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: 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.