You’d think that being an independent, strong-willed, 6 foot tall Scandinavian woman would have kept me from being abused, but it didn’t help one bit. While I never really tolerated physical abuse, much, I sure had my fair share of psychological abuse.
Looking back now, it’s really hard to imagine why all my relationships, with the exception of two recent ones, were with physically and/or mentally abusive men. I would never tolerate that kind of behavior now, but I sure did back then. So how did this happen? It all stemmed from my abusive upbringing and my incredibly low self esteem. My lesbian parents were completely dysfunctional. My one mother was a highly functioning alcoholic doctor who was hardly ever home, and when she was, she was usually on a drunk binge. She was also a liar – she lied about most everything, but I will say this, she was a pretty good doc for being so screwed up. My other mom was just mean as hell 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She never, not once, even now, ever said a nice thing about me. She has always been very cruel and very critical. It’s no wonder I contemplated suicide when I was 5 years old.
This abusive childhood prepared me for familiar abusive relationships. I craved love and I was desperate for a relationship, any kind of relationship. This desperation made me vulnerable to being molested. My 42 year old neighbor in California picked up on this and he spent 6 months of typical pedophile grooming before he finally violated me. My first real “semi-consensual” relation happened when I was 14 years old. I met I guy I was not physically attracted too, but all my friends had slept with him, so I figured there must be something cool about him. He was 22 years old and basically made his living working part time as a janitor and selling drugs. He was not my ideal choice, but he was interested in me, and I just wanted to be loved by someone and I desperately wanted to get out of the house. I pretty much ended up spending most nights at his parents house because thats where he lived.
Everything was wonderful in the beginning, but very quickly it turned abusive. He ended up being very controlling of everything I did, said, and wore. Mostly he was critical of my weight and he fed me lots of cocaine and cross tops. He wanted my ribs and hip bones sticking out, so from age 15 – 18 I suffered from anorexia and bulimia, and he loved it! He would praise me for not eating for days on end, said it made me look beautiful and sexy. Other than that, he never had a kind word to me. I could never do anything right and I was always reminded of how stupid and fat I was. Sometimes he would get so angry he would SCREAM at me just inches from my face. I would go blank, numb out, and basically leave my body until it was over. The fights would usually end with him demanding sex and I would begrudging give in.
His first punch came when I was 16. I kept pleading with him to teach me how to drive his stick shift truck and he never wanted to because he said, “girls suck at driving stick-shift.” Out of the blue, he told me to “get in the drivers seat” because he wanted to show me how to drive. No warning, no prep, he told me to put it into first gear and go. I had no idea what to do so he started screaming and hurling insults at me. I panicked and started grinding the gears as I tried to push the lever into first gear. “Push the damn clutch in your stupid bitch!” What the fuck is wrong with you?” Somehow, amongst the screams, I managed to figure out how to get the truck into first gear and it lunged forward. The screams continued and he barked at me to turn left. I was terrified to see it was a very steep hill with a stop sign half way up. He laughed medically and said, “well I guess you’re gonna learn to drive this truck or we all die.” Of course I panicked and popped the clutch and the truck stalled. He back handed me right in the face and I started crying. I lurched the truck forward until the road flattened out and promptly stoped the truck and jumped out. I took off running and he ran after me. He grabbed me and threw me back in the truck. He took me home and I told him it was over. He sweet talked me, got me presents, promised it would never happen again, and just like that we were on again.
The verbal abuse continued for years, until right before my 18th birthday. I had starved myself to the point of almost dying and I got so scared I went back to eating. I had put on 10 lbs and he was so pissed off about it. He went to the local burger place and got a burger and fries and told me “you cant even have a bite ‘cause you’re getting as fat as a pig.” I defiantly took a french fry and took a bite and he punched me hard right in the face. For the first time I fought back and we ended up fighting in the living room. I finally ran out of the house, he caught me and he dragged me back into the house by the ankle, my head bouncing on the concrete. He drug me back into the bedroom, ripped my pants off me and violently raped me. I sobbed the entire time. When he finished he rolled off me like everything was ok. I slowly put my clothes back on and didn’t say a word. I looked at him just laying their naked and limp, and I thought about getting a knife and killing him. I honestly, in that moment, wanted him dead, but I wasn’t angry, I was very, very calm. In a very low voice I looked him in the eye and said “You ever fucking touch me again or Ill kill you, I swear to God. Don’t every talk to me every fucking again. or I will kill you. I promise.” He looked completely shocked but didn’t say a word as I walked right out of his life.
You would think I would have learned from that, but no, my self esteem was so low, and I felt incredibly awkward and weird around nice guys. I could not handle their intrusive questions I dated a guy I really liked him, but he asked me forging things like “How was your day? How are you feeling? What do you think about….?” I had no idea how to answer simple questions like that, so I dumped him.
It wasn’t until I was 26 years old that I made a decision that I would never put up with physical abuse ever again. At 23 I was completely enamored by this tall, handsome, confident and very charming former stunt man and world champion kick boxer. He wooed the pants off me, literally, and as I found out, he was also a champion in the bedroom. Not because he enjoyed sex actually, but because he wanted the adoration of “being the best in bed.” It was nothing but a show, typical of narcissists that use sex as a tool. He controlled me, mentally tortured me, and took over my life for three years. I stupidly followed him around like a damn puppy dog, even thought I knew he was cheating on me the entire time with anything that moved. The end came when we bought a condo in Tahoe and in the middle of winter we got into a huge fight. Like the last relationship, I had had enough and finally stood up to him. He didn’t like that and he slugged me, hard. Not only was he the former world champ kick boxer, but he was also a professional boxer. HIs punch didn’t knock me out, but it knocked me down. I started screaming so he put a pillow over my face and I couldn’t breath. The more I fought, the harder he pushed. I finally just gave up and he finally took the pillow off my face and jumped off of me. He ran to the kitchen and grabbed a sharp knife. He put the knife to my throat and threatened to kill me if I didn’t shut up. I took all my fears, all my emotions, and I shoved them into a box in my mind, and again, like my last break up, I went totally calm. I told him everything was ok, and maybe we just needed a day apart to calm down. I told him we both needed to just relax down, and I apologized profusely for upsetting him. The entire time he had the door blocked and held the knife in his hand. I promised him everything would be ok, and for some reason he started to cry and turned the knife to his own throat and threatened to kill himself. (I later learned in therapy that it wasn’t real, it was just manipulation to get me to feel bad.) I begged him not to do that and told him I’d just take some time and go to my moms house in Reno and then everything would be ok again. He then turned the knife to me and told me he’d kill me first, then himself. I just kept on talking, saying anything that seemed to calm him down. Finally he put the knife to his side and started to get angry again, which actually worked in my favor. “Fine, get the fuck out of here!” he screamed at me over and over. I used the opportunity to pick up the phone telling him I was gonna call my mom to pick me up and he agreed. Now, keep in mind, I was trained by my lesbian parents to never call the cops or I’d go to an orphanage. My abusive boyfriends trained me to never all the cops for fear of death. And for a time I dated some outlaw bikers who engrained in me that “we NEVER call the cops.” As soon as I picked up the phone, he lifted up the knife and came at me again, luckily I quickly made a decision to call 911. He started screaming at me belligerently again and making death threats. Ten long minutes later, multiple police officers arrived. Of course I defended him and asked them not to arrest him, but between my bruise and his threats they heard on the phone, he was arrested and charged with domestic abuse and felony kidnapping.
I lived in a shelter for 10 days, then moved into my car in the middle of winter. Luckily I got a job quickly and was able to move into a rental. It was a very low time for me. I vowed to NEVER be abused again, and I wasn’t physically, but I ended up one more mentally abusive relationship. At age 29, when that relationship ended, I promised myself I would not date for one year and I would go to therapy until I figured out why I attracted abusive men into my life.
I had to decide that enough was enough and that I wanted something different. I had to promise myself that I would make my life better and not end up abused again. I spent the entire year in individual and group therapy. I did not date I just worked on me. I realized that my childhood abuse set me up for abuse from men. I learned that my attracting and staying in abusive relationships was from my lack of self esteem and feeling that I didn’t deserve a healthy relationship. It all started wth me looking inward and seeking help. I learned a lot about myself, and I also learned I’m not alone. In my survivors of domestic abuse group I connected with other ladies just like myself and I found strength in our solidarity. We would all encourage each other and check in, and we would be brutally honest with each other if we started dating another abuser. We put our life on the table and trusted that we would could get better if we were vulnerable and honest, and for me it worked.
Doing the therapy was not easy; it was uncomfortable and embarrassing, but I did it. And I kept doing it, even all these years later I still go to therapy. I want to continue to grow and get healthier, and while I am far from perfect, I am in a much better place than I was before. I am currently in a relationship with a very healthy, well balanced, kind, and encouraging man and I am very grateful. But just like me, he would not have been ready for a healthy relationship unless he had gone to therapy as well.
If you are in a bad relationship, I promise you, get help, get out, and your life WILL get better. You just have to decide and then get the help and resources to make it happen. You, yes you reading this, you are beautiful and you deserve to have real love. Life can be better if you make it so, you just have to make the decision and then do the work.