Before I begin, if you’re experiencing any signs of domestic abuse/violence, please contact:
24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline:
Also, to be clear again, the following story is about rape, domestic, mental and emotional abuse. Reader discretion advised.
I wanted to write this post because sometimes we don’t recognize an abusive relationship while we’re in it. Those who are victim to domestic assault often defend their partner ruthlessly. But there are other, subtler signs that we should all be aware of.
*Many details have been changed.
My #MeToo Story
When I first met S, I thought, “Wow! Attractive!”
There was flirting on both sides, but that’d happened to me before, so I figured he’d end up the way the rest of my crushes had, unrequited.
That was until he told me I was “sexy.”
No one had ever said that to me before. Plus, he was nice and charming.
Before we even became exclusive, he’d tell me how he had fantasies of “bending [me] over the table at work” and “going to town.” I saw that as flattering.
He’d flirt ruthlessly with other women in my presence to assert his dominance and show me he was desired.
He’d regale me with his sexual conquests at every opportunity.
He’d point out every woman who so much as looked at him and say things like, “she wants to take me home.”
These continued after we were exclusive. I couldn’t trust him.
The first time I remember being pressured was one month in. He sat me down, but the TV was on. That’s where his attention was when he said, “I need to know how far I can take this.”
I had no idea what he meant. But the seriousness of his tone and his unwillingness to look me in the eye were disconcerting. So, I started crying. Which was when he got mad. He laughed in a condescending manner – that laugh I’d get to know intimately in the coming years. He said, “Why are you crying?” in a disgusted tone. “I just need to know if you want to be physical.”
I was young and had never experienced a relationship longer than two months. I was unprepared and just plain not ready. I remember saying, “I’d like for us to be physical, but not yet.”
“Okay. That’s all I need to know then,” he said curtly.
I asked what he meant by that, which was a mistake. That laugh came again. “It just means we need to dial it back.”
I still wasn’t sure what he meant. I asked for more clarification. And got a heavy sigh.
“I have to control myself when we’re intimate.”
“But we haven’t been intimate,” I say, confused.
An eye roll. “If you think intimacy is just sex, then we have bigger problems.”
Okay. My bad. I’m sorry. Forgive me, I’m still naïve and learning. The conversation ended there, and I left feeling as though I’d just ruined everything, pushing the only person who’d found me attractive away.
I had to fix that. And quick.
Next time he came over, I made dinner, prepared to move to the next level. I expressed that I loved him (even though I don’t believe I did). I wanted to keep him because I wasn’t confident in myself. He replied by saying, “Yeah, I could see myself falling in love with you.”
My response was, “That being said…whatever happens, happens.” I suppose he took that as me saying I was ready for sex. But I wasn’t.
I won’t pretend like this isn’t half my fault. I should’ve stood up for myself. I should’ve been strong and not allowed him to push me into sex. But I did. Because I didn’t know what else to do.
One night, I became comfortable enough to remove my top, but kept my underwear on as a sign that I wasn’t quite ready. He immediately put his hand between my legs and tried to stimulate me. But he was rough, and it was uncomfortable. This went on for a few moments.
On the way to the car later, he said, “Next time I won’t stop.”
That should’ve been my first red flag. But it wasn’t. It reinforced the fact that he was the boss and what I felt didn’t matter. This was the first step in me turning inward and devaluing my own opinion.
When it finally did happen, he didn’t ask. He went for it. It hurt, badly. I asked him to slow down – he was going too fast and hurting me. He said he would, but did not.
Afterward, he said, “No one’s ever told me to slow down before.”
I’m not sure why he said that. Maybe it was to shame me. I’d come to find out that he liked shaming me.
The second time, he stopped and asked me if I’d like to try something different.
He gave me a choice. So, I answered truthfully. “Not yet.”
Silence. Then, “What? No?”
Now I felt like I’d said the wrong thing. “I don’t think I’m ready.”
The frustrated sigh. Not meeting my gaze. He shook his head.
“Okay. Let’s try something different.” Even though I didn’t want to.
“No. I lost my erection, so we’re done.”
And I’d screwed it up by being immature. From then on out, every time I wasn’t interested at the same time he was, I had “hangups about sex.” He’d hold the idea that he was close to thinking I was prude over my head.
He’d tell me things like, “My ex liked that,” to encourage me to do things I wasn’t comfortable with. I recall having to call out of work because I was bleeding from my anus. S thought that was “awesome.”
Naturally, I’d become upset and tell him, “That’s not fair. Comparing me to her isn’t fair.”
Then, he’d give me that disgusted look. I was being too sensitive. He had a past and I should’ve accepted it. Maybe I was just too young to be in this relationship.
So, I’d work to show him that wasn’t the case. I’d work to show him that I was stronger. Maybe I was trying to show myself I was stronger. But in reality, I was just getting weaker and weaker.
I’d force myself to do sexual acts I didn’t want to. Because if I expressed concern, I was a prude.
So, my feelings and opinions went to the back-burner. It was all about him. All the time.
He worked to transform me into his version of an aesthetically perfect partner. In order to do that, he’d say things like, “There’s a woman at the office who deliberately puts her butt in my face.”
“Um, okay. Why are you telling me that?”
“Oh, are you jealous?” Laugh. “She does it all the time.”
“She wears these business pants with stockings. You should wear those.”
Why would I want to dress like someone else you’re attracted to? Because if I did that, he’d stop noticing her and notice me. So, I dressed like he wanted me to, even though it was uncomfortable. And if I didn’t put my makeup on every time we left the house, he’d say, “Why didn’t you dress up and wear makeup? I notice you haven’t been doing that lately. Maybe that’s why you feel bad about yourself.”
Maybe. Or maybe it’s because I can’t compete with your idea of a perfect spouse. It’s too much pressure.
Even though he continually pushed me to be a shell of myself, I did gain some strength. I did eventually stand up for myself.
That’s when things got violent.
When he realized his words weren’t enough to put me down any longer, he’d stare me down, stand over me, intimidate me. He’d block my exit. He’d scream and throw things. He’d drink, then cry, then break plates and punch holes in the walls. When I expressed concern for his health, I was nagging him. When he threatened to drive drunk, I said I’d call the police.
“You’d call the cops on your own boyfriend?!” He’d yell, incredulous. And that’s where it’d end. His cries for attention were always met by my shitty conflict resolution – giving in. I was in a relationship with a narcissist who had unresolved emotional issues. He began using his weight to overpower me into sex, pinning me down so I couldn’t get up and not stopping when I asked. Not using protection to trap me. He’d berate my appearance or intelligence or emotional instability until I was crying, then he’d molest me by grabbing my breasts or vagina. All the while, he’d be laughing at me.
But I convinced myself that all this was better than being alone.
And no one knew what was going on. I tried to tell people, and I remember the only person who actually said anything was my friend H. I remember sitting in the car with her on the way to lunch and telling her a story I can no longer recall. All I remember is her response.
“Why do you put up with that shit?”
I shrugged. “He’s really not that bad.”
I should’ve listened to you, H. I’m sorry I wasn’t a better friend.
No one else believed me. Because he was charming on the outside. He knew how to fool people into trusting him. A well-timed smile or laugh was all it took. He even fooled a relationship counselor.
And this is where we come to W.
W helped me see what was happening. They showed me that getting the silent treatment for three days because the Internet went down and I wouldn’t drop everything to fix it wasn’t normal behavior. Yet, for some reason, I still couldn’t confide in them that I’d experienced sexual assault. I didn’t realize at the time I was being raped. After all, being in an exclusive relationship implies continual, permanent consent.
When I sat S down and said, “I’m not happy. I’d like to break up,” I was met with a complete meltdown. Crying, shaking, screaming, threats and lies. He’d realized his grip on me was slipping, so he dug his heels in. He demanded couples’ counseling, saying I owed him that.
The couples’ counseling didn’t help, because he wasn’t open with the counselor. He was fake and calculated. He knew how to twist everything to make it seem like my fault. I had to fight hard to get out.
After trying absolutely everything, I simply left. I ran away because I was trapped, and it was the only way to get out.
From there, his true emotional instability reared its head. I would get phone calls that ranged from crying to threatening to kill me and others. He’d tell me if I didn’t visit him, he’d kill himself. He’d call me and tell me both his father and grandmother had died, then pretend that never happened the next day (or claim he was on drugs and didn’t remember). Then he’d tell me he screwed around behind my back, but I didn’t care anymore.
When that didn’t work, he switched to threats. Threats on my life and my family’s lives. He had no right.
He continually insulted every member of my family, trying to turn me against them. He’d tell me my friends were beneath me, so I wouldn’t have any. He’d blame his Irish heritage for his temper and drinking habits.
I’m positive that, had I stayed, I’d likely be dead as a result of domestic violence.
This is what I want to tell him.
“You 100% knew what you were doing. The whole time. You knew you were controlling every aspect of my life. You knew how selfish you were. You did whatever the fuck you wanted, fuck my feelings. You broke promises. You told lies. Because you didn’t care about me. You pretended to, but I was just another warm body to you. I could’ve been anyone. I was replaceable. But the moment I stood up for myself, your entire perception of the world crumbled to pieces. So, you tried to gain my trust again. You pretended to change so you could keep me. But we both know that was all fake. You only care about yourself and that’s never going to change.”
“I do not forgive you for what you’ve done. I never will. Nor will I ever forget. But I do accept how you became this way. I accept that you grew up with no rules. With a mother who wanted to be your friend and not your parent. You blame everyone else for your shortcomings because you can’t come to terms with yourself.”
“You hate yourself. I empathize with that. But I just couldn’t take care of you when you routinely abused me.”