This was me in high school and college. Always a smile on my face. Always happy. Always outwardly succeeding, but inwardly convinced that I should have done better. Most people who went to school with me remember me as the athlete. The straight A student. The girl who never got in trouble. The girl whose face was in the newspaper, in magazines and on TV. My entire life revolved around athletics, meaning that I didn’t go to parties or have a normal social life. I was one of the boys, the teammate, the competition…I didn’t have time for a boyfriend.
When I met my first boyfriend….let’s call him “Dave”…. I was a freshman in high school. He was my best friend for about six months before we started dating. He was nice and cute and funny and he quickly became a part of my family. He came to all of my games. He ate dinner at my house. He came on family vacations. He got me nice gifts and wrote me notes and always told me that he was the luckiest guy in the whole world…..
…then, very slowly, things started to change. So slowly, in fact, that I didn’t realize what was going on. I kept trying to figure out what I did wrong to make him change and what I needed to do to make everything go back to the way that it was. No matter what I did, things just kept getting worse and worse. Dave blamed his actions on the fact that I got attention for sports and I did well in school. The more I succeeded, the more severe the abuse became. Strangely, at the same time, nothing I did was ever good enough.
I started to hate myself more and more. I became depressed. I had lost all my friends besides Dave and I was always fighting with my family. I felt alone all the time. I pretended that everything was fine because I was ashamed of what was happening. I thought that it was my fault somehow, and more than anything, I think I was trying to convince myself that everything was fine and nothing bad was happening.
I tried to break up with Dave several times, but each time he would talk me out of it. He’d get so upset that I didn’t know what to do, and he told me that if I left him he was afraid he would kill himself. I finally broke up with him for good when I found out he was cheating on me, and as bad as things had been up to this point, they somehow got worse.
For my junior and senior years of high school, Dave stalked and harassed me. He knew everywhere I was, at all times. He knew who I talked to. He knew what I was wearing. He knew what time I turned off my light at night. He knew what room I slept in when I stayed over at friend’s houses. He showed up in the hallway when I was alone. He showed up outside my house, at games, in the parking lot, at the mall, at parties, at football games. He left me messages every day. He paid my friends to spy on me and give him updates on what I was doing. He threatened to kill me, saying that if he couldn’t be with me than no one could. He threatened to kill himself, attempting to on more than one occasion.
He even followed me to college, swearing that we were destined to be together and that someday I would realize what a mistake I was making and I would come back to him. In college, he was told by the authorities that he was not allowed to contact me or come near me, but he still showed up in a few of my classes. He sent me over 20 messages one night after being rushed to the hospital after attempting to kill himself. He still swore that I was just going through a phase and someday in the future we would be together.
I thank God every day that I was able to survive this situation. I honestly believed that I might not graduate from high school. Although I will always be grateful that I survived, the effects of what happened to me resulted in losing the life I had when I was younger. I was no longer the same girl I had been. I suffered severe depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. I lost the ability to sleep at night, to look in a mirror without cringing, to trust and to love and to speak. I spent many years running away from everything, trying to get as far away from it as possible. I thought that if everything else in my life was perfect, then I could make up for it somehow and I could fill the hole that was inside of me. No matter what I did, nothing was ever good enough.
After over 7 years, I realized that running and hiding from my past did not make anything easier. All it did was to divide my life in to two separate parts. The outward image that everyone saw; that was always smiling and appeared to have a perfect life….and the inward reality that was isolated and terrifying and filled with overwhelming sadness and shame. The only thing left was to try to face what happened to me. This meant doing the most impossible thing: speaking out and telling other people what happened.
Slowly, I have been able to tell my story. I was surprised to find that by talking about the abuse, some of the shame and powerlessness I felt seemed to lift. I was also surprised to hear that a number of my own friends and family had experienced abuse of their own and I had no idea. If we are all struggling in silence, and if we all think we are completely alone and no one will ever understand what we have been through….then it turns out we are actually together in that.
I swore to myself, through the worst times, that I would not let him win. I would succeed somehow, despite him. And I promised God that if He let me live, I would use my story to help other teenagers that are still suffering in silence. This website is a way to break the silence surrounding teenage relationship violence and to give victims a resource and a reminder that they are not alone.