Being a victim of sexual or dating violence can be extremely isolating. We live in a culture where we are taught to suffer in silence. Abuse is simply not talked about. Even though 1 in 4 women and 1 in 6 men will become a victim of sexual violence over the course of their lifetime, the silence survivors are beholden to makes this statistic shocking to those who hear it for the first time. PAVE’s mission is to shatter this silence and to avail to the world how prevalent sexual and dating violence is in our culture. This is the only way we are going to get policy makers from elementary schools to our congressional representatives to make the institutional changes that will help lead to societal progress.
To Shatter the Silence PAVE emphasizes sharing your story of how you personally have been effected my sexual and dating violence during your lifetime. Everywhere we go, when we teach a class of peer educators, or talk about consent with fraternity men, we share our stories to break down the isolation that survivors often feel. Sharing our stories, lets others who have not found their voice realize that they are not alone.
Time and time again when PAVE is out there, sharing our story and teaching others to share, we are approached by brave men and women (who have been shrouded in silence and shame, sometimes for years) who choose to share their stories with us for the first time. This post marks the first of what is to be many stories from these remarkable women and men we encounter.
My Story: Megan – college student
“I dated this guy for over four years. Thought I would marry him high school sweetheart style. From what I remember in high school, we had a good healthy relationship, had fun and were happy. We decided to stay together in college but go to separate schools. And that’s where we took a turn for the worse. I convinced myself that I was happy, I convinced everyone that I was happy. But in reality we fought every night late into the night. He was jealous of me hanging out with friends and family. He had to make sure I texted him 24/7. I wasn’t allowed to party without him (so never). I wasn’t allowed to talk to other men. And each time I rationalized that it was just because he loved me and cared about me and wanted me to be safe. He had cheated on me, lied to me, forced me to have sex when I did not want to and each time told me that if I broke up with him it would ruin his life, and each time he said he wouldn’t do it again and I believed him. I tried so hard to be perfect, I thought I did everything a good girlfriend should, everyone thought we had the perfect relationship, and I wanted more than anything to keep it that way. Enough so that I just ignored the warning signs.
My friends and my family tried hard to tell me, show me, point out the flaws…but I refused to acknowledge them, my relationship was perfect, that was my mask. My mother was the most worried. She told me that when I was home with just the family I was myself, the bubbly, happy, outgoing Megan she knew and loved, but when he was over I became a shell, I did not act myself because he would disprove of my silliness and outgoing tendencies. Then sophomore year rolled around. We were fighting worse, I has suspicion I was being cheated on again. I was contemplating that maybe we should break up or take a break, but I knew I would probably never go through with it. Then I went to this presentation, PAVE. As I sat there listening, my head started turning, thinking, comparing. Then the slides with the healthy and unhealthy relationship traits came on the screen. I noticed that not one thing on the healthy relationship side I had. We did not trust one another, I wasn’t really happy, there wasn’t much affection, the list went on. I was never physically abused but the emotional toll was worse. It finally clicked that what I was living in was not something to be proud of or to stay in. It still took me a month or so to finally find the courage to break up with him. He was brutal during it. Called me horrid names, said I was killing him, ruining his life, etc. I finally saw the true total person I had been dating, the horrible abusive angry side finally flowed all out instead of just dripping into me like an IV.
It still took another month for me to finally rid of him. To get him to stop texting and facebooking me. The emotional tolls still followed me though. For the healing I have my friends and my now boyfriend…best friend…to thank. They taught me to be happy. To be myself, and to love myself and to be loved by others because I was myself. The guy I am dating now has helped me overcome the constant need to please, the need to be perfect, the need to give myself even when I don’t want to. One of the first times he wanted to have sex, he asked if I wanted it, I never said no, I did not know how to say no, but he must have seen the look in my eyes, and immediately said “you know, not tonight, only when you want it.” I looked at him and cried tears of happiness; someone had heard me without me using my voice which I still could not find at that point. He and my friends helped me find my voice again, shatter my silence, and reacquaint me with what someone in a healthy relationship felt and had entitlement to. It has been a long road, with lots of bumps along the way, but I thank my lucky stars everyday for the friends I have and the love they have given me.”
Do you have a story to share? If so, please e-mail info@ShatteringTheSilence.org with the subject line “My Story.”