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College Dating Violence: I Was in an Abusive Relationship

I experienced dating violence in college.

I Stayed in an Abusive Relationship

I remember my therapist telling me that for most individuals it takes 5-8 tries before successfully leaving an abusive relationship—that was about right. Every time I’d decide to get out of it, a friend would talk me out of it—“You’re good for him. You make him happy.” I liked hearing those things; I liked thinking that being with me was good for him.

Other times I’d talk myself out of it, or as soon as I heard his voice, I choked. Suddenly everything seemed fine and dandy, and I had just blown things out of proportion, as usual.

Most stories tell about a wonderful guy who was charming, sweet, and caring. It isn’t until later that he became abusive. I don’t have that consolation. I was smacked across the face the first night I ever hung out with him.

When I Left, I Still Struggled

No one likes talking about what happens afterwards. Everyone agrees that being in an abusive relationship is bad, but once you’re out of the relationship, everything is fine, right? No one wants to talk about how depressed they were, about how they started drinking heavily—to hide from the pain, to black out and have the joy of remembering nothing, the closest thing to death without dying. No one talks about how much they hate themselves for getting in the relationship in the first place, or the low self-esteem they’ve developed from being with someone who treated them like dirt every day. And no one talks about how emotionally detached they become, about how scared they are to ever love again. These things can be as ugly and horrible as being hit.

I hate that there were times when I was glad I was hit, because at least that meant he knew I was there. I hate that I was back-handed across the face at a crowded party and no one said anything to me or him. I hate that when I told my parents, their first reaction was to tell me to take a semester off and transfer schools. I hate going home and being looked at like I’m some lost and broken lamb. I hate the nightmares and not being able to sleep. I hate that I only feel safe when I’m wrapped up in my brother’s hoodie.

I hate that I loved him, and all this happened because I loved him. I hate that he has an abusive alcoholic father who he blamed for the way he was. I hate that he manipulated me to the point that I thought I deserved to be hit, that I always felt that I was the one who had done something wrong and needed to apologize.

I Won’t Be Silent

I’ve been conditioned to be silent. I’ve been conditioned to believe that when I speak I will be ignored, ridiculed, threatened, or hit. I’m so tired of being silent. I’m tired of living with these memories. I’m tired of having to explain myself to people: No I can’t walk back that way because I’ll see him there. No I can’t go to the party because he’ll be there.

I’m tired of people asking why. I’m tired of saying nothing, of lying and tip-toeing around it. I’m tired of being ashamed of something that wasn’t my fault. I’m tired of acting like it didn’t happen, that it didn’t matter, like it’s no big deal.

It did happen. I experienced dating violence in an abusive relationship. and it was horrible.

I wrote this because I don’t want what happened to me to ever happen to anyone, ever. No one deserves to be treated this way. So I tell my story even though I’m still scared and depressed at times. I tell my story with the hope that it will help others, that although it’s not much, that it will be enough to free someone else.

Mary Jennings is a senior at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

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