Domestic violence survivor speaks out

Anna met her first boyfriend when she was 15. They attended the same junior high school, and had friends in common. They got together at a house party in grade 10 and dated for the next 18 months.
“He was the leader of the group in high school,” said Anna, who asked that her real name be withheld to protect her privacy. “He was an aggressive person, but I was young enough to think it was cool that he was the boss.”
On their six-month anniversary, he gave her a promise ring and a dozen roses. Eleven roses were real, one was fake. When he gave them to her he said “I will love you until the last one dies.” It was then that their sexual relationship began, and their interaction began to change.
The first violent incident was at a house party.
He revealed a secret between them to their friends at a gathering, and she was upset. When they fought, he threw one of their female friends onto the bed and punched a hole in the wall.
“After that, the floodgates opened,” Anna said. “There was a lot of verbal abuse. He was a really jealous person. He’d push me into cars and stuff, (and) call me names. Everything he did was what you would expect from a control freak. He’d say anything he could to keep my confidence down.”
After a year and a half of dating, it came to a head at the restaurant where they worked.
Anna was training a new male staff member when her boyfriend became jealous. In the restaurant kitchen, he accused her of flirting and hurled insults at her.
When she left the kitchen, he came into the corridor and blocked her path. She told him it was over and tried to walk past him. He pushed her against the wall and punched her in the chest, breaking one of her ribs.
He tried phoning her multiple times that night and in the following months. But for Anna, it was finally over.
“The worst part was losing people I had counted on as friends,” she said.
“He told everyone we had broken up because I had cheated on him. It was easier for him to sit there and lie about it than it was for me to actually talk about what had happened. As for the people I told, I don’t think anyone really believed me because nobody wanted to believe it was true.”
Since escaping the relationship, she has gone to counseling to ensure she never finds herself in a similar situation again.
“It’s easy to be mad at someone for abusing you, but it’s a lot harder to deal with yourself and realize why you stayed so long in the first place,” she said. “Having respect for yourself changes their ability to treat you that way.”
She said the number one lesson she’s learned is to value her friendships.
“Your core group of friends is going to see the changes in you when you’re dating someone like that, and they’ll be there to give you the esteem you need. Be honest about what’s going on. I understand being worried to talk about it because relationships are so private, but if you’re worried about things, that’s what your friends are there for.”
Erin Waite, communications manager for the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, says situations like Anna’s are unfortunately common.
“Quite often the abuser is charming on the outside and so no one believes the abused,” Waite said. “It’s very isolating.
“That’s part of the modus operandi of the abuser, to discredit the victim and have them separated from their friends.”
To learn more about the causes and effects of domestic violence, read the Weal’s editorial on page 11.

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