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*Please note: This is the retelling of a personal experience and discusses details of partner violence & sexual assault.*

Often times when a new relationship is starting, the people involved anticipate a fairytale story of romance, love, and compassion. This may very well be the case for some, but many people are not as lucky. Some people think they found their Prince/Princess Charming only to later discover they were very wrong: a reminder that life is not always like the storybooks.

For many years I thought I was going to find that person. I hoped that he was out there for me. After so many awful relationships – one after another – I finally thought I found the perfect guy. He was sweet and nice and I thought he was attractive. He made me feel special and like I was the only thing in his world. He loved me so much that he would call every few hours to check up on me. He was in the military and asked me to marry him, and without hesitation I said yes. I was ready for my “happy ever after.”

He was one of two men in my life who put me through physical and emotional abuse. The solider was more of a stalker and a controller. He would get mad if I didn’t answer when he called. He would yell and scream and call me all sorts of horrible names. Then the next day there would be a diamond bracelet or flowers on my doorstep.

The other guy was also controlling and possessive. A racist who would make racist comments to me, he would parade me around like a trophy and show his friends and the neighborhood kids my breasts. He accused me of sleeping with my much-older MMA coach and my teammates. He didn’t believe my denial, so he took a bus that passed my gym looking for my car because he thought I wasn’t at practice.

He was manipulative, sneaky, charming, disgusting, and so many other things. The one thing he was, that I denied for so long, was a predator. An abuser. He was grooming me for things that I was in no way prepared for.

When people think of domestic violence they may think of violent images like black eyes, broken ribs, and fat lips. I had my fair share of bruises from him…even dislocated shoulders, which I found embarrassing because as I mentioned before, I was an amateur MMA fighter. My life revolved around my gym and training 5 hours a day 5 days a week where I got “beat up” for fun by a bunch of guys who treated me with the utmost respect. But not with him.

He cared more about himself and his drugs – not me or what I was actually doing. He would talk me into getting high and now that I am more aware of how things progressed, I know he was lacing my weed and essentially making me a zombie so I would do what he would say. This is also a form of violence. He was grooming me. He was getting me in a state so I would not know what was going on so he could do what he pleased.

Marital rape was not recognized as a crime in all 50 states until 1993. For decades, it was not considered a crime in some states for someone to rape their partner. Even now, many people find themselves questioning things that have happened to them by their partner because they are married and have had consensual sex before. Many people who are experiencing domestic violence are also very possibly being sexually abused as well.

Sex is also used as a control mechanism or used to hold power over another. In my case, he did this frequently. We were not married, but the sexual violence was real. Our friend had passed and he said “will you sleep with me because I watched my friend die?” I did. I thought it would make me a “good” girlfriend. But it was awful. Then it turned to “You NEED to sleep with me because that’s you job!” I would say no over and over and we would fight and argue. But then I would get tired and just give in. For me, it felt like it wasn’t worth getting choked or my arm dislocated.

I have a mental illness and he knew that. He would use that and exploit it by causing black outs and beating me…then he would have sex with me. I would be completely out of it.

After 2 years I left. As I was talking with my friend she helped me realize that what he did was abuse. Technically I had known and was ashamed of this because I had just been in an abusive relationship. However what I didn’t realize was that so much else fell under the category of rape. I was raped for a good part of 2 years after having been raped by the solider who left for Iraq the night before. Again, I had tried to be a “good” girlfriend and he took it too far. I said no. These events made me take a hard look at myself.

Even after many years of therapy and EMDR treatment for PTSD and a great, loving and caring boyfriend of 2 years, I still think of these men. I still think “what if I had spoken up? Would I have saved other girls like me from going through the same thing? What if I had realized what was happening and reported it? Would they be in jail? Would I have felt better?” A million questions run in my head now, but at the time I was like many others who have been in that same position. I was scared. I thought no one would believe me and I thought it wouldn’t matter because I was with these men. 

I can’t answer these questions, but what I can do is make sure people know that sexual abuse and marital rape are real and they need to be talked about. They are not talked about enough.

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