What Love is Not

Abuse, Domestic Violence, Facing Teen Violence in Muncie, Indiana, Teen Dating Violence

Kiara’s story as told by Katrina Brown and Megan Caldwell

It all started a few years ago. It was my junior year of high school, and I was 16 years old.

Everyone thought I was so cool to talk to him. He was one of the most popular guys in school: athletic, played football, wrestled. He was really attractive too. Taller, light toned, really dark curly hair, was kinda buff, had a really nice build. He also had the prettiest smile you’ll ever see. The thing is, I didn’t know much about him. He had such a good reputation cause he was so popular, ya know? I only found out he was a horrible person after the fact.

The first day we talked was on Instagram. He was perfect, and we connected so well—I found out later he lied about his interests and just googled stuff he knew I liked. We hit it off so well in fact, that things got serious really quickly. Serious as in, two or three days in we were already planning our future together—doing all the lovey-dovey stuff. We were already talking about “when we get married”, and “when we have kids,” and the thing is: I didn’t necessarily know if that was abnormal or not.

Once we started dating, we dated for three days. We broke up for a normal reason—religious—and I really wasn’t upset about it. I didn’t find it necessary to talk to him, and didn’t think there was any reason to be friends, and I didn’t want to tell anyone about it either because I knew what they would say: “You’re so stupid for breaking up with HIM.” I just went on with my life. No big deal, right?

A few weeks down the line, he started always blowing up my phone, always trying to have conversation. Well, I’m the type of person to hold a cordial conversation but that didn’t change that what we had was over. He didn’t like that. I used to work at a Starbucks, and he ended up working at a Starbucks close to mine. If you work in the same district you can trade shifts between stores. You can see where this is going. He started coming to work in my store, started knocking the different bottles down, knocking my drinks over, throwing the drinks away whenever I was working… you get the picture. Eventually, they fired him.

One day, we were texting, and he was arguing with me, asking for another chance. I said no, and I guess that wasn’t the answer he wanted. He ended up sending six girls to jump me, and they beat me up really bad. I had to go to the ER.

He ended up moving five minutes away from me even though I had never given him my address. Then one night at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning he FaceTimed me as he was walking through my neighborhood, and he said:

“I’m coming over, and I wanna have sex.”

“We’re not having sex.”

“You can say no as much as you want but I promise, we will end up having sex.”

I called both his cousin, who he lived with, and my best friend, who lived nearby, scared out of my mind. His cousin finally came and picked him up, but he ended up trying to come back to my house. He said he wanted closure, a little closing argument. I guess. It ended up not going the way he wanted it to. To me, threatening to rape me and sending people to jump me was enough of a deal breaker. He ended up punching me in my eye.

He went to the military shortly after that, but the nightmare still wasn’t over. He kept sending me random pictures and videos of guns. He never had a message with them, it was always just him shooting a gun, or one of the military guns.

This past October to keep touch with my family while I was at college, I made a Facebook, and literally three minutes after I made it I had a friend request from him. It scared the crap out of me, and now he’s engaged with a child, but he still messages me every month. I just don’t respond. I have him blocked on everything, but he’ll just go on someone else’s account.

There are still to this day people who tell me that I’m lying, but there’s a difference between knowing somebody and dating somebody. He has such a high reputation that nobody believes me when I tell them what he did. They say “I’ve known him for years, and he would never do that.” Except he would and he did, but they don’t care. I know for a fact that there are people who knew what he was doing to me. Nobody ever helped.

A lot of my friends didn’t wanna deal with me. My friendships all went downhill, except for my best friend. She didn’t really leave my side at the time but him and her argued a lot so I was always kind of having to pick a side. Even when I knew my best friend was right, I just didn’t want him to be upset. I would tell her, “Just leave him alone. He’ll get over it.” She still stood by my side, though, and helped me through it. I needed that—someone to turn to and depend on who wasn’t my abuser. She saw what I didn’t at first—the red flags that mark an unhealthy relationship.

He broke me down. He wanted to have control over everything I did. Wanted control over what I ate, what I wore, everything, and honestly, you don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing until after the fact. Sometimes, you are so caught up in trying to make it work that you think the abuse means they care. Love does not look like guilt and coercion. Love is not a black eye and desperation.

Learn what love looks like, so you know how to tell someone who doesn’t. And remember, for every person in the world that has done you wrong in some way, there are two that will do right by you, so once you learn what love looks like, show what love looks like.

I was lucky. I got out before it was too late. Not only did I see the red flags, but I did something about them; I got out while I still could. Don’t think that all I am  a victim, though. Maybe once I was, but I have grown past that. I am a survivor, and I am choosing to use this experience to empower both myself and others. There are many people who see the warning signs and choose to ignore them—if you’re one of those people, don’t. If you’re a bystander, do something. Be a friend, even when it’s hard. Care for others, even when they’re pushing you away. Do something. You might save someone’s life.

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.

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