Warning: This post includes content that may be triggering. I’ve written a lot of deeply personal posts in this space, but it’s never been more difficult to hit “publish” than it was for this post and tomorrow’s post. I’m hoping it will be as cathartic to share this as it has been to share other things I’ve shared with you. My ex-fiance stalked and harassed me, and twice the justice system failed me by denying a restraining order simply because he didn’t lay hands on me.
Shortly after Hubster and I started dating, my ex-fiance stalked and harassed me. It’s something that still haunts me in many ways, and it always will. Being a victim is not something that you can just “get over.” Time and therapy may help, but the scars of fear and broken trust will always remain.
It’s been five and a half years. Five and a half years to work through the trauma. Five and a half years to contemplate the what-ifs that I know every victim inevitably contemplates, even though being subject to domestic violence is never the fault of the victim.
What if I handled the break up differently? What if I had recognized the warning signs sooner? What if we had stayed together – where would I be now?
After five years of pondering the what-ifs, I’ve reached some conclusions. I simply didn’t know about the warning signs of a dangerous personality, but it’s something that I will certainly talk about with my kids as they approach adulthood. I honestly did my best with handling the breakup and don’t have any regrets regarding my behavior. There are things that I wish didn’t happen, but I can’t say that I regret my actions because of what I’ve learned from them. Then there’s the biggest what if…
What if we had stayed together?
That was the most difficult what-if to address, because deep inside I knew the answer. I believe that if I had stayed with him, we would have gotten married and maybe we would have had a child. I would not have been happy and eventually would have needed to get out of the marriage. He would not have allowed it.
I believe that if I had stayed in that relationship, I would have ended up a murder victim.
During that time of turmoil, there were many nights I could not stay in the off-campus apartment I shared with my two roommates. I only felt safe in Hubster’s residence hall room. Sleep often eluded me. Sometimes Hubster would wake up to find me in tears behind the door of his room, rocking back and forth, tormented by my nightmares and fears. Why was I behind the door? Because then no one could get in. Looking back at that physical reaction now, I realize that it was also symbolic of my psychological reaction. (I’ll come back to that tomorrow.)
To this day, I’m amazed that Hubster, who was also 20 years old at the time, looked at me going through this and still thought, “I’m going to marry her.” Most people would’ve looked at that broken person on the floor, thought, “God, she’s messed up,” and ran the other way. I don’t know why he stayed, but I’m thankful every day for myself and our children that he did.
I broke this post into two parts. The second part will be posted tomorrow.
Click here to visit the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s website.