The Youth REPs are an important part of the prevention efforts in schools. The WORTH stickers remind teens of their worth–that they are worthy of safe and healthy relationships.
During February, we raise awareness of the prevalence of dating violence within teen relationships and try to promote healthy relationships. Over the past two years, our Prevention Team has traveled to junior highs and high schools around the Treasure Valley to educate adolescents about the signs of healthy and unhealthy relationships. By doing so, we hope to foster a safer community where our teens recognize their worth. The following testimony from a teen who tells of their experience in an unhealthy, abusive relationship shows why this work continues to be so necessary:
“I am a victim of domestic violence. I am survivor. What I choose to call myself, depends on which part of my story I am telling. Because I do honestly think that only by some grace, did I actually survive some things. And other parts, I know I WAS victimized by someone who claimed to love me – and I know there is no shame in that. I feel no guilt in saying that I am a victim of domestic violence.
I was 16-years-old when my boyfriend put a bullet into the chamber of a gun, spun the chamber around while staring at me silently and then grabbed me and held me down on the twin bed in his garage bedroom of his parent’s home.
It was late afternoon, on a sunny day. I’d just gotten out of school. Nobody else was around.
He held the gun in front of my face while yelling at me in anger, alternately threatening me and pleading with me.
He’d had the gun already sitting out when I arrived. Warning bells went off, this wasn’t the first time I’d seen this gun. He’d threatened to kill himself before. He said he couldn’t live without me.
My parents did not want me to see him anymore. He didn’t want me to end our relationship.
This was the first time he actually turned the gun on me.
CLICK…He pulled the trigger… just once.
I survived that.
I did not tell anyone about that right away. I certainly did not tell my parents. You see, I wasn’t supposed to see him. My parents had taken out a restraining order against him on my behalf. He wasn’t supposed to contact me or come near me. But somehow, through my friends and other means he still managed to. And, I allowed it. I still believed he loved me. And, I thought he might really hurt himself.
The restraining order resulted from a night when I was at a cheerleading sleepover that the new head cheerleader had planned for all the girls who had made the team for the following school year. It was just supposed to be girls, and that is what I had told my boyfriend.
I guess he must have been watching her house, because when some of the upper class boys showed up – someone told me my boyfriend was suddenly outside and wanted to talk to me. Only he had no business there, he wasn’t in high school anymore and did not hang out with those boys.
I immediately knew he would be very angry and that I was going to be in trouble before I went outside to talk to him. I just did not know how mad he was going to be.
He accused me of lying. He accused me of cheating. I tried to calm him down. He wanted me to leave with him, but I told him I did not want to. I was supposed to stay with my friends that night. I was so embarrassed. Before I knew what was happening, he picked me up and threw me down on the street – head first.
Then, he grabbed me and stuffed me in the back seat of his car and pulled away, tires squealing. I begged and pleaded for him to take me back. In my mind, I just thought I could pretend that all this didn’t just this happen. As my head pounded and my ears were still ringing.
Only my night of terror and confusion had just begun.
I crawled into the front seat and kept pleading with him, tried reasoning with him. To no avail. I don’t know where all he drove. But eventually, he began hitting me and I crawled behind the driver’s seat and shrank into a ball — trying to get away from his fists.
He drove toward Cascade, saying we were going to my family’s cabin for the night. But, we never made it. We ran low on gas. He slowed the car down and told me I could get out. So I did….
But I did not know where to go or what to do in the early dawn, in the middle of nowhere. So I walked on the side of the road, for who knows how long. Until he pulled back up. And, I got back into the car with him.
He’d calmed down. He’d begged some gas off someone in town he said. He said he was sorry I’d made him do this, but if I had not lied about those boys being at the party, he would not have freaked out. And now I’d have to tell everyone that I snuck out and spent the night with him on purpose.
I agreed. That was going to be our story.
I was still terrified. I wanted this nightmare to end. I wanted this to go away. I wanted to go back in time and for none of this to have happened. I wanted the charming, dashing 18-year old knight in shining armor I’d met when I was a 14-year old freshman. The boy who had swept me off me feet. The one who said he loved me, like nobody else ever would. The one who said I was beautiful, even though everyone said I was cute. I wanted the romantic boy who left me love notes in my locker every single day and flowers on my car. The first boy I ever kissed.
But that boy did not exist. That boy was really the man in the car next to me who had just kidnapped me, and wanted me to lie about it and take the blame. Who had once again convinced me I was to blame for his behavior.
However, this time – he was not going to get away with it. My parents had been called when he had taken me away. Someone had witnessed what went down and told the parents at the home. They’d been searching for me all night long. And the sheriff had been alerted.
My parents took me to the emergency room, where I was given an exam. I recently found the body assessment with the X’s on it in my mother’s things after she passed. The X’s where they mark injuries. Theses X’s had notes, indicating deep bruising. In fact, I had deep bruising all over my lower back, and to several of my internal organs. I did not change for gym class in the locker room or in front of anyone for weeks.
I survived that.
The problem is that I still did not stay away from him completely, though my parents tried. I had counseling, assertiveness training, grounding….You see, I truly believed he loved me, only now I know – I had such a warped concept of what love really should be. My brain had been rewired.
He had me convinced nobody else would want me and that somehow I was responsible for the things he did and said.
It took me years to learn what positive boundaries were and what a healthy relationship looked like. I did not grow up in a home where violence was present, I simply encountered it in my very first attempt at a young teen relationship.
I had nightmares for years. And when I ran into him, I would feel physically ill. I am from a small town and I did indeed encounter him. To this day, I still find myself looking over my shoulder sometimes, because as a victim – some of that never truly goes away. But you can take your power back. You can help ensure that others get the help they need and that we can work to break the cycle of domestic violence in our community so that no other young girls or boys have to stand before a crowd and say the words:
“I survived that”