I don’t think we have anything for you. You’re obviously in the wrong place.
-Sales lady at Boulmiche, Rodeo Drive, Pretty Woman
As promised in my previous blog (link here), it is time to talk about my second abusive relationship. I had planned on writing the blog the day after the previous one, and move on.
However, this one is very difficult to write. So much shame is attached to this story. The only reason I feel compelled to share this is….
I truly want no woman to feel alone. I want you to know it is ok you made poor decisions.
So, here goes… (crap)
Jeff (previous blog) had gone to fight in the first Gulf War. I was going to Illinois Central College, a junior college just outside Peoria, IL. I was getting my Associates Degree and moving on to a 4 year. The best path for this plan was to join a group called Quest at ICC. Counselors in that department would work to help you have a smooth transfer to a 4 year, by making sure your classes transferred as credits to whichever school you wanted.
Quest was more than that, though. It was a social group as well. This program opened the door to strong and lasting friendships. We played many a mean game of Hearts in the Quest lounge on campus, and our counselor Susan would show up with our schedules in hand, calling out those of us who should be in class. I met some of the most wonderful people during those two years. I treasure them.
That’s also where I met Todd.
It was the end of my freshman year. This may surprise you, but I can be a bit dramatic. Just sometimes…
Anyway, I was done with my major: Psychology. I had thought I would help other victims out, but instead I was listening to professors drone on about categories in which we had to put people. No offense if you’re a psychologist… it probably gets better… but those classes were frustrating me.
So, back to the dramatics: I walked into Susan’s office, dropped my psych books to the ground, sunk down into the chair (or did I also drop to the floor? That is possible.), and said, “Susan! I can’t do this major anymore. It’s killing me!” (or something very, very close to that). Another student in the office looked up and said, “You should take these classes with me.”
Intrigued, I moved to where he was. He handed me his schedule. Two classes stood out:
Radio and Television (!!!RIGHT?!!!)
I turned to Susan. She was on board. Now that I am 20+ years removed, I wonder… Was it my dramatics that prompted such an easy reaction from her? Shakespeare… Radio and Television??
That student, by the way, was Todd.
(OK, I want you to know, because reading this you can’t see me. I stopped after typing that last line. Stopped cold. Wrung my hands and struggled to find my breath again. This is not going to be easy.)
Todd and I ended up dating. To say it was a fun romance is an understatement. We weren’t only dating each other, we had a very large group of friends from Quest in on the fun, and we all hung out… what seems like all the time.
Plus, he had great taste in classes for me.
The Shakespeare class opened cultural doors for me I had never had.
The Radio and TV class opened up my world. I fell in love with it, and decided I was going to be a TV News producer. I just knew it. My professor knew it as well. He told me Southern Illinois University, Carbondale was the place I needed to go, because it was the best for what I wanted to do. Susan helped me get there.
Todd’s family took me in immediately. When they found out I hadn’t seen any of the classic black and white movies, we had movie fests. A picture of me was on the wall in no time. Our graduation party from ICC was a duo party at his parents’ house with my family there as well. His mom and dad loved me.
Life for me was changing dramatically from my childhood. I was walking through doors, homes, and places I had never been. I had family and friends I had never had. When I think of the time after Jeff and before my first year at Southern Illinois, I can truly only see sunshine. Really. Even knowing what will happen next, I can only see bright, blue skies and hear all the laughter.
Todd and I decided to transfer to SIUC together. It was an exciting time. I knew what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I was living in a dorm with a bunch of really awesome young women. My dorm was across the street from the Radio TV department, so life was good.
Something was going on with Todd and me. Something was festering, and I couldn’t figure it out. I thought that this is just a lot of change. I had a job so I could pay for school, and Radio/TV was a challenging curriculum that included work in the radio and TV stations. I was extremely busy. I was meeting new people. Todd was meeting new people.
We were starting to fight. A lot.
Every time I start to type this part, I backspace over it. So, I think I need to try to strip it down and go really simple.
The fights turned violent. I was shocked.
Here I was, in a long-term relationship with a man who shared so many happy memories with me. What was going on?
I still don’t know the answer.
Once, I was thrown to the ground of his dorm room, and he took a chair and pinned me under it. He was screaming at me. Threatening me. I had made him mad. His friends had told him I had let them in my dorm to flirt with my dorm mates.
My story: They were walking by. The girls and I were studying in the hall that was lined with windows. They saw us. They knocked and acted like goofballs. I let them in.
His story: He didn’t like that I hung out with his friends without him.
He eventually let me out from under the chair and told me to leave. He said we were over.
The next day, he apologized. Yep, he was sorry. He was crying. Yes, I did take him back. It’s not like he hit me, correct? We had been together almost a year and nothing like this had ever happened. Can you understand my decision?
On another night, Todd was really mad at me. He was storming off, down the sidewalk that led away from my dorm and to his. I started to chase him.
I grabbed his arm to stop him. I should never had done that.
He turned abruptly toward me, pushed me to the ground, and proceeded to kick the crap out of me.
I curled into a ball…. and started crying.
Then, I heard a voice. It was a man’s voice I had thought I had heard before that night. He was yelling at Todd to stop.
Todd stopped, and ran off to his dorm. I stayed in my ball.
The voice started begging me to stand up. Was I alright? Did I need an ambulance? What happened?
I eventually uncurled and looked at the man. Oh, yes. He was in one of my classes. I didn’t know him, but the class was interactive and we all talked to one another.
He eventually got me to my feet. He asked if I wanted to go to the hospital? ….to my dorm? What did I want to do? I didn’t know, but I was scared of Todd finding me anywhere.
So, we went into his dorm, which was just next to this particular sidewalk. He had seen us through the window of his room.
I slept on his futon. I know that sounds like a dumb move, but I knew in my heart and in my gut that I was safer there.
My dorm mates had assumed I stayed at Todd’s and that I had blown them off to make him happy. They were all getting pretty tired of Todd, but they hadn’t told me this. Not until the morning after the sidewalk…
I came back to my dorm. People were getting up and going to classes. They could tell right away something was off. I wasn’t walking right, and I was holding my side. It was like time stopped. They stopped. They took me to my room. They made me tell them.
At that moment, they each decided they were going to make sure Todd was out of my life.
You can all say, “You should have left him on your own. What was wrong with you?” You would be correct in your assessment, except….
I was broken. Obviously, this was my destiny. Absent Daddy, molested, assaulted, raped, beaten by my previous boyfriend…. This was who I was. This was who I was going to be.
So, my dorm mates rallied. No more Todd.
Oh man, I hate admitting the next part. Oh… please don’t think less of me.
It was a holiday weekend, and many of my friends were heading home. I worked at a local restaurant, so I was staying behind.
Remember that guy who came out of his dorm to help me? Well, during our class together, he said he would be out of town that weekend… could I get homework from our Friday class, because he was leaving early? Thank God for that request.
So, most of the campus was empty. I was walking, when Todd showed up. He was humble, sweet, his old self. We talked. He missed me. He was sorry. We went out to eat, we talked. It truly felt like “before the abuse”.
We got together the next day, Saturday. We walked and talked… and later that night… he proposed. He had a ring and everything.
I couldn’t believe it. I want you to know… right then and there I KNEW I should say no. I KNEW it. I felt something in my gut that I completely ignored.
Because…. he loved me. I was broken, and he loved me.
So, I said yes.
Sunday, the very next day, rolled around, and my friend from class/from the sidewalk night returns. He wants to pick up his homework. Can he come by? Sure.
He comes to my dorm. I feel like I need to tell him Todd and I are engaged. I mean, he was the one who saved me from him that night. I was not excited at all to tell him. When I did, he looked so disappointed in me. What was I doing?
So, after asking what felt like 100 times if I was sure, he went back to his dorm.
Not even a minute later, Todd rings the room. I let him in and we go to back to my room. He shuts the door.
“WHAT WAS HE DOING HERE?”
“He came to pick up his homework.”
He pushes me. And, right then and there… I FINALLY knew. It was over. I took off my ring, less than 24 hours after putting it on, with courage I had never had in my life, and handed it to him. He threw it at me and walked out.
It was over. I did it. I made the correct choice. I chose me.
But, for Todd, it wasn’t over quite yet.
One night, my friends and I were having one of our 90210/Melrose Place viewing parties, and we saw something outside the window. Was it our imaginations? What was that shadow? My friends went to the window, and ripped open the drapes.
It was Todd.
They all ran out to chase him away. He ran.
Some time later, I went on a date with a new guy. Todd jumped out from the bushes outside my dorm. The date chased him away.
Another 90210/Melrose Place night…. shadow outside the window.
My friends had had it. Call the police now, Kim, or we will.
I got a restraining order.
We were living in the same dorm area, at the same college. There were times we saw each other after that, even at graduation. However, we didn’t speak again, and once I left SIUC, I left Todd behind me. Until now…
Because, I think people need to keep reading stories about women who make what seem like insane decisions to understand the WHY. WHY do we stay? WHY do we go with the guy? WHY do we enter the hotel room?
More often than not, we believe we deserve what we get. More often than not, we want to see good, or believe there is good, in the person who ends up committing the crime against us. This is a terrible combination…. and most of the time that is the answer.
Why do guys always know how to hit a woman right across the cheek? Wham! And it feels like your eye is gonna explode. What do they do? Do they pull you aside in high school and show you how to do this? Is that– Ow. -Vivian Ward
Not all guys hit. -Edward Lewis
And, he is so correct. My husband, Jason, doesn’t hit. His dad doesn’t hit. My best friend’s dad in high school didn’t hit. None of mine and Jason’s friends hit. There are a lot of guys who don’t hit.
Please, if my blog does anything for those who haven’t experienced abuse, I hope it makes them understand and empathize with victims / survivors. If the #MeToo movement does anything, I hope it also does this, so victim shaming can stop.