I’ve spoken to very few people about the details of my relationship with my abusive ex-boyfriend. How, over the span of two years, he never cared about consent, how “rape fantasies” were just another way for him to legitimize control over my body while he held his hand over my mouth, how he threw tantrums when I said I didn’t want to have sex and managed to have sex with me anyway, about how haunted I still feel about letting him do this to me, that maybe it wasn’t so much “rape” in many cases as I just felt too beat down emotionally to say “no,” that maybe I owed him constant sex because he was my boyfriend, how I suffered a six-month yeast infection from birth control side effects and how when I went off birth control he still refused to wear a condom, how he promised to pull out and didn’t, how I had to take Plan B twice because he wouldn’t wear a condom and wouldn’t pull out, how he coerced me into sexual acts that made me bleed on the sheets, that left wounds and scars, how he expressed disapproval over how I dressed, how he wanted me to dress like a trophy girlfriend while telling me he loved me and it was all for me, how he coerced me to cut my hair a certain way, how we took a 10-hour train to Montreal and he was turned away at the border because of a rape conviction he had never told me about and wasn’t allowed to leave the country, how we took a bus back to New York in the middle of the same night, how I believed he didn’t do it even though he had already raped me repeatedly, how I denied even that fact, how he ignored me the whole bus trip back to New York because I had asked 6 hours earlier if we were taking the right bus (and how dare I question his authority), how I started making myself throw up before going to parties with him so I could stay home alone in my bed, how when I moved to Massachusetts for grad school and broke up with him he threatened to kill me, sent me a box full of things I had given him, including shirts he wore with phrases scrawled in red ink like “this is what I wore when we first met,” “this is what I wore when I first knew I loved you,” screamed “rot in hell” over and over on the phone, and “this hurts worse than when my dad died,” how I had to give campus police a photo just in case he came to town to make good on his death threat (he helped me move so knew where I lived), etc., etc., the details wear on and on and on.
Most of the time I am too sick to write about this, even to myself; instead, it is a running catalogue in my brain I try to puzzle through, sort out, try to stop blaming myself for all the times I could have walked away. It is difficult to walk away when someone says “I love you, and you’re making me a better person,” “I will be a better person,” “I love you more than anything.” It’s difficult to walk away when the person you love isn’t abusive or terrible all the time, and can fool everyone else in your life into thinking he is a charming, caring person. How I am told that relationship rape and assault and psychological manipulation aren’t “as bad” as rape from a stranger, that it is somehow not legitimate, that I should have known better. I’m so sick of living with this, and I’m sick of other women living with it, and I’m sick of the backlash women get for speaking out. I am speaking out.
I recently ran a background check on him, and found out he moved back to Oklahoma where he grew up. Part of me was truly, honestly disappointed to know he is not dead. But, a small wave of relief did wash over me: Maybe now I can go back to New York without having a panic attack every single time? But that’s obviously such a small part of it. I will be living with this relationship the rest of my life, and fuck him for that.