When It’s All Said & Done

MY STORY ABOUT SURVIVORSHIP

Being a survivor isn’t a one-and-done thing. You don’t survive the experience and get to call it quits later. Unfortunately, it follows you everywhere. The experience is etched into your cells, your memories, your everyday actions. You may never be a victim again, but you will always remember why you’re a survivor in the first place.

I remember when I first started dating my abusive ex-boyfriend, he said he used to date a girl who used to “flinch every time [he] moved [his] hand too fast.” He laughed because he said her old dude “used to beat her”. I can’t remember how I responded then, but I will always think back to that first red flag. In that moment, he was letting me know that intimate partner violence was acceptable, perhaps even humorous.

But what did I know about red flags, then? When I was 16-years-old, I was blaming victims for not leaving their abusive partners. I didn’t know what to look out for when dating ruthless boys and rebellious girls. What I did know was that I was too smart to get caught up in some abusive relationship–Nope! It would never happen to me, because I would just leave, duh! Because it would be that easy…right?

The truth was a hard pill to swallow. I choked on it. I didn’t want to believe I was a victim, but I wasn’t in denial of what was happening to me. I just didn’t know how to make it stop. I still loved him with my entire being – I was convinced he would change. I believed he would changed even after he ghosted me for months, held a shotgun to my chest, physically dragged me by my hair multiple times in public, called me out of my name, left me with bruises, and forced sex with me.

I covered for him everytime, calling his fits “anger issues” because that’s what the courts and the hood called it. I knew it wasn’t my fault he was always in a rage. Truthfully, I love the banter. And I loved to play rough with my boyfriend. I could control my rage in a healthy way, why couldn’t he? Several tough years later, I’d learn it was never about anger, or rage, or being mad. It was always about having the power and control in the relationship (and over me). He didn’t have an anger issue, he had a supremacist issue.

Though he didn’t explicably say it, being white and being a man had its advantages. He was the center of every conversation. Guys like him are the center of what we learn in public school. It didn’t matter that he was a stoner, considered himself liberal – dare I say, a feminist. But what feminist believes women should be “put in their place?” (A very wrong one, for sure). He used his power in society to keep me scared, powerless, and under his control. Every time I tried to break up with him, he’d threaten my family. I believed him because he had a very powerful support system backing up his every move.

Our friends and family knew him as a “nice guy” with temper issues. But “abusive”? No. He would never. He would never raise a fist to me or an open hand. He never hit me. So, why would I say that about him? Obviously, it was me causing his outrage and provoking these fights about what I should be doing with my life. Because the fights were usually about me and what I was doing wrong. I could never point a finger at him because he was “one of the good ones.” He was gaslighting me and I was on fire from the inside out.

When the relationship was finally over, I started to take inventory of what was left. What did I have left to give? He had taken my power, my friends, my integrity, my hope, and my innocence. I’d never see the world with the same bright eyes as before.

IN THE BEGINNING

I met him when I was 16 years old and just out of a complicated, toxic relationship that ended with me having an abortion. He was supportive of my decision and helped me get my mind off of what happened. Full disclosure, he was a good friend before we started dating. He was a family friend, the nicest and funniest guy I had ever gotten close to –  a real gentleman, so I thought. I fell in love so fast, I completely forgot I was *this close* to becoming a mother months before. But I also knew something was off. After we had sex for the first time, I lied about how many people I had sex with. I told him it was just my ex-boyfriend because I didn’t want him to think I was a slut, or dirty. I wanted him to think I was pure and worth keeping around for a long time. Looking back, I always regret that moment.

This was another red flag I should have noticed. In all sincerity, I just wanted to be loved and love in return. I wanted stability, normalcy, and a romantic, healthy love. I thought I would get that with him. I was so blinded by my wants that I forgot about what I needed: safety. I grew up in an unstable, unsafe, unhealthy home and something about him felt familiar. He felt like my Mom and Dad all at once. I should have ran until my feet blistered, but instead I stayed until the very last ounce of dignity was squeezed from me.

But no one warned me about these red flags. And when things were bad, no one talked to my partner about stopping the abuse. They all turned to me and just expected me to leave. As if it was that easy. As if I hadn’t already tried before. As if I had any energy at all to entertain the thought of another fight. As if.

It’s been almost 10 years since the relationship ended, but I still wake up scared some days. There are only so many ways people can take power away from you, but there are so many other ways to gain that power back. On days I feel most helpless, I start to write another piece of this story. And on days I want to take my power back, I share resources to prevent this from happening to someone else. (I also go back to scenes where the abuse took place, but that’s another essay.)

CALL TO ACTION

I am a survivor of IPV and sexual assault. And I am not alone. There are hoards of us and even more young and innocent victims who don’t know how to read flags like 16-year-old me. As survivors, it is sacred our duty to protect them and help them get out of these abusive relationships. As survivors, it is imperative we teach others not to make the same mistakes.

In the same breath, the young man who abused me was also a victim of physical and emotional abuse. The world let him suffer in silence and allowed him to channel his trauma into violence against a romantic partner (me). The world sat back and watched as I was pushed, shoved, and pulled at hands of a troubled young man. His friends did and said nothing. His family did and said nothing. My family tried to help, but ended up blaming me (the victim). All of this happens all too often. We let abusers go unnoticed because they’re our friends, our family members, our loved ones. But that’s not okay. And we shouldn’t keep doing that.

There’s a call to end toxic masculinity as it’s been linked to all kinds of fucked up shit (if I may say): rape culture, intimate partner violence, dehumanization of women and girls, homophobia, transphobia, among other things. But it’s not enough to end these cycles of oppression within ourselves. We have to call people out when they are being less than neighborly to our loved ones. We can’t be scared of being disliked for calling out toxic behavior. Actually, people may even stop talking to us the more we speak up for victims’ rights and the end of toxic behavior.

Right now, we live in a world that allows men to use power + control + violence to make a point and unfortunately, most of the world is run by those people. Fortunately for us, we live amongst the people that that behavior directly affects, meaning we have direct influence to make changes within our homes and within our communities. We can’t let abuse happen period. When the abuser is committing these acts, call them in. When the victim is experiencing these acts, get them out. You can’t sit on the sidelines for this one (or at all), you have to choose a side. You either support abusive and toxic behavior, or you act to end it. Period. There is no inbetween.

While I would love to label all abusers monsters, I cannot. I am a humanitarian and to me that means showing compassion for all, even the worst of the worst. The actions that abusers commit should be punished to the fullest extent, but I stand by actions not defining us. I am not what happened to me and he is not what he did to me. In the end, we are all humans trying to make the world work for us. People like my ex-boyfriend need to realize that they can’t make the world change for them. They need to change for themselves and do better. They need to be better and we have to give them a chance to do so. (We don’t have to be around when it happens, tho.)

FINAL NOTES

So no, this isn’t a story about why I stayed or how bad things were. No. This is a story about survivorship and all the moments it took for me to get here. This is a story about how to get through and still have something left over when it’s all said and done.

Learning How to Love: Chapter 4

INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS. CHARACTERS AND EVENTS MAY HAVE BEEN ALTERED FOR STORY LINE PURPOSES.

**Trigger Warning: Descriptions and detailed scenes tied to Intimate Partner Violence.

CHAPTER FOUR

THE WRONG MR. RIGHT

Ugh. People with their long-term monogamous relationships make me sick. Taking pictures in front of a Christmas tree, kissing under the mistletoe. It all makes me sick. Does anyone even know the meaning of Christmas? Does anyone even know the meaning of love? Love ultimately leads to separation of some sort. So, what’s the point in being in a relationship, anyway?
 
When you love someone, you should be willing to put that person’s life ahead of yours. 
 
Even if it was only for that moment, I loved so hard. For what? So I can get my heart torn out and stomped on? Then you expect me to love you again? You took everything from me. You took so much, I had nothing left to give myself. 
 
You threw me on the bed because “you didn’t want to hurt me.” You called me names so I could understand the anger I “caused” you. Why? I did nothing to hurt you, at all. 
 
It was all a tantrum. A show. Pretend. And that’s all you are. A pretend lover. You never actually opened up to me. It was only anger. You were never truly yourself. Just an act. 
 
You’re always going to be fake to me. Christmas is mostly about consumerism now and I hate that. That is also fake. Like you. So have fun this Christmas, living a fake ass life with fake ass traditions. 
 
Fuck you, Mr. Right. Seriously, go fuck yourself.
Posted on Tumblr.com on December 15, 2011

April 3, 2012

After several months of trying to get back into dating and looking like an idiot, I’m done. I can’t believe I posted my phone number on my neighbor’s door and told him he was cute. I can’t believe I slept with this freshman White-Boy who came after like 3 seconds (poor thing couldn’t handle all this). I also can’t believe I slept with my childhood BFF (it was great, too). And I really can’t believe I just texted my piece-of-shit ex-boyfriend.

He wasn’t always a piece of shit to me. We were really good friends in the beginning. He was my favorite person to be around when I was a freshman in community college. But after a year or so, he started getting controlling and possessive, so I got the fuck out of that relationship.

But when my Dad died, Mr. Right was there for me with a strong shoulder to lean on. He’d take care of me after I was done taking care of everyone else. But just as I would quiet my sadness, Mr. Right would ask questions like, “So, did you fuck anyone else?” and then add things like, “A break don’t mean shit. You were unfaithful if you fucked around like that.” And I would come back with things like, “Well then, technically, I was unfaithful.” That same strong shoulder I loved to lean on would then jerk me around.

Sometimes it was a shove. Sometimes it was broken objects. Like cellphones, windows, doors. He would lose control, blame it on me, take it out on me, weep like a child, and then beg for forgiveness. It was a vicious cycle. Round and round. Get mad at stupid shit, blame it on me, take it out on me, feel like a piece of shit and cry, and then beg for another chance. Pathetic, honestly. At the time, however, I was crying, too. I was scared he’d take things too far.

After my Mom divorced my Dad, she married this tall, light-skinned hijo de su puta madre from Michoacan, Mexico. Universe, forgive me for speaking of the deceased in that way, but I’ll never forgive him for what he did to my Mom.

He was emotionally abusive and controlling. When she asked for a divorce, he showed up to the apartment with a plan for a murder-suicide. He only got away with one thing on that list. And now my Mom lives with the haunting memory of brains splattered across white walls and beige carpet. She still shutters when she hears a loud BANG!

I didn’t want my Mom to live with losing her daughter to intimate partner violence, too. But some part of me thought this was “it” for me. This is the most love I’ll get out of a relationship. This is the kind of love I deserve. I’d never seen someone with so much hate and anger in their eyes. But it didn’t matter how many times I tried to leave, he just wouldn’t leave me alone.

But now I’m here in Humboldt, 700 miles away from my family and friends – basically, all I’ve ever known. And even though I blocked his ass on Facebook and changed my phone number, I still yearn to reach out. I’m lonely and he’s loyal.

I don’t know if he’s changed. All I know is that he’s a person I trust and am comfortable around. Freud has thing weird theory about people falling in love with partners that remind them of their parents. I don’t buy it. Mr. Right is nothing like my Dad, but at least I know he’s a ride-or-die kinda motherfucker. That’s all I need right now.

Weirdly, I’m not afraid of him anymore. If I feel uncomfortable, I’m not afraid to speak up anymore. If he gets loud, I’m not afraid to laugh and point out the silliness in all this anger. If he dares put another hand on me, I’m not afraid to stab this foo in his gut. And if it all goes to shit, I’m not afraid to die trying to defend myself.

He doesn’t own my power anymore – I do.  


April 10, 2012

I cannot believe this. I just spent the most magical weekend of my whole ass life with Mr. Right.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know. We decided it was a good idea for him to drive to Humboldt to see me. Don’t ask me how it got to this point. All I know is booty-calls are sometimes hella complex.

He drove up from L.A. bearing gifts; my bike from back home, an ounce of bomb-ass LA bud, a Ziploc bag half full of gold caps, a bit of hash and this new thing called DMT. I already had access to all this product in Humboldt (I mean, come on – it’s Humboldt) but getting it for free as an apology gift is more my steez; I think it’s the Aquarius Ascending in me.

As if Mexican Drug-Dealers didn’t already have a bad rep, Mr. Right had to go and fulfill the violent stereotype. He was hypermasculine in the ways that pressured him to bully other boys into joining his entourage. He didn’t have real “friends.” He had scared boys who never said a damn thing when Mr. Right would raise a hand to me in front of them. 

He also owned a gun and taught me how to use a shot-gun and an SR22. About two years ago, he pointed a shotgun at me. There was no fight, no horseplay, no obvious trigger for him to do that, so I panicked. I belted out and started crying for help. Then he started laughing hysterically. Said he was playing a prank on me. No, I didn’t think it was a red flag. Yes, I started laughing, too. 

In Dr. Howe’s Family Relations in Contemporary Society lecture, I’m learning that when your young brain sees violence in your home growing up, you’re more likely to be the victim of intimate partner violence, or be the perpetrator of violence in the relationship. Sometimes, you’ll be both. Hearing the way Mr. Right’s mom berates him sometimes makes me cringe. She’s usually drunk out of her mind when she goes off, but she digs her nails deep into ill-healed wounds. 

Mr. Right is aware of his trauma and has is actively trying to heal his trauma. At least that’s what he said on Facebook. Those things are usually pretty accurate, right?


We drove out to the beach on Saturday to explore this new Northern territory together. I rolled the window down and let the crisp off-shore breeze forcefully sweep hair into my face. I popped in a Summer 2010 mixed CD with songs by Sublime (not with Rome), Rebelution and Bob Marley. Hearing about world peace and smoking trees, while enjoying the sunshine sends jolts of serotonin throughout my body. I live for moments like this.  

At the beach, we tucked ourselves in between the giant forest rocks and trees and pitched a small tent. Beaches here get super windy and cold, so we chose a spot where we could watch the sunset without being pounded by the wind. It didn’t take too long for us to realize how much we missed each other’s company.

I never thought I’d have sex on the beach, but he and I were pretty adventurous with each other. There was that one time in the woods…and on the highway…and on a roof. I guess I’m not surprised we did this, too. 

Between the time I left LA and now, I’ve had a lot of time to explore my body and sexuality. I finally know how a real orgasm feels and I know how to make myself get there – alone. Plus,  vibrators have become a necessity and a luxury. I’m not relying on anyone else for pleasure anymore, honey; This gal has got it down! 

People often neglect this fact, but having an orgasm on THC is an extremely pleasurable experience. Your body is relaxed. Your mind is at ease. Your body is flowing with nature and if you’re not feeling paranoid, sleepy, or munching out, then you can immerse yourself in a sensational encounter.  We smoked a fat ass joint. Because that’s what we did when we were together. We smoked; We laughed. We lived in the moment. This guy always came through for me. If I had a problem of any sort, he was there to support me through it and help me feel better. We rode hard for each other. And there he was, 700 miles from home, stripped of all toxic masculine cultural expectations and pressures, inhaling dank ass LA bud and exhaling shame and fear. 



I asked him to visit me again. Yup. Even after everything he’s done to me. Maybe I need closure? He was supposed to leave this morning, but he ended up leaving sometime in the afternoon. When it was time for him to go, he started sobbing. And boom – just like that, there it was: instant regret.  

“I just don’t want to go back down to LA. There’s nothing for me out there! I’m not safe out there!”

Mr. Right is sitting with his head in his hands with tears and mucus running down his face. I crouch down to meet his eyes. But, I can’t sit here and coddle him. I’m going to be late for work.

“You have a life down there and I have a life up here. Your Dad needs you in LA. You’ll be okay,” I say firmly, but calmly.

He wipes his tears but lets his mucus fall onto his lips. He’s an ugly crier. “But you don’t understand what it’s like for a guy like me in the ‘hood. Constantly having to look over your shoulder…ready for the next foo to come at you. Ready for shit to pop off.” He takes his sobbing to the next level and yell-spits, “YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE FOR ME!”

I don’t have time for this. I don’t know what it’s like but I don’t feel sorry for him. He’s a white Mexican cis-het-man with anger issues and trauma. He needs a therapist, not a girlfriend.

“You need to get your shit together and go home.” I let out a sigh and looked him sternly in the eyes. “I’m going to work and by the time I come back, I hope you’re gone.” I soften my look cause I don’t want him to react violently but not before reminding him that this weekend was lovely, but it’s come to an end. Before I left, I sat with him for a second and put my hand on his leg. I finally whispered, “Let me know when you get home,” and walked out of my dorm.  

My job was only a 2-minute walk from my dorm, but I took an alternate route so Mr. Right couldn’t follow me. I wouldn’t put it passed him to show up and make a scene. I’m usually not one to air out my dirty laundry at work, but I had to tell my boss why I was late. She’s a gem. She knows what it’s like to have been kicked around by a loser. She kept me at work as long as she could and asked my coworker to walk me back to my dorm as a safety precaution.

Mr. Right left before I got back from work. Thank the Universe. What a relief. But what Pandora’s box did I just open? Before his meltdown, I told him we should do it again this summer. I thought things would be different.

Fuck.


New Chapters are available to read every Wednesday @ 8 PM.

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Relationships 101: Getting Out of A Toxic Relationship

Let’s face it. This is no easy task. There is no other way to sugar coat it, no “get rich quick scheme”, and absolutely no easy way out at all. People coming out of an abusive relationship almost always come out a little broken inside.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. Think of the phoenix – it has to die to rebirth itself. Personally, I felt like that’s what my experience was after getting out of a 3 year abusive relationship. It wasn’t always hurricanes, but it wasn’t always rainbows either. I felt like the ending of that chapter served as a catalyst for a new, less apologetic me. I had learned to be so subservient in that relationship just for the sake of not arguing, that the parts of me I muted for [him] were now raging to get out and play. When I let out those parts of me – I was dramatic. It was like letting my hair down for the first time. For the first time, in a long time, I was unafraid to be my true self.

I tell my experience because I’ve been there – abusive fuckhead telling me what I can and can’t do with my life, telling me who I should be, getting mad at the things I did in the past, putting me down for who I was, literally dragging me on the floor, pulling my hair, telling who I can’t and can be friends with. This fuckhead controlled almost every part of my life. When I wanted to overthrow his authority, he would threaten my family. Seventeen year old me was scared. Seventeen year old me thought she was doing her family a favor by giving this twenty year old what he wanted.

I left this boy so many times, only to find him back in my life. I either let him back him, or he forced his way in. When I moved 700 miles away from him, I was finally able to cut the cord, but not everyone has that luxury of moving far away from the people that abuse them, so I put together this list of things one can do to get away from the abusive relationship.

  • Tell yourself every day (or multiple times a day) that you do not deserve abuse and that you are worthy of a healthy and non-toxic love.
  • Label the abuse when it is being done. Often, people who perpetrate violence are in denial that they are abusing others. By labeling the behaviors (calling them out), you put the responsibility on your partner to change. Let them know that you are not attacking them, only that you care enough to help them unlearn their unhealthy behavior.
  • Talk to a counselor, or a trusted & mature adult about your relationship. Let the people who are around you the most know about what is going on in your relationship. They can help you when you need it most.
  • Set up a code word or phrase between you and your close friends/relatives. If anytime you feel unsafe and the person who is perpetrating violence is [insert nice word for holding you hostage], you can casually call, text, or talk to this person and this person can come and intervene.
  • Do not detach yourself from anyone – this is the time you need the most support. Make friends, keep in close touch with your family. Do not let yourself stay in isolation.
  • Create a plan for breaking off the relationship. Break ups are never easy and your partner may not let you leave the relationship easily. It helps to involve other people in your plan to leave, so that they can help keep you accountable for following through, and to help keep you in safe in case any violence occurs.
  • Detach yourself from the relationship little by little. Start hanging out with your partner less and less. Say no more often. Try not to text/message/call them so often. Stay off social media. It might help to go “M.I.A.” for a bit until you feel safe.

Don’t be ashamed; it’s not your fault.


Here are some stats:

  • Intimate Partner Violence, or abuse, can be perpetrated by anyone at any time in their life and affects everyone in your community.
  • Between 85-95% of intimate partner violence survivors are women.
  • On average, a person who is in an abusive relationship will go back to their abuser 7 or 8 times.
  • Reportedly, 51% of LGBTQ intimate partner violence survivors are women, 42% are men and 7% are transgender.
  • Intimate Partner Violence isn’t just between men and women, and men aren’t the only ones who are committing the violence.
  • An average of 14% of women and 18% of men reported being emotionally abused by an intimate partner at some point in the last year.
  • Without help, children and adolescence who witness intimate partner violence in their homes are more likely to be abusive towards, or be abused by, their intimate partner.

NO MORE VIOLENCE.

BREAK THE SILENCE.

BREAK THE CYCLE.

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When you do leave the relationship, you might be broken. Make it a priority to put yourself back together. If there was anything that relationships should have taught you – it should be to be there for yourself, show up for yourself, put yourself first, say no, defend yourself, own your power, learn about your power and to be unapologetically you.

Thank you.