some boys do: my experience in a physically and verbally abusive relationship
I think most people have a vision of who abuses women. It’s the stereotypical Ray Rice football player whose bicep circumference is larger than his IQ. It’s the alcoholic in the stained white tank top who lives in the trashy apartments on the wrong side of town. Certainly not a twenty something hipster who wears a beanie and jeans in a smaller size than me. Never a guy who listens to Animal Collective in between shifts at American Apparel. Until one day, suddenly it was.
At first, it was just that my on/off boyfriend was an asshole. Once, when we were on a break, he told me he would love me more if I lost 15 pounds so I would be as skinny as his exgirlfriend. I wasn’t even overweight to begin with, so his constant harassment over my size didn’t even really bother me. I just brushed it off as his pathetic attempts to wear down my confidence and fuck with my mind, so it never did much beyond a stray hurt feeling. I had already decided I was not going to take any shit from him. In fact, instead of trying to lose weight, I hooked up with the singer of a band he liked. I let him know the singer didn’t seem to mind the 15 pounds my boyfriend was so obsessed with.
This just made him more mad, and he shifted his attacks from my weight to my sluttiness. We were long distance at this point because I was in London, and if I so as much didn’t respond to a text within 10 minutes, it was because I was having wild group sex with dozens of british skateboarders obviously. I was certainly not an angel by any means, but this was definitely an extremely confused version of reality. He made sure I knew that I was a slut, so I did not deserve him. I was lucky he would even be with me; he was doing me a favor. Meanwhile, he was screwing half the town and lying about it. Once I would find out, he would tell me it was different because he was a man. He could do whatever he wanted, but when I did the same, it made me a whore.
He had an excuse of course for everything he said. He probably was an alcoholic. He had a fucked up family. His dad left and didn’t love him. He just didn’t want me to leave him too, and I did so now that’s what I deserved. But it was all just words up to this point though, and words I could handle.
When I came back from abroad, I was staying with him, and the abuse quickly became more than words. I don’t even remember what we were fighting about, probably something along the lines of I was a fat, ugly slut, when he grabbed me by the neck and choked me against the door. I was absolutely in shock. This was not something that I ever thought would happen to me at any point in my life. This happened to strippers and teen moms and on very special episodes of like 7th Heaven. Not to white college graduate girls wearing Urban Outfitters. Not to me.
He apologized the next day. He swore he never would touch me again. And I believed him, just because it seemed so absurd that it had happened once, let alone the possibility it would happen again. But within days, he had thrown my beloved baby blanket in a tree, lit it on fire, chucked my clothes on his lawn and locked me out of the house. We broke up and I went back to my parents’ house.
But as the weeks went by, the reality of what had happened slowly started to fade, and soon we were talking again and back together. He swore it would be different, and it actually was. We were getting along, he stopped being so mean, and it seemed like maybe we could make this work.
It didn’t last long. On Halloween, we were dressed up as Sandy and Danny from Grease, dueting to Summer Nights at karaoke one minute, and the next he was throwing my purse across the bar in front of all my friends and kicking me repeatedly outside. The next day, he claimed to not remember any of it. It wasn’t him, it was the whiskey. He would stop drinking. I would give him one more chance.
On New Years Eve, we all slept at my friend’s downtown. We were on the floor in the sleeping bag and he wouldn’t wake up, so I went and laid in my friend’s bed, where several other people also were hanging out and talking. When my boyfriend finally got up, he had been so drunk that for some reason thought I had slept in the bed with my friend, and he went completely insane. He was screaming at me in front of everyone at the party. He grabbed my hair forcefully at the nape of my neck and pulled me back by it when I tried to walk away. I told him I wasn’t going home with him, and someone else would drive me home, just to leave. Instead he followed us to my friend’s car, screaming at me, opening the door and demanding I get out and leave with him, as my scared friends told him to get the hell away because I was not going anywhere with him.
I dumped him again. Everyone was happy, as none of my friends liked him and everyone knew he was bad news, but unfortunately I was too stubborn to let anyone tell me what I should be doing when it came to this guy. But I thought the break up was for real this time, so I even started to tell people outside my immediate circle of friends all the awful things he had done to me. Some were sympathetic, but I could tell others didn’t believe me, just because it seemed so unrealistic. there were whispers that I was just lying for attention and to get back at him for cheating on me so many times.
However, even after publicly broadcasting his abuse, I found myself talking to him again. I honestly don’t even know why. I knew he was horrible, and realistically, he would probably harm me again. But I was living at my parents house, extremely bored and unhappy, with no other romantic options on the table unless I decided to start dating high schoolers, geriatrics, or married fathers of toddlers. No sooner had we started hanging out again that he again found some reason to be furious at me, and as he drove us away from the city, I was shaking in fear. He refused to take me home and kept driving the wrong way from my house, and when I begged him to stop and take me home, he hit my legs over and over again until they turned bright red and I was sobbing. But 2 weeks later, I was back talking to him again because in my head there was just nothing else I could possibly do with my endless hours of suburban boredom if he wasn’t in my life.
Finally, after six months at home, I had saved up enough money to move to New York, which I also saw as likely the only option to get out of this relationship for good. In the weeks before I left, I remember him pushing me down in my room after I got mad he was texting his exgirlfriend. He claims I slipped. But thankfully it was time to move, and I was finally free. We slowly stopped talking as much until our conversations were reduced to a trickle. I still saw him a few times when I came back to visit. Once we slept at our friends after going to the movies, and he pushed me out of the bed and onto the floor when I didn’t want to have sex with him. But somehow we ended up being sort of friends, even after everything he had done to me. I rarely ever saw him though, until one day he came to meet up with us at a bar. He kept saying he had no money, clearly wanting me to ask him why. I finally did, and he said it was because he got this horrible girl who he knew I hated pregnant and had to pay for her abortion. I told him to leave the bar, and I never have seen or talked to him again since that day. In the time since then, I know he has physically assaulted as least one other girl.
When I think back on these three years of our relationships, it seems crazy that I stayed with him. Yet, in my head I was being so strong and bad ass, or something like that. I was Rihanna, and I could handle Chris Brown and all that came with him if that’s who I wanted to be with. But toxic relationships like that will always damage you in some way, no matter how unbreakable you think you are. While my confidence and self-esteem might be as high as they always were, there have been other repercussions. I find myself attracted to dramatic relationships with guys who don’t value me as a person. It’s hard for me to get close emotionally to anyone I am seeing for fear of being vulnerable enough to let something like this happen again. I flinch when in a heated argument. “Did you actually think I was going to hit you?” a boy recently asked me, mid-fight. I nodded. “I would never do that,” he told me. It’s hard to believe now though. Because maybe he doesn’t hit women, but some boys do. Some boys definitely do.