I met my boyfriend when I was 15. He was three years older, and we started going out. He was my first boyfriend. I just thought he was so cool, he’s really good looking. At first he came across as pretty nice towards me, sort of protective of me, looking out for me etc.
But it wasn’t long after we got together that he started this jealousy thing, like he was constantly watching me to see if I was cheating on him. He just went crazy if I talked to other guys at a party or something, on and on at me like I was flirting with every guy I spoke to, which I wasn’t. He was like “you’re my girlfriend and you do as I say”, basically that was his attitude. At the time, I took it as a sign that he really loved me, he wanted me so much.
We slept together after about a month. I was quite nervous, mainly because my parents are really strict and I was like, just so scared about them finding out.
They’re Italian and are quite religious, they don’t believe in sex before marriage. I didn’t really want to do it, it was my first time and I was really stressed out about it, but I thought I’d better, because he really wanted it. He’d say “I don’t think you really love me, because you don’t want to have sex with me”, and he’d accuse me of liking someone else instead of him. And he went on about how everyone else did it, what was wrong with me? Eventually I gave in to the pressure. Every time I had sex I felt so guilty, and I was really worried that my parents would find out. I don’t know why, I just felt like I’d done the wrong thing and felt really bad, even though I knew quite a lot of other girls at my school had already slept with their boyfriends.
My boyfriend’s attitude towards me was really like “you’re mine”, like he wanted to control everything I did. He wanted to control who I saw, what I wore, what I said, it was like he wanted me to be what he wanted. He didn’t like me talking to friends, he was really critical of all my friends, thought they were stupid and stuff like that. After a while it got really bad, if I told him I’d spoken to a friend on the phone he’d be like “you know I don’t like you talking to her”. Whenever I tried to argue with him, he’d just get so aggressive, start shouting at me, and sometimes he’d like, start grabbing onto me really hard, he’d come up really close and stand over me and shout. Even though I was really upset, I’d just give in.
Sometimes he’d apologise for shouting at me. He’d be like “I’m sorry, I can’t help getting angry with you, if you didn’t do these things I wouldn’t be so angry, it’s just because I love you so much”. Other times he’d stay in this really angry mood, he’d just sit there in silence and sort of smash things around, or if he was driving he’d drive like a maniac.
He was always suspicious of me and it was like I couldn’t do anything right. Once he was waiting for me after school and he saw me talking to this guy in my class. Anyway he got so angry with me for talking to another guy that he pushed me, really hard so I nearly fell over. And then he’s still going on at me “Why were you talking to him? What were you talking about?”. I’d really had enough, so I said “Just shut up”. Then he says “What did you say?”, so I repeated it, and then he just slapped me across the face. And there were like a few people there watching us, and my boyfriend screams at them “you mind your own business”. So no-one said anything, they all just turned away.
That was the only time he actually hit me. The rest of the time it was all this harassment and criticism.
It just wore me down. Normally I’m like, a really talkative person, really social and happy, but I became really quiet with him, hardly ever smiled. I was just so stressed out all the time, constantly worrying what he thought, trying to do what he wanted so he wouldn’t get so aggro or hassle me. I was really nervous around him and scared of setting him off.
I lost contact with most of my friends because he harassed me so much when I saw them. I didn’t really tell anyone about how he treated me, because I thought it must be my fault. Once some friends saw him shouting at me about something and they were like “Why do you put up with it? You should just break up with him”. That made me feel really bad too, because I felt so stupid, like there was something wrong with me for putting up with it. But I just couldn’t leave him. I thought he really loved me, and he wasn’t always so bad to me, sometimes he was really nice. I thought if I was more like what he wanted me to be, he would treat me better. I suppose I really blamed myself, felt like I wasn’t good enough. I felt really unconfident. After being treated like shit for so long, that’s how I felt. And I was totally scared of his reaction if I left him, he’d just go crazy, I didn’t know what he’d do if I tried to leave.
One time when I had told him I’d had enough and didn’t want to see him anymore, he threatened to tell my parents that we’d had sex, and that I’d smoked drugs with him. I thought my parents would absolutely kill me if they found out. It was like he tried to blackmail me into staying with him.
His older sister used to see how he treated me, but she made out like it was my fault. She’d say “you know what his temper is like, you don’t want to go and provoke him, why do you provoke him like that?”
He used to get me to ring him every night I didn’t see him, when I got home from school and before I went to bed, just to check up on what I’d been doing. My parents didn’t want me to make so many phone calls, so I had to try to sneak around and ring, which was not easy.
This went on for nearly three years. I don’t know why, but finally I decided I had to break up with him. I think I realised he was never going to change, it was always going to be like this with him. It was like I just snapped, I just had enough and couldn’t take any more.
On the day I broke up with him, I’d been late to meet him, then I had to hand in an assignment that I’d worked really hard on. He was so angry about me being late, he grabbed the assignment and just ripped it up, right in front of me. I’d been told by the teacher I’d probably fail if I didn’t get that assignment in. So I just lost it. I said “that’s it”, and I walked off in the other direction. He comes after me and says “don’t you walk away from me”. I said “I’ve had it with this shit”. So we’re screaming at each other in the street, he’s grabbing me by the arms and holding me and shouting at me, saying if I leave him he’ll tell my parents what I’ve done, like having sex and everything. But I just didn’t care anymore, I thought I’ll cope easier with my parent’s reaction than I can with staying with him. Finally he walks off, he’s just wild at me, and I know this is not the end of this, because he’s said he’s going to go and tell my parents.
When I get home he’s not there, and I just walk in and burst into tears in front of my mother. I just blurted out everything. She was pretty shocked, going on about “How could you? You should have told us, we knew he was bad for you” etcetera. Then there’s a knock at the door. My dad answers it, and it’s my boyfriend. Dad won’t let him in, so my boyfriend starts yelling at him. Dad manages to get the door shut to keep him out.
It took a while for my parents to calm down, but I think they had to calm down eventually because I was just so upset and crying and everything. I was partly crying with relief, the relief of having finally told someone. The next day I left school early so I didn’t have to see him afterwards. I stayed at home all weekend. My parents have an answering machine and he left a few messages, some angry, some apologetic, but I didn’t talk to him.
One night the next week he arrived at the front door again but my dad didn’t let him in. He was shouting threats and banging and throwing stuff at the house. My parents decided to call the police, even though I didn’t want them to. He took off when he saw the police car on the road, so the police didn’t see him. The policewoman was quite nice actually, and said we could get an Intervention Order to stop him coming near the house, or near me at school. They said I would need to go to a Magistrates court and say what had happened, and why I was afraid of him. I said I’d think about it. I was scared to go to court, scared of how he’d react, and of what other people would think.
He didn’t come to my house again after that – I think he was scared about my parents calling the police. But for a while he kept turning up after school, and would come up to me and either shout at me, or plead with me. I’d told a few school friends, and they were really good about it actually. It was such a relief to tell people, I felt so much stronger. My friends helped me by looking out for me to see if he was waiting for me, and they stood around if he tried to talk to me. They hung around until he left.
Sometimes I felt really guilty or sorry for him when he was hanging around, but then I just thought about how stressed he’d made me feel, how he had tried to manipulate me and dominate my life, and I felt angry at him. Feeling angry helped me keep away from him.
After a few weeks he sort of gave up on trying to get at me. I think he knew he couldn’t get to me as much since I told my friends and my parents, and he knows I’m pretty determined to keep him away. It helps knowing that if he harasses or threatens me again I could call the police or take out an Intervention Order. If I see him on the street my friends stand around me, to protect me.
He’s got a new girlfriend now, so I hear. I hope he’s not abusing her. Maybe after I stood up to him, he’ll be more careful to treat his girlfriends with respect.
Now, a year later I’ve got a boyfriend who really respects me. He never pressures me, and I can be myself with him. I won’t put up with any shit from a boyfriend or from anyone. At the first sign of control or manipulation or pressure it would be like, ‘I’m out of here’. Now I know no-one has the right to treat me like that. If you love someone you show them respect.
If I knew someone who was being abused, I’d try to talk to them about it. I’d tell them, don’t feel ashamed, it’s not your fault, it’s his. I’d say to them, if you feel like you are able to, then get out as soon as you can, because the abuse just wears you down more and more. Stop hoping he will change, you are probably wasting your time. But be careful, because with some guys things can get scary, especially when you try to leave. If my friend didn’t feel like she could break up, I wouldn’t criticise her, I’d hang in there and support her. I’d say, make sure you have ways to protect yourself. I’d tell them how much it can help to talk to people about it, because if you have support it can make you feel a lot stronger.
I’d also tell them that things will get better when you are free from the abuse. You feel like you have your life back, your confidence comes back, your enjoyment of life. And even though it takes a while to start trusting people again, it also makes you stronger and more aware of your own rights.