Image below from http://r-u-safe.org/domestic-violence/.
My very first "real" boyfriend came along when I was 15 years old and he was a doozy. His name was Kenny and he was one of the first few boys brave enough to ask me out. (I've been told I seem confident when as a teen, when in reality that was just me being an extrovert.) Looking back on it, now I see the signs and that it wasn't bravery but his control issues that allowed him false bravado to come on so strong.
Kenny and I dated about a month and in that month I was verbally abused, pinched, slapped on the ass, cheated on, my breast was grabbed in public to humiliate me, and ultimately was knocked almost unconscious. Why did I put up with it for a month? I had already survived sexual, physical, emotional and spiritual abuse from the hands of others that I loved. I had this sneaking suspicion that I deserved to be treated like this. That this was normal for me. I had not yet healed enough to know not to accept these behaviors as normal from anyone.
I was the Good Girl in school. In high school, I helped teachers by handing out papers, delivering notes to other teachers to get supplies, and going to the teacher's lounge to make copies. I helped in the superintendent's office, answering the phone, filing, taking messages, delivering things. I was the kid the teachers trusted. I was responsible. Mature. Not a trouble-maker. I had grown out of that in 1st grade where I alternately slapped and talked nonstop to people on a daily basis. I stood at recess A LOT that first year. I learned to hit while the teacher wasn't looking. I lost my temper the most on the school bus, most of the time in the afternoon on the way home. The noise and the heat combined with a long, tiring day was enough to have me lashing out at people. I had to visit the principal a couple of times in elementary school but never got a paddling. My parents were very seldom notified of my violent explosions. I was better at stuffing my anger down by the time I got in junior high.
So my established role as the Good Girl was slightly tarnished The Day I Lost It. I do not regret this tarnishing for it taught me a lot and was the beginning of the cracks in my Good Girl armor.
On the day I lost it, I had forgotten my homework in my locker. I had undiagnosed Complex PTSD and forgetting things was par for my course. I was standing in an empty hallway, all the kids having already went to class and me having permission (always asking permission) to get my homework from my locker, I was alone. Until I wasn't. I had broken up with Kenny a few days beforehand and he, being the trouble maker that he was, had left class to roam the halls. He found out the week before through a mutual friend that we were going to the mall and I had to pass his house on our way there. He waited in his driveway in his car until we passed, then pulled out, gassed it and tailgated me. I drove straight to the police department parking lot and parked it. He pulled in beside me, rolled his window down, hollered at our mutual friend, "You're not my friend anymore!!" then peeled out.
He had also been harassing me in the one class I had with him and had promised me that he would visit my house late some night when my parents weren't home to inflict some unimaginative violence upon my person. I told him to bring it for I was always armed to the teeth and I'd love to see who the law would believe...me, the Good Girl with not so much as a speeding ticket to her name or him, the drug head with a record. He never showed up at my house.
Instead, he showed up in the empty hallway and as I turned, homework in hand, locker door closing behind me because I'd heard somebody there, he palmed my face like a basketball and bounced the back of my head off my metal locker door, smiling all the while.
My vision went blurry and I staggered, grabbing the lockers behind me for support to keep from falling. The hallway was swimming around me, my stomach was treatening to revolt, and all I could see was rolling cinder blocks and his freckled, smiling face. Then I Lost It.
I do not remember launching my 5'9" self toward his 5'6" self and I do not remember wrapping my hands around his throat or pushing him up the cinder block wall and I do not remember uttering noises from my throat that made it scratchy for hours afterward nor do I remember teachers coming out of their rooms, hollering at me and trying to pull me off of him but all of that happened. It happened because when I became aware of myself again, that's what was going down. Kenny, going blue around the mouth against the cinder block wall of the hallway, my hands wrapped around his throat, veins standing out and red with strain, teachers hands on my arms and fingers, prying, scraping, and the buzz of voices saying my name loudly but very far away it seemed. I had no conscious thought other than, "Make him stop hurting me."
They finally separated us or I let go of him, I don't know which but they hauled both of us straight to the principal's office. The inside of this particular office in high school, I had never visited and of course Kenny was a veteran. He coughed and gasped the whole way to the office, while spouting sexist curse words at me over his shoulder and while the teachers constantly hushed him. I was silent and not quite myself yet, things seemed to be floating around instead of being firmly on the ground where they belonged, which was why when we got to the principal's office and Kenny made eye contact with me again while saying those words, I lost it for the second time. This time, he fell down to the floor with my hands around his throat and I followed him down. It was harder for the teachers to get me off of him this time because there was less room than before with chairs and a desk in the way. Plus I had my legs wrapped around his freckled ass. I had dancer's legs and they were locked on target. When I came to myself again, two male teachers and 3 female teachers had came to the office and had me by various body parts, screaming my name again.
I stood up, Kenny could not because he was having trouble getting his breath and the principal's eyebrows were somewhere up around the stratosphere when he asked me, "WHAT IN GAWD'S NAME IS GOING ON???" The shock on the face of all of the teachers in that office pointed at me strikes me as funny now but then, I was still woozy and suddenly sat down. I told the principal what happened and what had been happening while Kenny gasped, coughed, lying on the floor and tried to defend himself and lie through his severely bruised up tracea. The principal told him to shut up. The counselor was dispatched to get ice packs, I was allowed to go to the bathroom to get it together while Kenny got his punishment in the office, whatever it was. I could not have cared less.
I learned a very valuable lesson that day. To stand up for myself the first time. To shut that shit down the very second it starts. That people will only treat you how you let them treat you. That nobody deserves to be hit or humiliated for any reason EVER.
Kenny was the first and last boyfriend who ever laid a hand on me in anger or abuse. He died a few years out of high school in a car wreck.
I read an article today about domestic violence that struck a nerve with me. I realized I had never told that story on my blog and I never told it in school either. My parents didn't even know about it until a few months ago. You see, I thought it was my fault deep down so I kept it a secret from most people. People can't understand why women stay with men who hurt them. This is why. Shame. Fear. Guilt. Lack of options. I understand it perfectly and I also understand how hard it is to get away from them safely even though mine only lasted a month. There is great personal risk involved in staying or leaving and it takes more courage than you know to do it or talk about it because we feel like it is our fault even when you tell us it isn't. It takes YEARS to convince ourselves that we didn't ask for the violence. Don't judge others until you walk a mile in their shoes.