Feature: why one domestic violence victim never went back
The following post is from The Root. It was written by Harriette Cole.
By: Harriette Cole.
We’ve all been there. Back in college, I thought I’d found “the one.”
But after he physically abused me, I never saw him again, so you can imagine my disbelief when, not too long ago, I saw a Facebook message from his “cousin”: “Hope all is well. Call X.”
And now, in the wake of the ongoing story of Ray and Janay Rice, as so many women have shown the courage to share their personal stories of being assaulted by men they loved—why they stayed; why they left—I want to share my story, too.
X was my college boyfriend. A tall, good-looking guy with a perfectly groomed Caesar—he once reminded me of my daddy—who’d engage me for hours on end over esoteric material that I was studying in my undergrad-English texts.
This guy, who practically ran the yard at my alma mater, was also the one who, early on, professed his desire to marry me, yet later crafted the most fantastical lies about all the other women to whom I subsequently learned he had also promised his heart. Ultimately, he became the man I confronted in his dorm room while standing next to another woman who also thought he was “the one.”
But the ending was devastating.
It was two years into our so-called exclusive relationship, when finally I had had enough and I was exhausted by the yo-yo of emotions that seemed to be the baseline for our love. There were the times that I put my foot down and said, “Enough.” The relationship would be over for a few weeks. But when I started to date someone else, he would suddenly reappear, virtually stalking me out of whatever potential future (healthier) relationships I was trying to form.
His grip on me was so strong that the only two B’s I got in my otherwise straight-A college career were a direct result of prioritizing him instead of studying. Over time I devolved—at least on the inside—from being a confident, happy, stellar student and popular on-campus model into an unsure, weak-minded shell of myself as I attempted over and over to convince him that I was singularly worthy of his love.
I went to visit him that fateful evening because I wanted to talk. Clouded by the foggy brain of something probably more closely resembling infatuation than real love, I walked the few steps from my apartment (where I was living with my baby sister) to his dorm. As I rounded the long hallway toward his room, I noticed a woman walking in front of me. She had beautiful, long hair. She was dressed elegantly. When it hit me that she looked a whole lot like me, I realized where she was going. I called out to her to ask.
She was, indeed, going to see him. So I asked if she would be willing to talk to me first. And the two of us—attractive, smart, well-heeled, well-bred young women—went to her room, where we revealed to each other how we had come to know this man whom we both called our own. Tears streamed down both our faces as we received proof that he was a liar and a cheat. I picked up the phone and called him. I told him who I was with and that we both wanted to talk to him.
When we got to his place, he slammed the door shut and started yelling at me. He was outraged that I had spoken to this woman, that I had called him on his s–t—and that I was standing there at that moment confronting him. “Who do you think you are?” he wanted to know.
And then, enraged, he picked me up off the ground and threw me into the door. I crashed and fell to the floor.
In the midst of this, the phone rang—it was my sister. She had tried to persuade me not to visit him, certain that nothing good would come of it. X answered and with complete composure said, “Hello,” as if nothing had happened. He then turned to me and said, “It’s your sister,” handing me the phone. I collected myself from the floor, took the receiver and answered. She implored me to come home, and in the steadiest voice I could muster, I told her I would.
The minute I put the phone down, X yelled, “Get the f–k out!” But when I opened the door to try to leave, he picked me up again and and threw me down the hall. Meanwhile, since there had been so much screaming and hurling, all of the men on his floor had opened their doors to see what was going on. A hallway of observers, now more aptly tagged as bystanders, watched silently as X started kicking me, all over my body, while shouting more obscenities.
From somewhere within, I found a space of calm. I looked up at him and asked, “Are you finished yet?” To that he turned on his heel and went back into his room, where the other woman, who was silent through this whole nightmare, remained.
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