CN: Sexual abuse, abusive relationships

EDIT: Please note that during all of these relationships I was attempting to live as a cishet woman, I apologize for those who contacted me asking about that that I was not clearer in my writing. All of these relationships occurred before I was 30.

We often hear stories of people who were badly abused by their partners, or who moved from one abusive relationship to the next in the news (often after they’ve been hospitalized or killed). Growing up, I learned early on that if a boy was mean to me it meant he liked me, and if he hit me/pulled my hair/pushed me it meant he really liked me but he just didn’t know how to show his feelings. Over the years, the “boys will be boys!” mantra and the excuses that were thrown at me when I came forward about being hit/bullied/etc by boys became so ingrained that I viewed what is essentially abuse as affection and love.

My first boyfriend was possessive and abusive, often threatening to kill himself if I ever left him (and of course I believed it, I was only 15 and was dealing with suicidal thoughts myself). He would stop talking to me for days, sometimes weeks at a time because he was “busy” with something, and then wonder why I was upset. I had to work around his schedule, and he would tell me how he was making a sacrifice to spend time with me when I wanted it towards the end of our relationship. I will say that he has since become a better person, but that doesn’t excuse his behavior, nor his attempts to change me to be what he wanted, even to the point of causing me psychological harm.

Because I didn’t know any better, I went straight from him to another abuser.

My next partner was the man who would become my first husband and the biological father of my only child. I met him while I was going to community college, and he seemed just so wonderful and so much better than my first boyfriend. He was a “nice guy” who was sensitive and cared about me…or so I thought. Through the years he managed to get me to alienate almost all of my friends, I pushed my family away (even though I didn’t have the best of relationships with them already), and became solely dependent on him for emotional support and comfort.

Only now, all these years later, can I see that these were abuse tactics that are often employed by abusers. He’d tear me down psychologically and emotionally (my parents verified this when I asked as it was apparently that noticeable) and then be the only one who could build me back up. When I was raped at 19 I felt he was the only one I could go to for help, even though I was slowly building a support structure of my own due to living apart from him. He moved up to be with me to “protect” me, and I found myself destroying my support structure I’d worked so hard to build because they just didn’t understand me like he did.

We were married Christmas Eve 2002, and within hours I found myself feeling regret. It was a secular wedding, where I had bought the wedding rings (I was making more than him at the time was how he got me to justify it), I had paid for the court fees, and I found myself sitting at my computer, not feeling like a newlywed, but like a prisoner.

I emailed my parents begging them to not disown me for getting married.

It was that tiny flash of clarity that leaves me racked with guilt for not leaving him sooner. It’s why for so long I justified my abuse and how if I’d truly wanted to leave I could have. If I’d actually wanted out, if I was actually being abused, I would have known better and would have never gotten married, right?

In February I found out I was pregnant, and I wanted to die. If you’ve read my earlier works, you’d know why. I knew I couldn’t handle being a parent due to my mental health. I tried getting an abortion, but the nearest place that did it was on the other side of the state, and I didn’t have the money nor the ability to get down there nor could I get away long enough to get it done without him knowing. He was against abortion, and when he found out I was pregnant…he was well, happy. I felt trapped.

I gave birth to my daughter six hours shy of Thanksgiving in 2003, after spending over 72 hours in labor followed by an emergency c-section. The entire event left me highly traumatized, and to this day I have to struggle against a distrust of medical professionals due to just how bad things went during my labor and delivery. When we got back to our apartment, I slept sitting up in a chair while he and my daughter shared the queen sized bed. While he was at work, I would try to sleep on the bed, but my daughter often would be awake or restless. I only really ate whatever he brought home, so I was eating maybe once a day.

I justified sleeping in the chair as he needed the rest due to working, even though he worked less than 6 hours a day and spent the rest of the time playing video games. I was the one depending on him, so the least I could do was sleep in the chair so he could have the bed, right?

My parents brought me up to Oregon due to a psychotic episode brought on by post partum psychosis, and I moved in with the people who were watching my daughter while I worked. The husband of the couple insisted on my husband coming up to help take care of my daughter, and within a couple months, I was standing in a darkened room holding a pillow above my daughter’s crying body, whispering that it would all be over soon.

I had planned to kill her and then myself.

I was exhausted, I was helping take care of the house since I’d lost my job, I was taking care of my daughter, I was running on fumes with little to no help from my husband. I had become suicidal and afraid I would hurt my daughter. I begged for help, but it fell on deaf ears in that house.

I called up my mom in the middle of the night, sobbing and begging her to come and take my daughter so I couldn’t hurt her.

I agreed to sign over guardianship to my parents for my daughter’s safety, and my parents have told me that while I was crying and sobbing over what I was doing, my husband looked almost relieved/happy. I moved with him down to his parents house in California, where he continued to abuse me for another few years.

It wasn’t until he told me I had to choose between him and my daughter, followed by his parents sitting me down and telling me it was my place to always put my husband first, that I could always have more children, that I finally snapped out of the haze I’d been living in. I moved back in with my parents, and got a place of my own after finding a decent paying job. In August of 2006 I was finally divorced from him.

You’d think the horrors would end, but they just got worse.

My next boyfriend was long distance, with him promising to come live with me once his divorce was finalized. I sent him money, pay as you go phones, whatever he needed, because again, “nice guy.” One day I noticed he had a profile on MySpace, after he’d told me he didn’t, so I sent him a friend request. He deleted it, so I asked him about it. He then accused me of not trusting him, screamed and yelled at me, and then blocked me from every method of communicating with him.

A friend was living with me which helped me pay my bills and keep a roof over my head at the time, so at least I had a small support structure slowly building. The problem was he was someone my parents didn’t like due to his past, and they demanded he move out. I was seeing someone at the time that I had met while at a new job, and they suggested having him move in.

This was the man that would eventually sexually assault my daughter….

While he seemed nice enough at first, if not socially awkward and a bit weird, there were red flags that people have said I should have noticed. The problem was by this time I’d been abused for so long, and he had so many people stepping up to bat for him, that I just didn’t see them or I ignored them with the “he can’t be like that” mantra. I watched him throw his supposedly best friend to the ground in my living room and beat him, and my only thought was to make sure my daughter was upstairs and she couldn’t hear or see it.

I began feeling relieved whenever my daughter couldn’t spend the weekend, because he had begun sexually and physically abusing me by this point. I couldn’t go to my friend, because my boyfriend would fly into fits of anger and destroy things or beat me if I tried. If I got a phone call and I didn’t tell him who it was from, he put holes in my wall. If I told him to get out of my car because of an argument, he would sit there and I would be the one getting out. Same with MY bed, though in those cases when I got out of bed and went to sleep elsewhere, he’d follow me, throw me to the ground and hit me, and then take away my phone if I had it with me to make sure I couldn’t call the police.

I’d already learned that people wouldn’t believe me if I came forward about abuse, after having been told by a battered woman’s shelter I wasn’t being abused back in 2000, and people telling me I was a liar for talking about my sexual assault instead of hiding it from the world and feeling constant shame over it (I wasn’t the proper type of victim, so therefore I was lying), so I stayed silent about my abuse.

I blacked out my daughter telling me about her assault, unable to deal with the news. When a CPS case was opened over a doctor’s visit, I didn’t mention my abuse or assaults, and out of fear said he wasn’t a bad guy. Because of blacking out the memories, I had at the time no conscious knowledge of what happened to my daughter, those memories wouldn’t surface again for several years.

Because of this, I was told I chose him over my daughter.

I was blamed for not leaving my abuser, for not turning him in to the police (I’d tried! Nothing happened, he was out the same day on bail and the restraining order I got on him eventually did nothing), for waiting so long to tell him to leave.

He would for the next several months break into my house to show me he could get in whenever he wanted, even when I put locks on the windows and dowels in the sliding doors. He would use internet dialers to harass me at all hours, but the police did nothing because they claimed they couldn’t “prove” he did it. When he told his therapist his plan to murder me, the hospital released him from a mandatory police hold, and it wasn’t until I threatened that I would kill him if he showed up at my house did the cops show up.

See, I’d called 911 right after he’d called me to tell me he was on his way to kill me. They told me to call back when he got there, that most likely he was just saying that to scare me. The cops arrived right as he arrived, all because I had threatened him.

I wound up sabotaging several potential relationships after that, including to my ex-fiance Jade.

So next time you want to ask me why I stayed, or why I went from abuser to abuser, how about you step back and look at yourself. How many times have you used the “boys will be boys” or “if he’s mean to you he likes you” excuse for a boy’s behavior? How many times have you not called out that sort of behavior?

Instead of blaming me for staying, why don’t you look at the society that literally groomed me to believe abuse was love?