Amari’s story as told by Erin Loehr and Alyssa Reisinger
I started dating this guy in my junior year of high school when he was a year above me. I went to a boarding school for my last two years, and that’s where we met. There were obviously some warning signs in the beginning that I chose to ignore because I was infatuated with him, and we were obviously very attracted to each other. From the moment we talked, it just skyrocketed. I got to know him a lot faster because we were living together. I ate three times a day with him, I did homework with him, and I hung out with him. So, it was easy to get attached because of the time we spent together.
But my family didn’t like him, and my friends didn’t like him. They said that he’s a jerk, and they didn’t like the way he was talking to me. Looking back, I love what my friends did. They told me straight what they saw but didn’t keep egging at it because, ultimately, it was my decision, and they were there for me when things went wrong. They were open about getting help. That’s all you can really do for a person. If you try to control and make decisions for an abuse victim, then how much better are you than the abuser? Even people who were friends with him or those who weren’t, said that he was a bully and that I didn’t need him. But I kept making up excuses saying that he had his own issues and that’s why he was treating me that way.
In the beginning, he was super sexual, and I was still a virgin at the time in addition to not being a sexually driven person in general. We also fought a lot and about everything. If it was stupid we fought about it. The problem was that he’s a mathematical and scientific genius. Basically, he had to be the smartest person in the room. On the other hand, I don’t function with numbers and logic, but I play piano and dance and paint because I come from an artsy family, and the arts are just something that I’m very passionate about. So, even though I didn’t excel with science and math, I am still capable in other areas, but he always tried to dumb me down.
Five months in, I found out he was cheating on me. We were sitting down one day, and I saw a notification pop up on his phone and took it, but then he quickly grabbed it away. The next day we met to talk about it, and I was an emotional mess. I was still talking when he tried to say something, so he whistled at me. And I was like, “I’m not a dog. That’s not how you get my attention.” And even after we ended our relationship, he claimed that it never happened; he couldn’t admit to himself that he screwed up. About a month later, he shoved me. Hard. It was the last straw for me. I couldn’t believe that he did that; my mom had been physically abused by both of her husbands, so this was not okay to me.
It was the last straw, but ironically, I stayed. I stayed because of the signs.
You know signs, right? Not warning signs, but like signs like you’re meant to be together or something like that? Sounds cheesy, right? But those signs were a lot of the reasons that I stayed in this abusive relationship. When we had our first kiss, fireworks went off out of nowhere. So, when the bad moments happened, my mind would automatically go back to that moment and say, “Doesn’t that mean we’re meant to be?” Looking back at it now, I think that yeah, maybe it was a coincidence, and yeah, maybe it was a sign, but it’s what kept me there because I loved him. No one had ever shown me that I could be that important, and no one had ever cared about me in that way, but he used that to his advantage to manipulate me and be abusive.
After a year, we broke it off when he went off to college because it was emotionally straining. I had to go back to boarding school without him, and it was hard living there without him because we had created all our memories there. I missed him a lot, and he missed me a lot. Some things were said that didn’t need to be said, but now he’s completely out of my life.
After our relationship, things started going downhill for me. I’m a huge extrovert, but I wasn’t very social afterwards. You’re never the same after your first love. I lost my virginity to this guy. My mind was affected. My heart was affected. My groin was affected. I’ve also had a few experiences with sexual assault because they knew I was in a vulnerable place. It felt like everything was taken away from me.
I chose not to seek counseling. Instead, I turned to the arts. They’ve always been my therapy, and they give me a chance to put my experiences out there without explicitly saying it. At first it was difficult, because while he was out of my life, memories of him connected to the arts were everywhere. It was hard to play the piano because that’s where we would hang out. He learned piano because of me, and we wrote songs together. It was hard to paint. There was this painting of us looking directly at each other and super in love that I had started at the beginning of our relationship. I had to force myself to finish it because it was part of my directed study that looked at the effects of the arts on the human mind. It was the first painting I started and the last painting I finished because it was so hard to do. But I found my passion in a different art: acting.
Eventually, I decided that I was done with all this. I’m going to focus on me and not try to find love. The day that I said that is the day that I met the person I’m with today. It’s so crazy because people always tell you when you think you’re beautiful, when you’re confident, then everyone is going to see you that way.
It was last year in January, and I was on stage doing a performance, looking into the audience. There’s this one guy smiling up at me, and it was a serious piece so I was like, “What’re you smiling at me for?” We talked after that. We went on a date. And all these ironic things started happening: we were in the same college department, and we lived in towns next to each other. I talked to his friends and they said that when he first saw me he said that I was the most beautiful girl in the world. I told him I was still in love with the first guy. It obviously affected him, but he was very understanding. And then one day it clicked that I just wasn’t anymore. I didn’t know that there was a better love after that guy, but, you know, there was.
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.