06.21.12 Truth & Wisdom
BY Alyssa Shaw
When you’re young, you have an image put in your head about what abuse is – a husband or boyfriend physically beating their significant other and their children. But abuse has many faces… physical, sexual and emotional. It turns out that emotional abuse can hurt just as much and shouldn’t be swept under the rug just because “he hasn’t hit you yet”.
My relationship started at an emotionally low point in my life. I had just gotten out of a long-term relationship a few months prior and was ready to love again and ready to give it to anybody that would love me back. And that’s when an older man came in and swept me off my feet. He had everything I was looking for as a 17-year-old girl – job, car and ambition. Soon after, he had no job, no car and his ambition was all talk. On top of that, he had some emotional damage from his former girlfriend.
All of that was okay; nobody is perfect, and he had me convinced that he was getting his stuff together and that I should stick around to “change him” and “help him through the hard times”. He had a complex that I was constantly having an affair and that I was just out to get him. You never see abuse starting, really. If it was so sudden, most of us would leave immediately, right? Months after our relationship started, I found myself trying to leave him over and over and still being convinced that things would change. I would be blamed for things that I haven’t done and that was followed by terrible name calling and looks that convinced me that I was disgusting. I was trapped and I told myself that I wasn’t strong enough to get out. My friends were tired of hearing about it and my family didn’t understand why I couldn’t just say it was over and walk away. It came to a point where I felt worthless, like if I left, nobody else would want me and I didn’t deserve anybody better.
Eight months into our on again, off again relationship, he left for a trip up north to make some money. During the time he was to be gone, I was to graduate high school and take the test to get my cosmetology license. I had to accept that he was going to be gone in some very important times of my life due to the fact that he hadn’t had a job in months. The name calling and accusations grew worse and worse but I kept coming back because he told me he loved me and that his actions were caused by his ex-girlfriend and the fact that I had made a few mistakes during our relationship. A week after he got back, I left for a family vacation in Mexico and I knew that the time apart could either make us or break us. It broke us; finally, I was done being told that I was a worthless slut. He could no longer convince me that we could stop fighting and that he loved me. A week of freedom later, we found out that I was pregnant with his child.
My pregnancy was a very hard time in my life… I had graduated from high school only a month before finding out that I was pregnant. I had no time to get on my feet and I found myself going back to the person I swore I’d never see again. I pretended to be happy and that I could accept that I would have to deal with this man for the rest of my life. But maybe he would learn to control his mouth and get a job and be strong for the both of us? I had gotten so bitter towards him and hated him for what he had done to me. Things got very hard for me, and I had a hard decision to make. I would constantly battle myself on whether to let him be involved with my child or not. Honestly, I am still struggling with this and still trying to recover from telling myself that I wasn’t strong enough.
Things haven’t changed much. Turns out that the ex-girlfriend that he had me hating had gone through the same thing I had, except that she had gotten an abortion and was able to move on and heal on her own time. He has convinced himself that he is different and has recognized that he has changed me as a person but he still knows exactly what to say to hurt me in the way he’s looking for. It’s different than it was a year and a half ago, but the scars cannot be covered at this point. After threats to my life and the emotional damage done, a simple apology can’t make me agree that his presence in my daughter’s life is a good thing.
After all of this, I do think I am a stronger person for my daughter. I’m still struggling with the hatred towards her father, but I’m sure one day I can forgive him for it and forgive myself for allowing myself to be in that situation. There are a few good lessons I have learned from the past two years of my life. First is that everybody should learn the stages of abuse – both men and women and learn to recognize them early on. Secondly, I need to love myself for who I am and not let a man tell me who to be and who I truly am as a person. Third is that I wouldn’t take any of it back. I have a beautiful daughter that I will love unconditionally for the rest of my life no matter who her biological father is and despite the sacrifice for this opportunity to be a mother. I’m still trying to heal and figure out how to deal with her father in regards to custodial rights, but I’ve reached the top of the mountain and I can see the landscape from way up here. I can see the beautiful future of my life and all of the paths available to me even as a young single mother. From up here, I can see everything that I couldn’t during the struggle to climb.