It wasn't okay, but I will be

For years I have debated writing this post. For years I debated if what happened was really as bad as I thought, deep down. For years I put on weight and pushed—especially men away. But this year I want to move on.

Up until my mid-twenties I had a twisted view on domestic violence. I thought that women who were in the situation of repetitive violence were glutton for punishment and just too weak to leave. I thought they chose to disregard obvious red flags and made a conscious choice to be with someone they knew was evil. I thought they knew better. I never thought it would be me, I mean I am a college educated woman who won’t sit back while someone takes advantage of her—just ask any of my previous landlords…

But I was that woman. I am that woman.

I am still smart. I am still a force to be recked with. But now I understand battered woman syndrome. I am also angry. I am angry at myself, at my church leaders, at people who knew my abuser and most importantly the Orem City Police.

In 2013 I met a quiet and kind boy in my congregation. He had his own huge apartment, business and drove an Audi. He was also had lies. He made me believe that he was successful and worked hard, both were far from the truth. He pulled me in with the allure of “success,” gripping stories of a hard childhood, sweet interactions with his baby niece whom he watched regularly since birth and small acts of service (my bar had been set real low of what constituted a boyfriend “trying”). But within a month he was evicted from his apartment, taking a loan out on his paid for car, not working and manipulating and abusing me.

Things spiraled quickly. I wanted out but was embarrassed at the situation I put myself in. I felt responsible for helping him get on his feet—he had borrowed things to help with the move and even stored some things in my garage. At a financially hard time in my life I felt obligated to spend money because he had none, and now was embarrassed when I realized he was never going to get his act together to pay me back. And worst of all, I felt shame and fear for situations I never wanted to be in but that he could twist to our church leaders—something he verbally mentioned. He constantly pushed the boundaries and made me incredible uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally. I even remember him getting physically angry when he forcefully told me he loved me and I didn’t reciprocate. I told him that I have never loved anyone and that isn’t something I flippantly throw around, that I won’t be forced to say it but will when I feel it. He slammed the phone down as he yelled at me.

He began pushing himself into my life. He would show up at my house, but to do nice things so I would feel guilt if I was annoyed. He started invading my space, stashing things at my house, almost like he was trying to move in. He would get angry if I didn’t invite him to a wedding reception or trip. He always seemed to be there, lurking, not interacting with my roommates, friends or family. But I didn’t know what to do. I had people at church constantly telling me how great it was that we were together, probably because I was stable and didn’t have a past they thought I was helping him. Sure, he went to church every week and frequented activities because of me, but we all know that spending time in a church does not make one holy.

Then one day my roommate called to tell me that he was at the house and she was incredibly uncomfortable. It was the middle of the day and I was at a new job. I had given him a key to help with something once, and he had kept it and was apparently using it without my knowledge. This particular day he was insisting to my roommate that he help clean the house and wouldn’t leave. He was erratic. I called him and tried to convince him to go but he became angry and lashed out—how dare I see his kind act as inappropriate. And this was when I knew I had to find a way out. But first I had to get my key, anything else he had borrowed from me, and find a way to do it without sending him into a spiral.

I had seen him start to deteriorate pretty early on and knew that it would only get worse. This was one of the main reasons I didn’t break up with him. I saw rock bottom coming and didn’t know what that would mean or how to deal with it. I began pushing him away—encouraging him to take an early morning shift so that we wouldn’t be able to see each other as often—wasn’t always available, and just disinterested when he was around, but it didn’t stop him.

I don’t remember much about our actual breakup. I can’t remember what lie I told to get him to not feel rejected but also leave. I just remember feeling calm for the first time in months. But then the calm quickly turned back to panic as he became more and more depressed and manipulated me into thinking I was a horrible person if I didn’t help “save” him. The fear of lies was still held over me and so I told him I would help him as a friend. We would not touch, we were not dating, he could not call me all the time, but we could occasionally go to the gym together and I would try and help encourage him to stay sober. Yeah, he kinda forgot to mention to me that he was alcoholic and had been drinking every chance he got when I wasn’t around. It explained so much but way too late.

One morning I told him I had hurt my back and would not be going to the gym with him. He took this as a reason to make me cookies and drop them by. He called to tell me about the cookies and quickly spiraled out of control. He told me that he had spent 4 hours baking them (should have been an immediate red flag that he was drunk, no sober person takes hours to make crappy sugar cookies). He was demanding that I see him. He was swearing and yelling. I told him that if he calmed down he could drop them off later and then he told me to “f*** off” to which I replied, “don’t ever speak to me like that and don’t ever come to my house again.” I hung up the phone and walked upstairs where I planned to move on with my day, albeit a bit shakier than normal.

Within minutes I saw a shadow at my door and the banging began. I could tell that he was in one of his moods and could not be reasoned with. Because our door had a colored glass pane we would be able to see me if I walked past, so I decided to stay in my bedroom—away from the door. The banging was constant as well as my phone ringing repeatedly. I thought that I was home alone, but my roommate ended up coming home and he sweet talked her into letting him in with an excuse that he had left something in my bathroom. He came barreling into my room and face to face with me.

Quickly he began asking me questions while standing too close and making me physically uneasy. “Why wouldn’t you answer?! You said you would speak to me! What is wrong with you, I am doing you a huge favor!” Then he glanced over his shoulder and saw my roommate who was in a broad stance a few feet behind him. He moved his anger towards her. “Why are you here?!” She calmly looked at him and said, “If you think I am leaving her with you, you are insane.”

He walked towards her and I ran into the family room, trying to persuade him to leave. He then turned to her again , slightly lunging forward and said, “What?! Do you think I’m going to hurt her? BECAUSE I’D KICK YOUR ASS FIRST!” While he was distracted I pushed him out the front door, I think he let me because he thought I would follow. I locked the door as fast as I could and then we sprinted to the backdoor. At the same instance he tried to force his way in, my roommate and I body slammed the door in his face and dead bolted it. Then he began to circle. He began banging on every single door and window of our home.

I called 911.

Within minutes I had two officers in my home. One pulled me aside while the other went to the garage with him. The female officer looked at me and said, “Look, you seem like a really nice girl who likes to think the best of people. He is completely drunk and cannot be reasoned with. You need to tell me that this is trespassing so we can tell him to never come back.” I quickly nodded and we headed to the garage where he was spouting lies and stories to the other cop. He had things stored in my garage that I never knew about and used that as his whole reason for coming over and why he had the right to be there. He then tried to get me to speak to him alone and I refused. He turned to the cops and said, “You have to make her speak with me! She promised me that she would!” They set him straight that promises don’t have to be kept with lunatics that try to break your door down. They helped him load up his stuff into his car and then escorted him to their car—he was clearly unfit to drive.

I stood in silence, stunned at what had just happened. Then, right before they put him in the cruiser he turned and shouted at me, “HEY! THEY ARE GIVING ME A RIDE BECAUSE I AM AWESOME!”

I called a member of my bishopric told him what had happened. I thought that he got the gravity of the situation.

Then the phone calls, texts and facebook messages started. The guy was now back at home and making google voice numbers for any city I had friends and family in, hoping I would answer. He was bombarding me from every angle and then the messages got suicidal. The begged for help, that I was heartless if I didn’t. I called back the same member of my bishopric and told him that I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t ever speak to him again, I am not the person to help and that I needed them to take the torch. He told me he was busy and maybe they would figure something out later…

I ended up contacting his sister on Facebook and told her a brief version of the days events. She didn’t even know his address so I had to pass that along too.

A couple quiet months went by. Then I saw a facebook comment from him, “you’ve given me no other way to get ahold of you, so you can delete this after you read it, but there is a box still in your garage that I need.” I deleted the post and started driving home when instantly the bishopric member called me.

“Hey A. reached out to me and wanted me to ask you if he could pick up a box from you. He said you deleted a comment on facebook about it.”

“Yeah, I saw his comment and it said I could delete it so I did.”

“Well there are two sides to every story.”

No. There is one side. It was literally the side I was telling.

“I will have to think about it but I don’t think I want him on my property, I will try to reach out to a friend to see if they will take the box to him.”

“Okay, but I don’t think it will be that big of a deal, just let me know.”

As soon as I get home I check a notification on Instagram. One of my roommates worked for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and posted a photo of me on their official account with a quote. The notification was for a comment, left by A., in no minced words eluding to me sleeping with him and being a slut—which was of course not true. (and for those of you who don’t know, frowned on by the Church and one of the things he said he would tell the bishop while we dated). I called back the bishopric member and told him there was no way in hell he was allowed near me after that comment.

His roommate ended up coming to get the box. He is one of the most genuine and sweet guys you will ever meet. He had also been fooled by A and now couldn’t get rid of him. We sat in the damp grass of my front yard, holding a stupid tv box that was apparently the most important thing, and commiserated.

The next 8 or so months are a blur. I know that at one point after the breakup my bishop called me into his office, I assumed to ask me if I was okay after dating a psychopath and having to call the cops. His first question was if we ever had sex. I gave a stern, “NO.” got up and walked out, furious. I do also remember the bishopric member asking me on multiple occasions to meet with A, giving me a sob story about how A had reached out to him to try and set up a meeting the two of us. What part of him being super abusive were these men not figuring out?!

I remember once going out to my car and finding some of the long ago borrowed moving boxed thrown in the back seat. My heart sunk. I realized that the door code I had been using while we were dating was the factory code and would always open my door—even when it had been changed. I no longer felt safe parking outside.

Christmas came and a card was left on the doorstep. It told a tale of getting sober and wanting to meet for lunch. I threw it away.

January came, almost exactly a year from when the cops took him off my property, two years since we started dating.

I walked out to my car, it was a Sunday, it was my birthday, and noticed a box of soap lying in the middle of the garage. This was product for my business. I was confused and just thought my roommate had probably moved it and accidentally dropped some. I would talk to her later.

A week or so passed and I went out to the garage to refill inventory. The soap wasn’t there. Other product was missing. The light wouldn’t turn on. I called my brother and asked him if he moved things and then slowly realized our house had been robbed. A light was broken, multiple cupboards were emptied and everything that had a connection to me was gone.

I called the Orem police and explained to the officer that only things relating to me were gone. That I now realize that when I found the soap on my birthday that was because the robbery had just happened. I explained that the only other item we think was missing was A’s snowboard he had accidentally left. There were brand new tools, a Kitchen Aid in the box and even a motorcycle, nothing was taken expect the snowboard and things that belonged to me. I explained that since it had been a year since the last encounter with we had forgotten to change the garage code and he knew it. (for the record, I tried and it wouldn’t work and it was always on the to-do list…) He was literally the only person that made sense. And, I don’t think it happening on my birthday was a coincidence…

He took his information, pretended to take my case seriously, and then never contacted me again, even after me reaching out multiple times with more complete reports of what was stolen. Just to be clear, this was grand larceny. He stole thousands upon thousands of dollars of inventory from my company.

I remember walking into church and telling my bishop what had happened and who I had suspected. He got a sad look in his eye and gave me a hug, silently agreeing.

I began to feel uncomfortable in my own home. We were already vigilant at locking our the doors but now we were paranoid. Within a month I had decided that I was moving to a new city to get away.

I rented a warehouse for my business and began commuting to work in the city I wanted to move to. Within a few weeks I received a strange call, I answered the Unknown number only to hear, what sounded like A, say “hello” and then complete silence. I froze. I thought I must be imagining and hung up.

Then a few days later I have this text exchange:

The last text was sent from a new number, his favorite MO.

I had not posted much about him or the break in because I was afraid he would see it. I purposely downplayed it, if I mentioned it, because I didn’t want people to know. The fact that he mentioned it only cemented more that he was the one behind the robbery. At this point, we had been broken up for almost two years and I realized he was still there. He had disobeyed the trespassing order at least 4 times and was now clearly still watching me. This felt different, this felt worse and way more scary.

I went directly to Orem police and demanded a detective. I showed him the texts and said, “Tell me now that what I said a year ago isn’t true!” He wrote down my statement and said that the original officer would call me.

I don’t remember all the details of our conversations but I remember these highlights:

-He admitted that he never followed up with anything from my break in, but don’t worry, he was real sorry.

-He tried to find A but there weren’t any current leases or utilities in his name, he seemed to vanish two weeks prior. He claimed he even spoke to his mom and she didn’t know where he was.

-He assured me that none of his past run ins with the cops were violent to which I replied, “For one, most normal people don’t have a repetoire with the police, two: what part of him threatening my roommate and me isn’t violent?!” He then agreed. He also said that the police knew who he was because of welfare checks, apparently he also suffers from mental instability.

-I gave the cop more information like the sister’s name, who he had lived with in the past, to contact.

-I was assured they would do everything they could to find him because they couldn’t issue an Order of Protection without physically giving it to him.

I stood on my mom’s sidewalk when the police officer called me back for the final time. They had not been able to locate A, they could not offer me any sort of Order against him, their only solution was for me to move and for the police to put my house on a nightly drive-by to help ensure my safety.

I slowly made my way home, sad, frustrated and frightened. I called my sister and stayed on the line with her as I checked every single room in my house and then said, “I can’t believe I am saying this, but if anything ever happens to me, know it was him.”

Those are the words you never want to utter.

At this point my roommates had all moved out and I was alone so I moved my bed into my living room because if he tried to break into my house i would hear him first. I also couldn’t bare to sleep under a widow—off the front porch—that he could easily access. Two years later he managed to take my room from me.

This man had manipulated his way into my life. He lied to church leaders, landlords, and people who thought they were his friend. He was emotionally and sexually abusive. He is a drug addict and alcoholic. He has a criminal record—something the police didn’t know until I told them. This relationship was also the longest I have ever had but not because I loved him, but because I was absolutely terrified of him.

I wish I could go back and tell myself to not get involved or at least breakup before things got sticky. But most importantly I wish I could tell myself that people who know me will believe me, that his lies wouldn’t fool them. I wish I could go back and give myself a pep talk about sex, that if someone is trying to force you to do things you don’t want with a threat THAT IS ABUSE. The worst part about the fear I held onto, the situation came true and it didn’t matter. No one believed him because he was unhinged, I wish I had never doubted my peers and leaders. I also wish I could go back and shake my bishopric. I want to tell them to open their eyes, to see the abuse and NEVER ask someone to meet with their abuser to make them feel better.

And this is how I was when I moved to my new city where I wanted a fresh start. I was broken and lost trust and faith in humanity. I quickly abandoned my faith (to be clear, not because of this, but I am sure if I looked deep down it was a factor), gained weight, stopped putting as much effort into my looks, refused to date, and headed towards my own rock bottom. To this day I still won’t answer phone calls not programmed in my phone or tell people the area of town I live in. I only let certain people in, ones who have proven their worth. I have cameras at my office and home. I don’t shut any interior doors in my house—because I need to see into every space and hear every noise.

This past winter I was listening to the podcast Cold where they discuss the Susan Powell disappearance. The last episode talks about the sign of domestic violence and they share a recent story of a student who was murdered by her estranged boyfriend—a manipulator and liar. As I listened to these women’s stories it hit me like a ton of bricks, holy shit, I am these women, I just didn’t die. I can’t explain how I know, but I believe that if he had the chance he would have physically hurt me. I could see it in his eyes. I could tell by his obsession with me years after the breakup. I could tell by how he pushed me in other situations. He was an alcoholic with no boundaries. He had absolutely nothing to loose. To this day, he is the only person I hope never to see again because I don’t think I could be in the same vicinity without becoming completely hysterical.

I think sometimes we like to categorize abuse in simple terms like rape, murder, or battery. We have a harder time realizing that there are other types that don’t leave a mark on the body but destroy the soul.

This year my goal is regain what he stole from me. I want to work on my confidence. I want to get my health and body back. I want to know, like really know deep down inside, that I deserve a good man and that I am not destine to be single because I think I am undesirable. Oh and I want to find a therapist.

And most importantly:

If any of this sounds familiar, please know you are not alone. And know that whatever fear is keeping you in the relationship isn’t worth it.

Please note:

I legitimately love the members of my bishopric and consider them all friends to this day. While I am frustrated at how things were handled with me I understand that bishopric members are not therapist. They are not trained in how to handle all situations they get thrown into. While I do wish I had been referred to people that could help, I don’t hold it against them. I do want to open people’s eyes though, sometimes as Mormons we forget that there are better options outside of church for help. We also like to think the best of people but we need to be good judges of character and just because someone is part of our congregation does not mean that they are inherently good. If someone is alluding to or flat out telling you about abuse or fears their partner, we need to help them get out and get help. Also, we REALLY need to fix how we talk about sex in our culture.