It’s about to get personal…
I was sexually abused in my last relationship.
My boyfriend coerced me into sex on a regular basis for over a year. I let him. The thing was, I was so attached to him, so obsessed with him that I didn’t even realize he was abusing me. He never forced himself on me; I don’t think he ever would have done that. What he did do was make me feel terrible because I couldn’t perform well (as if sex is some kind of show to be put on by one partner for the benefit of the other…but really, that’s what it felt like). He would make me feel like I was doing something wrong if we tried and it didn’t work out well. He would start to cry and tell me I didn’t love him enough…but I did. I loved him so much I was willing to put my mental health in jeopardy for his sake. In the last couple months of our relationship, it got to the point where he wouldn’t even say anything afterwards. His silence said more than any words ever could, the look of disappointment spread across his face plainly asking, why can’t you be good enough? I felt used and unloved but I was so invested in the relationship I had with him that I didn’t see anything wrong with what he was doing to me. I thought I was the problem.
You may wonder how I allowed this to happen to myself. Well, let me explain: he was my first boyfriend. I had never even kissed anyone before him. I came to college feeling sorry for myself because of my lack of experience in dating. It didn’t matter that two of my best friends had never had boyfriends either; in fact, I actually thought there was something wrong with me. I was a quiet little introvert who so desperately wanted to be an extrovert in this extroverted world we live in. I watched so many other people my age go through boyfriends and I wondered why I couldn’t get one. So, upon arriving at Morris in the Fall of 2011, I latched on to the first guy I found attractive. This guy happened to be in my orientation group and in a matter of days, I had decided to pursue him. I did this so I didn’t have to be a lonely little introvert anymore. So I could know what it felt like to feel physically loved.
I didn’t know what love actually meant. I probably still don’t, but that’s a different story. With this guy from my orientation group, who ended up being my boyfriend for almost two years, I found that physical side rather quickly and thought it was intriguing and exciting. In fact, we spent more time in those first few months of our relationship making out and reveling in the fact that we could get away with all this stuff because we were in college that we didn’t even start having real conversations until approximately four months in. That should have been a major red flag, but it wasn’t. I was too caught up in the fact that someone actually wanted me in that way to notice.
We didn’t have sex until six months in. He would have had it earlier, but I refused. I wanted to make sure I actually loved him before sex. I did really love him, mind you. I didn’t love him for the right reasons, though. It was a selfish love, a love that had a sole purpose of making me feel better about myself. Looking back, I recognize how ill prepared I was for a serious sexual relationship. Neither of us at any idea of what we were doing at first (as you can imagine might happen when two people who have never had sex decide to do it together). It was awkward, uncomfortable, and it hurt. Plus, I spent weeks obsessing over the fact that I didn’t reach orgasm and that, of course, there must be something wrong with me because of that (only later did I find out that many woman never orgasm during sex).
There were so many problems with our relationship, and many of them revolved around sex. Part of the problem was how uncomfortable I actually was with sex. All throughout my education, I had been taught that sex was a bad thing. Abstinence has been ingrained into our society in many ways. The quote that comes to my mind right now is from Mean Girls: “If you have sex you’ll get pregnant and die.” To eleven year old Britta, this became another mantra in a long line of mantras about the dangers of sex. In high school, my friends and I would gossip about girls who we knew were having sex and we’d judge them for that. Sex was bad in my mind. To top that off, many of the girls on my freshman floor had spoken openly about their decision to wait until marriage. While I respected their decisions, I knew that was never something I had intended to do (in fact, I recall my mom advising me not to wait when she told me once quite frankly, “How are you gonna know if he’s good or not?” If I recall this scenario correctly, this made me uncomfortable and I quickly told her to stop being so embarrassing, as was frequent for my teenage self to do). I was so worried that my floor mates would find out that I was having sex and judge me. I didn’t stop to think that, if they were worth my time in the least bit, they wouldn’t care. Needless to say, I didn’t tell them.
I was uncomfortable with sex. To top that off, my libido was incredibly low, a result of the birth control pills I was on at the time (I have since gone off my birth control for a plethora of reasons that I wont get into right now). Of course, at the time I was having sex with my ex I didn’t know my low libido was a result of my birth control and I, of course, thought there was something wrong with me (hm, I sense a theme here).
At first my boyfriend was patient with me. He tried to comfort me and he did everything he could to help me get into the mood. He even bought me a vibrator, which I thought was super weird at the time and still find to be incredibly perplexing.
However, he started getting restless. The more restless he got about sex, the more anxious I got. The more he cried and told me I was hurting him, the more I felt there was something wrong with me. The more I felt degraded. The more I felt dirty. Part of me knew that everything about our sexual relationship was wrong. I just didn’t know what to do about it so I repressed it. I was too afraid to be alone again to even think about getting out of it. At the lowest point of my relationship, I was convinced I would marry him, while at the very same time the very idea of marrying him made me exceptionally uncomfortable. It’s difficult to explain my though process at this time because I was too wrapped up in him to think rationally about anything.
When we broke up in August 2013, I don’t think either of us realized what we had done to each other. He broke me in many ways. At the same time, I was a pretty crappy girlfriend; I was incredibly selfish. I know now that I was in that relationship entirely for myself.
Last semester, I saw him as I was walking out of the library one day; by this point, I had recognized that he had abused me and at that time, I really truly hated him for that. I tried to avoid him and scurried out the door, but he caught up to me (dammit ran through my mind a few times). He awkwardly congratulated me on my recent promotion to Hall Director for the coming academic year and since I felt I should say something nice too, I plastered on a very fake smile, thanked him, and congratulated him on a recent accomplishment of his own (the things we can learn about people from Facebook). It was a short-lived, awkward conversation and I was unbelievably glad when I could scurry off to class. I couldn’t figure out why he was being so nice to me, especially since all of our encounters since our break up had been incredibly awkward.
Near the end of the semester, I ran into him again. This time I was with friends whom I was chatting and laughing with. When I passed by him, I smiled politely; in return, he grimaced slightly and appeared quite uncomfortable. He barely made eye contact with me. When I put these this occurrence and the library occurrence together, I began to wonder…had he realized what he’d done to me? I think it’s important to state that I don’t believe my ex-boyfriend is a bad person. I believe he was caught up in his sexual desires a little too much to consider that perhaps he wasn’t going about the best way to actually get sex by consistently coercing me. I’m not trying to excuse him for his actions; he still hurt me incredibly. I went through a time period where I was terrified to even consider having sex with anyone ever again. But I also spent almost two years with him. In the end, there were a lot of things wrong with out relationship, not just the sexual part. We barely knew each other when we started dating and ended up being a little too different to make it work; it would have fallen a part eventually, regardless of the sex part of it. Despite that, we did have our good times. We did have a lot of laughs together. I saw many moments where the good in him shined so bright.
When we started dating, we were two kids who had no idea what we were getting into. Both of us were hurt to a certain extent by the end of it.
I came out of that relationship as a stronger individual. I don’t like to spend a whole lot of time mourning the past because what happened happened. My ex-boyfriend abused me and it hurt me and messed me up in more ways than one. Instead of hating him forever, I have moved on. I have become stronger. I am independent. The next time I enter into a relationship with someone else, it will be for the right reasons; because we complement each other, not out of some deep need to feel loved. More importantly, I will never so blindly let anyone else do what he did to me. I know I am better than that. I have an integrity and respect for myself that didn’t exist within me two years ago. I also don’t fault my younger self for her blindness. I needed to learn how to value my emotional independence on my own. In that process, I came out a better person. The pain and unhappiness I felt near the end of that failing relationship will stay with me forever and it serves as a constant reminder of how far I’ve come.
I don’t know if I will ever fully forgive my ex-boyfriend for the way he treated me. He did abuse me. I did hurt a lot. In fleshing out my relationship and my own faults as well as his, I have no intention of acquitting him of the way he treated me. Sexual abuse should never be treated lightly. It is an all too real occurrence that happens all too often to all too many people. In fleshing out this relationship, I hope to allow you as readers to understand the person I was at that time and how far I’ve come since then. Looking back at that time, I’m so glad I made it out as a stronger individual. Furthermore, I am incredibly thankful that I am now able to tell this story with so much confidence.
To those of you who read my posts regularly, you’ll know that I have talked about personal topics before (like that one time I told you all I was in love with someone I couldn’t have, which by the way I’ve managed to move on from since posting in late October). In many ways I’m an open book–writing is really a release for me and there are very few things I don’t feel comfortable sharing through writing. However, you’ll also know that I’ve never shared something like this before.
Why now then?
Well, earlier today, I read a post by a fellow blogger about her own experience being sexually assaulted and it got me thinking about my own story, despite how different our stories are.
I haven’t told a whole lot of people about my sexual abuse before this. It’s something I’ve guarded closely out of fear of judgement and mistrust. I was in counseling all of last semester for severe anxiety that bordered on depression; I didn’t even tell my counselor about this, though I did allude to it on multiple occasions. She did know I had recently gotten out of a bad relationship; I never explicitly told her I had been sexually abused, though. If I’m not mistaken, I’ve only told this story to four people. One of those times I was drunk and so was the friend I was talking to.
I ultimately decided to tell this story because it is an important part of my life. I was so dependent on this one person, my ex-boyfriend, for so long, yet I was still so afraid and alone. I allowed my boyfriend to continually abuse me because I didn’t realize he was abusing me. I didn’t realize he was abusing me because I was so attached to him. I was so attached to him because I was so afraid to be alone. At that time, what I didn’t realize was how my fear of loneliness was only causing me to become lonelier. In those moments when his lack of words said more than words ever could; when that look of disappointed in his face became an all-too common occurrence. My lack of self-worth was overpowering any sense of self.
I never ever want to become that girl again. I will never ever let myself become that girl again.
And so, I share this with you. Because it is my story to share. and it needs to be shared. For myself and, I hope, for you, too.