Winter of 1993 into 1994 brought challenges. I was laid off, and while I still had my job at the college library, I needed a second job to pay rent and tuition. The layoff left me in a financially vulnerable position…one that I swore I would NEVER find myself in again (cue Gone With The Wind scene, Scarlett O’Hara in the field, swearing, “…as God as my witness, I’ll never be hungry again).
Things steadily grew worse between the Frat Boy and I. He’d graduated college already, and was feeling disconnected from friends and campus life. My hectic schedule with two jobs, classes, and my beloved SSTV made him suspicious for no real reason. My school activities kept me in frequent contact with a male friend that Frat Boy absolutely hated. Yes, hate is a very strong word, but the mention of my friend’s name (hereafter referred to as Picasso) brought on immediate rage. Picasso is a close friend, and Frat Boy assumed I’d dated him. Frat Boy more or less ordered me to cease my friendship with Picasso. I never ended friendships because of a dating relationship, and I wasn’t about to start.
I don’t know when the Frat Boy enlisted his fraternity brothers to “watch” me, but a handful of them surreptitiously watched or followed me while I was on campus. They told Frat Boy of any interaction with Picasso or other male friends. They informed him if I parked my car anywhere near where Picasso lived or had classes. I tried to make light of it with Picasso and other friends, but truthfully I was beginning to be afraid.
It is important to note that these fraternity brothers directly knew very well what was going on throughout my relationship with Frat Boy. To be blunter, they knew he hit me. They knew their actions directly contributed to the abuse. And they were perfectly fine with it. As far as I know, to this day they still are. May god have mercy on them if I ever see any of them again. I am no longer afraid of them.
As the relationship deteriorated, the fights escalated. Frat Boy’s rage took on a more personal note. Instead of throwing random objects when he was angry, he would seek out my belongings to break or destroy somehow. Some had significant sentimental value. He read my diaries-all of them-I’d been keeping them since about age 13, and I was 22 at this time. He burned them in front of me, consumed with rage over mentions of old boyfriends. The diaries held more memories than old boyfriends, and now they are gone forever. My memories. It was almost as if he was trying to erase who I was before we were involved. Anytime we argued, he demanded his engagement ring back. Any meaning it once held (and I was never much of a “diamond ring” woman) was gone. If I would not give the ring willingly, he had no problem chasing me if needed, and ripping it from my finger. I learned very quickly to just remove the ring when he demanded it.
Despite all of this, as spring approached, I planned a surprise party for Frat Boy’s birthday. I think part of me hoped this might finally mend things between us, and there would be no more cruel words and broken glass in my home. I invited all of our friends…and left out the friends of mine that he did not like, which included my Picasso. With his fraternity brothers hawking my every move, I don’t know why I was shocked when he learned about the party. I’m also not sure why the party angered him either…either that or I don’t remember. The argument that ensued was one I will never forget, because that was the first time he knowingly set out to injure me. He wasn’t much taller than me, but he did outweigh me. When he shoved me into the wall…after throwing a chair at me…he knocked the wind out of me. I slid to the floor in pain and shock, wondering what the fuck had just happened. I don’t know why I felt that the shove was worse than his almost breaking my arm to remove his ring, but at the time, it was. This marked the first time I was truly afraid of his temper. I swore to myself I would be more careful not to make him so angry. I began walking on eggshells. I reduced contact with my friend Picasso, and any other friends he didn’t like. He always seemed to find something to be angry about, and now the arguments included shoving as well as name-calling. Probably worse was the fact that, at least in the beginning, I would fight back. The second time he shoved me; I jumped up and shoved him back harder. He smacked my arm, I’d punch his arm. My dad taught me to throw a punch when I was a little girl being picked on by bullies, but he never told me I shouldn’t let a romantic partner beat me up and call me names.
The physicality of the fights increased rapidly. I seldom had visible marks on my body. He never hit my face, which was a weird thing to be grateful for, but I was grateful. I don’t know how I kept this from my friends, but I distanced myself from them, feeling guilty and ashamed of what was happening at home.
It was almost the summer of 1994.
I was 22 and a half years old.
I was one year from graduating college.
And I believed I deserved every.Single.Thing that was happening to me.