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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

Owning A Long-Buried Truth

Up to 70% of college students admit to being sexually coerced.

This is her story.

I blog about dealing with owning various truths about myself – the painful ones, the happy ones, the well-lived ones and, in this case, the ones that have remained buried for years.

Many of my truths have been recent discoveries while others I’ve owned for years. But there’s one truth, one single truth that I’ve kept buried for a long time, unwilling to examine it or call it what it was. This long-buried truth was yanked up to the surface by a recent online discussion.

Owning this truth began with another post by someone else, in which the author insinuates that an incident of sexual coercion was merely an accident, a bit of miscommunication between he and his girlfriend.

Some might agree with that.

But, as I read it, all I could think was, “Just because there wasn’t an explicit no doesn’t mean it was consensual.” And then a long-buried memory hit me like a sucker-punch to the gut. Some fifteen years ago, I didn’t explicitly say no, either.

I was a sophomore in college, living in my first apartment. I had a boyfriend, slightly older than me, whom I had met in a history class. In that class, we had to do those awful, awkward introductions everyone hates – you say your name and then offer up a favorite movie or book or quotation. This guy let fly with Marx’s, “Religion is the opiate of the masses,” and my angry, punk-rock eyes lit up.

I was smitten. We started spending a lot of time together. He stayed over at my place frequently. And we drank.

A lot.

One night, after we had been drinking, he started in with a request that I’d denied on many previous occasions. See, he really, really wanted to have anal sex: “C’mon, just this once. I’ll go really slow. It won’t hurt. C’mon.”
I was beyond hesitant – I didn’t want to do it. I was scared. I was also very, very drunk and absolutely incapable of making good decisions. The pestering continued and I finally caved.

I don’t remember much except pain. And blood. And tears. And humiliation. I remember sitting on the toilet, tears falling, somewhat sobered by the pain and the reality of what I had allowed to happen. Allowed to happen. It was my fault – I didn’t said “no.” I cried but I never said “no.” I told him I didn’t want to…but I never said no.

I didn’t stop him.

I let him do it.

It was my fault.

I took that shame and I buried it nice and deep. I never examined it, never called it what it was. Rape was something different: something forceful and angry and not something that happens with your boyfriend, especially not something that happens if you don’t say no.

But that’s exactly what it was: rape. I didn’t want to do it. I was crying, for fuck’s sake. I was wasted. He did it anyway, despite my hesitance, my prior protestations, and my tears. It wasn’t an “accident” and it had nothing to do with a lack of communication.

It was non-consensual, and non-consensual sex is rape, plain and simple.

Since this memory resurfaced, I sat with it for quite some time. There’s been lots of processing, more blame, and then letting go. I’ve decided to share it now, during Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month, because I’m certain that I’m not alone. Sadly, I’m sure it happens every day. A woman doesn’t want to…isn’t comfortable with it…might be drunk, might not…but doesn’t explicitly say no. Her reasons do not matter: what matters is that she didn’t want to and he continued.

Being sexually coerced isn’t equal to giving consent. It’s not your fault. And it wasn’t mine.

Taller, Present, Going Back

I’d started EMDR with a therapist at the VA for trauma when a co-worker at the assisted living center physically assaulted me. My reaction made me realize it was time to start some work I’d buried for decades; the relatively small action of him violently twisting my arm behind my back stimulated a response that had me making mental plans to kill him, and I am a strong believer in ahimsa.

Ed.-In the Hindu, Buddhist, and Jainist traditions, ahimsa is a respect for all living things and avoidance of violence toward others.

During the first few sessions last year, I made a list of small and large traumas in my life: being born with a cleft palate and the years of surgery, my father’s death in Vietnam when I was two months old (I blamed his death on my imperfection), the father and son who molested me when I was eight, being gang-raped by my peers in the army when I was 20, and the subsequent break and burying of that for 20+ years.

We chose to focus on the smaller, more recent trauma. After working through it, I realized I didn’t need to carry those unfortunate events. I returned to school and work, avoiding intimacy and instead allowing my large, no-longer-carried, but still present damage to sit in my cluttered room, a “Monster in a Box,“ as Spaulding Gray put it so well.

I knew I would return to therapy, but also knew I had to pay the mortgage, stay well, and wait for that mythical time when I was ready. A dear friend whom I had a brief relationship with a few months back sent a text near the end of December saying something like “help, this is killing me.” I didn’t even think about whether or not I would help her, despite how poorly things had ended just a few months back.

I loved her really since the moment I met her, and went, not expecting anything but to somehow help her survive the recent loss of custody of her son. Being with her, loving her, gave me the push to re-enter therapy. Last Thursday I spent two hours cycling through the largest, most painful personal event in my life.

Sexual assault is a common enough experience that the VA mental health clinic has a pamphlet about Military Sexual Trauma. Prior to starting the job, I self-reported the experience as an eight (where zero is nothing and 10 is death) 25 years after three soldiers sexually assaulted me, drunk, in a shower.

During this session I was vibrating with disturbance, weeping, and asked not to dry my tears, over-intellectualizing, referring to myself in the third person, returning to the scene, again and again until I imagined myself as each of the perpetrators.

In the end, we decided that “survivor” reminded me of that song from Rocky, so instead I’m just a human, a human who happened to be victimized by other humans and who wasn’t to blame, wasn’t raped because of anything but the fact that humans occasionally do horrible things for reasons we will never know. I ended up a one on the scale of 0-10, unable to believe I could ever be at a zero for such a profound violation.

Instead of an out of body experience or dissociation, the thought of the event now causes a vague flutter in my gut that I am very, very willing to tolerate. I wasn’t willing or interested in completely letting it go; the thought of completely removing it as significant felt unnatural, as it did happen, was real, and has caused more disturbance, illness, and pain than any other event in my life.

We ended the session with the standard wind down. I left the VA center feeling strangely taller, breathing more deeply, and at the same time feeling like I was missing something, something awful, but familiar, something indelible and old.

I return next week and every week until the work is done.

I Am Completely Broken

I am completely broken.

Bold statement, I know, but hear my story and you will understand. I don’t want pity, nor do I want to be saved. Understanding, though, never hurts.

I’ve always taken a liking to academia; I was a natural scholar who skipped the first grade. I had art published in the local newspaper when I was, say, five years old. It was a serviceman in rainbow camo gear holding the American flag, if anyone was curious.

I’d say that was my peak.

I was in third grade when the bullying started – the other kids even dedicated a song to me on the playground! How lucky, right? I was pudgy, I suppose; the fattest kid in the class, fat enough to be the ‘chosen one.’ I cried every single time I went shopping with my mom and sister. I begged that I’d cease to exist, ‘so no one has to worry about me’ –direct quote. This continued for years – seven to be exact.

At least you’re noticed in elementary and middle school. Maybe I wasn’t noticed for a good reason, but I was noticed. I played sports throughout junior high, always had a perfect GPA, I had plenty of friends, and a decent social life. But I was The Friend, not The Girlfriend. I remember during a Halloween dance, I literally begged a boy to tell me why he didn’t like me. He simply walked away and asked my best friend to be his girlfriend. I wasn’t mad; I accepted it.

High school was when the shit hit the fan.

My first two years of high school, I was really involved in class office, never running for a position because I knew the prettier and thinner girls would win. It’s high school, ya know?

I accepted squeezing in wherever I was allowed to. I wasn’t bullied much, but I was ignored. Sometimes, I preferred it. Don’t get me wrong, I had great friends but I was always chasing the fun, chasing the social scene.
Sophomore year I had my first taste of alcohol and weed. I loved it. It felt great to have a secret, something behind the backs of my straight-laced, God-fearing friends. Soon, though, my friends didn’t like me. I remember sitting alone at a table in the library, my old friends at the table next to me, ignoring me. I begged them to tell me why they didn’t like me anymore; they shrugged and walked off.

I transferred schools to a dual enrollment program.

Oh, did I mention I had ballooned up to 250 pounds? Yep. My weight was largely ignored, not discussed, and accepted. But I got sick of it, so I lost the weight – worked out constantly and methodically, eating like a champion.

By the time I got to my new school, I was thirty pounds lighter and thought I was hot shit. I smoked a lot of weed, drove around in my new car with my hip friends, and smoked cigarettes. I even got my first kiss—so what if it was my best friend’s boyfriend? I got it, and I liked it.

I craved male attention and I entered into this ‘I deserve it’ mode. I thought I owed myself a treat, and boy did I get it.

December 8, 2007. Fall semester, senior year, I was golden. There was a new guy every day that wanted me; I dangled myself in front of them like a piece of meat, but I never gave an inch. Not because I didn’t want to, but I was too nervous. With about three kisses under my belt, I was CLUELESS.

But yes, back to that date. That’s when it all went to shit.

I went to the beach with a few people where we drank a lot of whiskey or rum. I remember the initial vomit hump—you know when you gotta puke once to get the ball rolling? I remember looking up to see his face, and I know, looking back, what he was doing. I hear the brain blocks on memories you can’t handle, and thank goodness for that.

I lost my cell phone and my virginity that night. I didn’t even realize it until I went back the next day, saw the condom wrapper, and pieced it together. I quickly covered it with sand so my mom wouldn’t be upset.
Oh, fun fact: in my attempt to go home, I went to a ‘friend’s’ house to ask for help—in the weeks following, I asked him about it, and he said I wanted it just as badly as he did – that I came on to him.

I figured it wasn’t worth it – that I, for some reason, didn’t deserve normalcy. So I went with it, like I went with everything. I made it out to be funny, I buried it deep and far away. I joked about myself – called myself every name in the book. I don’t even know how many people I’ve slept with since that time.

Since then, I’ve had someone attempt to rape me. Since then, I’ve been molested. Since then, I’ve done shameful things I don’t even want to type, but I will. I’ve done MDMA, cocaine, crack, heroin, acid, prescription drugs, and more cocaine. I’ve slept with people – multiple at one time. I’ve stolen money, stolen from stores, stolen from people I love. Since then, I have hated myself and everything, masking it with humor and cool clothes.

Then I met Zach.

Junior year of college, my first year in the dorms, I was nineteen years old. I always had a blast in college – my philosophy was “why think about bad stuff when you can think about the good?”

Zach was special – still is in my book. He had a long-term girlfriend and he hooked up with my roommate, while seeing me in between. I felt special, for no reason. Through “healing” from my rape, I learned that I could have anyone I wanted. I knew how to talk and look and walk to get what I wanted. All I needed was a kiss: one kiss in the elevator of my dormitory sealed the deal. I was in love. He made me feel pure and real; like I deserved more.
It was the first time I realized how important and delicate sex was. I learned what making love was. I no longer made fun of romantic movies or songs; I felt the scenes and I listened to the lyrics and understood. We made love and cried, and it wasn’t corny or cheesy, it was real. And it was amazing. It was the first time I ever said ‘I love you’ to someone. When you experience that for the first time, it’s amazing. You feel important, you know someone is important to you.

I didn’t care about anything but playing “house” with him in my dorm. His dad hated me, my mom hated him, but it didn’t matter; we were in love and it was amazing. I’ll always miss that blissful month. I felt real for the first time in my life.

We moved in together when school let out in the spring. It got bad – screaming, crying, and covering it up with sex. I’ll leave out these details, but it was a textbook abusive relationship, on both our ends. We broke up the day before my fourth year of university started.

I’ve been numb since.

I’ve fucked many, kissed more, and drank a lot of alcohol. I feel empty. I quit going to class, and sat in my apartment for days in the dark, just smoking pot and sitting there. Sometimes, I’d sit for a few hours in complete silence, staring at nothing. I had no motivation – I couldn’t get up out of bed, I didn’t want to shower or brush my teeth or hair. I didn’t want anything in life. I didn’t want life. Every time I drove over a bridge, I struggled not to jerk my wheel just so I could breathe again.

Like I said, I am completely broken. I’m a cliché. Fat kid in desperate need of love and acceptance. Rape victim throwing caution to the wind and delving into a world of drugs and promiscuity. ‘That girl’ who can’t get over her ex. The typical depressed person who lives through every symptom you read on the internet. Smart kid desiring acceptance ends up failing classes due to active social life.

I am completely broken.

Ask The Band: Abuse

Here at The Band, we believe in kicking stigmas to the curb, flinging glitter, and shining a light into the dark. And now?

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 the age of twenty-one.

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’d cry, begged him to stop. I’d beg him to just 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 doctors 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 that 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, 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 when 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 growing up. 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, 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 and 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.

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. 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 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 wonder is it just me?

Is there something wrong with me?

Am I in an abusive relationship?

I am turning to 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.