February 16, 2011

When I was 16 years old, I fell in love with a 26 year old man. He was the first man I ever loved, and I fought hard to make him notice me. I convinced him to ignore my age and the borderline illegality of our relationship, and we began dating.

Three months later, he started calling and texting me excessively when I went out. A few weeks after that he started yelling at me each time a boy texted me or talked to me. By the end of our fifth month together, I was terrified to go out with my friends, male or female, for fear of the screaming, the blame, the threats of leaving me.

I had been brainwashed. I believed that I didn't deserve the love I was receiving, that my existence in the world was solely to please this man and that I could never fully do it because I was so flawed. I was uncaring, selfish, stupid and a slut who would screw any boy that looked at me. I was told this every day for months.

Two months after the emotional abuse had worn away any sense of self preservation, the physical abuse started. I had been a virgin, saving it for the right person, and he took that from me. He guilted me, demanded of me, and sometimes forced me to have sex with him whenever he wanted. I was humiliated.

One day, he hit me. As corny as it sounds, he must have knocked some sense into me because that was the last straw. I looked him in the eye and said I couldn't do this anymore, and left. I went home and cried for days because I thought I had lost the love of my life.

It's taken me years to come to terms with the fact that I was in an abusive relationship. Despite all the warnings and the guidance we get in schools, I wasn't prepared for the emotional abuse that wore me down to the point where I couldn't fight back once I recognized the "real" abuse. I considered turning him into the police for statutory rape to get back at him, but revenge was never going to help me feel better.

The statute of limitations just ran out a few months ago and to this day I wonder if I did the right thing. I like to think that it was my first step in finding myself again, because I am an all too caring and forgiving person who doesn't believe in toxic things like revenge and hatred. That being said, I'll never forgive him for what he did to me, but I have moved on and found someone that loves and adores me more than I can ever imagine. I am his world, and he would do anything if it made me happy.

I hope telling my story can do something for someone out there. You're not alone, and it's not your fault.