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"But you don't look like someone who was abused," a common comment when I mention I was in an abusive relationship. I didn't realise there was a tick list of what someone who has been in that situation should look like.
"You were so young, how do you know it was really domestic abuse?" I also get asked when I tell people I was 14.
"But you talk about it so openly, you are obviously over it?" That is the exact reason I do talk about it because I am not over it. But what I am is proud that I can stand here today and say I got through it.
I get confused by people's immediate reaction to question when someone has decided to tell them their story. I have had to put up with that for just over 9 years now. At the beginning, it was the hardest. In the middle of it all happening, I found a very thin list of people I could trust to talk to. There were aspects of what was happening to me that everyone at school was talking about. But they were not saying "that poor girl who nearly got raped" they were laughing and saying "that's the girl who lied about her ex-boyfriend raping her."
"Why didn't you go to the police about it?" I get asked. I did go to the police, after speaking to numerous adults about it. That includes the child protection officer at school who never suggested I should take it any further. A lot of the time people would not believe me. Sometimes I decided not to give details about what happened because I believed I was 'in love.' If he said he was sorry and it would happen again, I believed him. That's the hold he had over me. From him physically forcing himself on me and making sure I didn't tell anyone, to convincing me to skip school to see him. Domestic abuse is not always a physical thing. I'm lucky that the physical side of it only lasted for a short time. He did attack me once with a knife and I'm lucky it didn't go any further based on what he did to partners after me.
It is not always obvious to the person being abused that it is actually abuse and not just fights and disagreements. For me, it started slowly and before I knew it I was being controlled and manipulated so badly even I couldn't see it. He made me believe I was in the wrong. He made me believe I was a jealous insecure girlfriend. It took me a while to see the controlling personality trait he had developed and that it wasn't just his anger issues in general, it was his anger towards me. I was a 14-year-old girl stuck in a bubble with no idea that the way I was being treated was not okay.
"You've had loads of relationships since then, so it can't have been that bad." At the time I was in search of a person who could change my mind on relationships. But three years later, I ended up in another abusive relationship.
"Look at how fat you are," was a recurring theme of conversation. And he even threw me against the bathroom wall and held me by my throat—just because I drank too much. I didn't even think about reporting this. You only accept the love you think you deserve. And at that ag,e I didn't think I deserved much more than to be treated like shit. Because that's how it had been for me. I couldn't be happy without feeling like something bad would happen, and when it didn't I would do something to ruin it all. I'm lucky that I now find myself in a relationship where this isn't the case. I don't have an inkling of a doubt that he would ever treat me anything other than perfect.
"You are so brave," something I hear very rarely.
"He won't hurt you again," something even when I do hear I fear might not be true.
I am not sure if I am telling my story, or justifying myself. But no matter how much I talk about it thr nightmares and the flash backs don't stop. I tell my story, not to tell you, but to tell myself that if happened, and that it's okay.