I never considered my self a domestic violence victim until this last year. I knew it had been a bad relationship, and I knew it hadn’t been healthy, but I always thought of DV as physical abuse. Broken noses. Black eyes. If there wasn’t an injury, then it wasn’t DV.
The realization came to me by accident. I had just began my final internship for graduate school and I was offered the opportunity to co-faciliate one of the therapy groups at my new agency. One of the options was a DV group.
In that first session I heard a lot of stories, and they all resonated with me. Everything those women described was exactly how I had felt when I was with my ex.
That night when I got home, I called my mom and I told her for the first time what had happened to me when I was 17, when I was dating my first boyfriend.
He was a few years older than me, 20 I believe. I had never had a boyfriend, never even been kissed! He was my first everything and I fell hard. Still to this day I don’t know if I loved him, or just loved the idea of a boyfriend.
Things got bad pretty quickly, but being new to relationships I didn’t know what was “normal” vs. what wasn’t.
He was very emotional and had a short temper which he had kept hidden while he was “wooing” me, but came out quickly as we began dating.
He would often get upset completely out of the blue. And that upset usually resulted in him throwing things around the room. He would then blame me for his tantrums, saying that I was so “difficult” to date. That he kept messing up and couldn’t make me happy. This would lead to me comforting him and trying to assure him that I was happy and that I loved him. He would tell me that he was messed up, that he was sorry for throwing things and breaking things, that I should be with someone who wasn’t broken. That dragged me in even deeper and I was determined to “fix” him, to be the girl that stood by him and made the relationship work (I’ll talk more about this when I post about “why they stay”)
I felt like I was walking on egg shells all the time, never knowing what I would do to set him off.
I remember one incident inparticular that perfectly describes his typical behavior.
He had just moved into a new house and needed to get some plates and cups. We went to Target together and he picked some stuff out. We walked out to the car and I put my bag in the back seat and got in the front seat. He then came around and moved my stuff to the floor so it wouldn’t fall over when we were driving and put his bag down as well. When we got back to his house he grabbed the bags out of the back and we started walking toward the house. He stopped when we got to the front door, swung both of the bags over his head and slammed them down on the ground.
I jumped back, startled and completely taken back. I asked him why he had done that and he said that he knew I was mad about him moving the bag I had set down from the back seat to the floor. Although I denied being upset about that, the discussion turned again into how messed up he was and how trying to make me happy so so stressful and set him off.
I stayed with him after that incident, and after many more similar ones. He broke phones, he broke dishes, anything that was in his reach when he got set off.
One night, during our final fight, I was in his reach and he hit me.
Still to this day, I don’t believe that it was on purpose. Maybe that’s denial, maybe it’s the truth. I will probably never know.
He was having one of his fits, yelling and throwing things, when he grabbed his backpack and swung it around in a fit. It hit me across the face.
At this point I was crying. I remember standing in the doorway, about to leave. I told him “I know you have issues, but I never thought you would ever hit me”. What I should have done was leave, but I didn’t. He apologized, and I accepted it.
I was young, I was in love, and I thought I could fix him.
I would like to end this narration with some inspiring story about how I gathered my self-confidence and left him, realizing that I deserved to be treated better. But I can’t, because in the end, he broke up with me.
It was probably the most noble and selfless thing he ever did.
We had been together for 3 months when he ended things. I shudder to think how things could have escalated with more time.
I used to rationalize to myself that it wasn’t DV, because he didn’t “mean” to hit me, it was an accident.
But physical abuse is more than just hitting someone, and DV is so much more than just physical abuse.
From the first time I told me mom what had happened, and actually labeled it as DV, I have felt healed. Labeling it has given me ownership, which has given me control. Sharing my story with you all helps me heal.
I hope my story, and the following psycho-education posts I plan on sharing this month, help you all understand what DV is. What it looks like, what it feels like and what you can do to help.