I know that in many ways I am a very lucky person. I have a family that loves me, I am doing well in school, and I have everything that I need to live comfortably. But even the luckiest people have skeletons in the closet, and for me, it is the abusive relationships that I have lived through.
Abuse comes in many forms. If he doesn’t hit you, it doesn’t mean it isn’t abusive, which is a point I failed to realize until much later. But I’ll start at the beginning.
I met Cody the very first time I stepped foot onto my brand new campus, a thousand miles away from anything I had ever known. Bowling Green State was my first choice school because it had really good programs and it was fairly close to Cleveland, without being directly in the city. It was far away from friends and family, though, which meant that for the first time ever I was completely without a support system. That is, until I started dating Cody.
He was so different from anything I had ever known, and more importantly different from the boy who had just recently become my ex. He and I decided that a long distance relationship would not work with the two of us, so despite the strong feelings we had for each other, we ended it. I knew going into college that I was not ready to date anyone who remotely reminded me of him.
Our relationship started off sweetly enough – we stayed up until four in the morning talking about ourselves and about where we were from. He was from Cleveland – a big city like me. That was quite a relief because I knew that I would have a home there if I ever wanted to go visit. Then we stopped at Walmart and grabbed come cookies to eat, and that was when we had sex for the first time. He was a virgin, I was just barely not a virgin, and so it was awkward and sweaty and amazing in the backseat of his pickup. We decided then that we should start dating.
Looking back on the beginning of the relationship, I think I started dating him because I was alone and scared. I was in love with the idea of having someone there for me, and excited about the amount of time I would get to spend now that I didn’t have parents waiting up for me to get home from dates. It was exciting, it was new, and it fit perfectly into my new life as a college student.
I remember when I stayed over the first night in his dorm. Or rather, I remember waking up in his dorm room the next morning and realizing I had spent the night. My new roommate texted me once and Cody had texted her back while I was asleep, telling her not to worry and that I had fallen asleep. I felt so happy that he made sure she didn’t worry and that he woke me up in time for my 8 am class. I had to wear the same clothes that I had worn the day before, but it was all right because no one had seen me in them.
The first time I realized that there was a problem with my relationship was when I got sick. I got a disease that causes necrotic tissue on any part of the body, and mine just happened to be near my vaginal opening. After determining that it was not a symptom of a larger underlying problem, the doctor assigned some heavy medications to treat the disease and told me that I was to refrain from having sex for the next month in order to have the necrotic ulcers fully heal so they would not get infected. It made a lot of sense to me and I agreed. Unfortunately, Cody didn’t take the doctor’s orders as seriously as I did, and that night was the first time we had sex after I told him no. For anyone reading this, THIS IS RAPE. It doesn’t matter that you are in a relationship – what matters is that you need to give your consent each and every time you have sex with someone. I said no, and it happened anyway. And it kept happening: from the time we started dating in the first week of September until winter break the third week of December, we had sex at least once a day, and most days twice. I remember days when I was so sore I could hardly walk.
I was staying over at his dorm almost every night by the time October rolled around. I would go back to my dorm to shower and change and then head back to his. We didn’t really do anything; I remember playing a lot of Viva Piñata, eating lots of junk food, and having lots of sex. I also stopped texting friends back or returning calls, simply because I spent all my time with Cody and he was impatient while I was on the phone or texting. He also limited who I could talk to. I had one friend in particular, Dan, who Cody refused to let me talk to. Cody said that if I really loved him, I wouldn’t be talking to other men. I wanted to keep Cody in my life so badly that soon the texts to Dan stopped all together.
I can’t remember when the first fight was, but I do remember the scariest ones. The first one I remember was in October. A girl in my dorm had a birthday coming up, and she invited me to go out to dinner with the rest of the girls on my floor. I was so pleased and excited, and agreed to meet up with her on October 29th so we could carpool. That day, at a little after four, I told Cody I was meeting up with the girls in a couple hours, and he got really upset. He started asking if I was cheating on him and why I hadn’t mentioned the party before, and was also upset that he was not invited (as this was a girls only get together). Then he started yelling and saying that I wasn’t allowed to go, at which point I felt truly unsafe and tried to leave. I got up and opened the door, intending to leave, but Cody slammed the door shut and pinned me in between his arms and the door, yelling in my face. I was crying and screaming, begging him to let me leave. I remember screaming “Please Cody just let me go!” I have no idea how I got out of that situation, but I do remember running out of the dorm and taking the stairs to the next floor down, in case he came out of his room while I was waiting for the elevator. I didn’t go back that night to his dorm, and my roommate was really sweet about it. She sat up talking to me about what happened, and helped me sort it out even though she barely knew me. She asked if I was always happy, and I had to answer no. I tried defending him, but I felt like she saw right through my lies.
Then there were roses. A dozen white roses waiting for me when I got out of Marching band practice. He really did love me.
He was also not afraid to get in a fight with other people around, a fact he made perfectly clear at a football game against our biggest rival, the Toledo Rockets. Our band was sitting in the student section, so the Rocket band could sit in our usual spot away from the drunken Falcon fans who may try to hurt them. Cody came up the bleachers to where I was sitting, complaining that band was taking up too much of my time. Then the yelling started. Thankfully it was loud in the stadium, so not a whole lot of people knew what was going on, but the band sure did. Cody started insulting me, and one of the boys in my section stood up for me. I think he offered to switch spots with me so I wasn’t sitting near Cody, and Cody screamed “shut up you fag!!” I remember having a sinking feeling, because I knew that Cody now thought I was cheating on him with the boy from the band, despite the fact that I was spending every waking minute with him; I’d even been skipping classes to be with him.
When winter break rolled around, I was so happy to get away from all the stress. But Cody stressed me out more than anything academic, and I couldn’t relax completely. My grandparents’ house has very little cell service, and Cody freaked out every time he couldn’t get ahold of me, which made for a lot of tears when I returned to my own house. It got so bad that I had trouble sleeping, and I cried the entire week before I was supposed to go back. I even begged my parents to let me stay home and not return to school. I wanted to stay as far away from Cody as possible, but they both just hugged me and told me to be strong.
I realized that I didn’t need to have someone in my life like Cody, and broke up with him the first week of class in January. It was not without tears and of course yelling. He even bought me a cantaloupe because that is one of my favorite fruits in an attempt to win me back. We went on a walk in an attempt to smooth out the breakup, and it ended with me running towards my dorm as fast as I could with Cody yelling at me “you stupid bitch, I hope you get hit by a truck!”
I am not going to pretend that I was able to bounce back from this relationship as soon as I realized that he emotionally abused me. But I am proud to say that I know now what real “grown up” relationships are supposed to be like. I’m with someone now that loves me for who I am, and I plan to stay with him. He’s never called me names, never yelled, and never prevented me from leaving. This is what love should be.