I was sexually abused as a child.
Alright, not the end. It was just the beginning. It was the beginning of steering away from the charted course of who I was destined to become and into territory fraught with awful tempests.
Sometimes, I do a completely moot and infuriating exercise, and wonder who I was actually supposed to be without abuse. I wouldn’t have PTSD. I probably wouldn’t have been a promiscuous teenager who turned to substance abuse to numb myself. I probably would have gone off to college like I was supposed to. I wouldn’t have become a homeless prostitute. I wouldn’t have been hit on the head by a stage light and lost most of my memory; I wouldn’t have become a Goldfish. I wouldn’t have allowed domestic violence to enter my life and stay there for years. I might have had at least one relationship last for a year. I’ve never had a one year anniversary with anyone; I cut them loose long before then.
I have a confession to make. I’m not sure why it’s a confession, but I’ve never told you before. Monster #2, the domestic violence monster, and I were not technically involved. We were not dating. We were not in a relationship.
I lived with a monster for eight years. During those eight years, Monster #2 and I were not romantically involved. He was my friend, or so I thought. I had boyfriends and he had girlfriends. We lived together as roommates. He tried to kill me; he tried to control my life, he stole everything I had of value, he tried to destroy me, to break me, but he was not my boyfriend.
I think the reason I have never told you that before is because it somehow diminishes what he put me through. Most domestic violence scenarios are male abuser with female wife/girlfriend. I was not a wife nor a girlfriend to him. I was his supposed best friend, and yet, he put me through the things that most victims go through. He convinced me I could not live without him. He convinced me I was worthless and I should just die.
After I got out, people didn’t believe that we weren’t romantically involved. If he didn’t control you with sex, why did you stay? People judged me for putting up with it when he wasn’t even my boyfriend. It got to the point where I just left that part out, because it was easier for them to believe that I let a Monster control me for eight years if he was my boyfriend, as if that somehow makes any difference. Domestic violence is domestic violence. I was ashamed and embarrassed that he got so close to destroying me and we weren’t even involved. The thought of him makes me physically ill.
If you weren’t romantically involved, and you even had boyfriends, why did none of them stop it? Because they didn’t know. I hid it. I covered it up. I never let any of my boyfriends get close enough to know. Plus, the caliber of men I chose weren’t the type to fight for me. I didn’t want anyone fighting my battles. I didn’t want a knight in shining armor. I just wanted to die.
When it all went down, on that final night, I was dating a cop. My boyfriend was a police officer and he did nothing to help. He was absent, just like they all had been throughout those eight years. It wasn’t entirely his fault since part of the reason for his distance was me; I refused to let him in. He might have helped had he known the truth. He might have beaten the absolute piss out of Monster #2 had he known. I hid it from my boyfriend partially to protect him from killing the monster and destroying his life, but mostly out of shame.
Monster #2’s madness started shortly after his sixteen year old sister blew her brains out with a shotgun. He started threatening to kill himself. He’d get into the bathtub fully clothed, turn the water on, hold a radio in his hand and threaten to drop it. At first, I tried to talk him down. When it became a regular thing, eventually, I’d just leave him be and go to bed. The first time I left him like that, he came into my room, dripping wet, still holding the radio and beat me with it.
One night, I took a bath. He came into the bathroom, drunk as hell, and grabbed a hair dryer. I pulled my knees to my chest. I didn’t want him to see me naked. How silly that seems now. He turned it on and held the hair dryer above the tub. He turned the tables on his own stupid game. I closed my eyes and put my face on my knees. I couldn’t hear what he was saying over the sound of the dryer. My only regret at that moment was that I would die naked. I didn’t want to die that vulnerable. When I opened my eyes, the hair dryer was blowing uselessly on the floor and he was gone.
From then on, he no longer threatened to kill himself; he got sloppy drunk and threatened to kill me every night. He would take me to the brink of death and pull me back. He hit me. He punched me. He beat me. He strangled me. He knocked my tooth out and broke my ribs. I never had any peace. I could not sleep. I was not safe.
Monster #2 confessed his love to me once. I spurned his advances. He ripped off my clothes and threw me on the bed. He jammed his forearm into my neck, pushing my head back and crushing my throat. He pushed his fingers in my closed eyes. I could feel his rage. I felt his weight on me and wanted to vomit. I lay there quietly. I was used to men forcing themselves on me, grunting and groaning on top of me. I retreated into myself like I had when I was a child. I didn’t fight. I did nothing.
I didn’t fight when he tried to kill me. He would grab me by the throat and slam me against the wall. All I had to do to keep him from crushing my windpipe was turn my head. He is the one who taught me that. I didn’t turn my head. I stared at him with half closed eyes. Just kill me, I would say. He would grip tighter, but not tight enough.
He was a monster in every sense of the word, but he didn’t start that way. I watched his insanity grow over the course of eight years. It was only in the last two that everything went to hell. I put up with strangling, biting, punching, hair pulling and sexual assault because I didn’t know what else to do. I was trapped. There is no worse feeling in the world than that. He would track me down wherever I went. I couldn’t get out. Getting out meant starting over from scratch. It meant losing all my friends and even my home. Getting out meant admitting to myself and those around me that I was a victim. Even I believed that you couldn’t be a victim of domestic violence if you weren’t romantically involved with the abuser. It’s not domestic violence because we’re just friends, right?
Wrong. Domestic violence is not limited to relationships. It is not limited to male abusers and female victims. It is not always adult abusers with adult victims. It can exist within families. It can exist anywhere in any form. It is not always about bruises and black eyes. A perpetrator can be a manipulative, evil woman like my grandmother. It can turn friends into monsters. It can turn even the strongest people, people who have already survived so much already, into victims. No one is entirely safe from it and those of us who have been victims before are even more susceptible.
So, while I was not in a romantic relationship with my abuser, I was a victim just the same. I could be a victim again. I am very bad at trusting people. I am always guarded. I never let anyone in all the way. I was already very bad at relationships due to child sexual abuse and living with domestic violence for eight years did not help. It can happen to anyone. Please, be safe.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you are in danger, please call emergency services, your local hotline, or in the United States, call The Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233), or 1-800-787-3224 (TTY), or visit TheHotline.org.