Friday, May 15

How My Abuser Still Haunts Me [2]

This is [part 2 of] a long article/memoir essay I wrote for SkirtCollective last month. It was hard to write, but once I started it just kept going and going until I had said everything I could. I had nightmares that night. 
Trigger warning here, I guess.

After a while, I said ‘no’ more often, hung up on him more often, went out of my way to spend time with my family or old friends instead of him. Eventually, I stopped picking up the phone altogether.
It’s extremely hard – and terrifying – to break up with an abuser. Especially one who’s known you for so long. After all, breaking up had happened before: over and over for years. This time I was determined, and after a week of angry phone calls, threats, insults, guilt and harassment, it seemed to stick.
I don’t remember how terrified I was. Maybe I blocked it out.
It was the end of the school year and I do remember him hovering near my classrooms and parking spot. There was one day, near the end, when I was waiting for my ride next to the school. He was standing by the entrance, eyes on me. I knew he would come closer when more people had left, but I didn’t know what he would do.

But for some reason, two boys I knew came out of nowhere to sit with me. One was a friend, the other an old friend’s brother. I didn’t know why they were there, suddenly on each side of me, making random, simple small talk about pretty much nothing. When my ride showed up, they left, and I’d made it through the day without a confrontation. I’ve never mentioned it to the one of them I still keep up with, but I’ve told the story a lot. I don’t know if this was intentional, to keep him away or just keep me company, but I couldn’t have been more grateful. It meant so much to me to feel protected, even in that small way.
After that, things were easier. Less angry phone calls to ignore, less days I stuck close to the few friends I still had, avoiding him in the halls. Then it was summer, and I could almost pretend he didn’t exist.
It didn’t occur to me at the time how much other people had my back in that time. Not only the boys after school, but old friends that seemed to conveniently intervene here and there. I have little doubt that everyone knew things were awful – though not how awful – and they seemed to accept me back pretty easily. It never felt like they judged me for distancing myself from everyone, and they seemed to take my side – even some that had once been his friends.
I wish I’d noticed that then, and appreciated that support more.
It’s been ten years, I suppose, since the summer I got out, but every once in a while he tries to contact me. We chatted once, not long after I started college – because I was stupid and thought it would be okay. He said I was crazy for still feeling bad about our relationship. That I must be really fucked up if it all bothered me so much.
He will never remember half of the things I will never forget.
I think that’s the only thing that still hurts.
He still tries to add me on Facebook sometimes, and once he contacted me via my tumblr page, violating a space I saw as my own. I don’t use it anymore.
There’s a special kind of pain that comes from sexual coercion. A very particular type of guilt that rots your insides. It hurts to think of all the things that were done to you and to think ‘I said yes.’
Now, years later, sex is an endless exercise in willful, selective memory. Exposed nipples remind me of the abandoned movie theater where he lifted my shirt to fondle me, barely hidden behind the building’s columns, pretending to be interested in it all and trying not to cry when a car drove past and might have seen. I have a strange relationship with my vagina as well, remembering his fingers, rough and forced, in my parent’s moldy, dingy basement, or his lips when he convinced me to lie to my mother, sneaking out of a movie to go to his empty bedroom.
Then there’s his hand pulling mine towards him under a blanket or table, moving my hand to stroke him while people around us talked. There’s a sense of hidden shame when my pubic hair grows out too much, remembering the time he sent me a series of instant messages that said ‘SHAVE THAT BUSH’ over and over again. Or the time he convinced me to go down on him for the first time, sitting on the floor in my bedroom with my parents in the next room. I have to be high to enjoy doing that now, to block out memories that make me want to curl up, shivering. I know this would legally be considered rape, and that there’s some kind of irony to it all, considering the context, but sometimes the only way I can have sex is to be able to let go – to focus on the sensations of my skin without the flashbacks. It isn’t fair, but it works.
Still, it leaves a sick, queasy feeling in the very core of me. Like it’s me that’s rotten. Sick. The days my depression hits hard and I can’t get all of these stupid moments out of my head, I feel broken.
But on my good days, when my husband is sweet and patient and caring, I feel free again. I remember how lucky I am. That I got out. That it didn’t get worse than it was.
That I am stronger and braver than he ever gave me credit for.
That it will never, ever, happen to me again.

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