“You never deserve the abuse” is the message Andrea has for her Survivor Sisters after recounting her own abuse. As Andrea breaks her silence, she questions why she stayed and why those around her never spoke up about the abuse that they witnessed between her and her boyfriend. Thank you for your strength, Andrea.
I first met my abuser when I was in middle school. We didn’t meet again until my senior year of high school when we started dating. He was a liar and childish then, maybe a bit of a manipulator, but I didn’t feel he was malicious. At least not until our fifth year together. Our on and off relationship was an emotional tornado.
He had never even threatened or seemed like he would hit me. The most he would do is get angry or yell, but I was not afraid of him. I was not perfect. I want to make that clear. He was not the typical narcissistic abuser, although I would find out he was a pathological liar. He seemed to turn on and off his emotions and sympathy for me and maybe others. He was never pleasant, charming, or affectionate in the beginning, then it became gradually worse. He was funny alright, and charming when he wanted to be.
After the abuse, I berated myself…I knew who he was. And yet I stayed. He cheated many times. Although I never caught him physically, it was always flirting, texting, and trying to hang out with other girls behind my back. He would make remarks that suggested I should change, or I wasn’t good enough. He would accept and ask for money but then not talk to me until he needed some more. Then he was nice for a day or two. I still felt I needed his approval, affection, and attention. It was a drug. The first drug I ever had.
You Don’t Deserve The First Hit
He didn’t hit me until August of 2016, maybe a week or two before discovering I was pregnant. He hit me on my lip, and I can only remember we were sitting on my sofa-bed, with the light barely spilling through my blinds. My neighbors lived close to us in the apartment complex and I’m surprised they never said anything during the time I stayed there when we would fight or slam doors. My head rocked, and I was stunned, not from any pain but because he hit me. It wasn’t hard, but it was the beginning of something that I never even thought would happen.
Despite his bullshit and flaws, I never thought he would beat me. Two weeks later, I found out I’m pregnant. Not conceived out of rape or sexual assault from my abuser, but more so emotional manipulation and stupidity on my side. I thought I wanted kids with him because he desperately wanted them. I never did until I met him, and whatever he wanted, I tried to provide for him. I even took more than multiple trips to his house in another state while he went to school, paying for an Uber, a friend’s lift, then a taxi there and back to the train station. A 16+ hour trip. Paying for his friend to pick me up or a $200-300 taxi sometimes. I would buy his underwear, food for us, rent for him, a PlayStation, sports stuff, and pay for almost everything unless he had a job. Even then, he needed money sometimes. I was there in every way I could be. If a child was what he wanted even if he asked during sexual intimacy, which leads to more vulnerability, sometimes, I wanted to give that.
After I found out, I didn’t want it. In my gut, I did not want a child. I didn’t have the means to support it anyway, and neither did he. I felt horrible, but I told him I made my decision, and I was getting an abortion. He was upset but said he supported me. He came to appointments with me before and during the surgery. He would hold me whenever I got upset and cried about it and felt I failed everyone. Later I would find out he blamed that decision on starting his resentment and abuse toward me. It had started before, but I would always wonder if that was true.
He gradually started to choke me. Once he knocked my head back, and it hit the floor hard. He choked me at night, mainly. I would silently cry because he would tell me to shut up, and he didn’t feel bad if I cried. I did this to myself. I didn’t know how to listen. He would hit me in my face if I didn’t shut up, he said. My roommates would be home or in the same room as us. I always wondered if they could hear us too and just pretended for their sake (maybe mine too) that they couldn’t.
Eventually, one roommate noticed I was becoming increasingly depressed. My sadness was visible even though I thought I did a decent job when I needed to act normal. I was becoming more isolated than usual (even for me) and more and more anxious. I felt I had OCD, and it was getting worse. I was focused on school and my abuser. My family and I didn’t really connect or talk for several reasons. I felt they only knew my superficial life and that I couldn’t turn to them or anyone. I barely had friends, to begin with. Now I really had no one. He started to destroy my stuff on top of choking me and yelling. He would make scenes even when I begged him to please quiet down because my manager lived right next door. The walls were thin here. He would say he didn’t care and slam the door if he left to the store or to the kitchen and/or yell at me and take my phone sometimes. Threaten to break things.
It would get bad like this if I threatened to leave. He threatened to kill himself sometimes. Those times if it was at my apartment, he would take a knife or some weapon into the bathroom or talk, walk and say he would just off himself, and I would be better off. I’d have to rush after him and stop him. The times that I didn’t chase after him, because I felt he wasn’t serious and just wanted sympathy and attention, he would barge in and choke me or yell at me. He would make me stay up to answer his questions on why I didn’t care or finish a conversation we had earlier. If he finally let me sleep, he would threaten me quietly and tell me to go the fuck to sleep then. His threats were sometimes only implied with his facial expressions, and that was enough for me.
I Knew His Triggers
I learned what words and actions were triggers. However, I still crossed the lines anyway because I became more reckless even though I would shut down if he tried to hurt me or damage my things or get more aggressive. I always shut down as I would when I was younger and would get yelled at. He would get angry if I was silent and refused to answer anything. I pushed when I was angry, and he was calm or pleading, then he became the one to push my buttons and hurt me. He eventually started to tell me he cheated because I wasn’t there for him, or I wasn’t woman enough; I needed to woman up. I was a bitch, I didn’t cook, I didn’t do anything, I was a baby killer. I killed his child. He would drag me sometimes or slap the back of my head. Choking was his primary ammo.
Fast forward to my third apartment and in a new state in the spring of 2018, the state where he went to college and where I used to visit him. I followed him to attend my master’s program for a new experience, to be away from my toxic family issues at the time, and because of its cheap tuition. But mainly to be with him. At the same time, he continued to work his job at a restaurant. I was pregnant the week after I arrived and moved into my new apartment. I regretted that experience so much, even though it was consensual again, and felt worse because I wasn’t learning from my mistakes.
One time, he started to punch my chest and stomach. He sat on me and hit my back so hard that I was temporarily paralyzed for a day. I had to go to the emergency room. No one could help me and get anything for me. He decided to leave me and go to work rather than go with me to my first trip to an E.R. I came back home at 3 am. I was better, but eventually, I got a UTI. I was in excruciating pain for a week. During my spring break, and still pregnant, I couldn’t eat much, was easily nauseous, and would discharge as if I was peeing myself. I was anxious and ready to get rid of this one too.
He was upset but more detached. He was angrier because he would sit on me, choke me, and yell at me. After all, I was getting rid of it, but he refused to get attached to it like he did the last pregnancy. He was reckless, and I became increasingly so. I became erratic and obsessive in my behavior, controlling because of his constant lies and sporadic cheating. I would walk at night, even more, taking off in anger, finding him, or would go to his house. He would do the same to me. He would take my phone and bend it, throw it on the ground. I had to threaten the cops and hunt him down for my property. He slammed doors still even though I had another roommate and others below me and down the hall. He would choke me and hit even with his roommate down the hall in his house. He would leave me in his room while he hung out with friends or go to the store and come back, pretending everything was fine. He wanted me to be okay after, too, and if I wasn’t, I got yelled at or dismissed. My crying sometimes warranted sympathy and apologies, sometimes he was nonchalant and forced me to cut it out.
I had my second abortion, paying for all expenses yet again and another painful experience. I had gone to the E.R. twice after my back injury. The first time because of my UTI, the second because the medication didn’t work. The last time because I had a thick blood clot, I was worried I was miscarrying. I still went to work and school but missed days to stay with him because there were still many days. I loved him and wanted to be near him all the time. He was always my drug, and I hated it. I didn’t know how to stop or if I could ever leave him. He was my confidant, best friend, boyfriend, and at one point, very briefly for almost a month, we were engaged. Looking back, I am embarrassed, but only my roommates knew. He was also the second biggest bully I ever had in my life.
Remembering the Details
I remember most of the details of the last several experiences: smell, sound, touch, the pain. I remember him becoming so bold one morning while on the way to class one day that he grabs my throat, and I have to remind him we’re outside. He didn’t care, but he soon took his hand off. He was bold to throw himself at me after I sprayed Febreeze in his face because he took my phone and wouldn’t give it back. He had a friend over to smoke and watched tv with him while I was sitting in the apartment as a small child. I begged for my phone, and when he kept dismissing me, I grabbed the spray with anger. After I sprayed him, it happened quickly, where he lunged at me after to wrestle it from me and pinned me down on the couch. His friend said, “Woah!”, backing away, nervous, and rather than help or even try, he left after my abuser, said bye, and apologized. After his friend left, I was smacked a few times.
His friends he was staying with noticed but didn’t say anything except a warning that maybe he should stop. He was bold enough to drag me in the house, pick me up and slam me on another couch at another close friend’s house, and he choked me even if people were in the next room with no doors to give us privacy. I started to believe people had no idea what he was. Before we moved into an apartment together while I was in my master’s program, I stayed at yet another friend’s house with him. As we got into an argument, I wanted to get my stuff out, and he told me to leave. When I did what he said, he stopped me from opening the door, closed it, and grabbed the back of my head, and tried to slam me into the wall. The only way I could protect my face was by covering it and stopping the impact. I was fine, but I knew he would have smashed my face in the wall had I let him. He took me into his room and told me to get on the bed. He yelled and called me names and got his belt from his pants. He whipped me a couple times on my legs and told me to stay still, or he would do it worse. He stopped soon after, apologized like usual, and tried to amend it. But he always followed up with; he just wanted me to listen and not make it hard to fix things. Not make things difficult, period.
He would get upset sometimes if I brought up why I wanted out or why we had issues. I yelled one day as we walked home that I was sick of wearing sweaters and long sleeves during the summer to cover my bruises on my arms. I had some on my neck sometimes too, and that’s how I knew he didn’t care what people thought or if they suspected. He was getting worse, and the abuse more frequent.
Several days before I left, he taunted me while I lay on the couch with a small blow torch, knowing I was afraid of fire. When he hit me on my head, he brought me to my feet, and we ended up in the kitchen where he was close to my face. A usual scare tactic, his nose flared and mouth clenched. He threw his forehead on mine and hit me again. He said he knew I was checking out his friend earlier when they were talking. The irony is he was the cheater in our relationship. When I asked to use the restroom, he allowed me to and followed me. He soon choked me before I could even wipe myself and said if I ever told his sister what he did again, he’d kill me. In another instance, he tried to force my head into the toilet. It was another punishment. It was one of the worst insults he knew he could give me, given my anxiety and germaphobia.
The Last Straw
The night before I decided to go to work and not come back to stay at our apartment, he was yelling again, and I told him I’d just go. I was sick of it. It was raining, and he told me to go, even though I paid most of the bills, paid the rent, and our phone bills (for three or four years straight, I paid his phone bill). I walked out the door, and he rushed after me as I walked into the backyard, which had no fence, so I would have kept walking to the alley and had no idea where I was headed. It was raining hard, and the dirt was muddy and thick. The only thing I wore were pajama shorts, a tank top, and my house slippers. He yelled after me, and when I saw him run after me, I ran, but he caught up to me, and I slipped. He dragged me through the mud, on the concrete patio to our apartment door and in the house. He dropped me on the couch and told me to lay there with no shower. I had scratches on my legs, they were wet, muddy, and I was cold. He knew I was a germaphobe, borderline obsessed, which was my last punishment for the night. He was drunk, as he was some nights, and he sat on his favorite armchair and watched tv on his tablet for a few minutes until he fell asleep quickly. When I heard him snore, I wiped the floors clean of the water and mud, soaked my shoes to get the dirt out, and showered, crying again.
By now, I broke down more than several times a week in the bathroom and at work when I was alone. He would get angry if I listened to my music and locked myself in there, claiming I was weak for being suicidal. I could stop being depressed if I stopped complaining all the time and had more mental strength. I let my tears run with the water coming out of the showerhead and in the drain, the mud coming off, and my scratches stung more. I made my plan to just leave in the morning with my backpack, which he would not think weird because I would bring a sweater and other things to occupy me at work. Instead, I got clothes, my laptop, and other personal items I might need for a few days until I figured out what to do next.
Picking Up The Pieces
I ended up going to my co-worker/close friend’s house, who I just met at my summer job. Her apartment was literally down the street from our apartment, but he would not know who I was staying with. I could only hope he wouldn’t figure it out because he knew what apartment she lived in and who she was as we used to do our laundry sometimes during the summer there. After my job ended that August, I had some money to pay for a train back to my home state and ship a couple of boxes of my clothes back. I finally left. I’ll always be grateful to those who helped me pack, move, and sell the property from my apartment. My abuser was reasonable enough to leave the apartment we shared. He responded to my threats to call the police and promised to find a new place to live.
It was a long process the rest of that summer as he damaged the apartment wall and had to fix it because I told him I wasn’t paying for more damages before I moved out. He soon left, and I went through the rest of that summer torn between staying in the state and going to school in person or leaving. My parents eventually convinced me I should leave for my safety. I reconnected with my old best friend, and she supported me along with my co-worker and two boys from our job that would play games with us at work to pass the time.
At the last minute, I found support as I grew more determined to leave my abuser and leave the state and continue my program at my university online. My feelings of shame, anger, sadness at leaving the state I had come to love, and town that grew on me, letting him win, was all I could see. These feelings lasted well into even this year until one day, those feelings of anger started to lessen in frequency and intensity. Feelings of regret and what if I had just stayed with him or at least found a new place and just continued school there, subsided. I still feel the what-ifs once in a while, but I realize how far I have come. Anger, irritability, and sadness are still there, even if I can’t pinpoint the trigger or cause all the time. Anxiety is still the main barrier I face and struggle to deal with. Still, I’d rather deal with the double aftermath than having stayed with my abuser.
The girl I was then would be grateful to me now. You never deserve the abuse. You are not evil or just as bad for becoming like your abuser while you are stuck. This is a survival mode, and we do what we have to get through each day with them. You don’t deserve any of it no matter if you lie to appease them, how mean you think you were in response to them, and no matter what they tell you.