This is a tough one. For me and for you. It’s a first. It’s the first time so much detail has been written, shared, looked in the eye. Remembered. Faced. It’s the first time a lot of you will learn what I endured. That I endured. It’s the first time I’ve made my own choice to go back, to remember, to document, to share, to endure all over again. On my own terms. To admit. Despite all the shame and self-blame. All the feelings of paralyzing fear, the nightmares, the looks over the shoulder, the locking of doors and covering of windows, the strategically worn clothing, the cowering in the corner, the not making eye contact, the lies, the pain, the excuses.
I trust myself enough to share this now. And I trust you enough now, too. Not to judge. Not to pity. That’s not what I’m asking for. I was in a situation and although it took 8 years, I got myself out. Alive. I don’t want you to feel sorry for me. I want to educate. I want to bring light to a shameful disease that happens more than we’d like to admit. To our friends and our daughters, nieces, aunts, mothers, sisters, good students going to good schools, with good friends, driving nice cars. It happens. Far too much. Yet far too little is being said about it. It’s still silenced and hushed and whispered about. Not our kids. Not at our school. Not here. Not us. But open your eyes dammit! It IS here. It IS us. OUR kids! OUR friends! YOUR daughter! HER friend! THAT girl!
So fair warning. This is all painful truth, and I only take us both so far, but it is triggering. If you can’t read it, that’s your own personal choice for your own personal reasons. I respect that. No apologies.
They wanted me to think they were looking right at me. But I knew they were looking past me. They saw what they wanted to see, not the real me. Past the empty shell that stood before them. They saw air. They saw wind. They saw nothing.
The look in their eyes was not love, it was power. They wore on their lips not a smile, but a leer. The words from their mouths were not trusting, they were lies. The touch of their hands was not comforting, they brought pain. Where I craved hope and acceptance, they offered nothing.
I wanted love, but instead I got pain. I got loathing. I got bruises and breaks. I got neglected. Ignored. Punched and kicked aside. I got ridiculed and belittled. Beaten and broken. I got bloodied. The wind knocked out of me. Joints dislocated. I got discouraged. Threatened and terrified. I lost my friends, my family, my livelihood, my twinkle, my laugh, my aspirations, my choices, my rights, my voice. I lost me. It was stolen from me, slowly over time. With every kick to the gut, punch to the jaw, fistful of hair pulled from my head. With every body slam into the wall. With every headlock and every time I was strangled by his wicked hands twisted around my throat. With every object hurled at me across the room. With every shot taken from a BB gun or paint gun. Every time a loaded pistol was pressed against my temple, safety off, cocked and loaded. With every screamed threat. With all the unseemly things I was forced to do. Without my consent. Through shredded and ripped off clothes. Despite my screams and cries and tears and begging and NO NO NO PLEASE GOD NO!
With every ice pack, stitch, cast, trip to the E.R. With every apology, empty promise, veiled threat, box of chocolates, wilted flowers. I believed. I hoped. I could help. I could save. I could fix this broken soul. So I went back. Over and over, I went back. I had hope. I wanted to believe. I thought I could fix. Because if not, where else could I go? I was a coward. Ashamed. I was ugly and fat. I was unwanted. Unlovable. Not worthy. Not worthy. Not worthy. You hear those things enough and they drown out the real truth. They overpower the good. They silence the good. They laugh at the good. They spit on the good. They pity and sneer at the good. They replace the real truth. Until all that’s left is an empty shell. Air. Wind. Nothing.
And then you’re faced with two choices. You stay and die. You leave and live.
I’m one of the lucky ones. I left and I live. And I can stand here now clothed in my goodness and strength and courage and work every day on not just surviving, but actually living. It’s taken years (years!) to feel that I am worthy of more than just surviving. Of actually living. I’m still defining what that means to me. And that’s ok. Because luckily, I have time. Because luckily, I left and I live. And I am so much more than nothing.