Healing From Emotional Abuse: Signs of A Toxic Relationship

Healing From Emotional Abuse: Signs of A Toxic Relationship

Can you heal from abuse?  What do I do after leaving my narcissist? What does a healthy relationship look like? These concerns cross the minds of over 20 people every minute; over 28,800 people every day.  And the sad fact is, we still don’t talk about it enough.  Healing from Emotional Abuse isn’t a bandaid situation.  But it doesn’t have to be a five year process either. Millions of other survivors around the worlds entire lives have been impacted by their narcissist.  Yours doesn’t have to.  To show you how to live a free, confident and peaceful life, your host and Founder of the Healing From Emotional Abuse Philosophy, Marissa F. Cohen.

Today, I wanted to read a couple of the stories from my books: Breaking Through the Silence, the Journey to Surviving Sexual Assault and Breaking Through the Silence: #Me(n)Too. Both of these books are compilations of survivor stories, told from their voices, in their words, including my own.  To help all survivors become champions and take their lives back, feel empowered and feel relatable to other survivors.  I want every survivor to know that they are not alone, and what happened to them was not their fault.

These are real stories from real people that have endured and overcome their abuse and assaults. These stories are in the words of the champions, so there may be some inappropriate language or triggering content. Be mindful while to listening to keep yourself safe.  Thank you so much for listening and supporting champions of abuse.

All the stories being told today can be found in my books, Breaking Through the Silence, the Journey to Surviving Sexual Assault and Breaking Through the Silence: #Me(n)Too, available on my website at www.marissafayecohen.com/the-books or on Amazon.  Like I mentioned before, these are all from the voices of the survivors.  They had complete control over their stories. Every champion that signed on to help me with the Breaking Through the Silence series, voiced their intention to use their stories to help other survivors feel empowered by knowing that you are not alone.

The first story I’m going to read is from Breaking Through the Silence, the Journey to Surviving Sexual Assault. It’s called, Will You Become One of My Friday Night Regulars, on page 62.

Will You Become One of My Friday Night Regulars?

I’ve talked about my abuse with my daughters, but not with my son or husband. I’ve never told him, because I felt it would be so hurtful for him to know. I told my daughters that this is uncomfortable, but I wanted them to know what happened to me to make sure they knew how to take care of themselves. Yes, you should be able to do what you want and be safe, but in this world, you just never know who’s a predator.

I was a freshman in college, and it was my first time away from home. I was naive; I was not a virgin, but I was very naive about how things worked in the world. I was much more trusting than I became in the end. I went to a party with a male friend of mine, hosted by his friend who was on the soccer team. I had too much to drink, as often happens in school your freshman year, and apparently, I passed out. My friend was hanging around the party waiting for me to be awake enough for him to try and get me home. The host of the party (my friend’s friend) said, “Don’t worry, just leave her here. I’ll take care of her when she comes to.” Of course, my friend thought nothing of it. After all, he was an athlete, a buddy, and a good boy from a good school.

I came to, completely out of it, and knowing that something was going on. This guy was on top of me. I was so confused because I was drunk, and I wasn’t sure about what was happening. Then I felt extreme pain, and boy, that sobered me up. He was about 6’6 or 6’7. I was not aroused in the slightest. He ulcerated my vulva. I yelled for him to stop, but he continued to do it anyway. Afterward, I was still drunk, but also in shock. There was blood on the sheets. He said, “I didn’t know you were a virgin.” I said, “I wasn’t,” to which he responded, “I better take you home.” 

When I came in, my roommate was still up. She looked at me and said, “You’re bleeding.” There was blood on my legs, between my thighs. She thought I had my period and was trying to warn me, but I just started freaking out, wailing, and crying. She couldn’t get out of me what was happening, so she called my friend that I went to the party with. He came over and managed to calm me down, and get out of me what happened. When they realized what had happened, we didn’t even know what to do. Who knew? There was no guidance; there was nothing — this was the 1970’s. He took me to the Health Services building, and the doctor asked me if I wanted to call the police. At this time, self-preservation had kicked in, and I said no. I just wanted to make it all stop somehow. The doctor said, “I will say this was obviously not consensual. This was not willing, you don’t have tears in your vulva from nothing.” I just said, “No, no, I want to go home. I just want to go home. I just want to go home.”

Then, the harassment started. The whole thing couldn’t have taken two weeks, maybe more. Everyone had whiteboards on their doors, and the next day when I came back from class, somebody had written that I was a slut on my door. Then notes started being pushed under my door. Notes that called me a dirty whore, and if I say anything they will tell everyone that I’m a dirty slut. I had no idea what to do. There was a knock on my door one time, and when I opened the door, there was my attacker. He wanted to know if we could go out and talk. I told him, “No. I never wanted to see your face again.”

He was just standing there looking ashamed and uncomfortable, and then he said, “So, my coach says that he knows that you had another boyfriend and that your old boyfriend (who was also a soccer player), is willing to testify that you’re a slut and you would sleep with anybody.” I just looked at him and told him, “You just get out of my face. Just get the fuck away from me and stay the fuck away from me.”

He tried to see me one more time after that. He called me and said that he had to talk to me. I called up two male friends of mine who were on the track team, big guys, in an absolute panic. Why didn’t I call the police, campus security, call my dorm, I don’t know. The guy showed up, and my two very large friends were just sitting there. They stood up and said, “If you didn’t understand her, she said she never wants you to contact her again.” I never heard from the guy ever again. Thankfully I got past that, and I was lucky enough to have no sexual problems as a result. I’m thankful to have had support, not just from women, but also from male friends.

When I was 23 or 24, I had a boyfriend who was violent toward me. He was quiet and seemed unassuming. He had a lot of interesting stories from being a roadie with my favorite rock band. Things seemed fine at first, and then he started having what began as little hissy fits.

For example, once we were going to a concert and when we got to our seats, he didn’t like the view from the seats. I remember saying, “Well, it doesn’t matter. These seats are fine. We can see fine.” All of a sudden he got up and stormed off. Now, had I been a different woman, I would have thought, “what the fuck, asshole?” stayed, watched the concert, got a cab home, and never saw him again. Because I am how I am, I asked, “What, what’s happening?” I started grabbing my coat, followed him and kept asking what happened and what was wrong. Of course, I was thinking, “What did I do?” because he made it seem like my fault.

From there, it progressed. He would be overwhelmingly lovey-dovey and romantic one moment, and then would be the smack-down. It was a lot of emotional abuse. One moment he would say, “I love you, I love you,” and then “I don’t want you to do that, and you’re going to do it anyway, and I’m not going to speak to you.” For example, one night, my friend asked me to be his date to a wedding. My boyfriend didn’t want me to go, but I told him, “Look, he has been one of my best friends since high school. I’m not going to tell him no. He’s my friend, you know he’s my friend.” He still didn’t want me to go to the wedding, but I assured him I would come home immediately after. We weren’t living together, but I spent much time at his place.

On the night of the wedding, I was wearing a short dress and sandals (keep in mind that this is in December, but it was a cute, appropriate outfit for an indoor wedding). When my friend dropped me off and I walked up to my apartment. I had this really wonky lock, and usually you could pull it, and jiggle it to open it up. This time, however, it didn’t open, and there I was in my short dress with my bare legs and sandals, unable to get into my apartment. It wasn’t that late, maybe midnight. My boyfriend lived blocks away — within walking distance. I walked all the way to his apartment, and I rang the doorbell, and I said, “It’s me. My lock won’t open again. The damn thing won’t open!” He said, “Too bad.” I rang again and said, “I’m in a dress, in sandals, and it’s snowing out. Let me in!” but, he wouldn’t let me in. I was starting to panic, and I had to beg to be let in. The next morning, it was like nothing had happened. I asked him why he wouldn’t let me in, and he said he was tired.

He only hit me twice during our relationship. I know, the word “only” is not great because it shouldn’t even happen once. The first time was after we had broken up. I went out with someone else, and he called me when I got home. I could tell he was very upset. He begged to speak with me and came over. He started asking questions about whether the guy had kissed me during our date, and was digging for information. In my mind, it wasn’t any of his business — he broke up with me, and I can kiss whoever I want. Then he slapped me. I looked at him and told him, “Get the fuck out, and I never want to see you again.” He called, and called, and cried, and called, and begged, and cried and showed up with roses. He said, “What was I thinking?” and, “If you take me back, I’ll make it up to you!” Why did I take him back? The guy who I was out with that night called me, and I told him I had gotten back together with my boyfriend.

He was a nice guy, and I didn’t tell him what had happened, but he said, “You know, you’re a nice girl. But I gotta tell you; you’re being really stupid. And it’s not because you’re not going to date me. It’s because you’re putting up with this and you don’t have to.” I made excuses for him. I don’t seem like that kind of person now, but being with someone like that chips away at your self-esteem. And yet, I was with him for another year. The first six months because I wanted to be, and the second 6 months because I was afraid of him. He started complaining about me spending time with my male friends, but then it became my female friends too, and then my family. He didn’t want me to spend time with my parents. “Why do you have to spend so much time with your family? Why do you have to spend so much time with your parents? Aren’t you a grown-up?” Of course, I would keep doing it, because I was not going to step away from my friends and family. That would lead to these punishing hissy fits. I was unhappy. I was not myself, and people saw it.

There was one wonderful woman at work, this wonderful, old, grandma- like lady with white hair who was always sweet to me, who said, “Something’s not right. You’re always so cheerful and happy. What’s wrong?” I told her everything. I told her what was going on, not realizing how bad it was. She was not sweet this time. She looked at me very sternly, and she said, “You need to stop. You need to stop this right now. You need to stop this.” I believe she even used the word abusive.

Oddly enough, the thing that finally made up my mind was when I got my first cat. I didn’t want to be at my boyfriend’s anymore; I wanted to be at home with my kitty cat. And I began to realize if I want to be with the animal more than I wanted to be with the man, that was saying something. He didn’t want to sleep at my apartment because of the cat. When he came over to my place, and we were starting to get intimate, my kitty jumped up on the bed because he was used to sleeping in bed with me. Without even stopping, my boyfriend scooped him up and tossed him off the bed. And for the first time, I kicked him, and pushed him off the bed, and said, “Get Out! Get out! Get the fuck out!” I was screaming, “Don’t you ever touch my cat! Don’t you ever touch him! Get! The Fuck! Out!” And he did. And I thought, “If he could abuse me, but he mustn’t touch my cat, what does that say about me?”

I thought this was it, and I was done. I should have let it be over, but the next day, I told him I needed to talk to him. So, the next day I went over to his place to end it. As soon as I spoke the words, “This is over, I’m done!” he started walking towards me…and I knew. I just knew. I ran for the door to try and get it open, but he got me at the door. He hit me so hard that he knocked me out. It sounded like a “thunk,” almost like the sound that you make when you hit a watermelon. The next thing I knew, my shirt was torn, I was bleeding, and I wasn’t by the door anymore – I don’t know how I got to where I was. I started screaming and screaming and screaming at the top of my lungs, “Help, help, someone call the police, help!” By this time, my boyfriend had gotten himself together, because he saw that I was hurt and bleeding and hysterical, and he was trying to calm me down. He asked to let him take me to the hospital, and I let him drive me to the E.R. I just wanted everything to stop, for it to be over.

When we got there, the nurses did an intake report to see what happened. I told them I fell and hit my head. So, after I was stitched, the doctor asked me what happened because it said that I tripped and fell. The doctor said they had to give me some stitches, and they needed to stabilize my jaw because it was unhinged. I had three stitches on the side of my head. “Who hit you?” the doctor asked. I didn’t say anything. He said, “This is not a falling accident. This is an impact accident. This is what you get when someone hits you. Was it your husband, your boyfriend, your father? Who is it?” I still didn’t say anything. He said, Do you know how I know this? I know this because every Friday night, they come in here, these beaten women. It’s the same ones over and over again. And each time, it’s a little worse. It’s a black eye. Then it’s a black eye and a broken nose. A broken cheek. Stitches in the head, it’s a concussion, and some of them eventually die. They have police out in the waiting room. I’ll have them come in, I’ll file a report, you’ll file a report, and they’ll arrest him. So, are you going to become one of my Friday night regulars?”

With that, I was able to meet his eyes, and I said, “NO! Never again”.

I left the hospital and went home, where my boyfriend was standing, crying and apologizing. I told him that he was not staying, and he was not coming in, he was leaving. At this point, I was so calm; I was just trying to keep control. I went into my apartment, shut it and locked it. I went into my room, and thought, “I’m safe now.” I felt overwhelming relief because I was never going to see him again, ever…or so I thought. He called and called, trying to apologize. He would go through phases. He would call begging and pleading. He would call in the middle of the night screaming and cursing at me. One night, he was down in the courtyard of my apartment complex, banging on the door and screaming, and the girl upstairs called the police on him. He sent roses to my office one time. I looked at the card, went into the lunchroom, threw the roses in the garbage, and went back to my desk. Two years later, I was in a new relationship with my now-husband. I told my husband about the phone calls, and how I would just hang up. One day the phone rang, and my husband decided to pick it up. He said, “Yep, hello? Nope. Nope. She doesn’t want to talk to you. Go right ahead. It’s a whole lot harder to beat up another man than it is to beat up a woman. Come right on.” and he hung up. I hyperventilated and thought I was going to hear my doorbell ring, and he would be tracking me. But thankfully, I never heard from him again.

What helped me at first, were my friends. Women didn’t talk about assault, or domestic violence very much, but if you did share, somebody would share back if they’d experienced it. It was really helpful to hear another woman say, “Don’t you put up with that shit.” Especially older women. I got a fair bit of counseling, which also really helped. I never spoke to my parents about the rape, and I don’t know if I told them about the abuse. I mean, obviously they saw it. They aren’t stupid, and they probably knew something was going on, and you could see that I had been beaten up. I think that the hardest part was looking back and thinking, “Good Lord, what was I missing in me, that I would take that?” It isn’t my fault. I know it isn’t my fault.

You can’t let it define you; what you did, what you didn’t do, how you fought or didn’t fight, is not who you are. Someone else did you wrong. How it felt, what you did at the moment, and how it felt in the moment is all so confusing for a decent person who doesn’t want to hurt anyone else. It’s really hard to comprehend. Someone else fucked up, and you got the sharp end of it, but it’s still your body and still your life. It’s still your sexuality. It doesn’t belong to them. I don’t know how we make it stop. I don’t think we can make it all stop. Women can’t do this on our own, because women want to be loved and desired and wanted. In addition to wanting to be respected, they want to be desired. That’s why women with brains and guts and education and ambition will go somewhere and have their pubic hairs ripped out by their roots with a bikini wax. Why? Because somebody told women, it makes them sexier. You have to have men join you as part of the effort to stop abuse. All it takes is for good people to do something.

Thank you for listening today. I hope you enjoyed the story.  I know they’re a little dark, and they’re hard to hear, but it’s really important that more people speak out about their abuse and what they’ve experienced in order to help other people feel comfortable doing the same thing.  The whole purpose is to empower other survivors.  We want a world where nobody feels isolated and stuck because of a situation they are or were in.  I want everybody to have the comfort and support of a community that empowers and loves and validates them. And I think that by writing these books and sharing these stories, is a really important and effective way to let people break through their silence, and heal from their emotional abuse.

Hey! If you enjoyed this podcast, you have to check out www.MarissaFayeCohen.com/Private-Coaching. Marissa would love to develop a made-for-you healing plan to heal from emotional abuse. She does all the work, and you just show up. Stop feeling stuck, alone, and hurt, and live a free, confident, and peaceful life.  Don’t forget to subscribe to the Healing From Emotional Abuse podcast, and follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/marissafcohen, and instagram @Marissa.Faye.Cohen. We’d love to see you there!

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