Abuse. Yeah, it’s time. Most of the people who suffer the traumatic aftermath of abuse experience it from family at a young age, this is not true for all however. Abuse chooses no age, gender or situational certainty. Abuse rears it’s ugly head in many forms and can lead to an assortment of problems after the fact, even resting on how the ended or continued abuse is being or has been dealt with. As I’m sure you can imagine, I’ve experienced my own issues with it, some of which dealt with, some of which I will continue to always deal with. My childhood was carefree for the most part, but still difficult for me, however abuse was not one of the difficult parts. I cannot even recall being spanked, though my younger memories are thin. The problems I encountered began in middle school and into high school, surrounding the time of my surgery ( a huge provider of PTSD for me having woken up during it) and when young people experience most of the normal growing teen stuff.
As a publicly proclaimed “weird kid”, I would cut my hair off and dye it on a whim, sew my own clothing, attempt to skateboard around town, secretly smoke cigarettes, go dancing in my socks at a local skating rink with liberty spikes or some other crazy mop, write poems, play music privately and publicly at open mics in the city and I never had the urge to be like everyone else. I was starting to feel ok in my little rut, depression was getting strong, but I used art and music as a way to channel what I couldn’t deal with otherwise. The one thing I didn’t have was confidence, that my friend was all forced. This is the only advice I can give as a single childless woman in her thirties; make sure your child loves who they are and have confidence enough to be fair and understanding, but be sure not to spoil them into thinking they are better than anyone around them.
My abusive relationship lasted from the ages of 17-21 years old, it was just over 4 years long and felt like it was going to be the end of my life as I knew it. Thinking back I’m amazed I made it out at all. I had met someone through a friend. This friend was changing as we grew and didn’t want the same things that I did out of life. Her priorities were selfish and superficial, but I’d been friends with her for so long that I could see why those were things she desired. I had been introduced to my future abuser at a friend of that friend’s pool in the neighborhood, which is rare for me, as I’ve only been in a handful of pools in my entire life. Hating a lot of things about myself at the time, physically mostly, which is still a daily struggle for me, I was nervous and shy. The position set me up for failure.
He was older, a bad boy hated by the town with a dad who worked at the holding center and he thought I was pretty, end of story. For the first year a lot was hidden in him, I was still learning about him, relationships and myself. I’m going to refer to this person as B. B’s mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer two days before I met him, maybe thats why he was nice for the first time in his life. Growing up with his older brother and him as the only white, Irish children in a predominantly African American school, he learned to play the outsider young. The entire family was racist and didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with that. Having been reared in a large, seven member family, having sister with a terminal illness, I felt huge sympathies for what the family was going through. At the time I was working in a bakery and was making them care packages to bring home. This is when the taunting began. Not owning a car, I became tied to him for rides as he had to see me everyday on his times and his terms. Looking back now, it’s hard for me to ascertain why I was so blind, how I had been trapped from day one. I do know that focusing on the why is a spiral I don’t want to enter again.
Everyone likes being told they look nice or are funny, I had needed to hear it so bad that apparently I’d have taken Dracula himself home. He began to do things like show up to pick me up and when I wasn’t able to get out of work the exact minute I was scheduled to or if he himself showed up early, he would come in and throw pieces of the bread samples at me while I was helping customers or drive donuts in the lot with the horn on full blast. It was embarrassing and beyond degrading, let alone impeding my employment status. This behavior became my everyday life for the next almost half a decade. The only freedom I found was getting my own car and joining a gym to escape.
Living with my Pop who worked constantly and one of my older sisters for some of it, (who was dealing with her own array of problems in life as a teenager), I kept mostly to myself on the topic. When his Mother sat dying of cancer in their living room hooked up to oxygen, the only person in that family who showed me any true kindness, the boys complained about having to smoke outside and call her things like “cunt” and “bitch” under their breath. They both were so afraid to lose her, yet couldn’t pull it together enough to treat her with respect and dignity in her dying days. After work, I would pick up dinner, I’d drop off the bakery goods for their breakfasts and spend the evenings out with his complete degenerate friends, before returning to his house to do their laundry, press his fathers uniform and B’s button down shirts. The physical violence was light at this point, but the emotional and sexual abuse made up for that department. B would mock me for things like having my period and tell me to take home used tampons because they made him sick to have in his home, even though properly disposed of in the trash. He would make me have sex when I didn’t want to, forcibly and selfishly.
Throughout the tail end of my high school career, I became increasingly depressed. I wasn’t allowed to dress how I wanted anymore, only clothes that he had bought. I had to wear scents that he approved of. I wasn’t allowed to cut or dye my hair, have friends, go to parties or events with my family or even really speak to them. B refused to go to my graduation party and harassed me the whole time I was with my extended family, telling me that I’d been taking too long to get back to him. When B’s mother passed away, I rode in the car that followed the casket with his father and brother. At the wake his brother tried to assault me sexually in the bathroom while I was peeing, until a friend of theirs noticed and blamed it on his displaced aggression over his loss, then we all made sure B never found out. I fully slid into that roll as the mother figure in that family for years to follow.
There are so many stories I could share to horrify and shock, but I will stick to the main few that stick with me, against my will. Teachers started to notice I was trapped, trying to give me advice here and there to change my mind. When the physical abuse started, it was presented in a half joking manor, which in the beginning in his mind, I think made it acceptable. B and I would argue and he would do things like push me out of the car in places I couldn’t get home from, in all kinds of weather, lock me out after inviting me over, breaking things of mine and his in public spectacles, then yelling at me as I cleaned them up. Once he chased me out to my car and kicked in the side of it and punched off my mirror, banging on the windshield until I scrambled the keys in the ignition and sped home. That dent stayed on my car as a constant reminder until it’s demise. He once kicked me like a mule in the stomach, for no reason, out of absolute no where in the garage/ driveway where I had been cooking dinner, then screamed at me to get up and tend to the BBQ. He made me sit in front of the TV all day and handwrite him a list of all of the football draft picks because he had to work.
There was a school night where I was being teased for working on a college paper and he kept tossing things on my notes to annoy and distract me. As we bickered he whipped me with a towel, like we were in a 1950’s locker room, however it was aimed at my face. My left eye was so swollen shut that my main fear became developing a story to tell my father, not the damage and pain to my body that I was experiencing. Since I had defended him tooth and nail, my family didn’t know how serious it was, therefore tried to stay out in the beginning. I thought of the only thing I could to tell my father over the phone “don’t be alarmed, we were fooling around wrestling and his head hit my eye, so I have a black eye”. When B found out about my rape, he interrogated the few friends I’d had before he had entered my life. Since I refused to give him any of their names, he made me go into my school with him, enter the library, go through the old year books page by page until I pointed them out all out while my hands shook knowing what he would do. B would show up at their jobs and threaten them. One night he drove me around the east side for hours yelling “Was this the house?!?! Where is this house?! Was this it?!” to every residence, knowing I was not familiar with where I was that night I was raped. Causing me to replay it in my mind over and over again.
Beyond the physical nature of the abuse, mental and emotional abuse trap you in just the same level of paralyzing fear. The light becomes harder to see if any at all and your undying love for your partner along with their control makes it impossible to change the circumstances, especially after they have removed all of the outs. My family’s concern grew, my Pop believed all my lies and I hid the rest. At the time I was working at a record store with some older friends I’d known in my “punk days”, their concern grew too. B would call my work constantly, telling me that if I hung up he’d come in and throw me through the plate glass window in front of my friends and family. I stayed quiet. The fights between his troubled, ankle bracelet-clad brother, father and I became heavy and often. As the years passed and my depression grew even worse, the abuse became almost constant.
In Buffalo, we all have our memory of the October storm. People were trapped in their homes, businesses were all closed and everyone had snow days by candle light and watched the icy destruction from their windows. This day was one of the worst days I can remember. The storm started when I was working at the record store with my sister. As it began to look grim we closed the store and my sister, a coworker and I all ventured to our cars to attempt our travels home. I was the last to leave the lot. B told me that I was in charge of getting weed and beer for him and his burly coworkers who were trapped at his first, newly acquired apartment away from his father. Begrudgingly, I traveled through the icy driving ban to acquire what they needed, without beginning to acknowledge my own safety. The trees creaked and fell around me and the paths became harder to navigate. It’s important for me to point out at this time that smart phones were not in my vocabulary yet. Facebook was a new thing and I got a world of pain from him when my sister set one up for me during one of my hangs at her house, to escape my secret life.
After I arrived home, greeted by the annoyance of my slow time, I sat in the apartment watching them all get loaded and behave like apes. I yearned to be in the city where my family all joined in their darkened apartments to drink wine and play board games as the storm raged on. Once B’s guests left, a fight erupted as usual, I was chased around the apartment decorated with things I’d donated to him or had bought for him to make it less of a shit hole. Once I mentioned that those were things that I’d donated to try and help, that lead to everything of mine in the apartment being smashed, torn up or tossed around. One item from that night was having a plastic colander broken over my head. As I grabbed for my keys, without a coat, I scrambled to the door at the top of the stairs (as it was a basement apartment), which he met me at the top of. Blocking my head from anything further, I swiped his arms away from me as he strategically and forcibly kicked my right ankle and shoved, which sent me flying down the stairs. Sitting there on the floor is one of two of my most vivd memories from that night. B stood over me making fun of me for crying and telling me to stand up and leave. As I got myself standing, just wanting to get out, I hobbled up the stairs back to the door. I got outside. The snowy air was like a knife, the feeling on my skin matched the pain shooting from my ankle. Jacketless, I looked up at my tiny car, which had no chance of getting out of the building snow of an unplowed lot. The door had been slammed in my face. Turing back towards my car, I heard the door reopen and I turned around. Knowing the heat didn’t work in my car, B dumped a pitcher of cold water over my head, then re-closed and locked the door. I sat in my car shivering for hours until I dug myself enough of a path to try and get back on the road. Later that work week I told my sister that I got drunk and fell on the ice when she asked about my blackened ankle and newly acquired limp.
This is an example of the type of human I was dealing with. A person so paranoid I would leave them or cheat that they spent all their time lying, cheating and manipulating me. One who treated people they loved like total and utter garbage. How had I gotten here? Why wasn’t I able to reach out or leave? That is something I still haven’t figured out, abuse is a strange thing. It has a way of making you feel like you deserve it. In my mind I was going to get forcefully impregnated by this person and be stuck forever living the life I’m sure his poor mother did.
College became increasingly more difficult, while working two jobs, I started to try and devise a way out. Killing myself seemed to be the only logical out, but I didn’t want him to win and in my mind, he would’ve had I taken that route. Long story short, I spent more time at school, driving the long way home and working extra hours. My sisters began mailing me things anonymously to my fathers house. Books on breaking free from abuse, pamphlets from battered women shelters, etc. They felt helpless and so did I. My Mother, not knowing the severity of the situation attempted to meet up with him to discuss his position in my life. I never heard the end of it on his side, from the “gross hippie coffee shop she made him meet her at” to the fact that it was ridiculous that “anyone pretended they cared about me.”
Stay with me folks, deep breath, there are only a few more staples in this stack and I’ll set you free. One fall day my car was totaled driving to his house, by a 16 year old who had a fresh 5 day old license. When I called him from the cop car, he was furious that I was now going to make him have a late dinner, refused to take me to be checked out at the hospital, knowing I have two titanium rods in my spine and dropped me off at home, to an empty house. We had a cat of 15 years named Jojo, who was a huge part of this, as he was the only one who heard all my stories and licked all my tears and kept me safe at night. When he got ill and we had to put him down, it coincided with a long standing foot injury B was dealing with, needless to say, the brunch my Pop and I planned to have after putting him down, to celebrate his life and deal with our loss was overtaken by B’s demands. I will always feel guilty for not standing my ground that day. We needed that brunch, I needed it.
One of the days I stayed home to avoid him further, he broke into my home and fought with me, loudly. He had been at the beach all day and was fueled with booze and cocaine, scribbling all over things on my counter top and cornering me in every room. His behavior was more irrational than ever. I can still picture the look in his eyes. My sister had happened to call the house and I had to answer, informing her that he was being irrational, that I was fighting with him and that I had to go; to of course lie about who I had been on the phone with. Between that and my neighbor, also godparent hearing the sound that expelled from my body after being slammed against the upstairs closet door, the police were called, along with my entire family. He was told to stay away from me for the rest of the day and my family sat with me pleading for change. It was the only time I had every seen one of my sisters cry, pleading with me that I needed to leave him. Promising to do what I could, everyone went home to their own worry and my Pop got a mouthful from my Mom, who couldn’t fathom how he hadn’t intervened. My Pop is an awesome, hard working man, but like I said believed all my lies and didn’t care to know more. He had his own troubles, as did the world. I’ll never resent him for it.
As I slept in my bed later that week, early in the morning, after my Pop had gone to work, I awoke to him inside my home and standing over my bed watching me sleep. I had woken to a gagging, choking and breathless feeling which I still to this day don’t know if it was anxiety or physically him. My things were all gone through, strewn all over my floor. That was when I got my first restraining order. It was mild and he basically was ordered to stay away but with no actual documentation aligned. B insisted that everything he had forcefully purchased for me over the passed four years be collected and returned, from half used perfume bottles, to his mothers old purses, to every part of my wardrobe to shoes and jackets. I obliged and loaded them in his car, where he spent the day slicing them up, attaching photos of us on them and leaving around my property. That day he had left 35 messages on my phone, in one 2 hour period, scaling from “I’m sorry, I love you” to “I’m gonna kill you, you stupid whore” in one sentence. The police finally got me in to take a statement and I got an actual restraining order against him. College peers helped chaperone me to and from classes and co workers kept their eye on me.
Life went on, as it always does and I was in other relationships, found friends again, reacquainted myself with my family and began to open up to who I was. Years later I ran into him at a bar. He cornered me and attempted to be nice, told me he loved my weird haircut and was sorry things didn’t work out. I stood there shaking unable to do anything but grab my drink and back away. Thinking I’d be free of him again, 5 years later, he strolled into the bar where I was working. He did not see me at first, he was talking on a cell phone, the thing he told me “only whores needed”. I ran into the kitchen and hid. Hyperventilating, my co worker asked what was up. I explained in a few words, my boss happened to be there and kicked him out along with the bouncer, saying he was too drunk to be served. Attempting to fight them both before leaving, he was out of my life again. The next day I was egged while standing out front of the bar having a smoke. I’ll assume it was him, but maybe it was just bad luck.
It’s been almost 6 years since that day and I haven’t seen him since. Until I was emailed by him twice within the last year. 11 years later even seeing his name appear on my phone gave me a heart attack. He was under the impression I was dealing with some family issue, using that as the excuse to reach out and attempted to apologize for ruining my life, insisting I was wonderful the entire time to him and didn’t deserve any of what he had done. Of course I didn’t. The sad thing is part of me feels sorry for him. Am I relieved that he finally came around to feel the guilt of what he’d done to me? Yes. However, am I going to give him the satisfaction of a response? No. Once I started writing again, I knew this article would be in it. I recently had a dream that he was in, where I was pregnant and under new law had to keep his baby. When I woke up I knew I was ready to write it. It’s a rough one, but like any other feeling, it fades and can be transformed into something better for everyone. Like the article I did about rape, I feel if this can help anyone it was worth the share. Below are some of the companies that you can turn to discreetly to help deal with a situation that is so hard for most to understand. Stay strong and remember that no matter what, you are not alone and you can be free no matter how deep it gets.
The situation as a whole taught me a lot about myself, my strength and my future. The experience has affected my trust and relationship issues and will continue to for the rest of my life. I still work hard to see the signs and keep my own personal love life and space in check. What it comes down to is that some people just suck.