I am quite simply the poster child for “This Can’t Happen to Me.” I was raised in a stable Christian home. My mom and dad just recently celebrated 50 years of marriage. Both of my parents were raised in loving Christian homes, and so on and so forth for generations. I am the baby of the family, the only girl. I have two older brothers. One was my partner in crime, while the other was more like a father figure. In high school, I was the president of the debate team and floor captain of the volleyball team. I was in all honors courses and got pretty much straight A’s.
Can you see the picture of the perfect middle class upbringing? Of course, my childhood was far from perfect, but it definitely doesn’t fit most people’s picture of where an abuse victim would come from. Yet, it did happen to me.
In college, I began dating a Christian guy, from a good Christian home. After just two dates he wanted a commitment. It was every girl’s dream, right?! He was so attentive and made an effort to listen to the music I liked, study with me, take me dancing, and hang out with my friends. We spent every possible free moment together. When he felt we didn’t get to spend enough time together between school and both of us having part time jobs, I quit my job. He kept his. We’d see another girl walking down the street, and he’d suggest I wear an outfit like hers. Suddenly he didn’t like to dance, and he didn’t like me dancing with anyone else. I stopped going to the places I had gone before I met him. I spent less and less time with my friends.
Over time things escalated even more. My internal warning bells would start to go off. But he said he loved me, so I would ignore them. No one had ever paid this much attention to me before. I was caught between feeling loved by him and being suffocated by him. I desperately wanted him to love me, and I found myself willing to do what I had to do to keep him loving me.
The name calling got worse. He called me things I wouldn’t call my worst enemy. He constantly insisted that I wasn’t a normal girl. A normal girl would do this or that, especially if it related to sex. When he’d get extremely frustrated, he’d put his fist through the wall. His jealousy became all consuming.
After 2 years of dating, he asked me to marry him, and I said yes. A year later, we were married. A month later, he hit me for the first time.
It didn’t matter that I had come from a Christian home or not. It didn’t matter whether I came from a stable home environment or not. It didn’t matter that I came from a middle class family in a good community or not. It still happened to me. It didn’t matter that I managed to complete 2 Bachelor’s degrees and a Master’s degree. It didn’t matter that I was the bread winner for our family. It didn’t matter that we had the perfect house in the perfect suburban neighborhood and 2 kids. It still happened to me.
It happened to me because I did not know any better. Dating violence was not something that happened to someone like me. If it didn’t happen to girls like me, then why should I be aware of it? Why should I know what the warning signs were? Why should I be taught what constituted a healthy relationship versus an unhealthy one? I went to Sunday school. I went to youth group every Sunday. Didn’t I understand just how much God loved me? Didn’t I find myself worthy of that love? Why would I let someone abuse me if I did?
If I had known all of these things, this wouldn’t have happened to me.
Since they heard the sound of the trumpet but did not heed the warning, their blood will be on their own head. If they had heeded the warning, they would have saved themselves.
Hindsight is truly 20/20. So let me give you the benefit of my 20/20 vision. You do need to worry about dating violence. Intimate partner violence can affect you, your child, your friend, your neighbor or your parent.