Back in my very early twenties, I was date-raped in my own apartment, and after that I became terrified to date anyone new. That was until I befriended a young man on campus who seemed horrified by my story, and told me that if I would do him the honor of becoming his girlfriend, that he would make sure that nobody would ever hurt me that way ever again. He really seemed to care, and it touched my heart in a way I had never experienced before. So I finally let my guard down and started to date him. He moved in rather quickly. He said he wanted to protect me and keep me safe. I thought it was too soon, but I wanted to be protected and safe. So rather than learn how to accomplish that on my own, I allowed him to move in with me so he could do it for me. It was romantic and wonderful… that is, until the abuse began.
I was convinced that these out-of-the-blue moments of abuse were not the real him. I kept thinking back to how much he wanted to protect me… how much he seemed to care. And I convinced myself that that was the real man, and the abusive one was just an imposter filled with pain. And that if I could love him enough, and stick by him while he went through that pain, I could emotionally heal him, and save him the way he had wanted to save me. So whenever an abusive event occurred, I chose to love him through it. And when he cried in my arms and apologized each time afterwards, I comforted HIM, as I cradled him in my arms that were now covered in bruises. And he told me that this was just bringing us closer together, and making our love even stronger. And at that time, it felt true.
The trouble was; I was so busy loving HIM through it all, that I forgot to love MYSELF. The abuse got worse and worse, and I began to realize over 8 years of time that this wasn’t going to get any better. I mean, if my love was supposed to heal him, why was he only getting worse and worse? How bad was the abuse going to be after 10, 15 or 20 years? Would I even still be alive? This stunning realization and the sudden fear of dying made me realize that I needed to get out. I felt like I was betraying him, but I was so tired of betraying MYSELF.
I finally found my way to Women in Distress. There, I was swiftly but gently thrown into classes that taught me about abuse and abusers, and the cycle that desperately needed to be broken. My self-esteem increased, I learned how to rely on myself, I learned how to not be afraid to be alone, and how to get through the pangs of guilt for “abandoning” my abuser. I truly became a new person. I barely recognize “the old me” anymore! At Women in Distress, I was able to learn how to make new friends, get a new job, pay for my own apartment in a new city, take up new hobbies and pursue old abandoned ones, and how to reclaim my life in every way possible. It is amazing to me how much one can accomplish when one no longer has to waste all of their time and energy on coping with abuse. Now I can use that time and energy living my life to the fullest. And boy does it feel good!