Disclaimer: I own this piece of writing. Don't steal it.
Notes: This is a completely non-fictional account of domestic violence. While it does not get graphic, it could still be triggering for abuse survivors. If you think it might be upsetting for you to read this, please take a pass on it.
Written March 19, 2013
I remember the first time he hit me.
It was the summer of 2007, and we had been dating-and living together-for nine months. It was a few days after his birthday. It was almost July.
Nine months in, the "honeymoon phase" was only just starting to fade. The sparkle and shine of traveling to new places, of having a house and hot tub and a nice car to drive was starting to dull around the edges. I was beginning to recognize the truth of my situation.
But until the moment his fist struck me, I refused to really see.
The controlling behavior on his part had really only just started, and it started small. "You shouldn't take that job, it doesn't suit you" and "I'd rather you stay in tonight" quickly became "you can't play your Xbox today, I'm putting it away" and "you can't drive one of the cars to visit your family".
And because I didn't know any better, I accepted his strange rules and decrees, too afraid to lose him to stand up for myself.
Until that day in the end of June, when he said we wouldn't be going to my home town for The 4th of July, which had been the plan for quite some time.
He had decided that a trip to visit my family and enjoy the local fireworks display that I so loved would be "rewarding my bad behavior".
What had I done that required punishment? The week before, I had been sick with the flu, and had spent several days in bed or on the couch watching TV as I recovered. I had neglected the housework, too ill to clean and scrub. I missed one day of work.
When he told me that he would not take me to see my family, I said that I would go on my own.
He told me that I could not use one of the cars.
I said that I would have my mom come pick me up.
And he said that I was not to go, end of story.
Frustrated, I said that he couldn't make me stay, that I wasn't his prisoner.
And he punched me in the face.
I spent The 4th of July bruised and alone.
The first time he hit me, he seemed to feel genuinely bad about it. He told me that he hadn't wanted to do it, that he "wasn't that kind of guy". He reminded me several times that with my problems and my mental issues, I was lucky to have him. He told me that he loved me, and that no one else ever would.
And I believed him. I was starved for affection and acceptance after growing up with almost no friends, and being bullied mercilessly all through school. I had no sense of self-worth. The fact that a successful older man saw something in me worth his time was a heady thing. If he could overlook my many flaws, I could overlook his lapse in self-control.
And when it happened again, and then another time, well, it seemed like a small price to pay. After all, no one else would ever love me. And if I could just do better, just make him happy, just find the magic combination of attitudes and behaviors to please him, he wouldn't need to do it any more.
So I spent six years trying to get it right, and six years being beaten regularly. Six years of isolation, of no friends, of seeing my family less and less, and of increasingly worse beatings.
"I'd love to go home for my brother's 21st birthday… I'll have to request a few extra days off of work to recover after I get home, hopefully he'll leave my face so I can work sooner…"
Looking back, I don't know how he did it, but every time he hurt me, I was the one apologizing at the end. I was completely brainwashed, entirely under his spell.
And I'll carry the scars-on my body as well as my mind-for the rest of my life.
My name is Jessica, and I'm lucky to be alive.