The content of this post may be triggering to some readers.
The summer I turned 16 I got a job working as a mother's helper in a sleep-away camp upstate New York. I somehow convinced the parents to get the camp to hire my boyfriend as a counselor. They were my parents' best friends so they were happy to oblige. I was very much in love at 16 and spent all my time with him. He was a bit possessive but I told myself, "That's cause he loves me so much" He was captain of the football team, I was a cheerleader, it was perfect.
We were having a great summer until one day I spent a few minutes talking to my boss's son who I had grown up with. We were catching up on our lives. My boyfriend found out about it and flew into a rage. He was convinced I was fooling around with him. I explained that we were old friends, from childhood. He didn't let up. Later that evening the whole camp gathered to watch a movie in the camp's movie theater. I waited for my boyfriend to show up and he did, though pretty late. What happened next was really a scene from a movie. He motioned me to come outside where at that precise moment a huge thunderstorm was happening. He kept on about my "conversation' with my friend. I said it was nothing. It escalated, I turned to go back into the theater and he grabbed me and punched me square in the face and walked away. I just stood there in the rain, shocked, hurt, shamed. Later that month he was fired for sneaking into my room. He wanted me to quit too. So blindly I did. He loves me, I kept telling myself. I want to be with him. So I left the camp and my bosses high and dry.
The abuse continued for over a year. He would punch me, then cry and say how sorry he was. One time he was choking me in public when a man tried to stop him. He almost came to blows with my would-be rescuer. And choked me more cause it was my fault the man interrupted him.
Then he started cheating on me and I started following him.
The final blow came when I got on my Schwinn and caught him at his other girlfriend's house. He again flew into a rage, grabbed me, my bike and drove me back to my house where I continued to try to stand up for myself telling him it was over. It was then that he pulled out a gun and held it to my stomach saying "If I can't have you no one will" and I being overly dramatic, was telling him to pull the trigger.
At some point I remember him just throwing me and my bike out of the car and he sped off. I was hysterical. This was the man I thought I was going to marry. I went into the elevator of my apartment building and just collapsed. When it got to my floor, my mother had to come get me and carry me into the apartment, I was that distraught. My parents immediately sent me to visit family in Florida to ease the situation. I realized I had to stay strong and not go back to him. It was very hard, believe me. He started following me in his car, stalking me at my job, apologizing and promising he wouldn't do it again. Somewhere in my soul, I knew if I went back he would end up killing me. I was 16 years old. There was no Dr. Phil back then, no one to talk to, no camera to film the abuse. It took a very long time to get over him and my physical and mental wounds.
...and finally get back to myself.
I usually don't like to comment on what's trending on social media. But the Ray Rice story hits close to home. Football is an aggressive sport. It's main goal is to HIT, HIT, HIT and then you are rewarded with accolades when you BEAT the other team. The weakest guy on the team is called the KICKER. C'mon are we really surprised that Ray Rice beat up his wife? You think he's the only one? No, he just got caught. The only reason Rice was fired was because a video resurfaced that's way worse than the NFL thought. If it hadn't, the NFL would have just swept it under the rug like they do with the other players who commit crimes..
Seeing the Ray Rice video brings back what happened to me that summer night right to the surface and it was over 40 years ago.
Do abusive men change? Of course. Do most? Probably not. It's really very simple. If a person knows he or she is going to get away with bad behavior, they will continue to do it. Whether it's beating your girlfriend, being a bully or even heckling at a comedy club. The moment you let the abuser get away with it, they will. Only when you step up and say it's not gonna happen anymore will they cease the bad behavior. How about we start teaching our children that violence is never the answer? Maybe, we need to stop glorifying steroid-laden athletes.
My abuser was beaten daily as a child with a broomstick handle and punished by having his head pushed in a toilet. His mother was a mean, cruel woman. I get why he abused me, I just wish he hadn't. He changed who I was.
But maybe, not so much, who I am.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.