Emma’s story as told by Madison Savage
There are days when I look in the mirror and begin to see the reflections of who I once was.
I feel myself shrinking. Losing friends, losing control, losing my mind. I go back to a time when I felt so alone, and I start to grow smaller with each layer I shed. I was a puppet, bound by the hands of a perfectly tailored boy, wearing me alongside his class ring.
Sometimes if I close my eyes I can see it in my mind, playing back like a recording.
The air was hot and sticky, almost begging for a breeze. The noises of carnival rides and small talk surrounded me. It was summertime at the fair, and I met a boy.
Sixteen and smitten.
He was from a family of church goers; a routine I learned to adopt as my own. As I fell into my role in his Sundays, I started losing my place in my own life. My time began to belong to him as I lost touch with friends, and spent less time with my parents than I did his. We did everything together. No longer just me. We. And our Sundays.
First it was my time. Then my choices.
“Don’t wear shorts; they don’t look good on you.” So I didn’t wear shorts.
“You look a lot better in makeup.” So naturally, I saw through glitter-lined eyes and smiled with lips glossed to his fancy.
I should have seen these things as red flags, but I was young and naïve. “It just means he cares,” I assured my mother, as I requested more money for the dress he picked out for me for the school dance.
My mom and that damn dress watched me cry that night.
I could handle it.
But then it was my body.
He stole pieces of me, bit by bit. He took my words, hearing a “no” as a “yes”, and a “stop” as a “go”. He made me put up walls. The same kind he tried to hold me against.
It hurt. It hurt then; looking back it sometimes still hurts now.
There are days when I look in the mirror and see my true reflection. A strong woman, who has been belittled, but still stands.
I spent a lot of time thinking I was damaged because of the situations I had faced. I was torn. ripped apart, emotionally, physically, sexually. But I was not, and will not be, broken.
I’ve learned to rebuild myself after I was knocked down. Starting at the foundation, I remembered to love myself, brick by brick, piece by piece, and glance by glance.
Through the times of pain, hurt, and sadness, I pushed myself to take back the voice I had once lost.
I encourage those who find themselves in difficult situations to remember who they are. Stay true to yourself, and never, ever, give up.
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.