To my abuser,
I am now seven years removed from the last time you put your hands on me. Seven years ago my words to you would have been a lot different than they are now because I was really broken. I trusted you. I really cared about you. I didn’t realize at the time how much the way you treated me negatively impacted me and my self-image.
So if I was younger I think I would say to you, “I hope karma bites you and blah blah blah.”
But now my words are different because I have grown and matured and been educated. Though, I will admit it’s been quite the journey.
In the beginning, it was young love for us, a high school relationship that went over into college. You were very charming, good-looking and athletic. I was athletic, too. So we had that in common.
Early on the good part of our relationship was just being there for each other, hanging out, being best friends, and growing up together. However, it wasn’t long before our romance started to turn toxic.
After just three months there was a lot of jealousy displayed. At prom you got really upset that I walked across the dance floor to get a drink of water and on my way over I was chatting with people, being really outgoing and charismatic. You accused me of wanting to go to the dance with somebody else’s date. You were so angry and it became such a big deal.
When I got to college the abuse became physical. We would have arguments. In the beginning it was just getting in my face, yelling at me, swearing and calling me names. Then it evolved into ripping the jewelry off of me, pulling my hair and shoving me to the ground. One time at a party a guy said that my mole above my lip was sexy. Immediately, you took me in the next room and yelled at me. It escalated quickly, as you shoved me to the ground.
Our relationship was exhausting. I was anemic. We were constantly arguing into the late hours of the night. If I turned off my phone, you would call my roommate. If I asked my roommate to turn off her phone, you would drive to school and throw rocks at the window until we answered. It was impacting me in so many ways. My hair was falling out. I was really skinny and I was just tired all the time. In track, I didn’t win any races. Running wasn’t that fun. I wasn’t good and I wasn’t fast.
Our rock bottom moment was when we were arguing at my school all night and you got so mad that you were on and off choking me. You pinned me down and you were shaking me and choking me.
As messed up as it sounds, that was just when someone else called the police. After that I had to leave you because that is when my family and friends found out the extent of the abuse.
I didn’t press charges because I didn’t know how everything worked and I didn’t want all that attention. Also, I knew that I would just die if I couldn’t prove something and you denied it.
I was scared I would just look like a big dummy and people would say, “Oh, she must have made it up.”
That would have killed me at the time.
After we broke up after nearly three years of dating, there was a lot of unwiring that happened in my brain. You really convinced me that I was the problem. You had me convinced I was the one making you behave this way.
All the time you told me if I was a good girlfriend I would call you back on time. If I was a good girlfriend I wouldn’t talk to the people on my team you told me not to talk to because you thought they had a crush on me. Or if I was a respectful girlfriend I would not be so social, trying to get everyone’s attention all the time. You really hated that I was outgoing.
As time went on after we broke up, I started to focus on me more. I got to sleep and I wasn’t so emotionally drained all the time. I didn’t have to play the game of having to cover up all of your actions. I was living honestly. But the real turning point for me came when I started going to a support group at the Domestic Violence and Child’s Advocacy Center. They made me feel empowered. That was the first place that I heard that it wasn’t my fault. The way that you behaved was your fault. You have to take accountability for your actions. And just because I am outgoing or I stayed at lunch for an hour longer than I said I would and didn’t call back until later, I am not a bad person or a disrespectful girlfriend.
I came to accept that even if I was the most perfect person in the world, you were always going to find a way to blame your behavior on me.
Ironically, the further I got from our relationship the faster I ran. My senior year I broke nine records in indoor and outdoor track in different events, ranging from the 4×4 to the 10k. I became an All-American in cross country. I went to nationals. I was literally so much lighter emotionally and physically and I started to enjoy my life. That was really great.
In fact, I was so thrilled about my success running and how I felt about myself personally that I created Love Doesn’t Shove. Initially, it was more of a fundraiser/awareness campaign. We sold wristbands and donated the proceeds to the Domestic Violence and Child’s Advocacy Center. Then it evolved. I made it its own entity, my own non-profit organization. I developed a presentation that I give in high schools and even middle schools.
To this day you have never apologized to me. I have come to terms with it. But do you know what really upset me? Do you know really what motivated me to start Love Doesn’t Shove? I didn’t read the police report until my senior year. I was devastated when I read that you said you didn’t put your hands on me. That was a real blow to the gut. I couldn’t believe you did not take any accountability. I couldn’t believe people could get away with abuse so easily. I feel like my quote-unquote apology or justice could and did come from educating other people about dating violence.
I couldn’t believe people could get away with abuse so easily.
I tell students to believe people’s actions, not their words. When someone tells you everything you want to hear, like, “You are so beautiful and you are the only one for me,” it is so romanticized. You can fall right into that trap, especially as a young teenager. It is important to let people’s behavior tell them who they are as a person. In our case, you would say sorry. You would say it would never happen again. The reality is I was being mistreated and it was a pattern of behavior. I needed to trust that the cycle was going to continue and only get worse.
Now that I am a little bit older, I have more empathy for how your upbringing shaped who you are. I feel sorry you had to develop in an environment where you didn’t experience a healthy dynamic. As unfortunate as it is a lot of abusive behavior is learned and it’s not exclusive to either gender. It’s unlikely you were born this way.
Today, seven years since we have been together, I don’t wish any harm against you. Instead I encourage you to recognize the past, take ownership of your actions and mature and grow in a positive way without any excuses. I completely forgive you for what you did to me. I have been educated. I have been loved. I am OK now. I have moved on and I will never be with you again. But what I really want to say to you is that I truly want you to know unconditional love, because even though you can’t harm me ever again, I don’t want you to hurt anyone else.
With a better future in mind,
About the author:
I am an in-park host for the Cleveland Indians. Also, I am a host/sportscaster for Fox Sports Ohio. Previously, I was division 1 runner at John Carrol University in Ohio, where I broke six school records and became an All-American. I also ran for Syracuse.
About the sponsor and the charity:
The Unsealed, a media company shares open personal letters, will donate $25 dollars to Love Doesn’t Shove in honor of the first 25 shares of my letter. Love Doesn’t Shove aims to educate young people on teen dating violence. So please share my story, donate to a great cause and let’s make a difference!
Ruth, your letter moved me to tears. Once upon a time I was very closed off about the LGBT community but over a course of several years, I turned my fear into understanding and I actively stand with the community for their equal rights because it is the right thing to do.