Though I didn’t know Yeardley, her story and One Love is very near and dear to my heart.
I came to know about the One Love Foundation after following Yeardley’s story in the news and on social media. The parallels between Yeardley’s story and my own have made me so fortunate to have gotten out of my past relationship. While a college sophomore in 2009, I experienced relationship violence that escalated very quickly over a period of a few months. I was a smart, savvy, studious and outgoing young woman and the fact that relationship violence happened to me, shows that it could happen to anyone.
My boyfriend at the time managed to gain control of me physically and emotionally. He would regularly insult me and intimidate me by pulling knifes on me, driving my car at high speeds, putting pills in my mouth while I was intoxicated…the list goes on. What breaks me the most is that we attended a very small college and we had countless mutual friends – in fact, we still do – who saw many of these incidents happen to me. Only a few intervened and for the most part, I didn’t have advocates. Noticing changes in my behavior, my parents became attuned to what was happening and had a restraining order filed. By the end of the semester, I had to transfer schools.
Though these changes protected me, I was left feeling very unsure about them and still very attached to my boyfriend. The actions taken by both my parents and myself against my boyfriend also came with a plethora of social consequences that included losing friends, and being made fun of and unwelcome at college parties.
People would tell me that the restraining order was going to “ruin” his future career path. But what about me? There was almost no consideration for the toll that his abuse and the side effects had taken on me.
Aside from my family and a selection of close friends, my social network aligned with his. This fact left me questioning just how important it was to protect myself, as wild as that sounds. I think that victims of sexual assault may feel a similar way: people are willing to sympathize for those attacked by random perpetrators, but when that perpetrator is well liked and popular…well that’s a different story.
I feel very fortunate to have made it out of my past relationship alive. Now that I’m a little older, the shame I once felt has since dissipated. One positive outcome of all this is that I met my now husband, Kip, at the same school that I had to transfer out of. While we were not friends at the time I was a student there, we reconnected about four years after we had graduated. What makes my relationship with Kip so much healthier and different than my past relationship is that we both have the utmost respect for one another. When we argue, it’s productive and helps us move forward. There is no disappearing act or threats. Also, we are both fully mindful that we are each independent people. Though I was only in my abusive relationship for a few months, it took a long recovery time to get out of my own head and realize that my ex was not someone I needed in order to move forward. My attachment to Kip isn’t defined by a simultaneous fear and need. Furthermore, Kip would never use a systematic stream of insults to ritually blow my self-esteem. I realize now that the man who abused me, though oftentimes under the influence, had really masterminded his control over me in a cycle of violent and social threats, desperate (sometimes suicidal) cries for help and physical violence. Obviously, Kip and I do not have a relationship influenced by drugs and alcohol, which helps too!
On occasion, I still run into my ex-boyfriend and though it upsets me, I try to remind myself that I am safe, healthy and here to help others. Last year, he showed up intoxicated at my workplace looking for me. I had no hesitation or fear having Kip tell him that the police would be notified if he returned.
To me, this is progress: being able to stand my ground and not back down or concede in fear.
Eventually, he will probably read this story and send it to his friends for a good laugh. No fear there either. Go for it.
College is a fun place, but it can become hostile and harmful. Especially in smaller universities, where tight knit groups of friends can make it difficult for individuals to come forward when dangerous relationships arise in their circle. In high school, I was educated on the dangers of drinking and drugs, but I wish that I had learned more about the signs of relationship violence. In lieu of wedding gifts, my husband Kip and I asked our guests to donate to One Love, in the hopes that through this foundation, we can do our part to raise awareness and help end relationship abuse.
I hope that by sharing my story I can help others who may be enduring relationship abuse or facing social consequences of this sort to seek help. I want you to know that you are not alone, and that you can channel your past experience into something positive. You have the power to make a difference in your life and the lives of others, you just need to take that first step.