When Love Hurts: A cautionary tale about dating abuse
Kiley*, now 16, was smitten when she landed the boy of her dreams. Little did she know, he’d actually become her own worst nightmare. Here, she shares her cautionary tale about dating abuse—and how you can avoid falling into a similar trap.
It all began so innocently. I was in seventh grade and had the biggest crush on Zach*, a cute guy with deep brown eyes and a great smile. At school, I’d go out of my way to make sure I’d pass by him in the halls. We’d make eye contact, and I’d feel a jolt of electricity. Then, one day, he stopped me, introduced himself, and told me he liked me. We talked for a little, hugged and walked in separate directions. It wasn’t much—a few words, a quick hug—but that was all I needed to fall head over heels for Zach.
Not much more happened between us until the following year when we had several classes together. He’d flirt with me and seemed super interested. All I wanted was for him to be my boyfriend. So of course I said yes when he stopped me one day after school and asked if I wanted to hang out. I didn’t know where we were going—and my parents have a strict rule about me coming home right away. But I ignored my gut and walked off campus with him. What was the worst that could happen? We were only in eighth grade.
He led me to a park where my family and I used to ride our bikes. I followed him into the woods, to a big bush that reminded me of a fort I’d play in with my friends when we were kids. We went inside and it went silent. I checked the time on my phone, only to have him take it out of my hands and place it by our backpacks on the ground. Then, he kissed me. I couldn’t believe what was happening. It seemed so thrilling at first. This boy, who I’d been in love with for so long, was kissing me. My head was spinning. I couldn’t help but smile. It was almost like a dream come true.
But then, his kisses, which were soft and sweet at first, grew harder and more aggressive. He began touching me all over, moving his hands beneath my shirt and tugging at my pants. My body went stiff. I wasn’t ready for that and wanted to stop. It felt weird and gross. But even though I pushed him away and asked him to slow down, he just kept going.
“I thought you liked me,” he said between kisses. “Don’t you want this?” I managed to wriggle away from him and grabbed my stuff, telling him I had to get home or my parents would go ballistic. We ended things awkwardly. Later, I worried all night about what I did—what if he didn’t like me because I didn’t do more with him? Did I ruin it all?
The next day, it was as though nothing had happened. Zach was back to his old sweet, flirty self. I still didn’t feel right about what happened in the woods, but I didn’t want to lose him, either. So I went with it.
Over the next few weeks, Zach seemed more and more into me. We continued to go to “our spot” to make out. Things soon grew more intimate between us. I wasn’t comfortable doing some of the things that I did with Zach, but I was so afraid that if I turned him down, I’d lose him.
One day, while we were kissing, Zach stopped, looked me in the eyes, and told me he loved me. I nearly burst, I was so happy. I told him I loved him, too. Then, he took my hand and said, “We both love each other and people who love each other do things for each other.” I played coy, like I didn’t know what he was talking about. So he made it clear: He told me he’d officially be my boyfriend if we went all the way. The words he was saying began swirling in my head.
Would he still love me if I didn’t do more with him? I didn’t want to lose my virginity—I was just 14 years old. But I didn’t want him to dump me, either. I told him I had to think about it.
A couple days later, I went away with my family to Florida for spring break. Zach and I texted every day. I even sent him some nude photos after he kept asking for them—I regretted it right away. But even though our texts were hot and heavy, I guess it wasn’t enough for Zach. When I got home, I found out he hooked up with a girl I knew. My heart shattered as I dumped him, swearing that it was over for good.
Zach’s reaction? Telling everyone he dumped . He showed his friends my photos. He called me “needy” and “annoying."
My reputation was wrecked. I’d get random messages and texts from weird numbers with people calling me the most awful names. My closest friends stuck by me, but a lot of other people I thought would be there kept their distance. I was the butt of a joke that everyone seemed to be in on.
Of course, I blamed myself. I thought it was all my fault. If only I’d done what Zach wanted, he wouldn’t have cheated. He’d still be in love with me. He wouldn’t have turned on me.
I know now that this is the classic reaction of a victim of dating abuse. Yes, abuse. When you hear the word, you probably think of something physical—a guy hitting a girl. But there are other types of mistreatment that happen in relationships, including emotional and sexual abuse.
RELATIONSHIP RED FLAGS
No guy is worth it if he shows any of these true colors. Here’s why...
HE’S POSSESSIVE AND BOSSY. If he gets jealous of you talking to guys or spending time with others, it’s not cute—it’s controlling.
HE LOSES HIS TEMPER. Bad temper? Bad news. Sure, a guy can lose his cool once in awhile—but if he’s quick to get angry over the littlest thing, it’s a big deal.
HE GUILT-TRIPS YOU BY SAYING, “IF YOU REALLY LOVED ME, YOU WOULD…” Ever heard, “If you really loved me, you would...”? Well, if he really loved you, he wouldn’t make you do anything you weren’t ready for.
HE GETS SERIOUS TOO FAST. And we’re not just talking about him dropping the L-bomb on your second week of dating. If he’s trying to do too much, too soon, know that he isn’t the guy for you.
Zach was abusive in that he pressured me to do sexual things I wasn’t ready for. Looking back, it was obvious from that first day in the woods that he wasn’t really interested in actually getting to know me. When he didn’t get his way, he released a vicious emotional attack, ultimately hurting me so badly I’ll likely never truly recover.
Now I know that Zach was never in love with me. He was manipulating me. He had it all figured out: Telling me he loved me would make me weaker and more vulnerable. He was taking advantage of me, knowing that he had all the power in our relationship. And he continued to wield that power even after I broke up with him.
Today, I’m happily home-schooled and have slowly started to trust guys again. And although I had to learn this lesson in such a difficult way, at least now I can share my story so that parents, teachers and the community become aware that dating abuse like this is happening. The experience was truly awful, but it made me wiser, more cautious and stronger. I see myself as a strong young woman—a survivor, an advocate.
GET HELP NOW.
Think you may be in an abusive relationship or know someone who is? Get help right away. Talk to a trusted adult or contact Love is Respect (call 1-866-331-9474, text “loveis” to 22522 or visit loveisrespect.org). For more confidential resources, visit laurashouse.org.
This article originally appeared in the April/May 2016 issue of Girls' Life.