Breaking the Silence, Part One: February through December 1993

I’ve started and stopped this piece of writing more times than I care to think about. Sometimes I couldn’t get it to “sound” right if that makes any sense. Sometimes I couldn’t get but so far before I simply could not think about it anymore. But something in me is telling me now is the time, and I shouldn’t wait much longer. Maybe, if I finally get it all out…it will go away forever. Or it won’t be so raw at times anymore…I don’t know, but it’s time.

The beginning is the hardest part, because I’ve analyzed this over and over to figure out where this began. I have a feeling I know where the roots are…but for right now I think it is best to stick with the subject at hand. The subject is the fact that I am a two-time survivor of domestic abuse. Obviously I didn’t learn my lesson the first time (insert rueful, uncomfortable laugh here).
The next decision is, do I name names? Do I out these men, write their names for the world to see, and let judgement fall where it may?
I decided not to do this. The abuser I was engaged to from 1993 until 1994 earned himself the nickname Frat Boy. The one I married…that was tough, but he’s the Lawyer. That marriage lasted two years and ten months before I escaped, and then eleven more months for the legal end. By May of 1999 I was completely free.
Looking back I see that I’ve begun, so I can procrastinate no more…
I met the Frat Boy in college. He was a friend of a friend, and then we became friends. From there, as it happens, we began dating in the late winter/early spring of 1993. He pushed quickly for commitment and exclusivity; which many women my age at that time had been “taught to want.”
Without deviating too much from this story, it’s important to note I was not looking for that. It is equally important to know a little background in my life up to that point. In the month or two preceding our dating relationship, I’d been kicked out/disowned by my parents, ended a long-term & long-distance relationship, and had almost lost my financial aid and thus almost lost my classes for that semester. So while he was pressing me for a serious relationship, I was wondering where I was going to live, how I was going to pay for it, and if I would be able to graduate the following year.
I’m not going to lie, I was initially flattered by his attention. It was kind of nice to be so ardently pursued. If I was not so focused on getting my life back in order, I probably would have paid more attention to the misgivings I had, however slight they may have been. I can honestly say things were not bad that spring and into the summer. It wasn’t until we moved in together that things began to go downhill.
He knew I had no place to go other than where we were living, and I do believe he used that to his full advantage. We argued like most couples do, but his anger had an edge to it. He liked calling me names when he got angry; using the fact that I had male friends to insinuate I’d been intimate with all of them. From there, things only got worse. After name-calling came throwing things. He would throw anything he could lay his hands on. I can’t tell you how many times I had to clean up broken glass or hang things over holes in the wall. To this day I fucking hate holes in the wall.
The first time he laid a hand on me was just a few short months after we moved in together, and probably less than seix months into the relationship. His pushing for commitment included him pushing for an engagement. I’d broken off my last relationship because the ex wanted to get married and I didn’t. This situation was a little bit different; Frat Boy had lent me money and his car when my family initially threw me out. Looking back, I was more grateful than I probably should have been, and I felt like I owed him. He used the fact that he’d been there when my own blood wasn’t as “proof” of his “love.” Regardless, I readily admit that the feeling of owing him led directly to my saying yes when he asked to marry me. Little did I know that engagement ring was more of a leash than whatever the fuck a diamond is supposed to mean. The first time Frat Boy ever touched me in anger came after I refused to cease my friendship with one guy. He told me our engagement was over. I told him he was just angry. He chased me around our apartment, pinned me down with my arm twisted up behind my back, and tore the ring off my finger.
That physical expression of his anger shocked me into silence about it. I knew I had no place to go, and if he kicked me out, I was screwed. I told myself it was one fight. I’d seen my parents fight too often to have some idealistic notion that couples didn’t fight. I’d never seen my dad lay a hand on my mom though; or vice versa. My left arm and shoulder hurt for days after he wrenched it up behind my back…but there were no bruises. In the future, there seldom would be bruises…at least visible ones.
A day or so later, Frat Boy apologized and gave the ring back. He said he didn’t understand why I made him angry. He didn’t understand why my friendship with this man was “so important (his words).” He said that my friendships with men who weren’t his fraternity brothers made him nervous, and made him question my investment into the relationship. Wait, what? I’d had male and female friends my whole life. My male friends had never been a problem before. Is this what engagement was?
I remember the names he would call me: bitch…slut…whore…the things he would say to me: had I been a better person/better daughter, my own parents would not have kicked me out…if I was smarter I wouldn’t have been in danger of losing financial aid…if I was more resourceful I could graduate on time…only loose women had as many guy friends as I did…those words ate at my mind and my heart. When Frat Boy finally put his hands on me, I felt like I deserved it.