Ashley’s story as told by Erin Lichtenfeld
My best friend, who I’ll call Beth, is one of the most sincere and intellectual people that I know, but she always battled internally. When we met in middle school, she contemplated taking her life. As we started high school I started to notice more changes in her, especially around our last two years. She began eating much less and took up cross-country. During these years, her first serious relationship ensued.
John was different. He seemed very charming and had a very witty personality. When they began dating she told me that he was just like me, but in guy form. She was happy that they were so compatible. I was happy for her, until things started to change. I saw her less and less. She began acting more reclusive. I assumed that it was because she was happy in the relationship, so I tried to remain happy for them. However, that was not the case. She had lost her virginity to this guy, and she was his main source of transportation when the two hung out. Things went from being light-hearted and fun to very serious. There were times where he would force her to be intimate by choking her and remark that she was the only one for him.
As she began to realize just how volatile the relationship was becoming, she tried to leave. The first time was not very successful. John claimed that she was only allowed to make him cry when they got married and had children. For awhile, Beth and I stopped talking. She distanced herself so much from me that I couldn’t break through her wall. Around this time, she started talking to an old friend, Chuck. She was reaching out for support at this point, but it became more.
I told her that I didn’t want to waste any more time ignoring each other. She agreed, and we spent the afternoon trying to patch up things. During the next couple of weeks, our friendship seemed like it had gone back to normal. She was also able to get closer to Chuck. Before I knew it, the two had entered a relationship together.
The beginning of their relationship went well, except her ex-boyfriend John was stalking her. She changed her number a couple of times, but that didn’t matter. He made numerous accounts on social media and kept adding her. He would have his friends drive to her house so he could try talking to her. During one instance, Chuck was leaving when John and his friend pulled up. Beth pulled Chuck inside and told John to leave. Chuck had a melt down and stayed on her property for a little while before he finally left. The two wouldn’t see John again, but he would be a constant source for fighting.
When the two started fighting, Chuck would tell Beth that he wished her and John never dated. He also wished that he could’ve been her first and only partner. When she would try talking to other male friends, Chuck would get jealous. He was very insecure at this point and thought that she was talking to John. I stepped in during a couple of these fights because they were starting to get out of hand. During one instance, John made Beth have a breakdown by bringing up John. I decided to say something. Chuck went off and told me to mind my own business and called me horrible names.
Things were resolved for a while, but another fight ensued around my graduation open house. During my party, Chuck said that I lied about the way he had talked to me, and he punched a wall in my house. The two left. A couple of weeks later, I broke up with my boyfriend and was seeking Beth’s support. She said she would come over that night but never did. I was distraught because my best friend wasn’t there for me in my time of need. A couple of days went by and she sent me a text. I decided that it was too late.
We wouldn’t speak for two years . . .
I started college that fall and tried to focus on schooling and making new friends. One night, I decided to “creep” on Chuck’s profile. One of his main pictures was of my ex and me. Chuck and his friends wrote horrendous things about me, which made me super upset. Beth had joined in. That made it easier to distance myself.
When we did start talking again, I knew that things wouldn’t be the same. I made some changes and noticed many changes in Beth as well. She wasn’t as happy-go-lucky and looked different too, though I couldn’t pinpoint it. As we started getting more comfortable with each other, she began to open up. She told me about an instance in which she tried dumping Chuck. They were in her room when a fight ensued, and she told Chuck that it was over. He walked out of her room and when he returned, he had a knife. He held it to his throat and said that he would kill himself if the two weren’t together.
There have been more instances that have occurred since we have been friends again. During one, Beth was babysitting and Chuck came over to confront her about something he saw on social media. Her boyfriend accused her of liking his friend and became so enraged that he took her new iPod and broke it. She lied about what happened.
Whenever we hang out, Chuck will call both of us to make sure that she’s with me. She seldom leaves her house. She has few friends because her relationship isolates her. She was working and going to school, but had to quit due to stress and anxiety. Whenever we hang out, I try not to talk about her relationship. Sometimes I look at her and see the person that I was once friends with. Those moments are rare. When I hang out with her and Chuck, they seem so unhappy. They don’t show affection, and they make snide remarks to one another. I have asked them about their future plans, and they never know how to respond. Chuck doesn’t have plans to propose anytime soon.
I wonder what will happen to their relationship down the road. I hope that my friend will be able to leave the relationship and find someone who can appreciate her, but I know that may never happen. I try to be supportive of her but things are complicated between us because of Chuck. He doesn’t trust me because I’m not afraid to speak my mind and my friend will listen to me sometimes.
As hard as this experience has been for me to witness, it has served as a learning experience. My hope is for people to realize the signs of an unhealthy relationship and also to realize their self-worth.
Though a person may not be physically violent, words can be more powerful weapons. No one deserves to be talked down to. I want people to love themselves and speak up for those who have lost their voice due to domestic violence.
This story originally appeared in Facing Teen Dating Violence, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by A Better Way in Muncie, Indiana.