As some of you may be aware, October is Domestic Violence Awareness month. While College Fashion is primarily a fashion blog, we're also more than that - we strive to create inspirational and relatable material to expand your knowledge and give you, our readers, a place to feel comfortable and safe. With that in mind, it's time for some real talk about domestic violence.
Domestic violence is an issue that hits close to home for me. Since joining CF as a nail art columnist, I've encountered a nagging voice in the back of my head urging me to step aside from my usual column and write about this serious and - unfortunately - common situation. After all, I experienced it myself.
According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 3 women will encounter some form of domestic abuse, while 1 in 4 men will experience the same. To many, domestic violence is automatically associated with physical abuse, but the fact of the matter is that abuse is abuse, and can come in many ugly forms, such as emotional, financial, and sexual abuse, just to name a few.
So today, in the hopes that I can help even one person feel less alone, I want to share my own experience with domestic violence.
Emotional Abuse: My Story
(*Warning: The following may be triggering*)
My story of emotional abuse ends in a way that many stories unfortunately don't - with me getting out. The sad fact is, many victims aren't so fortunate.
To begin, I was in a relationship with someone I had known for six whole years. Six years of constant communication and friendship with someone I believed I had connected with on every level. And then one day, everything just snapped. I discovered he had cheated on me numerous times while we'd been living together, and after months of unnecessary grief and anxiety, I finally understood that there was nothing left to fix. So I ended it. But he didn't see that line of thinking.
Due to financial instability, I was forced to continue to live with him, and with that came a side of him that I never could have imagined. Because I had begun to pull away, he began to fight, using anything he could to keep me there. He would guilt me every chance he could, saying that I was becoming a different person, that I was abandoning him, that I was weak and pathetic. Anger and jealously would overflow and cause him to scream and yell at me, yet as soon as he would see I wasn't falling for it, he'd begin to talk about hurting himself because I didn't care, causing me to comfort him. Whenever his anger didn't work, he'd switch to a different method to keep me under his control. The more I pointed out his tactics, the more he would try to disillusion me and claim that I was crazy, that it was all in my head, when not more than five minutes before, he had been calling me obscene names.
For months, I became increasingly brainwashed by his actions. Day after day, I would allow him to yell, to make me feel small, to make me feel as if I wasn't even a person anymore. All his manipulation made me into a shell of my former self, and made me believe that everything that had happened was my fault. And so I stayed with him. Even though we had broken up, I let the "relationship" continue.
It wasn't until a friend stepped in, and pointed out that everything he had done was abusive, that things finally turned around. At first, I shot down the idea. "No, this isn't an abusive relationship," I would think to myself. "He's just upset." I would make excuses for him, until it finally dawned on me that his words and actions were, in fact, abusive.
And with that truth, I learned to stick up for myself. I no longer allowed him the satisfaction of control, and instead I started to build my self-confidence back up so that he was unable to knock me down again. His anger grew as he realized his control was slipping, causing him to sink to attempts at scaring me. He would punch walls, kick over chairs, and block the door whenever I tried to leave, and even threatened suicide if I left. But no matter how difficult things became, the thought of finally being able to escape kept me going.
After an entire year of manipulation, lies, guilt, and verbal attacks, I was finally able to leave.
Yet, if I hadn't been aware of emotional abuse, I don't know where I would be now. Forms of abuse like this are easily overlooked and difficult to recognize, which is why I wanted to share what I went through to promote better understanding of what to look out for.
As stated by HelpGuide.Org's article on domestic abuse,
"Domestic violence and abuse are used for one purpose and one purpose only: to gain and maintain total control over you."
Abusers will do absolutely anything and everything to keep control, no matter what. Recognition is the first step towards ridding yourself of a poisonous domestic relationship, and although it may take time and hard work, always understand that you can do it. Don't ever believe that you are in it alone. Whether it be friends, family, hotlines, or websites, there is always someone there who will listen and who will help.
How to Seek Help for Domestic Abuse
If you think you are in an abusive relationship, or know someone who might be and want to know more about signs and how to handle it, The National Domestic Violence Hotline has a great site dedicated to all forms of abuse and how to get help. Also, here's a great PDF from the American Psychological Association targeted towards high school and college students. Remember, there's always a way out.
Help Raise Awareness for Domestic Abuse
In addition, the NNEDV is sponsoring events all throughout the rest of October. Tomorrow, October 23rd, is #PurpleThursday - to participate, wear purple tomorrow and share a photo or update on social media to raise awareness. They also accept donations, and every cent helps.
Have you or someone you know been affected by domestic violence? Have you successfully ended an abusive relationship? Do you think domestic violence awareness deserves more coverage? (We do.) Do you have any questions about my experience or how to leave an abusive situation?
This is a safe space - we'd love to hear from you in hopes we can inspire others to seek help. (Feel free to comment under a fake name if you want.) Leave a comment below and let's discuss.