Editor’s Note: This essay contains descriptions of abusive behavior and explicit language.
There’s a dirty secret in my family that we all know but don’t really talk about. The secret is that for two years, I had the hell beaten out of me repeatedly by my ex-boyfriend. Apparently I wasn’t as good at hiding it as I thought I was.
When I found out a few years after I had left my abuser that everyone I had counted as friends and family knew about the abuse, it broke my heart again. Their inaction and apathy was somehow worse than going through the initial abuse. It confirmed everything that I had told myself while I stayed, everything he screamed at me: I was a disgusting piece of filth, a waste of human flesh, I deserved this, and no one, not even my family, cared about me.
The relationship started as a product of rape — although I didn’t know to call it that. I was at my apartment, and my roommates invited their friends over for a party. He was there. I got drunk — very drunk — and passed out in my room with the door closed. The next thing I remember, he was on top of me, fucking me, holding my arms to the top of my head, his other hand over my mouth.
When he was done, he rolled over and slept next to me.
I still don’t drink very much to this day, and whenever I’m around people who do drink to excess, I get uneasy and end up leaving.
Throughout our relationship, he systematically isolated me from my friends, exploiting my insecurities, telling me they talked shit behind my back, that it was “us against the world.” I still maintained strong ties with my family, and he went to work on those next.
I ended up pregnant. While he was supportive and caring in front of his friends, behind closed doors he raged. He forced me to take another test in front of his mother to prove I wasn’t “lying” or “trying to trap him” with a pregnancy. When it was confirmed that I was indeed pregnant, he accused me of screwing the black guys in the neighborhood. He beat me to near senselessness, so I went to the only refuge I knew of at the time — my mother’s apartment.
I told her about the pregnancy and she freaked out. Screamed, yelled, said horrific things. She confirmed, once again, all the things that I knew in my heart were true: No one loved me, not even my family. I deserved whatever would happen. She then stormed out of her apartment, leaving me completely broken.
When his mother offered to pay for an abortion after hearing him beat me one night, I agreed. I knew that somehow, bringing a child into this world would be the cruelest thing I could do in my situation.
After the abortion, I began to whitewash everything. After all, no one really cared about me when they asked if I was okay. Why would they care that the man who claimed to love me also sometimes beat the shit out of me? Why on earth would they care that he took all my money whenever I got paid, leaving me in a roach-filled apartment in the worst neighborhood of town where I fell asleep to gunshots and police sirens?
Remember, I deserved all of this.The only thing that I could think of is that I must have been a terrible human being while I was a child and a teenager to have all of this happen to me. My mother, for years, had screamed nothing but insults at me. While at the time, growing up, I didn’t think it was true, it must have been.
When he discovered I was bisexual, another element came into our situation: I had sex with girls while he watched. He would go on Craigslist, find girls, bring them to the apartment, get me drunk and high, and then force me to have sex with these women. If I refused, he’d remind me ever so gently that if I failed to please him, his 9mm was right there and he wasn’t afraid to use it.
Sometimes, he’d bring his friends over.
I don’t really want to go into detail with this, but let’s say, I never saw a dime for it. He used it to pay for his pills, weed, coke, or get gas for his car.
He did this under the guise of BDSM — I was his slave, he was my Master, and he would protect me if I pleased him. If not, however, I would get punished. Remember what it was like to get punished?
One of the problems with this is that my sexual nature is to be submissive. I was torn between my mind and my self constantly. I had almost no contact with anyone that he didn’t approve of. If he went to his family’s home, I came with him and sat on the couch like a good person. He couldn’t trust me at home, alone. No matter where he went, I went with him. I wasn’t allowed to stay at home.
I tried a few times to branch out. I stayed in contact with a few of my friends from Rocky who were also big into the local BDSM scene. When they asked why I fell off the face of the earth, I explained to them, in terms that I thought they’d understand, that my “Master” didn’t like me talking to those he didn’t approve of. They pressed for more details, and of course I broke while talking to them. They had taken me under their wing and protected me when they realized what I was going through.
They told me that this wasn’t anything to do with kink, but rather what I always knew it was: Abuse. I had to leave.
The problem was, I had no where to go.
I realized that he would kill me if I stayed when I found out for the second time that I was pregnant. I let him know, and he flew into a rage again. This time, it wasn’t black guys from the neighborhood, but rather the “N*****” that ran the store” next to my apartment that knocked me up.
At 7:00 in the morning, while I was trying to leave for work, he began screaming. He pounded my head into a wall and threw me to the floor. He then began kicking my stomach, over and over again. “I’m not gonna pay for your whore ass to get scraped again.” He pulled open the door to my apartment and kicked me down the stairs.
He left me on the first landing, no breath left, unable to cry. One guy came out of his door and screamed, “Why ain’t none y’all call 911 yet?” He came over to me and gathered me up. I finally passed out.
At the hospital, they informed me that I was in the process of miscarrying upon arrival and they performed a D+C. The scarring left behind would affect the ability to even conceive children in the future, and the chances of me actually carrying a pregnancy to term were minimal. The doctor told me, “You might want to give up on hopes of being a mother through natural birth.” But it didn’t matter.
They asked me if I wanted to press charges. Automatically I replied, “For what? I fell down the stairs. They are metal, it’s winter. I must have slipped.”
I walked home from the hospital. I didn’t call anyone in my family. After all, I deserved all of this. No one cared. He came back a few days later, loving and apologetic, and said, “Oh by the way, I got us a special treat for tonight. I found a hot goth girl on Craigslist.”
After a while, circumstances led to our separation for a few weeks. At first he tried to control every aspect of my movements, but it was impossible to do so. He had fled to the comfort of his family home, whereas I was left to find my own accommodations. There were only two people that I felt I could call. A male friend of theirs was also staying with them, so we shared the spare room together — separate beds, of course.
When my ex found out about these sleeping arrangements, he freaked out. He’d bring his gun over and start to clean it in front of the guy sharing the room. He’d talk about what a whore I was, how loose I was, that I was disgusting. But he couldn’t stay. The people who were helping me to finally break away had children. All visitors had to be gone by eight. I worked until six and didn’t get back until seven. I didn’t realize at the time that they set up these boundaries for me.
I knew my ex sensed that I was getting close to leaving when, after grocery shopping for the apartment, we arrived home and he was sitting there, in his van, outside the front door. He snapped at me and I went to the window. I could smell the Mickey’s beer on his breath, and he had a small bottle of something between his legs. He also had his gun in his hand. “Get in. Tell them we’re going for a ride. If you don’t, I will kill you.”
So I did.
For twenty minutes he rode in circles ranting at me about how I better not fuck anyone else, and that I was the best he’d do. And then I realized, I didn’t care about anything anymore. I just didn’t want to die in his shitty van. I waited until we rolled up to a stop sign, deftly slid open the lock, jumped out and ran away.
He didn’t show up back at their apartment, but during the night someone in his family took my car back. After all, it was in his name, even though I paid for it.
I didn’t care. I really didn’t care.
No one else did.
This submission is from a woman who wishes to remain anonymous. Her abuse occurred from ages 19 – 22. Her abuser died of an accidental drug overdose six years ago, allowing her to sleep soundly for the first time in years. She is still active in the BDSM and queer communities and dedicates her time and resources to ensure that others know the differences between kink and abuse.
Original Photography by Dina Peone.