NOTE: This story has since been updated, please see the new version.
I never had to cover bruises with foundation. I never had to hide a black eye or make excuses for a broken nose. Sure, he yelled at me, but wasn’t that normal? Don’t couples fight? Of course they do, but when you get to the point where you are so belittled that you are even afraid to speak out of turn, there’s a problem. I didn’t realize it was happening, everyone else did. But to me, I was in my own little world where he was the only thing that mattered.
According to loveisrespect.org, “One in three adolescents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.” And I was one of them. I lived two years so blinded by my love and adoration for the man that I was with that I couldn’t even see I was being walked all over and controlled.
When I came to college I was a bright eyed 18 year old who voiced my opinions strongly and always stood up for myself. My voice was taken from me, and instead of being known as K.C. Schooner I became known solely as Michael’s girlfriend
There were red flags in the beginning, but naturally I denied their existence and made excuses for him. “Oh, he called me a slut and slammed the door in my face?” He’s just insecure. “He ditched me and lied to me about spending time with his friends?” He just doesn’t know how to balance his time. “He left me when I needed him the most?” He has his own stresses in life. Everything had an excuse.
He isolated me from everyone that loved me to make sure that he was the only person in my life. My closest friends suddenly became the enemy in my eyes, due to his coercion and his excuse of “They hate me so they are just trying to separate us.” He was my world, so of course I began to question everything out of my best friends mouths. He convinced me that my family was dysfunctional and broken only because I grew up with divorced parents and an alcoholic father. So I stopped seeing them, in Michael’s eyes they were also trying to hold me back from my relationship with him, so they too took a backseat.
My viewpoints on politics, religion, and my future all became opinions I used to have, rather than the opinions I voiced. He always had to be right, and when I challenged him I only got punished with spittle being thrown in my face from his yells and my confidence being torn down by his glares. I learned that agreeing with him only made things easier on myself, and slowly my original viewpoints began to fade away and I began to adopt his as my own.
Emotional abuse is a real thing, and I know that because I’ve lived it, not only that past two years, but also my entire life.
According to safehavenshelter.org, “Many battered women are familiar with the abuse cycle and really don’t see anything wrong with the abuse they are suffering.”
I had grown up with an alcoholic father who physically abused not only my mother, but also myself. Walking on eggshells was a way of life for me for 18 years, just trying to avoid every possible situation that would upset my father. I thought this was what normal couples were, and I found myself in the same situation when I left home.
Michael’s piercing words and risen voice were something I had dealt with everyday as a child, so to me, nothing was new. This was not something I found unusual; however, the people around me began to notice.
My roommate and closest friend Natawsha was the first one that began to realize that something was amiss.
“You began to fade away, the K.C. I had met two years prior was not the same K.C. I knew when you were with Michael. He beat you down so hard that you became a mindless robot; just agreeing with him on everything and doing everything just to make sure he didn’t get upset. You took his side even when you knew he was wrong and never stood up from me. You didn’t see it though, and I knew you didn’t, that’s why I never blamed you for the way you treated me,” she said.
Looking back now, the longer I dated him the more hostile he became and the more I fell into submission. I was living in a world of double standards and confusion, I tried to follow his rules, but even when I did he became angry with me. It was a game I could never win.
Lundy Bancroft, a counselor who has worked for fifteen years on over two thousand cases pertaining to angry and controlling men wrote in his book Why Does He Do That?, that “An abusive man subtly or overtly imposes a system in which he is exempt from the rules and standards that he applies to you.”
When he was angry with me, he convinced everyone I was crazy and told ungodly lies about how my behavior was out of control and how he was getting close to his breaking point. I was in the dark about this until we were separated. I never knew how much he lied about me. I never knew how many awful things he said behind my back. All I knew is that when I found out those things it only broke my heart. He was someone that supposedly loved me, but he was calling me desperate, slutty, and psychotic behind my back. He basically cut all my ties to the outside world, anyone who had relatively liked me before now questioned everything I had ever said.
According to Bancroft, “Although it is largely unconscious, abusive men are more aware on some level that a woman’s social contacts can bring her strength and support that could ultimately enable her to escape his control.”
I became a walking anxiety attack, had to start counseling and get on medication. I never understood what I was doing wrong, so I did everything I thought was right. But nothing changed. The more mentally and emotionally stable I became, the more bitter Michael got. I can’t even count the number of times we separated and got back together.
Up until this point I had taken the yelling, the degrading, the lies, and the control issues for a year and a half hoping that someday he would live up to his promises and “change his behavior.” After I was brought to the realization of all the terrible things he had said behind my back I attempted to leave. I drove over to his apartment, confronted him about the lies I had heard, and left. Thirty minutes later he showed up at my house.
He stomped up the front porch and pounded on the door. Natawsha was close to tears and told me not to go outside, but I told her to watch from the window and call the police if he hurt me. I gathered all the courage I could muster and opened the front door. I stood in the threshold with him towering over me, nostrils flaring like an enraged bull. He began yelling at me instantly, so I made the motion to go back inside of the house, telling him I wasn’t going to stand there and be screamed at. And then, he grabbed me. He grabbed my wrist in a clenching fist and I tried hard to get away, but I couldn’t. Trying to remain calm I told him if he didn’t let go of me I would call the police.
As he let go I informed him that I would only speak to him from the porch as he stood on the sidewalk. From the sidewalk his anger began to escalate, and his yells began to echo through the quiet neighborhood. I could see people begin to peek out of their windows from the surrounding houses. As I persistently refused to argue with him he picked up an empty beer bottle that had been lying on the ground and smashed it full force against the sidewalk. That’s when I knew I had to leave. But I wasn’t able to for another seven months.
According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, “It takes a victim seven times to leave before staying away for good.”
The next day he called me and promised things would be different; he blamed his temper on his mother and committed to going to counseling. He never did, but I overlooked it and took him back.
The seven months that followed were only an illusion of a happy relationship. I knew it was not going to last, but a sliver of hope still remained that somehow he would recognize his behavior and do something about it. We began to fall away from each other, we were fighting more than we were happy and we were separated more than we were together. I withheld information from him fearing retaliation and began lying to him to get out of the backlash that would occur if the truth were to be told.
I began educating myself on abuse and started recognizing his cycles. Many times he promised he would get better, and I truly believed him. I’m disappointed in myself that it took me two years to realize it was never going to change. I began to sense that his abuse cycle was coming around once more and I knew this would be it.
The final episode ending the relationship was over him refusing to come help me move a piano into my house. He had promised to help until it became inconvenient for him, so I shrugged it off and told him I would find someone else. He took that as me “manipulating his jealousy against him to get him to do whatever I wanted him to,” according to him anyway. He left and I haven’t heard from him since.
I had hung in there for seven months. Seven months of endless faith in him to change, seven months of standing up for him to my parents and closest friends. But he didn’t change, which in the end broke my heart to pieces. I couldn’t endure the belittlement anymore and his striking hateful words. I loved him with my whole heart, but I finally realized that his behavior would never change. I knew that I could end things now, or ten years and two kids later, which in the Catholic Church would be nearly impossible. I finally decided to make my life a priority and accept the fact that I could no longer be with him.
Michael stripped me of my friends, my family, my confidence, and my independence. He took everything I loved and twisted it, so he was the only thing in my life. I was forced to make him my priority when I was never his. At times I wonder if it was me he really loved or the control he had over me. Anywhere from 1-3 million women are battered each year by their intimate partner, compared to the 3% of battered men, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics.
The abuse I endured never got fully physically, and I thank God for that, I thank God that I got out when I did, I thank God for the strength he has given me to move on and heal, and I thank God that I didn’t become one of the four women that die each day as a result of domestic violence.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from domestic violence visit http://www.thehotline.org/