Pathway

When I was an undergrad at the University of Iowa, “A Woman Was Raped Here” was spray-painted on the sidewalks throughout campus.  I don’t believe that it was university approved, rather something the local women’s advocacy center might have done. The one I remember vividly was on the bridge over the Iowa River that divides the campus. There were more on pathways near the residence halls, on sidewalks around campus and in surrounding neighborhoods outside of campus.   This wasn’t a sidewalk chalk kind of effort.  Real paint. Permanent paint.  Advocacy graffiti if you will.

university of iowa.jpg

The message I took away from the words stenciled in paint was to be aware around campus, especially at night.   To take extra safety measures, to be cautious, walk home with a friend when it’s late and have pepper spray handy.   It was definitely the idea of a rapist being someone who exclusively lurks in the shadows.

I was never worried for even a moment that someone I dated could be a rapist or abuse me sexually.  In my mind, rapists were the monsters hiding behind a bush or in dark alleyways.  They certainly weren’t someone that gave me butterflies or said sweet things to me.  There’s nothing logical about the man you love raping or sexually abusing you.

In that past, I’ve explained the fact that abuse starts out slowly and that abusive relationships aren’t abusive all of the time.  The initial kindness, attention and love create a pathway to abuse by leaving the victim off-kilter and confused.  Making heads or tails of someone who professes love and shows gentleness one minute and is cruel and full of rage in another is impossibly difficult.  This dynamic creates a pathway for all forms of abuse, sexual abuse included.

I don’t know where to take this conversation other than to say that I want you to trust your instincts.  Always.  Even when there is evidence of kindness in the past or present from your partner, any sexual act that is uncomfortable, unkind or unwanted negates that kindness.

As hard as this is to take in, regardless of what he says, your abuser knows what he is doing. He knows that he is hurting you.  He knows he is degrading you. He knows that what he is doing is wrong.  He knows.  And he makes a choice to do it anyway.   It is not your fault.

Here are some facts from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

• 1 in 5 women will be raped in her lifetime.

• Nearly 1 in 2 women and 1 in 5 men experienced sexual violence victimization other than rape at some point in their lives.

• Intimate partner sexual assault and rape are used to intimidate, control, and demean victims of domestic violence.

• 14%-25% of women are sexually assaulted by intimate partners during their relationship.

• Between 40 and 45 percent of women in abusive relationships will also be sexually assaulted during the course of the relationship.

• Over half of women raped by an intimate partner were sexually assaulted multiple times by the same partner.

I will write more extensively on this topic as time goes on. In the meantime, I’d like to end with this quote for anyone who has suffered sexual abuse or assault from their abuser.  I believe it is empowering to hear the voices of others who have been where you stand or are advocates thereof.

“Delayed and partial reports of sexual assaults are normal, common and should be expected, particularly in cases of non-stranger sexual assault,” said Kristen Houser, a spokeswoman for the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. “Victims are often in a state of disbelief and trying to make sense of how a person they know and trust could betray and hurt them in such a personal way.”

Lucky Girl

As impossible as this might be to believe, I have a boyfriend.

Our lives have been intersecting for years.  I grew up in Iowa and moved to Illinois when I was twelve.   The house I moved into was six houses away from Andy.   We attended the same grade school,  junior high, high school.  Even college, where we lived only one building away from each other.  But we never met.  In 2014 we met online, discovered our crazy parallel lives and, you’ve got it, never met.

love

In the fall of 2015, I saw Andy during curriculum night at our kids’ (yes, we ended up living in the same town and our children are classmates) high school.  His son and Claire were in the same math class that year and we exchanged a very uncertain look after I asked to borrow his pen but nothing was said beyond, “May I borrow your pen?”  Followed by his polite, “Sure.”  Capped off with my obligatory, “Thank you.”

Throughout that year and into 2016, I ran into Andy at many different school functions.  We never talked.   Just gave each other a glance as if to say, “Are you who I think you are?”  Our never meeting likely would have continued to this very day had it not been for a fateful (even though I don’t believe in fate) band concert where he positioned himself a few rows behind me during the concert and very close to me after the concert as we were waiting for our children.  I turned around, looked right at him, smiled shyly with my nose all crinkled up (if you know me even a little, you know this look well) and, you’ve got it, said nothing.

When I got home later that same night, I looked through the contact list on my phone to see if I still had Andy’s number.  I did and sent him a text that said, “The next time we see each other at school, how about we say ‘hi’ to each other? This is getting a little silly.”   He texted me right back and the rest is history.

In Andy I have found a gentle kind of love.  Love that offers no false flattery. Love that isn’t in a hurry.  Love that doesn’t confuse.  Love that doesn’t control or manipulate.   Love that doesn’t use the word soulmate.  Love that doesn’t forge a faux family.  Love that isn’t hot or cold. Love that would never humiliate through vile acts.  Love that doesn’t have me googling phrases like “sociopath” or “coercive control” or “domestic violence.”  Love that doesn’t stalk me online.  Love that doesn’t come to my workplace uninvited.  Love that doesn’t plan expensive international trips within a few weeks of meeting.  Love that doesn’t have me holding a risk assessment in my hand as I enter a women’s shelter. Love that doesn’t make me cry myself to sleep.

It is, quite simply and purely, a love that allows me to be free.

Andy has loved me and been my best of friends through the darkest time of my life.  He knows everything that James did to me and he loves me all the same.  I don’t know what I ever did right to be lucky enough to have him by my side.  But I do and I’m not letting him go.  You hold on pretty tightly to a love that the universe may have had a hand in finding its way to you.

Renewal Notice

Well, hello there!

I just got a renewal notice for this little space where I can talk freely and honestly about being in an abusive relationship.   That renewal reminded me that I haven’t written in forever because I’ve been busy going through a little bit of a renewal of my own.  cherryblossom

2015 and 2016 were not kind to me. Thank you, James!  Job well done!  Bravissimo!  He’s got his act down pat, that one.  If he could only learn how to cry.  James?  Quick FYI.  Crying involves actually crying.  With tears.  The liquid, salty stuff.  Apparently you don’t produce them.   But your pretending skills are amazeballs.

This year has been full of changes,  promise and love.  There are so many stories I’d like to share and some interesting things I’ve learned along the way about abuse and the small men like James who choose (it’s absolutely and 100% a choice) to abuse.

My life is a completely different one than I was living a year ago. The changes are staggering, with some decisions along the way being very difficult to make.  And decisions I would not have ever needed to ponder had James not entered my life.  One in particular makes me angry when I fully take in what was lost.   That’s a story for another day.

I am very lucky to have no contact with James or links in my current life to his.  I am thankful for the legal system and the court order that’s in place from here until eternity to keep him away. With that said, there have been times when I am confident he’s lurked into my life and I’ve made the proper adjustments to keep myself and those I love safe.   There are more steps I will soon be taking and, in time, I’ll share those, too.

Let me end by answering the questions I get asked most often:

Did James ever apologize to you?

No.  What is it that he said to me once…something to the effect of taking this “idea” of him having abused me and running with it.  As if it’s some new club I’ve joined or I’ve found God and want to tell everyone. Or even worse, the implication that he’s done nothing wrong.  I truly believe that he has rewritten history into a scenario where I’m crazy and he’s infallible.  That’s not how this is at all.  I did not enter our relationship wanting anything more than to be loved.  Writing about abuse is not a cause I would have ever imagined would have anything to do with me.  This is not how I wanted my life to turn out.

In some ways, I think I continue to write because of the apology I’ll never get.  Talking about this subject is not a “poor me” scenario or attention seeking.  It is advocacy.  It is speaking out against something that is extremely difficult to talk about and very much misunderstood.  I want what happened to me to make sense or have some kind of meaning.

So back to the original question.  No, James has not apologized to me.  I don’t believe he ever will.  But I will state openly that I wish he would.  My cell is the same.  Court order or not, if he wanted to apologize, he could.

Whatever happened to James?

I have no idea.  I remain blissfully oblivious (fourteen months and counting) of anything James related.