Why I Stayed: A Story Beyond Football

Life Lessons

image

 

“He taught me that I was worthless, couldn’t do any better. Taken me 25 years to unlearn that.”

“He isolated me from friends and family and I had no one to turn to when the abuse started.”

“It’s not the one day he hits you, it’s everyday he works hard to make you smaller.”

“I thought if I loved him enough he would stop being abusive.”

“#WhyIstayed promised to give him five years after he hit me the 1st time #WhyIleft after my daughter attempted to commit suicide at 4.”

These are some tweets in reaction to the horrendous video of Janay Rice and now former NFL running back Ray Rice’s domestic dispute. Once the entire video was released many people on social questioned what makes a person stay in violent relationships.

I was 16 going into my junior year of high school. Sweet Sixteen the year for more independence from your parents but not quite an adult. Time for new firsts: 1st job, 1st party, and 1st boyfriend. We met at work it was love in the way only teenagers can have, all encompassing. Everyday was rainbows, glitter, and unicorn dust. Just special. We got along very well in the beginning, then he became possessive. When his jealousy started, I brushed it off because I didn’t expect it from him. He was a “good guy” not a thug like the other guys on our street. He was nice, doing well in school, didn’t drink, didn’t party and still collected pokemon cards. Basically a stereotypical nerd. He was threatened by what he found attractive about me, my outgoing personality. The relationship to him became too good to be true and he became obsessive.

“Guys like me don’t get girls like you.”

He thought every new friend was an opportunity to leave him. Spending time with anyone who wasn’t him was offensive. Accusations of me cheating happened anytime someone of the opposite sex spoke to me.  Whenever I discouraged him from confronting random men in the street for looking at me he said I enjoyed the attention and couldn’t be trusted. Arguments were explosive and volatile. Most of the time these arguments would erupt would be when I had plans to hang out with friends. Eventually I would decline invites and eventually they would stop inviting me. Although his outbursts never harmed me physically they did enough to make me believe he would. My “bruises” manifested in another way, rapid weight gain. Within months I was 40lbs heavier and felt horrible about myself. When I would attempt to break up with him he would spew the most hateful wishes towards me.  At the young age of 17 he mastered this routine of manipulation completely. His favorite tactic of choice was guilt.

I hope you die.

I hope get you pregnant by a drug dealer and he leaves you.

Other guys are just going to cheat on you.

If you leave I will kill myself and it will be your fault.

 

This went on for nearly 2 years.

 

One day while in school a teacher was discussing healthy relationships unfortunately a year too late but the lesson made me feel concerned for my safety. So I asked him, “Are you manipulating me?” Honestly, I don’t even remember how that conversation ended.  Clearly I couldn’t grasp the level of manipulation and emotional turmoil I was dealing with. School was my only refuge where I could be around some of my friends without feeling guilty. I did pretty well academically and that is what helped me hide this from my family.

You must be wondering where is family in this story and how can this happen. Well the answer is simple, I didn’t tell anyone. I knew what the outcome would be. He would be seriously harmed or worse and it would be my fault. I have a father, 4 brothers, uncles, cousins, a mother that is a veteran and that all don’t mind jail time. Then what happens after that? My family becomes destroyed because of me. People would accuse my parents of not being able to “see the signs” how could I make them failures? More guilt I was not ready for and he knew that also.

As I am closing in on my senior year tensions ran high between us. The tantrums were getting more intense and frequent. Nothing was off limits to keep me emotionally invested. One rainy night while in my father’s car I am talking to my dad about prom arrangements. My ex comes to window tells me there is an emergency. I ask what’s wrong, he alludes that his brother was killed in Iraq. Once we get alone he begins to berate me about messages he found on my computer from a male classmate. His brother was never injured. At this point it is clear I needed to make a plan to leave this relationship as quietly and quickly as possible.

I began to become fearful once he entered the national guard and kept pushing marriage as well as having a family. My life couldn’t end like this as some army wife to an increasingly abusive man. I had to put my plan together, college bound.  I needed to go as far as I could. I settled for one state over. It was far enough. He wanted me to stay in Connecticut but I lied and said only Hofstra University accepted me.

When I entered my freshman year we were still a couple but I felt different. I felt like a new person and if he wanted to stay in the relationship he had to change, he agreed. I even told him I was going to a party and he was surprisingly ok with it, until the day of.  Before the 1st week was over he started up again. I was desensitized to his antics. I didn’t care anymore. His crocodile tears, threats, guilt trips, manipulation meant nothing, I was going to this party and I was going to have the time of my life. He called me horrible names because I wanted to be out and not handle our “problems.” I broke up with him problem solved. So I thought. Later that weekend he was arrested on the Long Island ferry (heading towards Hofstra University) for not buying a ticket. After he was apprehended they found a knife on him.  I can only speculate what would of happened if he made it to my dorm room that weekend and I thank God I will never know. Out of fear I never stayed my room, then I moved to another floor in the building, then ultimately transferring schools. All while still managing to hide the shame from everyone I knew.  Who wants to be a “victim” at such a young age?

Over the years I have taken ample time to heal and even dedicate time to raising awareness for young boys and girls through national organizations, but I still couldn’t tell my family. I managed to hide it from my mother for 12 years. Out of four brothers I’ve only told one. I never got the opportunity to tell my father. The day I decided to confess he missed my call then passed away two days later. A part of me is grateful I never got to tell him. Not completely sure why people stay hopefully this can explain why I did.

4 thoughts on “Why I Stayed: A Story Beyond Football

  1. This was beautiful and really important. I am glad you wrote this. Kudos, mama! Please continue to share your story, esp with young people (but really, with anyone) as it can (and may have already!) quite literally saved a life.

    <3

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *