Sarah’s story as told by Kimmi Beard and Natalie Kuss
When you think of abuse, you think of a couple and they have kids, and you think that he is physically abusive all the time, repeatedly, and the kids see it and there’s, like, a split and he like harasses her, you know. It wasn’t like that; it was sophomore year of high school.
When I met Alex the summer of sophomore year he seemed like the perfect all-American boy. He somehow managed to be a tri-sport athlete along with being a full-time student. When we first started dating, it was your typical high school romance. Cheering him on at his games, celebrating his victories, and comforting him after loses. I would even go out to dinner with his teammates and family after a win.
It all began to blur together after a while, with the sport being the only thing changing. Maybe that’s why I didn’t notice how serious my situation was at first. Maybe I had become too comfortable with the consistency of my relationship with Alex that I didn’t want to acknowledge a switch. Maybe I didn’t want to believe it at all.
When football season began, Alex became aggressive after losses. Sometimes he would leave me after games without saying a single word. I began desperately hoping the team would win so I could avoid Alex’s newfound wrath. He would scream at me in front of everyone, yet no one confronted him. Soon after, things got physical. He starting pushing and grabbing me when I would confront him after games, all while shouting at me. I tried to blame it on his athletics, but it was becoming increasingly difficult as time went on and his abuse no longer depended on his team’s performance. Nowhere was safe from Alex’s anger anymore. My feelings for him kept me trapped in his grasp. I could not give up the boy I fell for during the summer, even if he had changed for the worse.
I wanted out of the relationship, but I didn’t know what to do. If he was shoving me and getting mad at me for no reason at all…well, I was scared to think what would happen if he did have a reason. I was talking on the phone with my friend, venting about some of the stuff that had been going with Alex when my mom overheard the conversation. She was furious. She messaged Alex’s mother on Facebook and they got into an argument. Ultimately, she forced Alex and me to break up. I was simultaneously frustrated and grateful. Frustrated that it had escalated to this point. Grateful that it was finally over.
It got worse after the break up. He would come up to me in the hallways, shove me into lockers and force me to talk to him. His friends would walk passed me and call me the worst thing you can call a woman. I went to the dean of my high school, but he was the football coach and refused to discipline Alex. I felt hopeless. I felt like it didn’t matter. The only action that was taken was when one of Alex’s friends got in trouble for passing me a harassing note in class. And that only happened because it was during class time, not even because it was happening to me.
It got really hard to go to school. I wasn’t excited anymore. I wouldn’t even go to the bathroom during class because I was scared I would run into him alone. He would stalk me outside of school, too. Eventually I only went to school, guard practice, and home. I didn’t go to sporting events with my friends because he would be there. I stopped doing the things that made me happy. I stopped having fun.
Even today, it feels wrong to call myself a “survivor.” I feel like others who went through worse or more intense situations deserve that title. Not me. I have a hard time validating my own feelings and often seek validation from others. I’m getting better at owning my emotions, though. My mom is a huge part of my support system. I have great friends willing to listen. I also sought out counseling here at school. I would recommend that anyone who is currently or has in the past dealt with a situation similar to mine. Talk to someone. A friend, sister, mom, and if you’re ready, a counselor really helps.
Abuse can take on many forms and looks differently in every situation. Your story is valid. My story is valid. Every story is valid.
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.