You Don't Have to Hit to Hurt: An Open Letter to the Emotionally Abused

Subject: You Don't Have to Hit to Hurt: An Open Letter to the Emotionally Abused
Date: 22 May 2016

*This isn't for my benefit. This isn't to get attention or for people to feel sorry for me. This is an important topic that doesn't get talked about enough, so many people like myself suffer in silence and guilt for too long before they get out, if they ever get out. This letter is for everyone suffering in silence, to let you know that you aren't alone and that you aren't dramatic or crazy and that you can get out.*

Abuse. A five letter word no one wants to hear, a word that resonates so deeply with so many people. When you think about abuse you most often think about a child or a woman hiding bruises and making excuses, or an angry boyfriend or parent beating the victim senseless. But after my freshman year of college I know abuse can be and is so much more than a physical trauma. In my case it was never physical.

It was fall, 2014. I was a freshman at a small university outside of Dallas, four hours from my parents. I was ready to go, ready to start my new "adult" life of freedom and fun. I was in the marching band so making friends wasn't a difficult task. There were plenty of freshmen just like me ready to make a new start. I made friends with the upperclassmen in band and they then introduced me to their friends outside of band. One of them introduced me to the man who would send me into a spiraling depression that, almost two years later, I am still trying to come back from. We'll call him J for anonymity reasons.
He was everything I liked. A bad boy, fairly musically talented, funny, attractive, and kind of had this puppy dog aspect that made me melt. We clicked fairly quickly, and low and behold a week after we met we hooked up. Our relationship escalated fairly quickly and soon we were exclusively dating. There were a few initial bumps, like the fact that he had started doing cocaine which I don't agree with. He said he stopped for me, but honestly I don't know if he was being truthful or not.
Things started to go more wrong as more time passed. He would go into rages whenever we fought, and every fight lasted literally hours. He didn't like that I was friends with a lot of guys and he told me he had to "approve" a guy before I was allowed to hang out with them. He didn't want me wearing certain clothes, and he definitely didn't want me to ever go out without him. Like he would become livid if he heard that I had gone to a party without him, and god forbid I talk to any guy while I was there whether I was sober or not. I remember a weekend that he was going to be gone for a choir thing and I had to ask him permission to go to a party myself and my roommate had been invited to. He called me every hour to check on me and when he found out that I had had a few drinks and moved on to a different party he literally walked out the highway by his hotel screaming at me that he was going to step in front of a car. I was tipsy and terrified that he would do it and he made me feel so terrible that I spent the rest of my night in tears and sick to my stomach. He came back and we made up but he continued to blame me for every fight we had. He never once said sorry, never once took the blame.

At one point he had made me feel so terrible about myself that I resorted to binge drinking at parties, as well as made the mistake to cheat on him. I have no excuse for it and I will never condone cheating. I was naive and believed that another man wanting me and telling me I was beautiful and wanted instead of always screaming at me and telling me that I was a horrible and awful person, would make me feel better.

One night I went to a party without him knowing. I got very very drunk and I got date raped. Afterwards I couldn't even tell J because I felt he would blame me and physically hurt me. I had become so terrified of the person I was with that I couldn't even admit to him that I had been raped. My parents don't even know about it because I never told them, and I never reported it.

At some point I had started self harming and my grades dropped. I was in a spiral of self loathing and depression and anxiety. I got to the point where football games made me nauseous because I would get anxious every time I heard someone yell. I grew farther and farther from my friends, and J played a major roll in trying to separate me emotionally from my parents whom I have always been very close to. I found out that he had a habit of yelling at his mom and calling her vulgar names. His temper never got better, only worsened in the 3 months we were together.

One fight in particular that stands out in my mind was I had spent most of the previous day with J and also the entire night. I told him to drop me off at my dorm, that I had homework to do and I just wanted some alone time. He got angry at that, trying to convince me to let him come up to my dorm. I told him no time and time again, and as the fighting escalated I just got fed up and stormed inside. He called me as I was walking into my dorm to continue the fight. He made me cry and feel terrible because I wanted to do homework instead of spend time with him.

Another fight that really sticks out is the fight that I was actually scared for my safety. He was staying the night in my dorm, and at around 2 AM there was some people being really loud in the parking lot below my window. I was going to go down to tell them to shut up. J got very angry and started yelling that I was stupid and that it wasn't a big deal and that I was just a dumb bitch who stuck her nose in too many people's business. I didn't want to deal with another fight at 2 AM so I picked up his stuff, moved it to the door and told him to get out. At that point it was like I had opened the flood gates to his fury. He backed me into a corner, inches from my face, screaming at the top of his lungs, raising his hands like he was going to hit me, and then when I cowered he yelled at me to stop cowering, as if it was my fault that I was scared of him. At that point I new that if I didn't get out, he would escalate to physical violence. He was already at the point of violently pulling me by the arm while we fought to get me to look at him. It took me 2 weeks to break up with him. I finally did it right before Christmas break, and when I went home I finally felt like I could breathe again.
Remember how I said I had made the mistake of cheating on J? Well when spring semester rolled around he called me, crying and screaming, asking if I had cheated on him. I admitted it and again that temper flared. He demanded I talk to him in person and when I denied him he told me that I had to at least return his jacket, which for whatever reason I still had. About 2 days later I stood outside a building on campus to give him back his jacket, and he stood in front of me, in front of a lot of people walking by, and screamed every horrible insult at me that he could. I truly felt at that moment that I deserved it, even though many of the insults weren't directed at my cheating on him, but every other aspect of the relationship. From that moment on until I transferred to a college 15 minuted from my parents, and four hours from Dallas, I lived in fear of him showing up at my dorm room. I refused to go into the music building because he would be there. He made it his personal mission to turn people I thought were friends against me. He made me the bad guy, never once taking any blame. I messed up, I get that. But I now can admit that I was a victim to emotional abuse. I still have flashbacks of him inches from my face screaming at me. I still struggle heavily with depression and anxiety which is a direct result from things he said over and over to me, and I struggle heavily with guilt. I am still struggling with the fact that I am a rape victim, and this letter is the first time I am talking about my abuse and my rape.

It is 2016 and I am far from being healed, but that fact is that I got out. I found a support system in my family, I found a lot of relief in therapy, and I found my personal happy place in backpacking in the Rocky Mountains all summer and the friends I made there.

I know that many many people struggle with this daily. My mom did with her first husband, and many men and women and children deal with this be it a boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse, or even in a friendship or with a family member. It can and does happen to anyone. I'm here to tell you that you can get out, and you can escape that pain, and you can start to heal. Everyone makes mistakes, but abuse is never a mistake and should never be tolerated. You are strong I know you are strong enough to free yourself.