Abusive boyfriends don’t sound very real – until you have one

It’s not always physical

It wasn’t for me.

Some time later, I am just now recognizing that I am a survivor of not only sexual assault, but also an abusive relationship.

He and I started dating, and things seemed great. I wasn’t that into him at the beginning of the relationship, but I sort of fell into it. Why? I can’t really explain it, even today. It just happened around me. I let it happen. Devotion is nice, you know?

In the first few weeks of our relationship, I was sexually assaulted at a party. I luckily was rescued before the perpetrator could do anything else. My then-boyfriend at the time was informed about what happened by the three women that helped me escape that situation.

That’s when things started to change. I, unfortunately, believed that all he was doing was looking out for my well-being. It was all bullshit, I now realize.

It began with small things. I’d feel like I had to ask permission to hang out with my friends. I’d feel guilty hanging out with my friends, he would act very sad whenever I went anywhere without him. I started asking my friends if he could hang out with us, too.

He would comment on my makeup choices – if I was wearing too much. If I was on that particular day, I’d feel really bad and feel self-conscious the rest of the day.

Whenever I’d want to go out with my friends, he would advise against it, citing my previous experience with sexual assault as the reason why I shouldn’t go: “You don’t want that happening again, do you?”

Of course not. I started staying in with him, and hanging out with my friends less. In retrospect, they tell me that he was extremely controlling of me. Nobody told me that in the midst of it all, however. I lost several friends because of that relationship. They don’t know why it all happened, and still to this day do not.

If I went anywhere without him, he would make me feel guilty for leaving him. He started accompanying me wherever I went.

I started to realize that I no longer wished to date him anymore. He kept asking me what was wrong. I wouldn’t tell him, and he would make me feel bad about that. I planned to end things in a few days.

One evening, I hung out with a person I knew at the time that I knew he was not fond of. I got nervous about telling him where I was going, since he demanded to know that information. I said I had a study group. I was gone for longer than I told him I would be gone, and upon returning home I had several missed calls and even more text messages.

When I got back home, I had an undeniable weight on my chest. I was terrified of how he would react. I asked him why he called me so many times, and he told me he was afraid I slipped on ice. I knew better. I felt guilty anyway.

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Later that week, I found out that he was contacting my best friend, attempting to get her to spill information about me; asking if I had told her anything about why I might be upset or “acting differently”. She contacted me and sent me a screenshot of his message. Infuriated, I confronted him about it – to which he lied. I told him that she contacted me and told me about it all, and his lame excuse for lying was that he figured I knew about it anyway.

That same night, I was planning on going out with friends. I left my phone in my room to charge a bit before we left. I asked him to grab it for me, because we were going to be leaving soon.

He unlocked my phone, and read my text messages. He then proceeded to tell the rest of my friends that I was cheating on him. I wasn’t.

I had had enough. I left with my friends, and he was left on outside. Throughout the night, he continued to contact my two friends that I was spending time with – asking them if they would tell him how I was doing, or what I was doing, and to keep him updated. They didn’t reply, bless them.

Even months after  we broke up, he made a remark about my face (I had a previous eating disorder and was always checking my face to see if it had gotten rounder – a sign I was gaining weight). He said that my face had gotten rounder, fully knowing the effect it would have on my self-confidence. I felt like hell the rest of that day.

I finally left because I was tired of him keeping tabs on my location. I was tired of having a constant shadow, personified into another human being. I was tired of feeling guilty for living my life and wanting to be an independent individual. I was just tired.

Today, though? I’m grateful every day that I had the strength to remove myself from that relationship. I’m in a much better place. I have several close friends that I love dearly.

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Me and my friend Andy at Bucknell

We can be our weird, awkward selves together.

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Taylor and I

We get dappered up together for Chrysalis.

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Just me being me

And sometimes I’m just straight awkward on my own.

Next week, the Clothesline Project will be happening – where people make shirts about dating and sexual violence. I highly recommend attending – if not to share your own story, then to learn more about others and the struggles they’ve gone through.

Take Back the Night is on the horizon, as well – it’s an incredible event for survivors of sexual assault to speak about their experiences, and to spread awareness of the issue of sexual assault. It’s scheduled for late October.

These events are absolutely incredible – they provide support for those that might be suffering in silence, and helps students on our campus become better educated about such a pervasive issue. I didn’t know what was happening to me at the time – but I want others to know the signs so that they can better protect themselves and their friends. It’s not always physical. It can be very sneaky. That doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

Nobody has the right to make you feel guilty for wanting to live your life.

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