August 9th, 2016. That was the night night my heart broke into a thousand shattered pieces, but also the night I finally broke free. By that point, my abuser had me tied up in chains with his rules, his threats, and his aggression. I was living in a constant state of fear, not knowing what he would do, when his next outburst would be, what I could say or do to try to prevent it, what would happen if I didn’t follow one of the rules he laid out for me. I stopped sleeping, eating, breathing. There was no time for that, nor space in my head. The few times I did sleep his anger still filled my dreams. A few days before August 9th, I dreamt that he tried to kill me.
His outburst that night began as nothing unusual. I said the wrong thing. He got angry. He started sending me vicious texts, one right after the other with barely a second separating them. “What the hell is wrong with you?” I must have received a dozen of those in no more than two minutes. My heart was starting to race, out of fear, anger, and the growing sense that for the first time, something in me was starting to snap.
He showed up at my apartment with no warning. I cautiously walked outside to meet him, my keys in my hand as if they would somehow protect me. I saw his face first. The black eyes had returned, the eyes that inspired fear in me more than any word or action ever could. But for some reason, I tried to hug him when I first saw him. Perhaps it was my last attempt to calm the monster within. Perhaps I was trying to tell him goodbye, before it even happened. Because by that point, I knew it was coming. But like so much else, he rejected my hug and pushed me away. The yelling and verbal attack began immediately: I was clueless, I was stuck in my own fucking world, I couldn’t love anyone, could never make anyone happy, I had no compassion. Those were just a few of the things he said. I had heard most of them before, but this time, something in me was shifting. I did not want to just agree with him to try to make it all go away. Because this was never going to go away. The problem was never me. It was him.
When he paused to come up for air, I finally found the courage to break the silence I had held for so long. My voice was quivering, just barely audible. But for once, it was speaking. “I don’t need this.” That’s what I told him. I truly don’t think he ever expected me to disagree with him and stand up for myself. He became flustered and motioned to get back in his car. He screamed, “Well fine, if you don’t need this, then I am gone forever.” I turned around, went into my apartment and locked the door. It was starting to get dark. The next thing I knew, he was on my back porch, trying to force open the back door and get in. I should have been scared in those moments. But honestly I didn’t care anymore. I didn’t let him in, but I went outside. Things got worse. His eyes were somehow even blacker, his anger all the more magnified because for the first time I did try to walk away.
I don’t know how long we were out there, but at some point the police had arrived. Three cops cars in front my house. He tried to run when he saw the beam from their flashlights hitting the garage, recognition dawning on him. It was too late though. But his instinct to run re-affirmed everything even more. Because it was quite apparent that he had been in this situation before. They asked what was going on, took us each aside to get our individual perspectives. I remember I looked over at my abuser several times, wanting to know what he was telling the officer but also being terrified of catching his eyes. Then the police brought us all in some sort of circle, just like we were back in elementary school having story time. But that night, the cops were the storytellers. And in the circle, they put our two individual narratives together and decided that we were trying to break up, that my abuser didn’t want to but the cops had set him straight and he realized it was over. That was the story. Nothing serious had happened yet, so he was not charged with anything. Instead the resolution was that he was to never contact me or bother me again, and if he did he would be in “big trouble” and he “didn’t need a record after all.” Looking back, all I can think is that if I had interjected right then and spoken one other truth, a truth my abuser had sworn me to secrecy, then so many things might be different now. If I had said a few simple words, “He already had a record,” to the cops, it could have changed everything. If they saw what he had been charged with and gone to trial for in the past, they may have charged him that night, he may have even gotten kicked out of his MD/PhD program once and for all, because apparently being charged once for assault, battery, and rape while trying to become a medical doctor isn’t quite enough. I know that thinking about these possibilities isn’t going to change anything now. Because on that night, I was too shell-shocked to say anything. And crazy as it sounds, I still did care about him. In some way, I probably always will. But the battle was finally over.
On August 9th, I felt like I was collapsing from the inside out, that every bone in my body and every nerve in my brain were breaking down. But in reality, that wasn’t it at all. For the first time in awhile, I was standing my ground and using my voice. And in doing so, I set myself free from his prison of abuse. Sometimes, we need to break down in order to break free.
Below is a poem I wrote when I realized he would never again abuse, manipulate or control me. My life was mine again. It was over once and for all.
Will you do this to me.
What you said.
What you did.
I promise you this.
Never again will you tell me what to do.
Never again will you touch me when I didn’t want you to.
Never again will you put your hands on me in public
Or grab me in the car.
Never again will you hold me down
And push my limits too far.
Never again will you jump on me at 6 a.m.
When I’m barely awake
No way to defend.
Never again will pull your belt on me
Push me and shove me
Saying it’s okay
Because you love me.
Never again will you own me
Touch me and say “you’re mine”
It was sick and twisted
And just plain not right.
Never again will I be your slave
Your eternal punching bag
A pawn in your game.
A game I could never win
For the rules, you always changed.
I am stronger than you give me credit for.
And I say never again.
I am worth more.