When I was 16, I met a guy. A boy. He wasn’t a football player, he wasn’t popular, and he didn’t come from much. But all that he wasn’t somehow made him so much MORE to me. He was what every teenage girl looks for: cute, rebellious, tough, and from another town. And before long, we were head over heels “in love.”
Within a month we were spending every free moment together. Every day my mother or my friends would drive me to his house after school and his mother would drive me home. Our parents tried to put the breaks on, but once he got his own car, it was useless. We were inseparable. He made me feel beautiful, sexy, and smart. Yes, at 16 years old, I felt sexy. Our relationship was like none I had ever had. He was only a year older, but he was much more experienced. I had never been loved both physically and emotionally with so much passion. We were happy.
Obsession turned to passion and quickly turned into control. I couldn’t go anywhere unless I was with him. And I didn’t want to. I couldn’t talk to another guy, even my childhood friends, unless he was there. Truth be told, it went both ways. He loved me and jealousy was part of the deal.
I remember one night, I said something he didn’t like at party and he dragged me out to the hall by my arm. It wasn’t the first time he grabbed this way. We had both been drinking and we were arguing in the stairwell. Then he pushed me. HARD. I fell down a few stairs and he immediately rushed to my side. I was crying, he was crying. Then he apologized, and I did too. I APOLOGIZED. We kissed and made up. It was volatile and I ATE IT UP.
Month after month it continued. We fought more often and over lesser things. He grabbed, pulled, and shoved me. Sometimes into a wall, sometimes leaving the imprint of his finger tips on my arm. I hid the bruises and never told anyone what was happening. When it wasn’t physical, it was emotional. No longer pretty and smart, I was chubby and stupid. But because he never raised a hand to hit me, I honestly thought it was okay. Looking back, I was kidding myself. I would’ve accepted anything he dished out. Even if he had actually hit me. This was love. We loved each other.
Our relationship ended when he met someone else at work and dumped me like a piece of trash. A two year ride on an emotional roller coaster ended with a brief phone call and the sound of her voice in the background. I was devastated and became depressed. I drank a lot and slept a lot. I fought with my family and friends. I never told any of them what had gone on, although I now know that some of them already knew.
About five years later he somehow got my number and asked me to dinner. I couldn’t say no. I don’t know why. Maybe he still had some control over me even after all that time. He was not how I remembered him. He was still cute, which I hated, but he seemed smaller somehow. When he apologized for the way he left things and for how treated me, I brushed it off. “It’s fine; it was nothing. We were just kids.”
But the reality is even though I can see now how sick and wrong it all was, I still consider him my first love. And it wasn’t nothing. When your first encounter with “love” is like that, it affects you in ways you can’t imagine. It affects your future relationships. When I finally got over my first love, I met a great guy. He was smart and nice; the opposite of everything my previous boyfriend was. But I was obsessive and jealous. I needed to be with him 24/7. It was the only way I knew how to date. After a few months, it got to be too much and he broke it off. When I first met my husband, our relationship was rocky and had its own issues, some of which I am sure stem from what happened to me more than 20 years ago.
I know I wasn’t the only one who went through this when I was younger. There were other girls in my school who were in similar or worse situations. And it doesn’t seem to be changing. Today’s statistics say that 1.5 million teenage girls and boys in the U.S admit to being intentionally hit or physically hurt by someone they are romantically involved with. How many think it’s normal or okay? How many of them don’t admit it? Unfortunately as parents, it’s another thing we have to be on the look out for.
If you or anyone you know is afraid, feeling controlled, or being physically or emotionally abused, please speak out to someone you trust. Or contact The National Domestic Abuse Hotline at #800-799-SAFE. Or visit www.thehotline.org for more helpful information.
Sojourner House is a comprehensive domestic and sexual violence agency providing programs and supportive services to victims of domestic and sexual violence and children who witness abuse in the greater Rhode Island community. Since 1976, Sojourner House has served over 60,000 victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence. Every day, Sojourner House receives requests for assistance from individuals in abusive relationships. Thanks to their supporters, Sojourner House is able to offer support groups, one-on-one advocacy, immigration advocacy, crisis intervention, HIV testing, emergency shelter, and more.
If you or someone you know is in a violent relationship, please seek help. Advocates are available 24/7 through the helpline: 401-765-3232. In the case of an emergency, always call 911.