Gaby’s Story

I was a senior in high school and my parents had recently gotten divorced. I came from a good home in Southern California. My dad was a stock broker and had always provided for us and my mom stayed at home, and I had never once doubted I was loved. Unfortunately, things quickly changed once they split up. My dad turned to drugs and my mom was emotionally unavailable most of the time. Socially, I had a good group of friends. I was on the cheer team but I had always felt like the ugly one. I was bigger and most of my core group of girls were insanely funny and pretty. I had guys like me, but it wasn’t like my friends, where guys were chasing them. So low and behold my excitement when we get new neighbors next door who happen to have a son my age. We kind of just admired each other from afar at first. He would drive by fast in his huge truck and I would make any excuse to walk to the mailbox or be outdoors which is totally unlike me. As my dad and his mom became friends we started to see more of each other. He would come over and watch movies or we’d all have dinner together. I’d fall asleep on the couch and he would cover me with a blanket and rub my back. We made out a little and stuff but it was mostly being there for each other when we both had no one. However, the reality was I really didn’t know him very well. I had never met any of his friends, seen how he was socially, or any “normal” things people get a chance to observe in a relationship. I knew he had a really rough childhood, his mother was an alcoholic and his father wasn’t in this picture. He didn’t graduate high school, slept a majority of the day and played video games all night…he also smoked weed and relied heavily on Xanex. I didn’t care though, it was someone who liked me and listened to me and at that time I needed that. Eventually we started a seriously dating. I had never had a boyfriend before so I was unaware what was normal and what was not. He never came off as abusive at first, in fact I don’t even remember arguing ever. I do remember the first time he hit me though. We were sitting in his truck after running errands and I made a joke about how his big truck was “making up for something”, I was clearly kidding but he didn’t take it that way. He looked at me and slapped me across the face, hard. I was shocked and didn’t know what to do. I got out of the car and went into my room and the next morning there was roses and a card waiting. Like there always was, and I forgave him. What else was I supposed to do? He was all I had in my wildly unstable world. The next 3 years was quite a blur, I can honestly say when things like this happen you become so emotionally destroyed and find yourself blocking memories out. I don’t remember specific details of everything but I do remember how it felt. To feel like if I lost him I had nothing. How he must care about me even though he hurt me, how he needed help and I could “fix” him. Over the course of this “project” I got choked, I got hit, I got bit, scratched, kicked in the stomach, pinched etc. One of the last fights I remember was when he refused to wake up for Father’s Day brunch. We HAD to leave or we would be late and I didn’t want to risk that, let alone he didn’t even want to go. He was complaining about wanting to smoke weed and not having any money. He looked at me and asked me dead serious to steel money from my dad over lunch and bring it back for him. I simply told him he was crazy and walked out. I was so furious that A) he was making me late to this lunch B) that he wasn’t coming and C) that he was just an idiot. I walked out and I told one of his family friends that was staying at the house what had just happened. As I proceeded to walk out the front door he comes up and grabs me and says ” Did you just tell her what I asked you” and I bluntly admitted I did. He punched me in the face, grabbed my over night bag and ran into the street throwing my stuff everywhere. I picked it all up while he stood over me yelling. I got into my car and he rammed his knee into my car door, leaving a lovely $1,000 dent. After this things took a downwards turn for him. We had not spoken in a few days and his mom called me crying saying “he’s lost it, we lost him”. His sister explained he must have done something drug related, he was in the street naked and crying, saying he was in heaven. They called 911 and he was placed on a 5150 and stayed for about a week at the hospital. I came to visit one, he was beyond out of it, trying to leave and saying I was an angel there to take him. It turns out he had been taking 4 times his dose of Xanex and decided one day to stop cold turkey. Withdrawing off something like that and not being careful can make you exhibit signs of schizophrenia. I didn’t go back and visit, even though he put me through so much pain its still hurtful to see someone you love suffering. After he got out he was never the same, I went over a week or so later and went to lunch with him and his mom. He stopped the car on the middle of Sepulveda Blvd in Los Angeles and told us he was going to kill us. We had to pin him down and take the keys and he ran into the street sobbing. I told his mom I was sorry and I couldn’t do it anymore. I left and never saw him again. I don’t know that I have ever really faced what happened, sure I’ve talked about it in therapy often, but it still dangles over me like a bad dream. I think of him almost every day and how different my life is now because of that. If there is anything I want to share its that you cannot fix anyone. If you are being treated poorly you need to know you deserve better. We are all human and deserve the love and respect we give. XO, Gaby

Brittany’s Story 

Brittany has always been the friend you go to when you need anything in my sorority. No matter what it is, what time of day it is, she’ll be there for you in two seconds. I think I speak for most people in my sorority when I say she is a strong soul. She’s independent and radiates confidence wherever she goes. She was there for me when I went through everything with my ex and I know she’ll be there for me for anything I need in the future. That’s why when she messaged me with the idea to publish other people’s stories and told me she was willing to share hers I was shocked. I had always looked up to her and her bravery and confidence and never knew anything like this had happened to her. It just goes to show how well victims can hide their stories. We don’t mean to hide it from anyone we love, but damn is it hard to finally share.

I am so proud of your bravery and am so lucky to have a sister like you in my life Brittany. Thank you for sharing your story. We’re not alone and I know we’ll continue to spread awareness and strength to other victims. XOXO

I wanted a boyfriend so badly when I got to college, and despite all my friends and new sorority sisters telling me not to, I got a boyfriend my freshman year. We met through my friend from home, whom I’m still close to, and we started talking the first week of college. We started dating a few weeks later.
He was charming, to say the least. I fell asleep while we were watching a movie in his dorm room one night and he didn’t wake me. He set an alarm so I could wake up and get back to my dorm before my 9am, and then he walked me to my dorm across campus from his. He was funny and he made me feel secure, which is special when you’re in a new unfamiliar place.
About two months later, I turned 18. I was still a virgin, and I wanted to keep it for someone special (like everyone else). It was my birthday, and we had never really argued. We’ve had moment where we got annoyed with each other or whatever, but nothing major. My parents were in town and I wanted them to meet him. We all went to dinner for my birthday, but afterwards, I wanted to go out with my friends to the frats. I had told him the plan days before, but when the time came to go out he got upset with me. He kept saying how I was chasing my friends over him and I just wanted to go flirt and make out with other guys. I reassured him that it wasn’t like that, and that I just wanted to have fun on my birthday. He said it was fine, so I got ready for my night out and before I left, I went to say good bye to him. He closed the door and locked it, and told me how much he loved me and cared about me and told me to text him if I needed him. Then he started to tell me how I don’t love him and how I don’t want to be with him as much as he wants to be with me. He slammed me up against the door and made me promise I would come in before I went to sleep. I did. I was too scared not too,
About a week later, we were sitting in bed talking and he asked me if I saw a future with him. At that time, I did, I at least hoped for one. He then rolled over and got on top of me and kissing me. I didn’t think much of it because we had made out several times before, but then he started to take my clothes off. I don’t want to say I was raped, because he was my boyfriend and I really did care for him, but I didn’t want to have sex yet.
Months later I had strep four times in a span of 6 weeks, so I planned to get my tonsils removed after break. I told him I was getting them out new years eve day – Jan 31st. He offered to fly to Washington from Arizona to come see me and stay with me after. We were supposed to go home the 10th. I got them removed and I felt awful. Around day 7, I wasn’t okay. I was bleeding horribly, so I got emergency surgery. I couldn’t fly on the 10th, but that wasn’t okay with him. We were supposed to go back together. He made me feel bad for days, not that I didn’t already feel horrible with open wounds in my mouth. I took him to the airport on the 10th and he didn’t talk to me the whole way. He left and three days later told me he was sorry and he wished I would’ve come back with him, and then, after all of that he told me he thought I was faking it. After watching me bleed and sitting in the emergency room while I was in surgery TWICE, he thought I was faking it.
I forgave him, we all do. I got back to Arizona and started looking for a place to live for the next school year. I did it in secret because he wanted to live with me, but I wanted to live with my friends. I went out one night and met a guy in a frat who seemed really cool and we started talking, as friends. I came home after that night and went to his room to say good night like I always did. I had a shirt from the frat because someone gave me an extra one. He lost it. He started yelling at me and when I went to walk out, he grabbed my wrist and pinned me to the wall. Luckily my friends were in the hallway and they started banging on the door. He let me go, and I ran out.
Again, I forgave him. A few days later I came back from being with friends and I told him I was done. He cried and begged me to stay, but this time I was done for real. I left and went to my room. He called me and told me he was going to kill himself if I didn’t come see him at his car. I went. I got in the car and we started driving around the parking garage. He kept yelling at me, and then he started accelerating and told me that if he couldn’t have me, no one could as he drove his car towards a concrete wall. He decided against it but he couldn’t brake in time. His car collided with the wall, but that was it for us. He was removed from the University and I haven’t seen or talked to him since.

For the First Time: When He First Hit Me & When I First Thought He Was Savable

I’ve only ever told one best friend, my mom and the police about the first time I experienced physical abuse with my ex. They don’t even know the half of it. That is probably because at the time he convinced me that what happened was in fact, not abuse. Now if you look abuse up online you’ll read that it is “the improper use of something”. If you look up physical abuse, google says that it is any intentional and unwanted contact with you or something close to your body. Sometimes abusive behavior does not cause pain or even leave a bruise, but it’s still unhealthy. Examples of physical abuse include: Scratching, punching, biting, strangling or kicking”. Trust me, I experienced all of those with him and it all started one weekend in Vegas.

The first time blindsided me. I guess that’s the reason that I let it go so easily. I felt that it didn’t really happen. It just felt like a bad dream that I woke up from. The first time was about 7 months into the relationship. We were on a trip with his fraternity in Las Vegas. The weekend started off right away with a huge fight. And guess how stupid this fight was. Insanely stupid. We were at the pool and I decided that I should socialize with the other dates. I’m usually pretty anti-social with other girls and wanted to branch out and be nice. I met one date who’s date was ignoring her a bit and so I decided to try and hangout with her. We were pretty sober and everyone else seemed pretty intoxicated so we decided to go to one of the bathrooms to drink some of our own alcohol. (since drinks in Vegas are $55 for a sip of alcohol). He asked where we were going and I told him ” Don’t worry, just going to the bathroom”. He automatically assumed that “the bathroom” was code word for something sketchy. He automatically was FURIOUS. Now if you know my ex, you know how his temper was. I continually reassured him that I were going to “the bathroom” with a new friend. We knew each other pretty well at this point and I assumed he knew that I was likely going to get a drink. Now when I look back I realize that he probably wasn’t comfortable with it being a new person that I was going with. He, like most emotional and physical abusers, are controlling that way. He followed us out of the pool area. I should say stormed out, not followed. Because he STORMED out after me. He grabbed my arm and began yelling in front of everyone. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I did know that he was going to ruin the rest of my day. He said that I was terrible and up to no good and that he wanted nothing to do with me for the rest of the weekend. When your faced with this situation, you just think “hey, he’s probably just really drunk”. So he yelled and yelled at me in front of all of our friends and their dates. He stormed up to the room and I of course I followed right up after.What followed afterwords was a full 40 or so minutes of yelling. All I can remember from the fight was how much I apologized. All I can remember was saying I was being careless and it was my fault I didn’t clarify anything to him. The girl I was talking to was watching the whole fight downstairs. I remember her saying that no guy should treat me that way. That he was an asshole and seemed a bit crazy. But I said it’s ok, it’s just how he is. He loves me a lot, we’ve just been together a long time and we fight. That it was my fault because I was the one who didn’t clarify where I was going. I look back now and realize that this is how he got me to stay. He would yell at me for hours and I would apologize and crawl right back into his arms. So i apologized and said how stupid I was, yet again and the fight for the day was over.

Thinking back on this day, I realize how manipulative he was. That’s how they rope you in and get you to stay. They find someone who is compassionate and caring. He chose me because I am everything he wasn’t. He was harsh, violent and brutal. I made up for all of the qualities he lacked. I made him feel like he was a better person because he was with someone that was sincere and understanding. I made him feel like a better person because he knew he was with someone he could manipulate. He knew that I would tolerate his abuse and I would be compassionate enough to try and fix him. I fell in love with a lie. I fell in love with someone who knew I would blame myself for his insane and abusive behavior.

The next, and final night was when it really happened. Now if you were there, you probably remember how he was acting that night. He was drugged out and drunk as ever. Nothing new. It got pretty late in the night and we decided to go explore the suite. He ended up leaving me asleep on the bed upstairs in one of the rooms (this may also be the time to tell everyone that I may actually have narcolepsy and that’s why I fall asleep in about 2 seconds). We were leaving in the morning super early and since I passed out without warning we had no alarms set. I knew that we would probably get left behind if we didn’t get up and moving. I woke up in a frantic that morning, not knowing what time it was and scared that the bus was going to leave us in Vegas. It was about 7:30 and I think we were leaving around 8/8:30 so of course, I panicked. I turned to him and tried to wake him up but he wasn’t budging. I continued to try and tap him to wake him up. I was quietly whispering his name when he flipped around in about a second.

Next thing I know I was pinned to the bed and getting pounded on the back of my head. Full fist and everything. I don’t even remember how I ended up there. I just remember being hit. I tried to stand up to run away, but he came after me. I was shoved to the floor with full force. I can’t even remember the details because it was such a blur. I don’t even remember if he said anything at all. I do remember the way he was looking at me. His eyes were wide open and blood shot but he didn’t seem to be in there. It was like in Zootopia when the animals get shot with the poisonous berries and turn rabid. He was the otter. He seemed gentle and kind, but in that moment he was crazed and confused. I continued to yell stop. Stop. Stop. But he kept going. Every time I stood up I was pushed back down onto the ground. At one point I stood up and my knees buckled under me and the world went black for a second. I’m still not sure if I fainted or if I was in shock.

After finally crawling away, with tears streaming down my face, he ran downstairs. I of course, stormed after him.

We returned back to our room in silence, me quietly wiping my tears away slowly following behind him. My head was beginning to throb and my back felt like I had been hit with a soccer ball in the middle of winter. When we got back to the room however, he was calm. It was like the entire thing had never happened. We silently packed up and went downstairs. The entire time I was holding back the waterworks.

Once we were on the bus I finally mentioned the situation. He seemed confused. Like he wasn’t the one who just beat me to the ground. “I did what”? He said. I still don’t know if that was his trick to get me to stay, or he really wasn’t himself when he was having an episode. He must have been a pretty good actor because he convinced me that he wasn’t fully aware of what he was doing. “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m so stupid” “I didn’t know what I was doing”.

I forgave him. Of course. He had a rough childhood, it must have been that, is what I told myself. He must have not been aware of what he was doing. He didn’t mean to do it. He told me it wasn’t abuse. It wasn’t an abusive relationship. He didn’t mean to do it, so in turn, it wasn’t abuse.

But that’s the thing. He always meant to do it. He knew exactly what he was doing. And who he was doing to. He knew I was the one who felt bad for him. 

And so that’s what began my mission to try and save the man that wasn’t savable. To try and save the man who would eventually almost ruin my life.

Where it all Begins: Why I Chose to Write About this Dark Journey

You always hear about domestic violence stories. You hear about girls who stay in abusive relationships and think you’ll never be the girl that stays. You gossip with your friends about how stupid that girl is for staying with that douchebag. You think you’d never let anyone treat you that way. You all say “I would leave the second he laid a hand on me”. You never ever think that that girl is going to be you. You never ever think that that girl IS you.

For me personally, I never realized that the abuse was abuse. You trust the person you’re in love with. I trusted him with my whole entire heart. After the first time he hit me. After the second time he hit me. After the third time he hit me. To be honest I still trusted him a bit after he fracture my face in two places. But that’s what they do. They gain your trust. They build up your trust so much that when they eventually end up shattering it, you still trust them. When they end up shattering it, you still trust them wholeheartedly. That’s their biggest talent. That’s how they get you to stay. That’s how he got me to stay almost a whole year after he hit me for the first time. The funny thing is, I always thought it was my fault. I still to this day think it’s my fault. I know in no way is it my fault. But it starts getting hard to convince your self that it isn’t.

So I guess that’s why I’m here now. No matter how hard I try it still feels like I was the one who did something wrong. I guess I feel like if I write about it enough I won’t still feel the same way. Maybe if I write enough eventually I’ll get to a point where I don’t think it’s my fault. Maybe if I write enough eventually one day the scar over my eye won’t remind me of him every time I look in the mirror. And maybe if I write enough eventually I will look back and know I learned something from this bump in the road instead of blocking all of the memories out of my head.

So you can read all of this and follow along with my story or you can end here. But this is my story. It’s the story of how I overcome something I never thought I would have to overcome. It’s breaking the silence for all of the women out there who have had to go through the same thing but were never brave enough to talk about it. So here i am breaking the silence and letting you into my story. It is violent and sad and confusing but it’s my story and I’m finally ready to tell it.

xoxo

Syd