Sixteen. A whore, a slut, a drug addict, a liar, a cheater. Labels that clung to me so tightly, squeezing the sweat and tears out of my pores as I curled up on the shower floor amidst yet another panic attack.
But I’m sixteen and he loves me.
Trying to fight back tears that threatened to choke me as I tell yet another friend that I can no longer associate with them.
But I’m sixteen and he loves me.
Using all my strength and courage to not throw up as he shoved his dick down my throat, nearly choking me, while my ears rang and tears stung my eyes because he hit me so. Damn. Hard.
But I’m sixteen and he loves me.
Laying on the cold, hard tile as the lukewarm water washed over me, I wished for it to raise up and drown me so I would no longer feel the agony, the shame, the pain, the loneliness that was caused by my “relationship”. Because I was sixteen and believed that he loved me; I believed that someone so hostile and so violent was capable of loving me. Me, who I believed was so treacherous and wicked, and so convinced I was undeserving of love and kindness from another human being.
How was this possible? How could I have let myself be treated so horribly, so brutally, and believe it was acceptable? Low self-esteem, naivety, pressure to have sex from my friends and peers, loneliness… does anyone really have any idea how much damage these factors can facilitate? Its hard to see the outcome of such a toxic-environment cocktail. But for a year, I drank. I drank until I couldn’t see straight, and the hangover nearly did me in.
But I refuse to be a victim. This boy is gone, along with my past. The thoughts, the photos, the feelings, the pain- gone, purged from every cell of my body. Because I am not a victim.
When I was 16 to 17 years old, I found myself succumbing to an abusive relationship. Because it was the first relationship I ever had, I had no foundation of how a relationship worked, what to expect, or how I deserved to be treated. For almost a year, I thought his abusive behavior was normal. I thought it was totally okay to feel pressured into having sex, and that he was truthful whenever he told me I was a bitch, a slut, a whore, or whatever demeaning description suited his foul disposition that day.
I first met him through a former friend. She pushed me to give him a chance because it was the day after my 16th birthday, and I had never had a kiss, never had a date, I had never even held a boy’s hand! And I was getting oh so old and growing up oh so quickly, I had such little time left to experience the world and “dating”!
And so I began dating him. And I had my first kiss! Finally! Wow, it was so… not magical. Not like I expected at all. Awkward and totally overrated.
Anyway, the relationship started off relatively normal. We stayed up all night texting and most of our time together making out.
Then came the night of his birthday, about a month into our relationship. He flooded my phone with drunken texts telling me he was going to cheat on me. So I did what any rational person would do and ended the relationship then and there. I went to bed without another thought of it. Whatever, I didn’t care that much about a stupid boy anyway. But when I woke up and answered my phone the next morning, something happened. It was as though some sort of bug crawled into my head while I was sleeping and laid eggs that told me I was not deserving of a decent relationship, of respect and dignity. I cried, and like that, we were back together.
Similar incidents happened several times over the course of the next twelve to thirteen months. He would get mad at me and break it off. A couple days later, my phone would ring and we would get back together, making me feel as though it was my fault, or that he was depressed, or he was so stressed out for reasons x, y, or z.
Over time, he also became obsessed with my appearance. Time and time again, he attempted to make me into a “trophy girlfriend”. But I was 16. I had pimples. I missed spots when I shaved my legs. My hair was (and still is) messy. He would not have any of it. If I wanted to be his girlfriend, then I had to be the epitome of perfection. Whenever I would come over, he would hold me down and try to pop my pimples, or force me to go into the bathroom and shave my legs again. Oh, and how can I even forget how he refused to even hold my hand while I was on my period?
More often than not, I looked in the mirror and hated everything I saw. My skin was not clear enough, my hair was not long enough, my tits were too small. Where I once saw a confident smile was now eyes darting around my reflection, trying to find one small, redeeming quality.
One day he was telling me I was not good enough, the next day he was telling me how to do my hair, then he was drunk texting and calling me, and two days later, he was accusing me of cheating (although he really was). As the sand started running out of the hour glass, he became increasingly hostile.
The next summer came, the solstice passed, and daylight was waning once more. It was one of these days when we decided to escape the company of my family and have some… alone time.
“Get on your knees, bitch.” He growled at me.
I did so obediently. He grabbed my jaw in his strong hand, forcing my mouth open. He shoved himself down my throat.
“Lick, don’t suck.” He ordered.
True to my rebellious nature, I decided to disobey. In the same moment, his hand swung and smacked the left side of my face, harder than anything I have ever felt before. I could only see blackness for a few seconds. When I came back, I held back the tears that swam in my eyes. I ignored the stinging sensation that overwhelmed the left side of my face, and tried to not puke.
About two weeks passed. I finally gathered the courage to break up with him. I finally came to my senses and admitted to myself that he did not love me, that he never loved me. I gathered the nerve to finally stand up for myself and realize that I deserve respect.
But I learned a lot from this experience. It was a part of my life that has made me undeniably stronger, and the reason I can take on just about anything that life throws at me. Because I have been in the deepest ditch, I have sunk to the lowest of the low.
I learned that not only am I deserving of a faithful, respectful boyfriend, but I deserve the best of the best. Not because of what I went through, but because what I went through taught me how to properly treat a significant other: with love, trust, respect, and understanding.
I also learned to be confident. I grew to love my imperfections, like my perpetually messy hair, and accept the fact that these “flaws” are what make me unique and beautiful. Nowadays, I’m typically the most confident woman to strut into a room.
I learned that one must love them self and be able to take care of them self before they can have a healthy, meaningful, not destructive romantic relationship with another person. I do not make excuses for him, but I do recognize that much of the toxicity of the relationship was a result of both of us trying to use a relationship to “fix” us.
Most importantly, I learned that I am not, nor will I ever be, a “victim”. I will never be a statistic. Because of this period in my life, I have gained the strength to rise above the challenges placed on me and be the best I can be. I will never wear these moments around my neck like chains.
I’m approaching my 20th birthday now. I have an amazing, respectful, and loving boyfriend, and have for the past two years. I am halfway toward getting a degree, and have the best job I could ask for as an undergraduate student. Life is wonderful. It took me some time to get overcome the challenges this relationship brought me; months to calm the panic attacks, and every now and then, the memories still push themselves to the forefront of my mind. Someone grabbing me is still a trigger. While the memories can still loom over my head like rain clouds some days, I still manage to push through and look to tomorrow, trusting that it will wake up in a better place. I am grateful for the strong woman I have become. I will never be a victim.