AN OPEN-HEART TALK FROM AN ANONYMOUS FACE.
WHY SHE IS OUR GIRL
We've both known HER for a while and love her for her strong heart, amazing spirit and just overall kickass, outspoken personality. It more than surprised us when she told us about her experience of being in a mentally and physically abusive relationship. Like it is very often, we would have never, ever thought that - because she is such a strong, confident woman.
We are extremely grateful and proud of her for telling her story here on THESE GIRLS. So listen up - we truly hope that this will help girls who are in the same situation to find the courage to get out, speak up and seek help.
1. You told us you’ve been in an abusive relationship. How did you get into that?
Domestic violence is confusing, so fucking confusing.
We think sometimes we have bad luck - one after another time, we stumble into similar situations keeping us wondering, why we end up in similar circumstances over and over again. In my case the question was, why do I always fall for the broken charming guys that turn up to be being total douchebags - I believe in some way or another we attract it, we repeat patterns.
I was a common target because of my age, I met him at 19, moved in by 21 totally unaware of the signs and typical behaviour of an abuser. The circumstances were ideal, I was in a new city away from family and friends foolishly believing I had an idea of the real world. He was such a sweet guy, he was smart, silly and funny, he was confident and vulnerable at the same time. There was something about him I couldn’t resist. He had this relaxed and niceness thing that guys from the countryside have, unusual form the city boys, this made me fall for him almost immediately.
We studied the same thing, went to the same university, attended the same classes and had pretty much the same schedule, allowing a relationship to build almost seamlessly.
The abuse is a slow and long process, I was seduced and charmed by him, he idolized me, told me how incredible, intelligent and brave I was.
I wasn't really looking for the compliments, approval or a self-esteem boost he was giving me either, I wasn't struggling with self-esteem issues and I was feeling great at the time about myself. The thing was, I've never met anyone so encouraging and confident at giving this sort of compliments, never.
He also showed me vulnerability, a childhood of horrific and continuous bullying from kids at school and how much that emotionally scared him, he spoke openly about his insecurities and fears which I thought it created a strong bond between us. The combination of these two aspects created an emotional hook towards him.
It created a comfortable and "safe" environment where I felt I could be my full-self with all my emotions to be protected. I trusted him fully.
A few months after we moved in together, the charm started to wear off.
I became secluded and slowly lost my social life, his friends became the only friends I had, I lost my self of being, lost respect for myself and my interest and completely lost my self-esteem, there was no more me, everything started spinning around him. This now sounds so abrupt and harsh but you have to keep in mind this is a slow and gradual transition. I was alone in this new city with no nearby family, no friends and no one to talk to.
All his friends witnessed the abuse but no one helped or stop the situation.
Because in reality no one was my friend and no one wanted to confront him, their beloved friend. The same people that saw and never spoke up while witnessing the abuse were the same people asking me in the end, well, why didn't you say something? Why didn't you leave?
I was being physically and emotionally abused without realising it. Of course, the abuse gradually worsens, it is slow and silent, until it is so terrible there is no way you can ignore it. The abuse doesn't stop after you leave, it usually worsens by the time you break up, then on top, you carry the social label, the pity, shame and emotional trauma, making the whole situation worse for the victim no matter what.
2. How did you manage to get out of it?
Speaking up, this is the most concrete answer I can give.
I was travelling with a university friend and one day I decided to tell her what I was going through, this was the partway for everything. It shed some light into something I thought I'd be stuck in forever. Speaking a little bit about the issue allowed me to, later on, speak up to my other close friends which then formed a more solid base of courage for me to leave. Two of my childhood friends were by my side throughout the breakup times, they help me stand up and gave me so much strength to say no more. Without them, I couldn't have had the strength to get out, they defended and protected my emotional situation fearlessly, something I couldn't have done alone at the time.
3. What held you back? Why didn’t you leave right away?
I didn't feel like a victim, I’ve always been a strong and confident person, I didn’t fully tick the stereotypical victim box (there isn't one btw).
Domestic violence could happen to anyone, it doesn’t respect gender, ethnicity, age, education or economic status, just bad timing and the wrong person.
I felt so brave and so strong, I felt like the strongest woman, I felt I was the only one that could help him deal with his demons. I thought the abuse he was giving me was a side effect of the bad life he had in the past and I was so strong I could fix him and his broken spirit. The reality was I didn’t have any emotional weapons to fight back, the stigma, the pettiness from people but also the disappointment on myself for getting into this situation was blinding me from even trying to consider myself as a victim of domestic abuse.
Inconsiderable to reach out for the help of course. I always kept thinking, how could this happen to me? I am such a strong woman, why me?
There is no "right away situation". He didn't say, "Hi, I love you" followed by a punch on the face or an insult - the abuse is gradual and subtle as I mentioned, by the time you realised this is emotional or physical abuse, is kinda late. Since it is not straight on (at least in my case) insults or physical aggression, you keep trying to convince yourself it isn't, until you find yourself confronted by a full-on insult, aggression or situation where you can no longer doubt it nor ignore it.
4. That must have been super difficult to work through. How did you heal from it?
Remember the university friend to whom I first spoke to about my situation? She helped me, a strong kicking ass woman that stood by my side for almost a year no matter what. After I moved out of living with him I moved in with her and this was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. Her strength became a source of power for me, she gave me her friendship, loyalty and her time and that was absolutely key for me to start healing. I felt I was a seed and she provided me constantly with soil, sun and water until I slowly started growing roots and started flourishing. I know it sounds super corny but I see it this way. The healing was done on my own but the help and care she provided me were absolutely key.
5. Do you have a tip for women who are in a similar situation?
Speak up! Speak up! To anyone, Speak up! It won't solve the situation immediately but at least someone you can vent and talk to, you might still be trapped in this relationship but having someone aware and there for you is extremely important. This small step will trigger even bigger ones, one step at the time don't try to solve everything in one day.
Talking to someone is the start to heal - you can’t have an end without a beginning.