Letter to the Editor

You’re having the most perfect night out with your friends. You look over and a guy is approaching you. He’s wearing dark blue pants, a button up and nice shoes.

“Hello,” he says, in a voice that is much deeper than you expected. Much more calming, a tone that feels … safe.

From there the conversation continues … you automatically click. You can’t remember a time you laughed so hard. You went to dance. Hours passed and he said, “Can I give you a ride home?”

No, you thought. Not yet. You were going to be a no person for once. You were going to make him respect you.

He calls the next day, asking if you want to go drive around in his car. It’s Saturday night, he’s 24, all his friends are out, but he wants to drive around and talk to you for hours.

You go to get ice-cream, talking over each other because you’re so excited with so many things to say. He takes you to the park and your feet dangle over the side of the lake.

You talk about the stars, you talk about your favorite breakfast food, you laugh. You laugh so much.

His hand slowly grazes your thigh. You put your hand on top of his. It naturally fits. It fits too perfectly. You finally felt like you understood what people meant when they said they found “their missing piece.” He was your missing piece.

A month later, it’s your birthday. He surprises you with gifts and flowers. You’re not used to a boy being this nice to you. You drive around again. He kisses you goodbye, like he always does, but this kiss is different.

This kiss makes you take a breath afterwards — a sigh of relief. Your hands get shaky. You can’t fall asleep that night because you keep replaying it in your head. You touch your hands to your lips and gently trace the outline that he so carefully kissed.

Six months later you’re madly in love. You spend every second of the day together. He wanted to know when you arrived at places safely and where you were. You have consumed every part of each other’s existences. You found safety in another person. You realized home didn’t have to be a place, it could be a person.

You went on adventures. You went on real dates. He took pictures of you when you weren’t looking and uploaded them for everyone to see. He sent you songs that reminded him of you. He kissed your hand while he drove his car. You laughed until you cried. You felt like you knew each other from every dusty corner in your soul.

With every drink he took, your smile disappeared not long after his sobriety. You felt like you were around a different person. But a lot of people get angry when they drink, right? You can’t judge someone when they’re not sober … right?

“Who the hell are you texting?” he would say if you picked your phone up around him. “Let me see your phone. NOW.”

“Okay,” you said, scared.

He’d go through each one of your messages, reading to make sure you weren’t lying.

He’d follow you into the bathroom wherever you went and hold your phone while you peed to make sure you weren’t trying to sneak around and talk to anyone. Your privacy no longer existed.

“I don’t want you to think you can go to the bathroom and text people when I’m not looking,” he’d say. “You can’t get anything past me.”

You fall asleep taking a nap and you feel a slight tug over you. You look over and see he has your phone out of your purse and is going through your e-mails, your texts, your photos and your call list.

He screamed because you messaged a guy about a homework assignment. You don’t know what to do. You didn’t know it’d make him mad. You’re sorry. You’re so sorry.

He convinced you he only did it because he cared about you. He cared about you more than your friends, more than your family. You would never find another person who loved you so much. Your family wasn’t really there for you; they didn’t know the “real” you. Your friends just used you, they didn’t even like you. He’s the only one that loved you, he said. He’s the only one that knows you and cares about you.

You believe him. You spend all your time with him. He is the only one that cares about you, right?

It’s 4 a.m. and you’re crying, “Please stop,” you say. He’s throwing glass to the walls and hitting the walls around you. He destroyed hundreds of dollars of your belongings by throwing them out the window. He locks you out of the house.

You bang on the door. “Please stop,” you say again. Over, and over again. “Come out.” Most of his friends are laughing, but one comes and picks you up off the ground and holds you.

You finally get him to let you in. His friends leave, all dazed and confused off of god-knows-what drug.

“You stupid f*cking bitch,” he said. Over and over again.

“You’re going to end up like the rest of your pathetic family, you f*cking slut.”

“You want me to forgive you? You better beg for forgiveness. You have to work for my forgiveness.”

“You f*cking crazy bitch, go the f*ck away.”

You try, but he doesn’t let you go away. He holds your hands behind your back with a grip so tight it bruises and pushes you against a wall and doesn’t let you move. You start yelling and he covers your mouth. You’re kicking your legs that are dangling in the air like a toddler having a tantrum.

“Don’t ever f*cking embarrass me like that in front of my friends, ok, bitch?”

“Yes,” you say. You couldn’t remember how to say “no.”

He slaps you across the face with the back of his hand, and immediately after says he didn’t do it. He said you were making it up and that your emotions made you delusional.

Someone heard the yelling and called the cops. He looks at you with a stare that says, “Don’t you do it.” So I didn’t. I lied.

“Everything fine?” the cops asked. “Yes, officer. Everything is fine. I was just overreacting to a situation and having a bad night. I promise everything is fine.”

They made me walk away from him, thinking I was lying. I spent the next 20 minutes talking about how I was a smart girl, I wouldn’t stay with someone who hurt me. I was better than that. This guy would never lay a hand on me.

Those words were so hard to say out loud. I was lying through my teeth and each lie cut like a razor on my tongue.

You wake up the next morning with makeup down your face. You have class in 20 minutes. You look at yourself in the mirror in the bathroom. Your face is hard to recognize. You feel like you’re looking in a mirror and a stranger is looking back at you. “Who is this girl?” you ask yourself as you wipe the eyeliner off your face. You felt like you wiped away your pride, self-esteem, confidence and self-love with it.

You got really good at covering up bruises with makeup. First, you put on heavy foundation. Next, depending on how dark it was, you put some green or purple eyeshadow on it. It offset the bluish/dark tone and made it look more red. Next, translucent powder.

You skipped class for the first time since you started college. You met your friends for lunch. You start to talk about your miserable night, of course you don’t get too into detail — but they all look at each other and know something is wrong.

“Why is there a bruise on your face?” your best friend asked.

You quickly tried to think of an excuse. You thought they wouldn’t be able to notice.

“Must’ve ran into something,” you said unconvincingly. “You know how clumsy I am,” you said with a half-smile. You were too broken to fully smile.

No one bought it. “Why don’t you just leave?” they all asked.

Why don’t I just leave? I thought to myself.

Because he threatened to hurt himself, and me. Because he’d send me pictures of slit wrists he found on the internet and would say they were his. Because he reminded me daily I didn’t deserve life. Because he brought my family into this. Because he knew where I lived, where I worked. Because he would drive circles around my house to make sure I was home at night and not out. Because he threatened every guy friend I had. Because he talked about his friends, who had guns, and who had his back. Because he threatened me. Because he made me feel unsafe.

Finally, I figured out a sentence that I could say out loud. “Because I’m scared.”

Luckily, with support and protection from so many people, I got away. I am so grateful for all the people who provided me support throughout that time in my life.

Getting away isn’t easy. It’s not easy at all. Actually, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But, you have to do it. You have to do it for yourself, for everyone you love. It won’t get better. It will keep happening. It will actually get much worse.

Speak up. Stop the silence. Leave because you have to, and thank yourself later. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. Share your story. Let yourself be heard.

Don’t undermine emotional/ verbal abuse. If there’s anything that scarred me from that relationship, it was the words that replayed in my head over, and over, and over again. Any abuse is abuse. Don’t wait for it to get physical to leave.

If you need help, please call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). It’s the National Domestic Violence Hot Line, with trained advocated ready to talk 24/7. Learn more at www.thehotline.org.