When her world fell apart, he was there.

*Trigger Warning. Contains stories of sexual, physical, and mental abuse.

She was 16. Her eating disorder had gotten worse in the past year, bad enough that she felt the need to reach out for help. It was the Cinco de Mayo celebration at her school. She had binged on delicious food, then promptly went to the bathroom to throw it all up. She ended up fainting. This was a wake up call of sorts. She needed to tell her mom. That night, she confessed her behavior to her mom, who agreed to take her to counseling.

Soon after she had confessed this to her mom, the girl met a teenage boy who would change her life forever. His name was John. He was a year older, a musician, and very cute. They started going out and she fell in love instantly (as teenagers do). She had lost her virginity to another boy just shortly before this. He had been her first real love, but he moved away. The girl ended up taking John’s virginity. She was against any sort of drinking or drugs, and asked John to not smoke or drink. He did as she asked (mostly).

About a week after they started dating, the girl had her first appointment with a therapist since elementary school. One memory of her dad had come back to her. She was laying in a chair taking a nap and he touched her. She pretended to be asleep so he wouldn’t know that she knew what he was doing. This memory scared her and she wanted a safe space to talk about it. At the appointment, they had her fill out a questionnaire. On this, it asked if the patient had experienced abuse. She answered honestly. This mistake haunted her for the next 10 years.

The girl went in to speak about her eating disorder, but the therapist immediately started talking about her response to the questionnaire. The girl explained that it was just one fuzzy memory. The therapist then informed the girl that she was required to tell the police and that she’d have to tell the police this information.

The floor dropped out from beneath her. She was spinning out of control. She couldn’t breathe. Surely she had heard wrong. This wasn’t happening. No. She had only said she thought something had happened. That wasn’t enough to charge anyone and she was nowhere near ready to face any of this.

Next thing she knew, her mom was in the room and she was having to tell her mom what was happening. One little piece of paper had completely flipped the girls world upside down. It took away any control she had left.

You see, this is the mindset she went into her newest relationship with. Her world was out of control and the only thing that was certain was that John loved her.

This next period of her life is a blur. She remembers telling John what had happened, him being supportive and loving, her mom blaming herself and crying, and just clinging to her new relationship like a life raft—the only good thing in her life at that time.

She went and gave her testimony to the police in a small room with a camera recording. She said what she knew. She repeated that one fuzzy memory. During this, it came out that a friend of hers was also providing testimony against her dad. It was too much for her to handle. Some time later, she was at the pizza place where a classmates mom worked, getting free breadsticks while they waited for the bus to their evening Spanish class at the junior college. She got a phone call from her dad. She answered and he yelled at her, called her a liar, yelled that he’d never done anything. She hung up and fell apart. She told her friend’s mom what was going on. Now another person knew.

After this, nothing ever came of the police investigation into her dad. The girl didn’t have any evidence, and she had said all she knew. More memories would come in time, but that wouldn’t be for many years.

Now, beaten down and broken from having her world fall apart around her, she focused all her energy on John. They made plans to get married when they were of age, named their future children, went full force into creating this happy life. John had a darker side, she soon learned. He was jealous and manipulative. He didn’t allow her to see her friends. She spent every spare moment with him. He told her he didn’t like her friends and he didn’t want her talking to them. She didn’t want to make him angry, so she did as he said. If she didn’t answer the phone when he called, he jumped to conclusions, got upset, would even show up at her house. He started counting condoms, and when he would forget how many they had used, he’d accuse her of cheating.

She caught him poking holes in condoms once and, when she tried to stop him, he slammed the door to her own room on her and her hand was on the doorjamb. He threatened to kill himself if she ever left him and tried to get her pregnant so she couldn’t leave him. Unsurprisingly, sex with him no longer was something she wanted, but he told her that she owed him sex because she had banned him from drinking or smoking weed. When she said no, he wouldn’t stop guilting her until she agreed. Sometimes she cried during. He’d finish, then break down crying and she’d have to comfort him.

This went on for several months. Meanwhile, the girl was still in therapy, but wouldn’t talk about much. She no longer trusted this therapist. She got in to see a psychiatrist and was put on antidepressants for the first time. It was this that finally gave her the courage to break up with him. He fought back, threatened to kill himself, came to her house, basically stalked her. But she had her friends back and they protected her. Irie went as far as to take the phone from her, during one of his attempts to convince her to come back, and let him know exactly why the girl would never go back to him. To this day, the girl is still in awe of the amazing Irie and her fierce protection over her. She was a true friend to the girl and she made sure he knew he was never welcome around the girl ever again.

Her life went on. It wasn’t smooth sailing, but she had gotten out. She had escaped what could have ended up being so much worse. She didn’t get pregnant, she didn’t end up stuck with someone who controlled her every move. She’d date more bad guys in the future, but John left a mark that took her a long while to heal from. It wasn’t until she found sobriety 10 years later that she was able to come to terms and heal. But heal she did. She knew her worth now. She knew that no one deserves to be in a relationship like that. She prayed to the universe that he was a better man today. She was at peace with it all and could move forward with her life knowing she had escaped, but many others don’t. She learned to speak out about her own story, hoping that something in her own story could help someone else.

If you or someone you know is experiencing abuse, please reach out for help. From thehotline.org

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