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June 18, 2021 at 7:38 am #13876Karleigh SaundersGuest
I’m going to be sharing about my experience was my first very apparent physically aggressive, violent relationship.
I was in a cycle of abusive relationships from the time I was 12 to 23. However, the relationship that I’m about to share was when I was 17 years old.
This was before I knew what non-physical abuse was or that it existed.
By the time I reached this part in the relationship, I was already pretty beaten down.
The signs that I missed are what I’m going to highlight. I want you to see that there were so many little things that happened before the physical abuse began.
So often we think that abusive relationships are just abruptly abusive, we think that he’s going to hit us and that’s the sign.
But it doesn’t start that way – it builds up to that.
When I met K, I was 17 years old and I was at the lowest possible point. I absolutely hated myself and was in the depths of an eating disorder and a dangerous level of self hatred.
The desperation I felt for attention and love told me that even though there were a million red flags, that it was ok. Even though he was horrible, it was better than nothing.
We met in a chat room on some website I definitely shouldn’t have been on.
He lived in California and I was here in Washington. After talking for some time (I’m not sure if it was weeks or months, honestly) he decided he was going to move here to be closer to me.
What I didn’t know at the time is that there was a warrant out for his arrest in California. He literally was fleeing from the police.
We met up at a local mall for a date at Chuck E Cheese, and I remember having butterflies of giddiness. But I also remember feeling these little gut feelings that something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on it.
Those things were little snide comments about me and my appearance.
They were rude comments about the games I wanted to play and what I did and didn’t find funny.
My belief was that it was just the price of a guy paying for a date. I thought that because someone else was providing me the entertainment that I just had to take whatever was given. I also thought it was part of being with someone attractive, someone “out of my league.”
A few weeks into our relationship we were at McDonald’s and having lunch. I had recently lost about 70 pounds and K knew about it.
During this time, I was starving myself and working out for eight+ hours a day so don’t get the idea that it was done healthily.
He had bought me fries and sat down when a woman about the size of my former self walked by.
He pointed to her and asked, “Did you look like that when you were fat?”
I was so taken aback by the comment. I remember thinking that it was rude, but I didn’t know what to say. Scared to say the wrong thing, I just replied “yeah.”
He shook his head and shame. “Yeah, if you ever got that big again, we would definitely not be together.”
I looked down at the fry in my hand and that I had already taken a bite of but I couldn’t bring myself to finish it. I didn’t want to eat anymore so I put it down. All I could think about was how fat I felt and how worried I was to lose him.
That was when the yelling began. In the middle of the restauraunt.
He was upset with me because I wasn’t eating and wasting his money.
When it comes to abusive relationships, you can’t win.
If you ever reach a point where you feel like you can’t do anything right, you need to get out.
Please get out.
Situations like this continued throughout the time of the relationship until it became more and more aggressive.
The comments and physical harm became worse and worse and more and more obvious.
That was just the beginning of so many horrible things that he would say to me. And it wasn’t until I started documenting this story that I remembered something that happened a couple months into the relationship.
It’s important to mention that at this moment, I was wearing a mini skirt.
So from about halfway down my thigh to my feet, my legs were bare.
I can’t remember whether I was going into his house or leaving it but I was outside and he was on the porch and in his hand was an airsoft gun.
As I noticed this I immediately felt uncomfortable. Even right now just thinking about it, I feel that fear welling up in my chest and my hands starting to shake.
I was really scared to bring attention to it because I know that the moment I mentioned that he would get upset and yell at me for being scared of him.
But I did try to hide behind a car a little bit. I figured if the rest of my body was hidden, you wouldn’t be dumb enough to aim for my face. However, he caught on that I was hiding my body behind the car and immediately got upset.
K started yelling at me aggressively and telling me that I shouldn’t be afraid of him, telling me that it was my fault that he acted the way he did, because I was so skittish. That it was that it was all me.
I can’t remember exactly what I said. But I tried to justify it and keep him calm. I remember trying to distract him from what I knew would happen.
But it happened anyway, standing about 15 feet away from me, he shot my bare leg with the airsoft gun.
I remember the initial sting I felt while I was holding back tears. I couldn’t allow him to see how much he hurt me. Even though he was still mocking me and immediately got angry with me.
It ended up swelling really bad into a massive welt on the side of my leg, probably about the size of a baseball. I couldn’t let anyone see so I lived in jeans and sweatpants. I didn’t want anyone to know what had happened.
But movement was uncomfortable wearing the jeans over a welt like that. Every time he would walk by and smack it while telling me not to be such a baby. This situation seems extreme, but what I want you to understand is that these events were not far and few between, it happened more and more often in and out of the bedroom.
It reached a point where he didn’t care when I said I didn’t want to sleep with him.
He decided I didn’t have a choice and he was going to take it whether I wanted it or not.
A moment that I remember very clearly was walking into class the morning after one of the attacks occurred. I walked around the table to my seat and sat down. Due to the pain I couldn’t hold back the wince that gave it away.
I couldn’t sit back in my chair because my back burned so badly. Sitting down was difficult because of the bruises that covered my backside.
I purposely wore clothes that hid the bruises and scratches that span my back and thighs.
A classmate asked if I was okay. And I knew that I couldn’t just say yes. So I played it off. I smiled and shrugged saying that I had a fun time with my boyfriend the night before. Things got crazy, but I enjoyed it; I was into those things.
I’m honestly not sure that they bought it but they let it go.
This is so important.
I am not angry at any one of my classmates. I am not mad and I do not hold judgment against any of them.
But if you experience this, if you see someone acting like this, and you don’t feel comfortable or think that they’re playing it off, please tell someone.
If they told someone would I have been angry? Yes. But had they told someone it wouldn’t have got as bad as it did.
Prepare yourself for the fact that they will probably be mad at you.
But I need you to realize that they’re mad at you because their brain and their mind is so far gone.
They don’t understand that what they’re going through is not okay.
They’ve been taught to ignore the gut feeling that this isn’t okay.
So even though that they’re going to be mad at you, please tell someone, please reach out and find help for them. I don’t care if you’re an adult or if you’re a teenager, please say something.
The thing that really got me the most were the constant comments about how attractive he was. I was told that my man was so hot and I was so lucky to have him. The girls couldn’t believe I scored a guy like that. My already low self esteem absorbed this information and told me that I was going to keep him around. I needed to just deal with it.
I told myself that it would get better if I could just keep going, that I owed him something.
My life was completely under his control.
Back in the old days where we use flip phones, I had a super pretty pink phone. When you got a text the message would light up across the front of the screen and scroll through.
He texted me so many times that the phone crashed. It reached the point that I had to go get a new one. And then he got mad at me when I didn’t have my phone for a day because I had to go get it replaced.
Then came social media.
After I had finally gotten out, he smeared me all across the internet.
He wanted to make everyone think that I was a whore and an awful person.
The reason that this is such an important part of my life to share is because it didn’t start out this way. No one stays in the abusive relationship for the abuse.
If you put a frog in boiling water, they’re going to jump right out. But if you put a frog in cold water and you gradually turn the heat up, before they realize what’s happening, they’re cooked.
That’s what happens with abusive relationships.
It starts out small and gradually increases.
It starts with one snide comment that doesn’t get called out. First it’s a playful shove that turns into a pillow being thrown at a wall, which turns into a fist being put through that wall.
I am dead serious when I say that ignoring red flags could mean life or death.
I’m so grateful that I’m alive and got out before it got worse.
That gratitude hits me even harder when I know that so many women didn’t get out.
The red flags aren’t always the big things.
Is abuse of any kind a red flag? Of course.
But by the time it reaches that point you’ve been so broken down mentally that you don’t even know which way is up.
Here are some examples of the red flags that I didn’t think were that big of a deal:
Eye rolls about what I was uncomfortable with.
Physical aggression that didn’t result in pain, like having things thrown at me. hellos, cups pens.
I’ll also say things being thrown at the wall in an aggressive episode.
Not respecting me when I said I wasn’t ready to get intimate when I wasn’t ready to have sex. But instead he mocked me.
Constantly telling me that I was eating too much, while simultaneously telling me that I needed to eat more.
He would police my phone and blow it up to the point that I didn’t have any room to talk to anyone else.
K would tell me how I should talk to my parents.
He told me that I wasn’t capable of reaching my dreams.
He kept telling me to suck it up and not be so sensitive.
At this point, I had a yet to be diagnosed chronic illness and chronic pain. So I was going through a lot and he just told me to get over it.
Abuse is gradual.
Abusers are very, very good at hiding their abuse and making you feel like you’re crazy. They push and pull until you feel like you’re in a vortex of chaos. The craziest part is that you feel like it’s your fault.
Now I’m here to call this bullshit out and tell you that it is not your fault. You are not crazy and you deserve freedom.
When I finally had enough, I broke up with him. It didn’t last long, however, because he begged me to come back. He blew up my phone and he stepped up just long enough for me to get pulled back in.
We danced to “Hey There Delilah” in the YMCA parking lot. He took me out to dinner and a movie. He spoiled me with flowers and a necklace.
I was brought back in entirely until I realized that he’d been cheating on me. His reasoning?
“I didn’t cheat on you, I just never got around to breaking up with you.”
Abusers need the last word because they need to know that they’re in charge and that they have the power.
So when I broke up with him, he brought me back just so he could say he broke up with me.
I felt like I wasn’t allowed to feel free because I wasn’t the one that ended it this time.
I was convinced that it was all my fault, that I wasn’t strong enough to leave so he pushed me away. Because of this I believed I wasn’t allowed to feel peace. The harassment went on for weeks until I was able to get a new phone number and he was blocked on all social media.
It doesn’t matter how you got out.
Whether you were pushed out or you left on your own accord. What matters is that you survived and made it out.
This was not the last abusive relationship I was in.This was the relationship that taught me that I wasn’t good enough and that I wasn’t worth anything.
This was the relationship that taught me to be comfortable with settling for and accepting less than I deserve.
The crazy thing is after all that, I have found freedom.
After this relationship, I jumped into several others, none of them healthy.
After being in an unhealthy marriage for five years and getting kicked out after he decided to end it, I was at rock bottom. What I didn’t know is that the greatest gift my ex gave me was that moment. Because in that moment, he gave me my freedom.
Now I’m happier than I’ve ever been. A lot of people ask me how and why.
It comes down to the fact that I don’t rely on anyone else to provide me with happiness – I create my own. In doing so, I’ve created a brand new life, a life where I know my worth. A life where I don’t allow anyone to treat me with disrespect and that I deserve so much more than what I allowed myself to accept.
This journey to freedom hasn’t been easy, but it is so freaking worth it.
This is the reason that I’m so passionate about helping women see their worth
I’m determined to do my part to change the conversation to change the narrative regarding abusive relationships and recovery.
I want to help women see their worth because when they see their worth, they don’t accept any less than they deserve. When women know their worth, they don’t let abuse continually happen.
When women know their worth, they recognize red flags the moment they see them. They don’t allow themselves to be questioned.
They don’t allow their boundaries to be crossed.
I spent most of my life feeling like I wasn’t important and didn’t matter, so I allowed myself to be treated like garbage.
If you’re in a situation like this, please ask for help. Reach out to someone. You don’t have to stay. You don’t have to know your next step. Just get out.
I deserved better than and I deserve better now and I will not settle for any less.