I had become an empty shell of a person. Words like worthless, useless, good for nothing, and rapeable, became what made me who I was. No one but him would ever love me, or could ever love me, because he would be the only one who would ever love all the broken, messed up pieces of me. And he made sure I knew that every single day.
“No one will ever love you like I love you baby. You’re my world. You’re my heart. I will never hurt you like other people have hurt you. No one will ever see how perfect you are like I will. You’re so beautiful to me baby. You’re my flower.” This would be his mantra and this would become my affirmation. No one could love someone like me. “Look at all the things you’ve done. And the people you’ve been with. I look past all of that and only see you baby.” He made me feel like I was nothing, and everything all at the same time. And because I was nothing to the rest of the world, I was everything to him.
I walked through my days in a haze of his words, and actions. Wondering if today would be the day he would force me to have sex with him. Or if I would say the wrong thing and he would scream at me and call me names. Tell me he was leaving and never coming back. Tell me that once he walked out the door I would lose everything. And it was true. I wasn’t making enough to care for me and my son alone, and I had no friends because I wasn’t allowed friends, or even family.
He had shut me behind a wall of self-hate and shame. He had pushed everything I was into a box that he had convinced me only he had the keys. I woke up every day and couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. And then came the day he decided he wanted me to have his baby.
“I can’t have kids babe. I’m on the IUD. And I don’t really think I’m ready to have another baby. Maybe we can talk about it later. How’s that?” It was me talking, but inside I knew my opinions no longer mattered. “Alright baby. Anything for you because I love you. We can talk about it more. If you’re not ready we can wait a little longer. I love you baby. So much.” He seemed so genuine. He really isn’t so bad. He listens sometimes and my feelings do matter. “I love you too.” I always meant it when I said it. At least, that’s what I told myself.
That night he came home from work and laid in the bed next to me. He always held me at night and I could never tell if it was because he loved holding me and feeling me close to him, or if he was afraid one night I would run away and finally be free. My freedom terrified him.
He wrapped his arms around me and began what I started referring to as his “hand dance.” He would run his hands all over my body until he could get me to finally turn over. But this night, I had felt like maybe I had a voice. He hadn’t been drinking, and we both seemed to be on the same page with this baby thing. “Babe. I’m not in the mood tonight. Can we maybe do this tomorrow night?”
Any time he had sexually assaulted me, it always started out like he cared about what I thought and felt. He would always gently beg me to reconsider and I always fall into this false sense of safety. Like my no would matter this time. “Come on baby. Just really quick.”
“No babe. Please?” My assertiveness turned into quiet, desperation. “Please no babe. Please. I don’t want to. Please?” And then the tugging at my clothes and the pushing and then trapping. I’d usually just let him, but this night I had finally had enough. I started pushing him off me with my legs and scrambling to get away. I was pulling myself away from him and he was picking me up like a puppy and laying me back down where he wanted me. I started screaming at him and hitting him. Pulling myself away. Kicking him and begging him to stop. “Please!!” I was sobbing heavily and begging with everything I had in me. “Please don’t do this to me. It hurts me. Please. PLEASE.” I managed to get words out between tears and sobs. I was begging him to let me go. “Please. Please. Please don’t do this to me.” By this time he had me on my stomach, my wrists in one hand and my waist in the other. “Please. Please. I don’t want to do this.” When he felt my body give from the struggle he placed the hand that was on my waist onto my mouth and he covered it up so he couldn’t hear me crying and begging. I just let go. I knew there was no fighting him. I wasn’t strong enough anymore. I just kept begging him to stop and crying but he’d managed to flip me onto my back, and push himself inside me anyway.
I just gave up. In that moment I felt my entire body, heart, mind and soul, die. I just gave up. This would be my life. For the rest of my life. As he was was about to finish I felt him pull out of me and shove his hand inside me. It hurt so bad I screamed out in pain, and he just calmly shushed me. In a matter of seconds he had ripped out my IUD, pushed himself back inside me and said “now you can have my babies.” I just cried. Not the loud sobs that had forced him to cover my mouth, but the quiet, defeated sobs that said I would never be human again. I would never be free again. And he would always win the fight over my body.
I had given up. Inside and outside, I had given up. And no one, not a single person, not even my twin brother new what I was going through. I had created such a happy persona outside of my shitty life that no one knew anything was even wrong. And he was so charming, and fun, and sweet, that everyone loved him. If no one could see the monster he truly was, maybe he wasn’t that bad. Maybe this is what relationships were. A compromise right? Doing things you didn’t always want to do. I mean, he never hit me, or screamed at me, or threatened me. So maybe this was all just normal.
That’s what I told the woman who had seen the fresh cuts along my arms. The woman in the welfare office quietly reached for her phone and said, “he will NEVER hurt you again.” I just looked at her and fell apart. I cried harder than I ever thought imaginable. It was like a flood had been released and all the tears I had pushed back for years came pouring out of me. She had finally seen that tiny little me that had been screaming inside to everyone. She had seen her. She saw her. She saw me. She saw the broken, tired, sad, defeated little me, screaming to be saved.
“Everything’s gonna be ok honey. I won’t let anyone hurt you ever again.” And I believed her. Something in her voice I hadn’t heard in a long time. A sense of safety, and love. A real love. Compassion I thought I didn’t ever deserve, and a voice that meant everything it said to me. I fell into her lap and cried for what seemed like hours. That woman saved my life. I don’t know if she knows it, or if she will ever know it, but that was the day I found my freedom. That was the day I began to live.