It was the spring after I met him. We were in a relationship, and I thought we were happy. We had gone out that night and I couldn’t find him at the club we had showed up to together. After a short search, I found him on a different floor. He was dancing with another girl — two girls actually. I remember feeling so upset I had to fight back tears. I pulled him aside to argue. And that’s when it happened for the first time. He pushed me down and I fell to the floor. He looked at me with disgust and walked away, leaving me there, shocked and embarrassed.
I had met him at a party. I was immediately drawn to his vibrant personality. He was the life of the party. After running into him at different clubs and parties a few times, we started to see each other. He would tell me how beautiful I was and how much he loved me. He made me feel cared for and protected. He would regularly call. Sometimes he’d show up at work and bring me dinner — anything I wanted – just to make my day a little easier. We were spontaneous together, and I loved that. We would take unplanned trips to the beach on weekends, or stay in a friend’s boat. Life seemed to be one party after another. I thought that was happiness. Maybe I should have paid more attention to my mom when she said that he was a drunk. I didn’t see a drunk – I saw the life of the party.
After that first fall to the floor, I remember going home and thinking it would never happen again. It was a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes, and I should forgive him. He’ll never do it again, I thought. I am a strong woman, and I won’t allow it. But then it began — the cycle of violence. He apologized and begged my forgiveness. He said it was the first time he had done something like that. He told me he didn’t want to lose me. He wanted to marry me and to have children with me. He followed an abuser’s script to a T, and yet somehow I bought it. He promised never to do it again. And then he did.
Abusive relationships are difficult to understand and to process if you are outside of the cycle of abuse. It’s hard to imagine how anyone would allow herself to be treated so poorly. Even now, it’s difficult for me to imagine how I got there. My childhood wasn’t perfect but I definitely didn’t come from an abusive family. I wanted what every girl wants: to please, to be accepted, to find stability, and to be loved. When I was 19, I was full of life. It was a wonderful, vibrant time in my life. I enjoyed partying, and I had lots of friends. I was attractive and confident around men. I had a carefree and rebellious streak. I was working two jobs and in college full time. I knew that I would be successful and planned to have everything together by 25. I felt unstoppable.
At the time, I had a friend in an abusive relationship. I remember mentally criticizing her. How could she let that happen to her? Why didn’t she just leave? She didn’t have kids with her abuser, and she wasn’t financially dependent. I told myself that I would never be in her shoes. It makes it all the more unbelievable that at that very moment in my life, I fell into a cycle of abuse. I had it all, but over time my abuser made me think that he had the right to take it all away. I suffered at his hands for years before I got out. I didn’t think I had a choice.
The truth is, I did have a choice even if I couldn’t see it. When I was finally free from his clutches, I rediscovered the happiness that I had lost. I began to be myself again. To any woman who is trapped in a cycle of abuse: you can get out. You can feel whole again. I am living proof.
If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and you want to get help, call The National Domestic Abuse Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)