color key — red: assault; blue: mental health; green: self-reflection. the contrast of light and dark correlates with bright and somber tones of voice.
This Is My Story
This Is My Story
This Is My Story
This Is My Story
This is my story of abuse and domestic violence. For the first time ever, I'm the one telling it.
When I was a teenager, I graduated from high school early. I got a job, saved up my money, and tried to think of what I was going to do for the rest of my life. What I wanted for myself wasn't practical to those around me.
I'm a lesbian who grew up in a very religious household, in an extremely broken home. Growing up, I had a lot of issues with self-worth and body image. I was told by my family that I would be lucky if anyone ever loved me, and it took me years to realize how much this impacted what I felt I deserved in a relationship. After enough issues at home and with various people I grew close to, I shut myself off and, for some reason, it felt like I was reclaiming myself.
I met this girl who lived about an hour away from me on a dating app, and the first time we talked, I had this feeling she was your classic fuckboy. She would ask me for nudes and when I said no, she disappeared. After a while, she messaged me and apologized for how she treated me and said she was taking out what her ex had done to her on me because she was depressed. She wanted another chance. This should have been my first sign, but I gave her a shot.
She invited me to celebrate her college graduation with her friends, and I said yes. At the end of the night, we were making out in her car, and we had probably known each other for only a few hours at this point. She looked up at me and said "I'm in love with you." I was in shock. I didn't move. I didn't say anything because it went from her only wanting me to take off my clothes and tell me how worthless I was, to being in love with me. I panicked. Without warning, she started crying and yelling, "So you don't fucking love me? You don't love me back?" I realize now that the best approach was not to try to calm her with "No, no, no! I do love you, it's just really soon." That night we stayed out until 5am, drinking coffee at a Waffle House, after the rest of the city was either already in bed or crawling out of it. That was the beginning of everything.
She insisted on coming to see me every day that week. She would drive an hour to sit at my job and hang out with me when I got off. Other people thought it was moving too fast, but I just thought it was sweet and I liked having someone love me equally for once. She made me feel beautiful in the first few weeks and like she wanted nothing but for us to be happy. There were little things that would set her off in the beginning, but I worked around them because I thought they were reasonable.
One of my best friends, whom I had dated in the past, knew her from camp growing up. She said she was pretty ruthless to people, but I never told my girlfriend at the time she said that. I decided to bring this girl up and say I was surprised they knew each other and immediately, a switch flipped. Suddenly my best friend was a kid who got upset at everything and milked it and hated her growing up. I wasn't supposed to trust her.
Shortly after we started dating, I was kicked out of my family's home for being gay and not turning myself around in the right direction...which I guess is straight? I spent the first night with her family. Her family adored me and it was nice to be openly accepted, at least on the forefront. After that night, I stayed with a friend of mine for a few nights in an old house that had been abandoned mid-construction. Eventually, one of my friends had a guy friend who offered to let me live in his spare room. I was grateful and I took the offer.
My girlfriend moved away for her bachelors degree and suggested I apply because I was thinking about pursuing the same degree and because their program was the best in the state. I applied for the spring semester and we would visit each other when possible. She asked me to move in with her and after a lot of talking, I agreed. So we found a place and I moved a few months early to get a job, etc. I spent the vast majority of my savings on the down payments and rent. Immediately I became a housewife. I cooked, I cleaned, and I worked.
We were in a very small town where everyone knew everybody. I walked in being known as her girlfriend. Nobody referred to me by my name or even bothered to learn it for a while. She had friends who would come over and I would be told by them and her not to leave my room or I wasn't allowed to talk, etc. I would sit in our bedroom in silence for hours.
She would go out a lot and get drunk with her friends and cheat on me, but she told people we were on a break so no one said anything to me. When I found out, I was the "crazy" one because I lost my trust in her. It was numbing to have her come home with someone else’s scent still on her and demand sex. I was pushed beyond limits when she was angry or I stood up for myself. She used to count the number of times she could force my body to cum. I would stare at a corner of the wall or the ceiling and wait for it to be over. There was one time she reached 40. The amount of blood made me sick.
Eventually, I stopped addressing the issues and I started to make sure the doors or the cabinets never hit too hard and the dinner was never burned but always hot when she got home, even though usually it would be hours after she said to have dinner ready. There would be times she would hold me down and the more I struggled, the more she would laugh and mock me because I couldn't overpower her. I wasn't allowed to talk to my friends anymore. She said they were trying to ruin us. I was only allowed to hang out with her friends. She would go through my journals, so I stopped writing. I had to change my best friend’s contact information in my phone because my girlfriend didn't want us speaking. She found a text from my best friend suggesting I grab my things and leave to stay with her while she was working or in class one day because she had seen bruises and how scared I was to do anything that might upset her.
No matter how bad it got, I believed my girlfriend every time she would say she would change or that things would be better. I made date plans one night, and she promised to be there. She was hours late and ignored my phone calls. Finally, another girl answered, said she was busy, and hung up the phone. She came home that night, took the flowers I bought her, and the chocolates, laid on the floor and continued to call herself a piece of shit that didn't deserve to live. It turned into me having to comfort her and reassure her that I loved her. She always blamed the other girls on me. Eventually, I started to blame myself too.
It wasn't until our anniversary that it really clicked. I was finishing putting on my makeup when she looked at me and yelled, "Get out! Leave right now. I can't even look at you! If you don't leave I'm going to hurt you and I might not be able to stop." I didn't understand what happened. I went outside on the balcony and I don't know why, but I took a photo of myself. A photo with a blank face and blank eyes. I didn't look like me anymore and I didn't feel like me anymore. She came and got me, smiling, grabbed my hand like nothing had happened, led me inside and out the front door. That night was kind of symbolic of our whole relationship. It was raining and she took photos of me in neon lights outside of an ice cream shop that closed by the time we got there. We took the overjoyed photos for her family and we got in the car and went home.
It didn't take more than a day for me to say or do something wrong. I don't even remember what upset her, I just remember walking into the bathroom and having her slam the door open and shut. I remember her pinning me against the wall by my wrists and screaming. I don't remember the things she said, but I remember collapsing down the wall when she finally let go and in that moment, I felt so small. She was leaving for a summer job soon, and that's when I decided to break up with her. She warned me a thousand times that she would ruin my reputation, that everyone would hate me and her friends would come after me if I left, but I couldn't do it anymore. My only friends were girls her friend group had gone after in the past.
She would constantly blow up my phone. Some days it was her admitting to everything she did, other days it was her telling me what an awful person I was and how big of a mistake I had made. Once I asked her why she kept blowing up my phone and she told me it became a game to see if I would cry or not or how much she could make me cry or beg her to stop. It was difficult because I did love her. You can't not love someone intensely and stay for as long as I did, and yes I stayed out of fear, but I also stayed because I wanted so badly to believe it was my fault and she didn't want to hurt me. That she loved me.
I started to try and live my life a bit. I went out with friends. I tried to tune her out as best as I could, but I knew the summer would be over soon. I was already paying everything for the house to get her to move in with her friends when she returned, because she suggested still living together. When everyone returned to college, things got bad. There were rumors going around that my friend and I had been sleeping with each other our entire relationship and that I was dating her now. Luckily, my friend stayed by my side throughout this despite how quickly the rumors spread. Suddenly, people were saying I was sleeping with three to four different people, that I was crazy and obsessive and wouldn't allow her to have friends when I wasn't even communicating with my ex. I got followed to classes. I had my tire slashed. I had my home broken into. My personal items were stolen by my ex and her friends. Things I could never replace were ruined, like things given to me by my great grandmother who passed away.
My lock to my house was broken. I woke up one morning to find my ex standing over me with her hand covering my mouth. She kissed me and she had sex with me, got up, and left. I had woken up to her outside of my house or walked in on her laying on my couch and because her name was still on the lease at the time, no one would do anything until I could get her taken off of the lease. She always made sure to leave something in the house to let me know she was there or move my things I had boxed up she gave me. Something small that would go unnoticed by anyone else. Her things she would refuse to pick up would trail through the house.
One night, my friends convinced me to go to a party for a frat at our school. I decided to go and have fun, but not many people talked to me. I noticed a few of her friends there and before long, she showed up. An older guy in the frat was there and eventually, he started hitting on me. I politely told him I was gay and not interested, but he wasn't taking no for an answer. He was all over me when another girl from the party came up and pushed him off of me. He was obviously drunk and he said someone said I was easy and he should try to get with me, that I liked playing hard to get. One of her friends was watching, giggling in the corner. I walked out front for some air and a little while later, the girl who pushed him off of me came to check on me. She said she thought it was great that my ex still cared so much about me. I was confused. I asked what she meant and she said my ex had found her and thanked her for standing up to that guy because she, "Just would have been heart broken if anything bad were to happen to you or you were raped." I freaked out because she wasn't there when it happened and nobody ever said the guy was trying to assault me, so why would she seek pity for her ex "almost being raped?" I decided to go home. I started walking towards my car when I received a text saying, "I wish I could be with you tonight. But I can't. You look beautiful by the way." To this day I swear I saw her in my car mirrors before I drove off.
In the weeks following, things were semi quiet, unless I was at a social event and sometimes I would be walking to class and get text messages describing what I was wearing or saying I looked beautiful. At home or at school, I would receive messages like, "I see you. Do you see me?" Her friends would show up to my job and harass me.
I went to the dean of students with screenshots of all of the messages and pictures of my injuries and begged for help. They told me they would do the best they could and advised me not to contact the police because they "couldn't protect me anymore" if I did. I had another meeting with the dean after they met with my ex and they suggested I receive therapy and that my ex was a kind person who said our relationship just turned toxic.
My ex and her friends weren't supposed to contact me anymore, but that didn't stop them. They found other ways. They would talk about me in front of me to other people, she would even send her new girlfriends to come after me or ask what happened between us. It just got old.
I had moved on but she didn't want me to live in a world where I didn't fear her. It went on for years. Even after I entered a serious relationship, she still made sure to make her presence known. When she stopped going to the university, I thought it would stop, but for a week straight she would conveniently be on campus beside the building I would get out at every day at 9:30 and she would walk behind me every day all the way to the next building I went to for my next class. She would wait for me to go inside, turn a corner, and leave.
I had to face people constantly assuming things about me that weren't true, starting fights, spreading rumors, telling her where I was or who I was with all because she was a girl and she was popular on a small campus. I didn't receive justice for being harassed, mentally, physically, and sexually abused because of who she was associated with and the money they brought to that small campus. I was shut up and forced to relive it every day while other people wrote my story on the walls of that school for everyone to see.
There were very few people who stopped me and said, "What really happened?" For those people I am grateful, but this is my story of an abusive relationship and it is mine to tell. I am done being isolated and I am done not having a voice. Because even though my name is not attached to my story, I want other people who are going through something similar to know they are not alone and I know how much it hurts. It feels like a constant battle and you don't feel safe in your own skin, but in time, you can cut the strings they've tied to you. It will always be a part of my story, but there's something empowering about saying that it happened to me and it's real and it doesn't matter if people don't believe me because I was there and I lived it. There are people who know what really happened, but cover it up because it's easier than facing your friend who abused someone and realizing it's not real feminism if you have a double standard for your friend, who's a girl that's abusive, compared to the guys. Everyone's story is important. Everyone deserves a voice. I don't consider myself a victim of domestic violence; I consider myself a survivor.