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Ask The Band: My So-Called Life

It all started when I was a teenager. Or maybe that was the end. I still don’t know.

Before that, life was good. I had a great mom who took good care of me and my brothers.

Then she married a monster.

He molested me, scared me so much that I couldn’t tell anyone, especially my mom. She went to her grave thinking life was good and fair – and I’m glad for her.

But I paid for her peace of mind. God, I paid.

I lost track of how many times he molested me. There were just so many. Three years of that man forcing me to do things I’d never heard of, threatening to kill my mom if I told anyone he was abusing me.

It took me nearly three years to do just that – tell someone.

Then I married, and acquired an instant family. I thought life was going to be better.

That’s when it started.

At first it was little comments, “That swim suit shows too much,“ or, “You shouldn’t wear that, because your legs are too fat.”

Then, the rapes started.

He knew what I’d been through with my step-dad, yet he was doing the same thing – he raped me.  I felt like this was just how men treated women. I was afraid to leave, and afraid to stay.

By then, I had another wonderful daughter. She was, and still is, my best friend in the world.

But he was still raping me.

And, yes, I took it.  No one told me I didn’t have to.  I am just now figuring out that I deserve better – and I am almost 53 years old. So much wasted time.

He finally found someone else.

I pray for whomever he ends up with, but I can’t turn him in. He is the father of my children. I can’t go through the public humiliation.

Divorce sucks, but it has to be better than my previous life, right? But I’m scared. I’m scared of another man doing this to me.

I will not let that happen. I think I’d rather stay single. I may be broke, but I won’t be controlled by anyone else ever again.

Maybe, in time, I can let more of this out. Right now, this is a huge stretch for me even writing anything about any of this.

How am I supposed to cope with my past, while living in my present?

Three Years Later

Three years ago I started dating my now ex-boyfriend. He was my entire world. I thought that no one would ever be anything close to the level of amazing that I saw in him. He was perfect. I made him perfect in my mind.

He wasn’t.

When we started dating, it wasn’t under the best circumstances. We had been friends for fifteen years. I had just moved out of my parents’ house to get away from their physical, emotional, and mental abuse, as well as their out of control drinking habits. I was dealing with the aftermath of being sexually assaulted and my parents refuting my rape claim – claiming I was just vying for attention. Heh, if only they had any idea that all the times I acted out as a teenager were linked to that one instance.

Of course, I didn’t know that back then.

We ended up moving in together after six months. It was out of necessity, really, since we didn’t have another option.

I loved everything about him. He was tall and strong and handsome and had beautiful blue eyes. He was the only man I’d ever fully given myself to, and he was the first person I ever had an intimate relationship with.

Everyone always teased me about staying a virgin for so long, but I wanted to wait until I felt I was ready. Looking back, maybe I was and maybe I wasn’t. More likely than not, I wasn’t. But in the turmoil of sexual assault, I wanted so desperately to be loved and wanted that I convinced both of us I was ready.

I took us having sex as us being “serious.” I didn’t know any better. Forget that I was 21 and not exactly naïve… I thought I knew it all. I forgave him for messing around with his ex-girlfriend behind my back. I ignored him trying to hook up with his friend’s sister at a party at my house (when he didn’t live there) right in front of me. I looked past how horribly cruel he was to me the moment he threatened to take his own life. He was perfect. More importantly, I was broken, and the only way I thought I could be put back together was the way he was telling me to.

The controlling started small. He would break things off, leave me devastated for a day or two, then come back and apologize, and swear never to leave me again. He felt insecure when he couldn’t perform when we were intimate, but he would blame it on me. Yep, the sexual assault survivor is to blame for everything that went wrong when we had sex. Even when I thought things went well, he had some problem with it. He never even turned off the TV. Christ, he never stopped WATCHING the TV when we were intimate. He would wake me up in the middle of the night to perform oral sex on him… then tell me to go to bed – I was slutty if I wanted something in return.

I learned to stop asking for sex. He would humiliate me and make me feel bad for asking, so we only had sex on his terms.

Eventually the controlling moved out of the bedroom. If I went out, he wanted to know every detail of where I was. It was casual; I barely noticed it at first. I went to a coworker’s birthday party and failed to mention until the next morning that I had stopped with friends to grab a bite to eat at a Denny’s on the way home. He was livid. Why was I hiding things from him? Was I being unfaithful?

Silly me: that was as much protective nature and affection as I got from him. So I chalked it up to him being romantic. Someone anonymously left me a flower at work one day and when he found out, he threatened to sit in the lobby of my workplace and beat the shit out of whomever it was. I laughed it off, but was never entirely sure he was kidding.

Eventually, I wasn’t supposed to dress-up or put makeup on. If I so much as brushed my hair out, he would make fun of me, ask who the hell I was getting all fancy for. We never went out anywhere. I wasn’t supposed to go out much any more, either, or I’d get lectures: “I was gone all the time” or “neglecting my responsibilities around the house.” Even though we lived with three other roommates, it was my job and my job alone to clean the house.

I was supposed to do his laundry. I was supposed to make sure everything was perfect. I wasn’t allowed to go anywhere or do anything. If I checked my mail, I had to give him every detail.

When we went out to group gatherings, he’d purposely act like a jackass so we would leave early. He would go out of his way to embarrass me in public so he didn’t have to stay. Work functions, my family get-togethers (he was a golden child at his family’s functions), even hanging out with my friends. He had to talk down to everyone around him.

I was only allowed to go to the bar on the nights he was working security. He had to be introduced right away as my boyfriend to anyone who talked to me, otherwise he would punish me by refusing to touch me in bed. Any affection was off the table: he wouldn’t touch me. He never held my hand in public. He never kissed me in front of anyone. He never once introduced me as his girlfriend.

He’d tell me I wasn’t an equal part of our relationship – I caused all of our fights. And I did. Mostly because if we were arguing, at least he was paying attention to only me. I’d try to stand up for myself, but it always ended with me in tears. He would say anything to make me cry, then tell me I was always crying and he didn’t sign up for my emotions.

This went on for three years. I slipped into one of the worst depressions I’ve experienced. I couldn’t get out of bed, I couldn’t shower, I could barely even get myself dressed for work. He hated when I went to work. Forget that I was the only one with anything close to a full-time job (he got paid forty bucks a weekend to bounce at the bar and went to school full-time), and I had to pay all of our bills. He hated my coworkers. They were all scum – I shouldn’t hang out with them.

On the other hand, his parents paid for everything – his rent, his car, his insurance, his cell phone, and handed him gas money every week. They paid for his groceries. I worked my ass off and was expected to pay our rent, utilities, my own cell phone, my own insurance, and for our groceries. What did he do with his money? Bought knives and guns.

When I was raped, my attacker used a gun in places I won’t go into detail about. My boyfriend kept all the guns in our closet, with the door open, on my side of the bed, so I had to stare at them. He complained that I’d never go to the shooting range with him. I can’t be near guns without shaking uncontrollably and losing it, but I went anyway. I fired guns, broke into tears, tried to improve because he was angry that I was a bad shot. But every time I cried, he comforted me, told me how well I was doing. That made him an amazing and caring man.

I was in and out of major depressive cycles. At the beginning of September, I was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. I didn’t know why I wanted to die, I just did. I tried to take a knife to my own throat. He stopped me. He talked me down. I checked into the hospital. I was transferred under a 5150 to another hospital. When he visited me, I tried to show him how well I was doing, because he was threatening to leave me.

I was discharged from the mental hospital, but he couldn’t come get me. If there was no other way, he’d get to it “when he had time.” So my best friend picked me up. That first night back at home, he was so glad to see me. He recreated our first dates, we were intimate on a regular basis, he was affectionate, and doing everything for me – just because. Our lives were finally on track now that I was finally medicated. Right?

A week later, he came home and told me he wanted to leave me – he didn’t love me and never had. He didn’t want to live with me anymore. We agreed I’d get my own place, and we’d work on us from there.

The next day, he told me he had been having an affair with some random girl from at the bar, so I had to move out of the house that day. I told him he couldn’t legally evict me, and I wasn’t going anywhere. He beat the ever loving shit out of me. I told him if he didn’t leave, I’d call the cops. Paranoid as he is, he finally left.

That night, I had been planning to tell him that I’d found out I was pregnant while I was in the hospital.
Where were my roommates? They’d taken his new plaything out to the casino while he dumped me, so, you know, she’d have a nice time and it wouldn’t be awkward for her. Excuse me?

I was angry, hurt, upset. I’d been sick to my stomach and couldn’t keep my medications down, which threw me into withdrawal. I thought I’d never feel again. I had no family, I’d been out of work, so I had no money, and nowhere to go.

I took every single piece of clothing he owned and threw it off the deck. I threw it up in the trees. I dumped it in the dirt. I emptied the entire contents of the fridge onto them and left them to rot in the sun. I packed up all of what had been ours – the bed, all the furniture, the dog, everything and moved into a girlfriend’s house.

I threw away everything that reminded me of him. It wasn’t much – in three years, he’d never bought me a birthday card or Christmas present. He always had the nicest I could afford, but I never even got flowers or a card.

Eventually, I told him that I was pregnant. He wanted proof; I gave it to him. Then I miscarried.

I called him, not sure what else to do. I figured it affected him, too. His response? “Deal with it by yourself, you’re not my problem anymore.”

I had bruises for weeks. The cops did nothing. When I went to collect the last of my belongings from the house, the new girlfriend was in his bed, and she bitched me out. We live in a small community; he runs his mouth every chance he gets: it’s my fault my roommate’s kids hate him; I tried to stab him to death (completely false); I stole the dog (I paid six hundred dollars for that dog and had him before we got together); I left him unexpectedly for someone else. There are a billion lies circulating that I have to deal with. He attacks anyone who knows me out of nowhere.

In that moment, I seriously thought my life was over.

Now it’s been almost three months. I don’t think about him much anymore, and I can appreciate the good memories we had. The more I look back on it, though, the more I realize how many signs I ignored.

So now I’m single. I am spending time with my friends and the people who matter in my life. I’m not dating yet – but it’s by choice. I want to spend some time letting myself heal and figuring out who I am and what I want not only from my life, but also from a life with a partner. I’m learning to define what values are important to me in a significant other. There are guys in my life, but I don’t feel the need to validate myself through them. I stick with my medications. I still go to counseling. I have started attending Al-Anon meetings in my area. I’m working on saving up to move to wherever I decide I want to be. I’m living. I’m surviving.

At the end of the day, I’m only 24 years old. The last three years do not define who I am. They will always be a part of me, and I am so thankful that I was able to learn these lessons before things got any worse. Are there still days when it’s hard? Of course. But sometimes shit just happens.

I can’t take the blame for his bad behavior. My responsibility is not to apologize for him. It’s not to make excuses for him. My responsibility is to better myself and learn from this so I don’t repeat these mistakes.

I ignored the signs for far too long and thought I could love us enough for the both of us. It still ended in heartbreak. I won’t do that again.

But LORD, did it feel good pouring all the disgusting stuff from the fridge all over his favorite outfits!

Ask The Band: I’m Sad

Your bandmate needs a sounding board.
 
It’s time to Ask The Band!

Hello, The Band. I’m afraid to share my story, so this is really hard for me.

When I was nine, I was sexually abused by my step-dad – the only father I’d ever known. I was born to a fourteen-year old mother who really didn’t want me. She was married at sixteen and had my brother, and at twenty-one, she had my sister.

The sexual abuse happened every other day beginning when I was nine. I was so scared; I was afraid to tell anybody.

He manipulated me, convinced me that if I told anybody of the abuse, my brother and sister wouldn’t have a dad. He told me that my Mom wouldn’t be able to make it without him – it would be my fault if they divorced. I prayed and prayed that that that abuse would stop.

I hid from him. I’d hide in my closet, under my bed, in the cubby holes in the walls, wherever I could when I heard him coming up the stairs. Sometimes it would work, but most of the time it wouldn’t.

He’d normally find me and make me “perform” for him. I cried, begged him to stop and told him that I didn’t like it. I told him that it was wrong of him to touch me in private areas, but he didn’t care.

The abuse continued for a year. I kept trying to tell my mom and grandma by dropping hints and complaining of stomach aches. He kept my Mom busy working and taking care of my dying Great-Grandmother.

She figured he was cheating on her; he always did. He was a drunk, a womanizer, but my mother was determined to make the marriage work.

She took me to the doctor who asked if someone was touching me in private areas. I was so shocked that I stumbled across my words and couldn’t give him a straight answer.

Right then and there my mom knew. When we left the doctor’s office and got to the car, she looked at me and asked me if someone was touching me in private areas. She was so upset that I couldn’t lie to her. I told her yes and broke down crying.

I thought I was going to be in trouble. I was so scared of how she would react. She asked me who had been touching me and I told her “Dad.” She was furious, but not at me.

My mom immediately took me to my aunt’s house and made me tell her what my dad was doing to me. My aunt was married to my step-dad’s brother. I told my aunt, and then my mom took me to the police station to talk to a detective and fill out a report.

I did.

The next thing I knew, my dad was being arrested.

I’ve learned a lot over the years. I learned that pedophiles usually target children who don’t have a close relationship with their parents.

If the pedophile is a parent, he or she will target the child who isn’t closest to the other parent. I’d always thought my mom favored my brother and sister. She was just too busy for the three of us.

I was so relieved when my dad went to prison. The abuse finally stopped. I didn’t have to worry about him touching me ever again. My mom went through a long depression and refused leave her room.

I needed her more than ever but she locked herself away in her room – day and night. I didn’t know how to cope with the abuse.

My abuser ended up serving eight years in prison. He got out shortly before I turned 18.

My mom began dating another abuser. He was very verbally abusive. My mother was also VERY verbally abusive – a skill she taught me. She told me that I needed to “toughen up.” My self-esteem was in the toilet.

In my teens, I didn’t take any crap from anyone… except from my mother. All I ever wanted was her support, her love, her attention, and quality time. I needed her to proud of me. I needed her approval for EVERYTHING.

Thankfully, I had my grandmother, who loved me unconditionally. My grandmother had been raped when she was younger. It was a double rape – not only did he rape my grandmother, but he raped my mother too. My grandmother was often the target of my mother’s verbal abuse.

In my teenage years, I started drinking and smoking marijuana. I started hanging out with boys and “giving them what they wanted.” I thought I was in love with them and that “love” would feel the void in my heart.

I was very wrong. Finally, I was pretty, I was wanted, I was loved. I eventually dropped out of school and worked. My mom would take whatever extra money I had for herself, or make me spend it on her one way or the other. I paid my truck payment and insurance. I had to buy all my own clothes, and everything else I needed or wanted.

My mother was also financially abusive. She never wanted to buy me anything. If I needed something for school, I usually didn’t get it. I was told if that if I wanted something, I had to work and earn it. I began my first job at thirteen. I lied about my age.

Soon, I got another job – this time I took total responsibility for myself. Who else would provide for me? She gave me a roof over my head, $100 a year in clothing, and one pair of shoes every year.

When I was working, I was happy that I could finally buy myself some of the things I needed and wanted. It felt nice. I had a truck payment, insurance and money for my necessities.

I could buy food. There was hardly ever food in our house. I usually was able to eat a meal at work for free and a bowl of cereal in the morning. I worked as many hours – picking up extra shifts – because I was only making minimum wage. I eventually took on another job and juggled the two.

Working nearly three shifts a day had become too much for me. I partied A LOT. I continued to drink, and occasionally smoked some marijuana. I’d have sex with my boyfriends – I felt used by other guys who only wanted sex. I experimented with women. Women were more comfortable sexually, but they were more complex emotionally.

I started dating guys again – I found a really good guy. We got our own place, found really good jobs. Things were starting to look up. Things didn’t work out with us, but I had hope for a better future.

I moved back to my mother’s house and remained focused upon getting my own place. That’s when I met my now-husband of twelve years.

He took me out of my mother’s house and brought me to the other side of the state to live in the country. He took me to church with him. I hadn’t believed in God and I didn’t know what to expect. We continued dating and eventually I saw a brighter future for me.

I gave myself back to God.

My husband was verbally and emotionally abusive – but it was better than going back to my mother’s house. After a while, we moved out of his family’s house and got our own place. He proposed to me. A couple months later I found out I was pregnant.

There were generally happy times for us. We’d still have fights in which he would belittle me and call me names. I just told myself that the first five years were the hardest and we would get through it.

After my son was born, things changed. He found another woman he was interested in. He became really mean to me. He would tell me that my son would be better off without me and better with him. He wanted me to move out so he could get a roommate.

I was so depressed that I contemplated suicide. If I had to live without my son, I decided I wouldn’t live at all. I didn’t succeed at killing myself. At the last moment, I decided that I wouldn’t leave my son without me. I took my son and moved into my aunt’s house.

I had no job, no money, nothing. He controlled all the money, he did then and he does now. He would take all of my paycheck and leave me without a dime. He still does.

We almost divorced, but instead got Christian counseling. Things became MUCH better around home for a while. We both made life-long commitments to each other and decided we would become better people.

I’d been known to be verbally abusive during arguments in which I felt attacked. I quit – I knew it was wrong. While my husband had never physically attacked me, he remained verbally abusive. We hardly ever fight and get along pretty well, but when he lashes out the words, they cut me so deep that he might as well just swing on me. It hurts deeply.

He has my family and friends convinced that he is Mr. Perfect. They don’t see the control, the financial abuse, and the occasional verbal abuse.

I’m convinced that I can’t make it without him as I’m disabled without disability. I’m currently trying to get disability and should have an answer sometime this year. I should be seeing a judge sometime next month.

While disability isn’t that much money, it’s certainly much more than I have. I promised to myself that I will NOT allow him to take my money this time.

The financial abuse has to end.

In a lot of ways, I feel I married someone similar to my mother – just not as bad. He is a great father to our two children. He spends the money on our bills, our bills are always paid, the children always get whatever they need and a lot of what they want.

I tell myself “at least the children are getting what they need and want” and “at least I have a roof over my head,” “we always have food and our bills are always paid.” I feel greedy, selfish that I am so unhappy.

I’m stuck at home under lock and key all of the time. We have two vehicles and he’ll leave me one of the vehicles, but the gas tank light is always on, and the gas gauge is always well below empty. My wallet is always empty. If he gives me $5, he will make me spend it. He is very quick to take it from me.

Over the years, I have reached out to the church for marital help. My husband usually convinces them that he is Mr. Perfect and I am the bad guy, so they come down hard on me. My family tells me I should stay with him as they are convinced that he’s so wonderful.

I am turning to The Band Back Together. I need help, badly. I don’t know who I am anymore. I’m on an antidepressant. I honestly do not know where else to turn. I wish I had my own place so I could leave with my children and find myself.

I know I have to step outside my current situation and because something is just not right.

I wonder is it just me?
Is there something wrong with me?
Am I in an abusive relationship?

Just Say “No”

The word rolled off my tongue and entered the heavy air in slow motion, “no.”

He was unbuttoning my shirt, and I put my hands up in resistance. He ignored them, pushing them away. There was a wickedly evil smile painted across his face, and he mumbled something under his breath.

I said it again, “No, please.”

He was determined; he shed my protective layer, and I felt even more uneasy. My hands were on his chest, pushing. I moved my legs so they would spill over the side of the couch. I was ready to get up, ready to leave, to pick up my clothes and turn my back on him. He grabbed at my thigh and placed his hand over my pelvis. A bolt of lightning ran through my body from the tip of my toes to the top of my skull. God, it hurt so damn bad.

No. Please no. No.

I squirmed, and he took that as a silent “yes.”

I shook my head, and I felt my mouth open. The words were foreign; they tasted bitter. I tried to spit them out. I had never begged in my life. Especially for something like the right to my own body.

My heart rate increased, and I felt like my lungs couldn’t get enough air. He forced me to touch him, stroke him, pleasure him.

There were tears running down my face as he stuck his hand down my pants.

“No,” I choked out.

He told me to shut up, and my chest constricted. I was trapped underneath his body. His thigh buried in my hip, hands working all over me, violating me as I hoped he’d stop.

After a while, I gave up. I stopped pushing away, stopped kicking, stopped fighting back. I only pleaded quietly, asking until my voice went hoarse. My body limp and that was the first time I truly felt like a corpse. In shock, my functioning ceased altogether.

“Please, stop.”

He told me to be quiet once again; he slapped me, and I went red hot. My cheek burned. He yanked my leggings down; I heard the seams ripping and straining.

He set his face between my legs. His breath made me gasp, and he thought that was a good sign. I was shaking my head vigorously, convulsing. Broken sobs fell past my lips. Stop. Please stop. No.

He didn’t notice. Or he ignored it.

My body was trembling like an earthquake, and I was crying, pushing my fingers through his hair; I shoved his head away from me.

He was getting angry; I could see it in his face.

He grabbed my wrists, gripped them as if I was being taken into custody. In a way, I guess I was. Taken prisoner in my own body. I could feel the scream bubble up in my chest and throat, but no matter what I did, it wouldn’t come out.

He grinned, and I still despise that smile to this day. Going back to work, his tongue performed sins I couldn’t even think to voice.

“No,” I said. “Stop, please.”

I felt helpless and hopeless. I was stripped down, both literally and figuratively, and I was humiliated. I lost all respect for him.

I felt something pierce through my skin, into my veins. It traveled through my blood and made a home in my heart, rooting itself there. It spread into my muscles and tissues. It crawled into my bones and infected the marrow.

I was hollowed out, emptied. Stripped down until I was nothing but pieces of myself, just so he could put me back together how he wanted.

That was the first time. But it certainly wasn’t the last.

My Confession

This is the story no one wants me to tell – that no one wants to hear. But this is my story, and The Band gives me the space where I can tell it.

I was always a dancer. Nothing else mattered to me. It was my go-to activity after a bad breakup, I focused on what I could do: dance. Dance became all I ever wanted – my happy place, my home. I knew I was missing out on dating during high school, but no man could compare with dance.

I wasn’t supposed to go to that Big Band dance. I was supposed to be in bed, but my friend dragged me out, still in my PJ’s with stage hair and make-up from an earlier performance. And if I hadn’t seen that guy who hurt me dancing at that moment, I wouldn’t have gone for a drink. If I hadn’t gone for a drink, I wouldn’t have tripped. If I hadn’t tripped, he wouldn’t have caught me. He was Chuck*, a guy I knew through a friend. Soon, he became my own nightmare.

We talked the rest of the night, soon we were always talking, always together, and I found myself falling. Three weeks later, he told me that he’d gotten back together with his ex. We were watching a movie on my couch as we talked, and somehow, that night, we ended up making out — he got in my pants. I hated myself for that: I’m better than this, I told myself, but an evil voice whispered, He’s the only one who wants you. He is the ONLY one who will EVER want you.

He told me tales of his horrible, abusive mother and his girlfriend. He told me he truly wanted to be with me, and, like a fool, I believed him. This is how I became the “other woman.” Three months I sat by, believing that if I showed him how much I loved him, he would leave her to be with me.

Finally, in late January, I told him to decide who he wanted, and to stay out of my life until then.

He called me in March to tell me they’d broken up. We started fooling around again and I felt like less of a whore. Three days after my 18th birthday, in April, he asked me out, and a week later, I lost my virginity to him.

Soon I found myself at college, where I was studying dance. I thought things were great between us until he started threatening me. He’d tell me if I went out with my friends, he would break up with me, or how horny he was; how he was going to “give a shit-ton of chocolate and honey to a girl and get [himself] jumped.” This scared me.

Deep in my gut, I knew he’d already cheated on me over the summer, but I ignored it. I changed how I lived — made myself sick. I started to cut myself again, fell back into my anorexic ways, and hated myself. I was only happy when I was with him.

My wise Mama saw the signs, the downward spiral I was in. She tried to help, and I just shoved her away.
One night, I asked him if he’d ever cheated on me. This started a huge fight and he dumped me. After hours where I begged his forgiveness, promising I’d never to ask him if he’d cheated on me again, he took ME back.
I became so sick, so weak that I blew my knee out. My career was over. I was lost.

Chuck was happy – I left that college and moved home. I was half living with him, and still believed that I was happy. I swore I was happy even though he never took me out, never told his friends about me, canceled dates, and stood me up. I was never allowed to have a life outside of him. Another warning sign I wish I’d noted.

Soon, I was trying to rebuild my life when he broke up with me again: “We need a break so you can focus on healing yourself. But you’re always welcome to spend the night,” he said. Now I know he just wanted to keep me as a bed-warmer.

He left for a family vacation. During that time, I was raped by someone I’d trusted.

Chuck went crazy, calling me a worthless whore when he found out. A month after the rape, after I’d begged for his forgiveness, he took me back. Not as a girlfriend, though, because we still “needed time” to heal.

For the next four months, my life consisted of waiting for him to decide to take me back as his girl. If I denied him sex, if I didn’t risk falling asleep driving from my new college dorm to his place, if I didn’t skip classes to sleep because he’d kept me up all night, I was the most horrible human being in the world. If I did anything to anger him, he would scream, telling me how pathetic I was. When we talked, he talked down to me, as if I were a naïve child, incapable of understanding. If I countered him in any way, he’d yell and threaten me.

Chuck called me right after I found out my Mama had cancer. He managed to convince me he was going to break up with his girlfriend, and we would be together again. Like a total idiot, I believed him. But as my Mama got sicker, I spent less time with him and more with her. He made me feel guilty for it, but she needed me. Just four months later, she was dying.

At this point, Chuck was diagnosed with a disease that attacked his nervous system, but I couldn’t be in two places at once. When he was high on his medications, he’d become violent with me, so I stayed away from him. He was still with his girlfriend, and I was starting to have my doubts about him.

I lived alone at my parent’s house while my Dad stayed at the hospital with my Mama. My school was between the hospital and our house, so I became an expert at commuting. My friend, Tom, would stay the night with me – we took turns sleeping on the floor or couch because I didn’t want him to sleep in my room. When I had nightmares, he’d hold me until I fell asleep.

Dad and I were at lunch the Tuesday after finals. He had driven up to check on me, and as we ate, we got the phone call that Mama was gone. I hugged him as I cried, and went outside to text my friends before going back to force myself to finish lunch. When I got home, Tom was waiting for me. He held me as I sobbed uncontrollably laying on my Mama’s side of my parents’ bed. He held me until my Dad came home, and I finally let go of him.

Tom came to the funeral and sat behind me, rubbing my shoulder when I cried. Dad and my best friend, Cat, held my hands. Cat joined my family for dinner that night; Tom was over the next day.

Chuck sent a text four hours after Mama died. “I’m sorry, hon.” He didn’t come to the funeral. Didn’t even text or call to ask how I was.

Soon afterward, Chuck’s girlfriend asked Tom if he was cheating on her. Tom stayed quiet for me. He gave Chuck, his old friend, a choice: tell his girlfriend that he was cheating or Tom would. Chuck sent the two of us the same text: “I refused to pick between you two, so I pick neither.”

This was two weeks to the day after my Mama died.

I screamed at Tom; I felt so betrayed. But the worst, most hurtful thing that Chuck said to me: “You were nothing but something to keep me happy when she didn’t. I never wanted you. I was happy with her. Why would I ever be with you? You’re nothing to me. And now, because of you and your buddy Tom, she dumped me. Thanks. You ruined the only chance I had to be happy.”

Tom had, after all, told the girl she was being cheated on.

I was sick in bed for four days after that. I stopped answering my phone, deleted all texts from Chuck without reading them – I knew he was just being ugly. Finally, all the warnings I’d gotten and ignored made sense: he was nothing but a manipulator who’d used me. And I’d let him. He’d manipulated me into believing whatever he said. I believed that God had killed my mother as punishment to me for being such a pathetic excuse of a human.

Tom finally came to my door. I hugged him so tightly and cried until I fell asleep.

Tom became my lifeline and soon I was in love with him. He treated me better than any guy ever had, he listened, he tried to help me heal. I tried to deny what I felt for my friend, but when you feel nothing but shattered and empty, you hold on to any other feeling like it’s the only thing keeping you alive. We ended up sleeping together as we tried to figure out what we were becoming.

Tom and I were still trying to figure out what was going on when he decided to tell his ex-girlfriend – one of my best friends – Jane what had happened. Jane broke that night. She told me that I was a whore and never to talk to her again. Tom left and the last I heard from him was a letter confessing that it was all his fault and he was no better than Chuck. Jane moved home after school, and though I have seen her twice, she turns away and pretends I don’t exist while I fight not to cry or run up and hug her. I love her, and I hate myself for hurting her.

Chuck is gone from my life, and my Dad forced me into therapy. I find my wounds from Chuck are still bleeding. Because of him I am depressed, have severe anxiety, am a borderline alcoholic and borderline sex addict. I am also a survivor of emotional and sexual abuse. In relationships, I panic and shut down completely. I cannot handle being yelled at and actually went off on a professor when he began to say the same things Chuck had said to me.

Tom helped me, he made me a better person, and because of him I had the strength to return to my church and my faith after Chuck pulled me from it. I know my only path for forgiveness is in God, and through my faith, I have forgiven Chuck. I cannot manage to forgive myself for the years of pain I have caused. I pray someday I might be forgiven by both Jane and Chuck’s ex-girlfriend, Gina, and that I will be able to hug them each one last time.

Maybe someday.

I pray that, by a miracle, I can talk to Tom and find out how he feels about me. I still love him. The same voice of hope that whispered that my Mama was going to be alive to help me celebrate the end of finals, whispers that maybe Tom and I will have a chance at a future together….

I wish that somehow everything will turn out okay. I cannot explain how much I hate myself for what I did; who I became. I want nothing more than to hug my friends again and to feel that something in my life will be right again. I pray and wish and hope to be forgiven, even if I feel like I don’t deserve it.

This is my story. This is what no one wanted me to say, what no one wanted to hear. But it was time for me to tell my story, and maybe time for the truth to come out.

*Names changed to protect privacy.

Look At My Daughter

Take a long hard look at my beautiful girl.

She will be 9 years old in a few weeks. At her next doctor’s appointment she will be given the HPV vaccine, even though she will never be able to consent to sexual activity.

Look at her as you think about that.

Abby’s 7 times more likely than her non-disabled peers to be a victim of sexual assault. She would never be able to tell us what happened. She would never be able to tell us who did it.

And now, laws are being passed in many states—and it won’t be long until Utah tries it here—that would force her to carry the product of her rape to term. How would I ever explain to her what was happening to her body? How would I ever make her giving birth okay?

The truth is I absolutely would never do that to her. Never.

Look at her and tell me you would subject her to that. Tell me in what world would it be okay to do that to her?

If you think so, you’re wrong and I don’t want you in my life or hers. Period.

–Lexi Magnusson