Fortezza, Umilitade, e Largo Core - Courage, Humility, and Largeness of Heart.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Standing Tall as a Victim

I am no shrinking violet, I never have been. I find it shocking that I am finding myself in this situation but here I am and I will not back down.

I am 39 years old and I am the victim of an abusive relationship with a 24-year-old classmate while in seminary. I would have never imagined something like this would ever happen to me. I was raised by a single mother who ingrained in me strength and independence. I went to all female schools (high school and college) where we were taught how to protect ourselves. But after my second divorce, I was left broken and vulnerable. That’s where he stepped in.

While preparing to defend myself and my safety by proving in a court of law a preponderance of evidence (in front of a judge and my victimizer) I was able to see exactly how he began to lay the trap that ensnared me. I am not saying he did this intentionally; I still hold out hope that he is just confused and not malicious. This crusade I took on is not an easy one; having grown up in the age of Anita Hill, I know that the first woman to take a stand is pummeled with stones. But I was given the tools to prepare me for this fight (I am imagining myself as a modern day Frodo Baggins, collecting tools that I do not understand and have no concept how I will use them but storing them away, ready to pull them out when the time comes). I have found that of all the tools I have at the ready, the most important skill I have is to reach out to my community and ask for help. If you find yourself in a similar position, please- reach out for help. 

The relationship began innocuously enough: I was seeing a fella at home who was unwilling to commit due to my being long distance. When my classmate began flirting with me via IM, I was so vulnerable and desperate for attention. I saw both of them for several months but when Valentine’s Day came around and I realized that neither man cared enough about me to acknowledge me on the holiday, I ended my relationship with both men as I felt that I was not being respected by the open, non-exclusive nature. I respectfully asked my classmate to give me the space to heal. Against my wishes, he continued to text message and instant message me. After a more than a month of unwanted contact, I asked a friend to speak to him to request that he leave me alone, to which he responded that he “got the message loud and clear,” yet two days later he was instant messaging me again.  Because I liked him and was emotionally vulnerable after settling a painful divorce, I repeatedly allowed him back into my life. I was very clear about my expectations, namely that I would not have sex with him outside of an exclusive relationship. I would get the impression (whether correctly or not) that he intended to commit to me, but when asked about it he would say that he would not commit. One time this conversation happened as he was trying to unbutton my pants.

This cycle continued until the end of the semester when he messaged me saying that he would like to be exclusive. Against my better judgment, I saw him and we ended up having consensual sex.  The relationship then blew up that afternoon; the cause is still open to debate. I was devastated and I behaved badly (including unfriending him on Facebook). He said that he saw no hope for us and we should both walk away, which I did. However, a week later he was back to messaging me again, saying that he missed me.  I was in a state of cognitive dissonance, my head knew I shouldn’t take him back but my heart was still crying out for him. Over the objections of everyone, I decided to give him one last shot; he was not willing to commit right away and asked for time to think it over, which I agreed to.