    Sorry for the ramble, your story is just so similar, minus the religious/cultural issues that also played a part in your terrible situation.
    Thanks for speaking out. Not everyone has the emotional strength. So people like you can make those who wish remain silent feel less alone and also give them a model to talk about these things when they are ready

    • Jessica

      It’s interesting to hear this from the friend’s perspective. I asked one of my friends to remove me as a friend on Facebook b/c she was friends with him. Fortunately, she removed him instead. Reminders of him can be quite scary.

  • Divizna

    You say that abusers don’t really lose control, and most resources on that topic I’ve come across claim the same. I… think it’s a bit of over-generalisation. I fall short on describing my parents’ acting throughout my childhood by any other word than abuse… even bullying doesn’t really fit. And because of growing up in such a toxic family, combined with the fact that I’m probably slightly autistic, I haven’t really learned much of healthy interaction, and I’m often even not sure what is and isn’t right for me to do. I’m… well, starting to do fine unless I’m overwhelmed. But I will be overwhelmed from time to time no matter what I do to prevent it. And when I am overwhelmed, I’m atavistically, totally aggressive.
    And this is it. For a long time, I was fully aware that I’m first class material for a domestic tyrant (unless I’m to be a victim again, but my boyfriend really isn’t prone to making me one). Some years ago, I was looking for some kind of advice or therapy in that case so that I don’t actually become one. And only finding the claim that anyone who abuses is just plain evil didn’t really help – remember, an abused child, made to believe from early age she was bad, damaged, and yes, often simply called evil by the parents. It only made me feel worse. Was there really nothing I could do? Was I actually evil, despite wishing only the best to everyone?
    I’m also very sure my parents weren’t this stereotypical kind of abusers, plain scheming evil. No, both of them were this very same kind of abuser I was so afraid of becoming myself – overwhelmed, out of control of themselves, immature, not capable of setting boundaries to their own parents or their boss… I’m actually seeing some improvement lately – first in my father and now also a bit in my mother. And not just to trick me either. My father started to work on his issues years before I started, years before I could try to defend myself from him. He does it for himself, because he was feeling constantly overwhelmed and helpless, and maybe even because he realised he was hurting people. Mother… well, I’m not sure, it almost seems like just a removal of a stress source from her life (i. e. the death of my grandfather, sadly), but she’s not a very open person to tell me.
    I suspect this kind of abusers is maybe actually much more common than the cold-blooded scheming ones. But even without scheming, it’s abusive and hurtful.
    Of course, I don’t dispute anything you say about John. I’m just saying that, well, sometimes it actually is different than that. And frankly, even if he were the control-losing kind, the thing to do would still be to cut him off to protect yourself.

  • I’m sorry you’re dealing with people’s rude comments, doubts and ignorant comments. Keep sharing your story. More people need to be aware of what abuse looks like and how to help instead of judge.

  • Saul

    My initials are carved into the underside of the corner floor brick that is behind you in that picture. I put it there in 99. To this day that brick has not been moved or replaced. The two guys I worked with signed it too. We waxed floors all night. All of us were under another layer of control by the school because of the work/study program. None of us graduated because of all the stuff we saw behind the scenes. We left one by one with disillusionment and shattered dreams. I held on the longest and then finally saw why the others had already gone.

  • Jessica

    I completely agree that people don’t understand how abusive relationships work. One of my friends began talking after her divorce about how her ex-husband was very different in private than in public. It started to sound eerily familiar to my story.

    I spent a lot of time with my friend and her husband while they were married, and he always seemed like a nice person. I used to beat myself up and think “how did I not see this coming!” with my old boyfriend. It makes me feel better that I never saw any abnormal behavior from my friend’s ex-husband. Some people are just very good at hiding their real selves.

    You just never know who is completely different in their intimate relationships than in public.

  • Unah

    Oh for crying out loud. Those people are idiots. The guy I dated broke up with me THREE times. Each time we got back together he is the one who contacted me. Out of the blue I would get a phone call, he would apologize, and I would take him back. Finally, I yelled at him to never call me again. Eight years later I get a Facebook message from him wanting to talk. I wanted to throw up. I ignored and blocked him. People are uncomfortable with rape and abuse. It makes them feel better if they can ignore or explain it away. It makes the world less scary if we can convince ourselves that the abused are just liars.

  • WDinGA

    Amazed by your strength. There is no excusing his horrific treatment of you. Praise God you woke up and he no longer has control. Prayers for your continued strength and for the wonderful opportunities ahead of you!

  • When my fiance broke up with me in college, for the same reason you stated (that I was starting to wake up, and he didn’t like that his control was slipping), he immediately went to work just as yours did, to reassert control, and paint himself as the “nice guy” who was just trying to “still be friends”, and that I was the psycho one. He insisted on coming to my school’s Valentine’s party, the day after he dumped me, for instance. All of my friends were horrified, and I found out later from my husband (who was just another friend at that point, and one of my classmates) that he came very near to being thrown off the balcony into the lake, but they refrained because they could all see that I was in shock and didn’t know what to do, and they were afraid of alienating or embarrassing me at the time (probably wise). But all of our mutual friends? All on his side.

  • Thank you for having the courage to share your story so as to help other women (or even men) that are in abusive relationships.

    My close friend was in an abusive marraige, she finally had the courage to leave him when he almost killed her dog by kicking it because she hadnt done some stupid chore. I’m glad she wasn’t killed by leaving her abuser, as can happen.

    Again, thank you for sharing. The more stories that are shared the more easy it is to see these abusers manipulations and tactics.

  • Found this post today. I wish I could say I am shocked, but I’m not. While my family was relatively normal, I have really strong suspicions of a couple of Dad’s friends. Heck, I know he had suspicions of them too, which is why he wasn’t closer to them.

    To a certain extent I think stuff like this was more common in the Sixties and before. It was when I was in high school that I first remember people talking about abuse. Not much, but a bit.

    Now we are much more open, and I think that’s a good thing. That way people know that they aren’t alone, that they aren’t the only one.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I am sorry you went through it, but I’m glad you came out the other side. Hugs!

  • Anonymous

    I have never commented on a blog before, but I just wanted to say thank you for speaking the truth. I met my abuser when I was 17 and away at college. I married him when I was 18. I stayed married for 21 years. Two years ago I finally left him. I am also coming out of the “Christian patriarchal” cult. I still feel like I am in a daze. Why did allow him to do all of those despicable things to me? Why did I not value myself more? I was intelligent- valedictorian on a full ride scholarship to college- how could I have fallen for him? My head knows I was vulnerable and groomed and he was an older predator, but my heart still struggles with this.

    And I am now the “crazy” one who he just “loves so much, but she just went crazy.” He continues to break into my residence at least once a month just to let me know he can get to me. He will take my clothes, or leave a pair of his underwear or change a burnt out light bulb or turn the radio off. This is with an alarm system and him supposedly not knowing where I live, but he is intelligent and has degrees in criminal justice and psychology on top of being an abuser. The police did not believe me until one time he removed a light cover and set in on the ground and screwed the screws back in. Then the officer said- “huh- those screws are screwed back in and you didn’t touch this? You should get a camera”. Brilliant! I told him I already had but that when I got home from work one night there was food on top of my microwave that I had not bought and the camera was shut off- he’s been an investigator for the government for 20 years he knows how to find a camera!

    Anyway- I have not told my story online ever because of fear but listening to you I felt safe enough to do so. So thank you for being brave. Thank you for putting yourself out there. Your story helped me.