Love Them Back To Life

There are many pieces of my story that have not yet been told. Some of them are still too fresh; they need more time to process before they see the light of day. Others have been tucked away, waiting for years of back story to be laid out and understood before they would make any sense. The story I'm about to tell you fits in the latter category and is one I've always known would come out someday, I just wasn't sure when or how.  

Unfortunately, it is very common for individuals who have been abused to go on to be in consecutive abusive relationships. Fueled by low self esteem and the need for validation, abuse victims tend to subconsciously seek out situations similar to the abusive ones they've already experienced. I was no exception to that rule. 

In the few teenaged years remaining after my childhood abuse ended, I found myself in several different socially unacceptable relationships. Five, to be exact. In short, I was drawn to men who should have been off limits to me. At the time it felt like I was exercising my freedom to choose who I loved and how I loved them, but looking back I see a girl who was desperate to feel valued and cared for, but didn't know what the healthy version of that looked like. 

When I was 19 years old and fresh off the heels of over a year of the legal and personal hell that ensued after I came out about my abuse, I spent three months dating one of my professors from the local university. Due to the university's conduct policies, our relationship had to be kept secret (several of the relationships I found myself in had the necessity for secrecy, much like my childhood abuse.)

This professor was not a kindhearted man and we had very little in common -- our relationship centered around daily sexual rendezvous in his office. He was arrogant and selfish and moved too quickly for my comfort. Two weeks after we'd started dating, he called me and said he had a surprise for me in his office. When I arrived there, I watched three men hired by the university move a large hide-a-bed couch into his office. He laughed as he informed me, "I told the admins I needed a couch to take naps on between classes and they actually believed me." 

After just over two months of dating, he expressed his desire to fly me to the east coast to meet his family and spend Thanksgiving with them. I panicked. I was certain I never wanted to marry him but I didn't know how to say no to meeting his family without hurting his feelings. I made up an excuse about not being able to go because my family would think it was strange, since they didn't know about our relationship. 

A few weeks later I'd grown bored and dissatisfied with the relationship and decided to officially end it. I stopped by his downtown studio apartment on the way to class to tell him I didn't want to be with him anymore. Angry about my decision, he asked if I was seeing someone else. I told him no, I wasn't, but that I simply wanted to focus on school without the distraction of a relationship. I told him I had to go, and as I turned to leave he grabbed me by the arm. "Let me f*** you one more time," he demanded. I told him no. He argued with me that it was the least I could do since I was the one breaking up with him. I told him no again. He pulled me by the hand toward his bed. "Stop it. I'm not having sex with you." "Yes, you are," he said. We went back and forth like this several times as he pulled me closer to his bed. Finally, he shoved me backwards onto the bed, pulled off my pants, and raped me. I didn't resist. Instead, I did what I'd grown so accustomed to doing when I was forced into unwanted sexual acts as a young girl: I floated away from my body and watched from across the room as I was used like a garbage receptacle by a man who cared only for himself. 

Afterward, I got myself dressed and left his apartment without a word. Once outside, I immediately called a friend, who accompanied me to the police station where I filed a report of intimate partner rape. I sat in a small, poorly lit room with a male officer and explained what had happened.

"Did you try to kick or push him off of you?" The officer asked me.

"Well, I told him no at least eight times." I said.

"But did you physically resist him once he began having intercourse with you?" 

I looked away. "No." 

Beyond filing a report, I took no further action. Pressing charges was completely out of the question for me. Personal experience had taught me a thing or two about speaking out about abuse and there was no way I was going through all of that again.

The professor quit his job at the university and moved away a few months later. I never heard from him again, and while I wish I could say that was the last abusive relationship I'd ever find myself in, it wasn't. 

Abuse changes the way we view ourselves, others, and the world. It mangles our sense of worth and value, and all too often the result is a cycle of self destructive behavior and unhealthy relationships. When you've grown accustomed to being disrespected, mistreated, and commanded to submit, being truly loved and respected doesn't feel right. It must be taught, and the learning of it can be maddeningly slow for those doing the teaching. 

Abuse survivors are not easy to love. But oftentimes those who are the hardest to love and care for are the very ones who need our love and care the most. Being shunned and judged pushes those who are suffering further away and condemns them to a life of cyclic abuse and self-loathing. Even if we do not understand them, even if we tell ourselves we would never make the same choices they have made, we still must love them. 

We must learn how to look at another person who is suffering and see their potential for a hopeful and healed future rather than seeing only their broken past and their troubled present.

We must break the cycle. 

We must learn how to love them back to life. 


  1. Thank you for sharing such a personal, and valuable, part of the effects of abuse. I'm so grateful that you keep talking! 💜

  2. My heart breaks yet again upon reading this story and I feel an intense anger that this happened to you and this anger is spreading out and encompassing all of these stories -- yours, mine, my sister's, and all of them. I feel it's been breaking and re-breaking over and over again lately. But I'm awed by your courage (yet again) in sharing this and your repeated highlighting of the realities of the way sexual abuse and rape affect victims and I really love your closing point. Thank you, N.

  3. Im glad your journey brought you past that although i know there are stil struggles. Forgiving ourselves and recognizing the brokenness that influences our poor choices is always hard. Im sorry he did that to you. 😳

  4. Natalie- very much needed to read this! Your authenticity is appreciated.


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