Trigger Warning: Physical Abuse, Pregnancy, Abortion.
Seven years ago I met someone I believed would love me unconditionally, someone I thought I could possibly build a future with despite all I had been warned about. In the back of my head I felt at times something about him was off but I fought the unsettling feeling in my stomach and I chose to ignore what my friends continued to say. Logic aside, I chose to follow my heart.
We met through mutual friends one summer and initially I thought he was attractive. My friends didn’t think so but in this situation I didn’t really think it mattered what they thought. I heard about his past and I knew his lifestyle was a bit crazier than what I was used to but this excited me so anything he did outside of our relationship did not bother me at first. I knew he was a party animal but I didn’t allow that to be an issue either – I joined him.
Our one-on-ones came later; we first started hanging out in-group settings with our mutual friends at clubs. One night on the way to a club he asked my girlfriend and I if we wanted to try MDMA. I was unsure at first and hesitated but my friend went ahead and tried it so I took some as well, feeling somewhat pressured. When we got to the club we went straight to the patio and started smoking cigarettes. The drugs started to hit me and I started throwing up.
I wasn’t able to fully control myself in this situation – the vomiting, the crying and the confusion… I could hear my friend asking me if I was okay but in this moment I was unable to answer her. I could also hear him in a menacing tone asking everyone, “do you see her and do you see how it’s making her react?” He enjoyed seeing how drugs would affect people for the first time. He was aroused. I somehow ended up leaving the club with him that night. I’m not entirely sure how this happened but it ended up being the first time we had sex.
After having sex we started spending more time together. I learned his dad lived thousands of miles away from him and after starting a new family for himself he stopped caring about his first son. His mom was heavily into crack/cocaine for years before, during, and after his birth and neglected him too so he ended up living with his grandmother after his mom gave birth to him. For roughly two years we were on and off with each other but during this time there was never an official title. Only we knew what was going on.
Any time I tried to move on with another person he would get upset with me and would try to initiate fights with the guy I was speaking to. I didn’t understand this because he would never fail to remind me that I wasn’t his girlfriend. I thought him being jealous of other men was another way of displaying his feelings for me, even if it was indirect so I continued sleeping with him.
Most of the time when I was with him I was really high and out of my right mind: a few months later after continuing to have unprotected sex my period was late. I called my girlfriend who used to hang out with us in the beginning of my relationship with him and she said her period was late too. We waited a few days and then we went to a clinic together to take pregnancy tests – both tests were positive. When I called him to tell him he hung up. I called a second time and he started yelling at me. He didn’t exactly say what he wanted me to do with the baby at this point but he did say I was a slut and an idiot… this now became something that was entirely my fault.
My girlfriend and I didn’t cry at first mostly because we were both in shock. The next step was for me to figure out what to do. I was 17 at the time and I didn’t want to tell my parents. I also knew the amount of drugs I had been doing at the time would affect how my child developed. The biggest factor was my age – I knew wouldn’t be able to provide for the child on my own so I couldn’t keep the baby. The same day I found out I was pregnant was the same day I set up a day to terminate.
I felt extremely alone during this time, one of the reasons being that my girlfriend and I stopped speaking. It might’ve been the fact that we were both pregnant at the same time and had a hard time dealing with it. We were both really stressed, confused, hurting, emotional… we drifted during a time it was necessary for us to support each other. I also felt sad about my choice to have an abortion. Although it was my decision, I knew it was my irresponsibility that caused me to now have to terminate my first pregnancy. I blamed myself because I took drugs and I had unprotected sex. He was also was not a part of the abortion process and this made me feel even more alone.
We continued to see each other after the abortion but he started to say things like he didn’t want to have sex with me because a baby died in me. I began sleeping with other people, even some of his friends because I was angry with him. My pain was enough for me to justify this. When we would argue, I would throw it in his face that I slept with someone he knew. I knew the situation was unhealthy but I chose to handle it this way and continue taking drugs to cope with my loss and the entire situation. I was also hurting over my girlfriend and I not speaking. I felt isolated from everyone. I detached from my friends because they were not able to understand how I felt and I was attached to him because it involved the both of us. When it rains, it pours – situations that arise can make you feel your weakest if your support system isn’t stronger than what you’re being faced with.
The verbal abuse worsened and the physical abuse started. One night I was at his house and we were watching a movie. He suggested going out but I said this would be a bad idea because he was on house arrest. I advised we stay in and he responded by saying I was a fucking bitch and controlling. He grabbed his water bottle and poured water all over me. I decided this would be a good time for me to leave his house but he didn’t.
As I tried to leave he grabbed me. I tried to fight him off but he wouldn’t let go even though I kept saying I didn’t want to be there anymore. I started punching him because I wanted to get away. When he punched me in my nose we both heard it crack and he said, “Yeah did you hear that? I broke your nose.” I still tried to break his hold but he continued to squeeze me to the point where I blacked out temporarily. I fell and he dragged me back into the house. At some point I started to regain consciousness and I could hear he was rummaging through drawers in the kitchen; I thought his next move would be him stabbing me.
He came back to where I was and started hitting my face again. I can’t remember how I did but I got outside and started to run down the street. I knocked on his neighbour’s door and they allowed me to come in and use their phone. I called the same friend I had stopped talking to months before and she came to pick me up. The first thing she said was that I needed to go to the police to file a report and I agreed. The cops took my statement and when they pulled his record and saw the trouble he had been in before they went to get him without hesitation. I told my parents what happened when I got home and this was the first they had learned anything about what I had been going through. Charges were pressed and he went to jail for five months.
I fell into a depression. I didn’t want to go anywhere and mostly because I was scared to go outside. The entire situation starting from finding out I was pregnant and hearing his reaction right down to him putting his hands on me multiple times left me traumatized. Once, he tried to contact me from jail and when I heard his voice I hung up. I continued to use drugs as a way to cope.
Fast-forward five months: one night I went to the club and he was there. I noticed my friends kept whispering about something but wouldn’t let me in on the conversation and it hit me; he was here too. I left them to go to the washroom and as I was walking there I felt someone grab my shoulder and whisper in my ear, “I love you, I’m sorry.” He found me. It didn’t take long before I found myself kissing him until one of my girlfriends came over and pulled me off. They were furious that I would entertain him after all he had done to me but still, in a moment of weakness I tried to seek comfort in him, the one person I shouldn’t. My friends and I left the club and went back to one of my girlfriends’ house. The entire time after I left the club we were texting each other. He later stopped by my friend’s house in a cab to pick me up and despite my girlfriends telling me to not go and that they would be upset with me if I left, I did. I was happy to hear from again but I knew I shouldn’t have been. Why would I be happy to hear from someone that did the things he did? It took me a bit of time before I understood the cycle of abuse.
He said all I needed to hear: he was sorry, he would never do it again, he’s changed, and he’s learned his lesson after being in jail. So I forgave him and we were now officially in a relationship – I had the title I wanted him to give me for two years now and I felt this time would be completely different.
Although my romantic relationship seemed to be flourishing, my relationship with the women in my life went down the drain. Every single one of my girls turned on me because they didn’t support my decision to be in a relationship with him. Instead of trying to understand that I cared for him or remain in my life as a support system in case something went wrong they started calling me names. They would see me out and call me a dirty whore, they would comment on my pictures on social media saying horrible things about me and overall they made me feel even more depressed. This went on for the 7 months I stayed in a relationship with him. The first two months our relationship it felt like he had made changes within himself but after a short time I started to see signs of aggressiveness again. He never hit me again but the verbal abuse continued. He would grab me if we got into an argument and even the smallest arguments were magnified, as he couldn’t control his temper. He would go from being extremely happy with me to being extremely sad and angry within seconds. One minute our conversations were laced with words of love and the next minute he shared he thought I was a whore and worthless. I knew there was something more to him I’d never be able to control but during the time we were in a relationship I tried my best to. His mother knew I tried to leave a few times and every time I attempted to do this she would manage to persuade me to stay a bit longer by saying he needed someone like me because she wasn’t there for him when he was growing up. I was being manipulated all around.
One day we were out having lunch and I saw a girl I had asked him to stop speaking to before sent him a text message. He was being shady again. I got up to leave the restaurant but he wouldn’t let me leave. Leaving him became a problem and at times I found myself scared to go because he would either make me watch as he hurt himself or tell me he would commit suicide if I chose to leave.
We ended up in the street outside of the restaurant arguing. He started following me every time I tried to walk away and as he followed he taunted me. He would keep saying that I couldn’t call my family because I wasn’t allowed to be around him and he’d remind me I didn’t have any friends that would help me get out of the situation this time. Reminding me I was alone was his speciality. I was screaming and crying in the street and despite how many times I asked someone to help, they continued to walk right past me. I tried numerous times to get into a cab but he would open the cab door before I could get to it and tell the driver to leave. I made my way to the subway and went straight home. I told myself to take as much space as I needed and I refused to contact him.
After the incident in front of the restaurant he called me a few nights later. He apologized to me and I let it slide again. Before we ended the conversation he told me he was going to bed and that we would speak in the morning. I woke up to three voicemails from him. He lied again. He went to a club and pocket dialed me and this was the last straw for me. I grew weary and I was exhausted. I tried over and over again to help this person, to be there for him, and to show him the love he never received at home. He didn’t respect me after all I had done and after the voicemails I had confirmation that he would not change and I’d always be with someone who didn’t respect me, my body, my feelings, or who felt I deserved the truth regardless of what the situation was.
There comes a time when you have to put yourself first as cliché as that sounds. My eyes didn’t open after the first time he hurt me. It’s always easier to say what you could have done differently but what I learned after I left the situation is that when you’re in an unhealthy relationship with someone who doesn’t recognize they have trauma of their own, there is a cycle that you end up in unwillingly. It is in my nature to care and love so when in a relationship with someone that was my first priority. In his case, I wanted to show him love and care for him in ways he told me he never experienced because of his family situation.
It always starts the same way: the honeymoon phase filled with promises to change, apologies after something happens, even gifts depending on what they did. Then the tension builds: they start to criticize you, the swearing starts and if they’re not able to coerce you to do what they want, they try again with anger. Lastly explosion: attacks and pain both emotional and physical. This cycle became me. Month after month and time and time and time again I experienced each one of these phases until one day I broke free – twenty four months was enough.
Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse, Pregnancy, Abortion.
I think one of the hardest thing in life for me is admitting I’ve made a mistake,
Allowing myself to feel deep in my heart, that I didn’t make (what felt like) the right choice in a situation.
I like to believe that I am a strong, smart and capable woman.
But like most of us, we do have our downfalls.
We do things we’re not proud of.
Some of us will sit there and let this guilt eat them away, but me, I push it so far down, I somehow almost convince myself that it didn’t happen.
It’s a tricky little coping mechanism that I’ve picked up along the way.
Today, when I stand and look at myself in front of a mirror; I see a survivor, a warrior, a compassionate person. A caring, open, warm and loving person but I’m trying to come to terms with who I used to be.
I used to be an emotionless monster.
I’ve been so hurt for so long, that I just stopped caring.
I wanted everyone I met to feel this same level of pain that I’ve felt my whole life.
I was sick of being pushed around, I was just sick.
Both physically and mentally.
Then I turned to drugs.
I thought the fake friends, glowing lights and wild adventures would fill the needs of this inner monster I was keeping inside me.
But all it did, was make the monster bigger.
I stopped loving myself completely. That’s when things got bad.
It was like I had this glow around me, that people could just see how hurt I was.
Like a small lamb lost in the forest, only to suddenly realize that I was surrounded by wolves with no way out.
I found myself in a very abusive relationship.
Every drop of my self-esteem was slowly sucked out of me.
I got pregnant.
I couldn’t even turn and talk to my mom, for at that time I still blamed her for allowing me to live through her past.
I got an abortion.
Do you know how terrifying it is, to sit in a waiting room, all alone, and to look around and know that every single woman in that room with you was sitting with their shame between their legs.
That each and every single one of you, were going to walk out of there not knowing if what you did was truly the right choice.
I remember holding back my tears as the doctor shoved this long metal rod inside me.
I felt numb to the nurse’s reassuring words, asking me if I was okay.
How could I be?
Before this, I didn’t even know if I was pro-life or not, all I knew was that I wasn’t going to be another stereotypical teenager living on the streets, pregnant with a guy’s child she didn’t love.
I remember getting so high afterwards.
I didn’t want to think about what I’ve done.
Or why I was bleeding uncontrollably as I sit between my friends, taking turns from the bong.
I couldn’t even tell my best friend.
You think I would have smartened up after that, you would think that perhaps, I’d start using protection, or something, anything.
But I didn’t care about myself.
God, I just wanted to get away from everything.
Late nights, distant mornings, somehow sitting in class trying to finish high school.
Cramming down facts, just to spit them back out into my teachers face.
Who could argue with a smart girl?
My tongue became a violent whip, lashing out at everyone. Then I got pregnant.
Same guy, same mistake.
Maybe deep down, there was still a part of me that hoped that perhaps one day I’d wake up and my life was just a dream.
I’d be living that all American dream, white picketed fence included.
This time around, it was way harder than the first.
For the first time in years, I was beginning to see a way out of this dark hole I’ve let myself live in.
The father convincing me that we’d be a perfect family, as we stood there in our living room surrounded by teenagers passed out in a sea of empty beer cans.
The stale smell of smoke lingering in between each word as he locked me away in his room.
The thudding of my hands against the door, slowly muffled by the loud music as I sat there, wondering if this thing growing inside me would help save me from this nightmare.
But there I found myself, sitting alone in that god damn waiting room again.
Clenching hard on a stuffed animal like maybe, I was the child the doctor was going to get rid instead of the thing growing inside me.
Even as I sit here and write these words, it still doesn’t even seem possible that I’ve come from such a dark place.
Again, I had no one to talk to this about.
I told myself I was simply taking out the trash.
Months pass, battles were overcome.
I began to finally put the pieces of myself back together.
I began to learn how to love myself again.
I started thinking of a future, dreaming, making goals.
Then I was hit with the realization, that I was still just a kid caught up in the system with no money.
Who was I to believe that I could be successful in life?
Who was I to believe that I could ever be able to have the things I want.
Somehow, I stumbled my way back into the darkness of this world.
Figured selling my body was better than to work a 9-5 job.
Better pay, and all I had to do was be my old self.
It felt like a hug from a long lost friend.
Welcoming me back into the dark clubs, gangs and drugs.
This time around though, the game had changed.
Suddenly I was going in it for the money.
Trying to appear that the designer bag on my wrist was real.
That this 50-year-old man could somehow be attractive, as I looked around, bottles of champagne chilling in the hotel room.
Again, you think that I would have learned something by now, making the same mistake not once but twice.
But there I was, pregnant yet again.
This time, I was left to sit there alone, wondering how I stooped so low.
Some strangers baby growing inside me.
Sitting in class, wondering how I was supposed to keeping playing this game.
Having this stranger telling me to just get rid of it.
Bribing me with money.
Having a taxi drive me to this place of shame yet again.
Left alone, struggling to see straight after the procedure.
Lying that my ride was waiting for me outside but secretly I’m sitting on the back of the bus not even sure where I’m going.
But knowing I had to be anywhere but there.
Struggling to choose between buying the prescription drugs or dinner that night.
Then just like that, I swallowed my shame down.
Didn’t dare tell anyone of my dirty secrets.
Went on to finish high school, get a boyfriend, put as much space between the old me and this new me.
Fixing all the relationships that I’ve broken along the way.
But somehow, when I see people out here, fighting for pro-life.
Or I see a new mother, get onto the subway and I see her holding that new born baby.
It makes me cringe. It makes me remember that, that could have been me.
It makes me remember, how dark my life used to be.
I keep thinking, that if I just move on with my life, somehow it won’t make me feel so weird inside.
But here I am, four years later and I still can’t bare to even utter to anyone that I’ve had 3 abortions.
Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.
That’s all that was demanded,
Nod your head when you’re supposed to,
Clean up after yourself,
Leave no trace,
Keep your head down,
Don’t let anyone see the bruises that are hidden beneath that name brand scarf.
My pain settled around my room like dust,
Forever frozen in place,
Floating through life,
Don’t stand out,
Shuffling down the halls in school,
Don’t get too close to anyone,
They will only let you down too.
Consumed by the darkness,
Bottled up emotions,
Screaming to be let out,
Silence the pain with food,
My hands became hand grenades,
Exploding at everything,
Stood a chance.
Flip of a switch,
The sun is shining in my eyes,
A curse has been broken,
Let it into your heart,
Realizing that there is,
A way out.
Learning to soar beyond the doubt.
Letting go of the narrative,
Experiencing the now,
Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.
There are murmurs in the shadows of my mind,
Whispers that ring loud and violent,
Sending ricochet of bullets through the waves,
Heavy, dangerous pieces of lead,
Louder and louder,
Your whispers demand my attention,
But my will is greater,
It can not be broken by the toxicity of recklessness.
Oh but the temptation is sweet,
The temptation to be dragged into the gully of despair,
That dark place where his dry scaly fingers steal my innocence,
That dark place where his thick smoked breath sucks my future pleasures away,
That dark place of HIS shame and guilt,
That dark place where for me to be loved,
I self destroy,
That is the dark place you wish to have me committed to,
Whisper as fierce and as aggressive as you want,
Whisper until the sound of your abuse suffocates you into silence.
I hear you but I no longer fear you,
I hear you but I am no longer imprisoned by you,
I hear you but I choose to rise above you.
Trigger Warning: Sexual Abuse.
Family, to me, is supposed to mean safety. Security. People who would never dream of hurting you. Not everyone has the same idea of what family means, though. My cousin and I sure didn’t see eye to eye about that.
I was six. I think. It’s been a few years of repression for me to remember what my actual age was, not that it matters.
I was in Jamaica with my family, visiting my grandmother. My cousin lived with her at the time. My parents had gone into a nearby town to get hardware supplies. Concrete. My grandmother had gone with them to shop for groceries, therefore I was left alone for the time being with my teenage cousin.
Seems okay, right? I mean it’s not like I was a toddler or something, surely enough he was old enough and mature enough to watch me for an hour or two.
I remember reading in the room I was staying in, across from his. He called me over. I went eagerly, thinking he wanted to play a game or something. He wanted to play a game, but not the kind I was anticipating. He told me I was pretty. I said thank you. I sat on his bed, waiting for the game to start.
He hovered over me, eventually pushing me back on the bed. He started kissing me. My first kiss. He forced his tongue into my mouth, swirling it around. I think I went into shock. I kind of just… shut down. For years, I thought this meant I let it happen. That I wanted it. I later came to the conclusion that this wasn’t the case. His hands went places that I didn’t even know hands and fingers could go. I just lay there, motionless. He started kissing me harder and harder, undoing his pants. I shouldn’t know what my cousin’s penis looks like, but I do. That image was forced into me against my will, just like his fingers. He told me to hold it. I did. I honestly don’t even remember what was going on in my head at this point.
It’s funny how even writing this, I’m still subconsciously blaming myself for what happened. Still subconsciously telling myself that I let it happen, that I wanted it. That if I had done something then, I could have stopped it.
He continued to forcefully kiss me. His tongue tasted disgusting. I’m starting to think that this is why I’m not such a huge fan of French kissing at 24. He started to thrust in my hand. I think that’s what snapped me out of whatever trance I was in. I let go of his penis. My eyes grew wide. I started to panic. I think he sensed this too, because as soon as I sprung up, he pushed me right back down into the bed. Hard, like he still was. He clearly wasn’t finished with me yet. He put a firm hand on my chest, with enough force to keep me in position. With his other hand he yanked my shorts down. I started to kick. He got them down far enough to focus on what was going on between his legs. He started kissing me again, while trying to simultaneously rub his penis on my exposed genitals. This time, I bit him hard on his tongue. Hard enough for him to immediately yank his tongue out and pull back. I kicked him as hard as I could in the nuts and didn’t stick around to see the aftermath. After a brief struggle getting my shorts back up, I ran out the door, through the living room, though the kitchen to a hallway with outdoor access on either end. I had no shoes on, but I ran through anyway. I ran off of my grandmother’s property, down the gravel road to where my aunt lived, which was about a 5 minute run. She had dogs guarding her yard. I didn’t care, the adrenaline blinded me. I ran straight through, not caring if I got bit or barked at. Miraculously, none of that happened. I made it to her porch. She wasn’t home, but I hid there anyway.
That’s where my memory stops. Through years of repression, the details have become a little fuzzy but there were some parts about it that I could never forget. Parts that I wish I did forget. I tried telling my parents about what happened maybe a decade after what happened. It never got dealt with, so I never really brought it up again. Until recently.
Since then, I’ve gone to a few CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) sessions and had a few heart-to-hearts with family. As much as I blamed myself and told myself that I wanted it over the years, I think I owe it to my childhood self to free her of that guilt. I’ve since learned to love myself in a way that I didn’t think was possible for me at the time. I deserve better than what happened and I’ve promised myself that I would do right by me. Healing has certainly started from within with me and I’m more than excited to see my progress in the coming years.