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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Op-ed: Domestic violence survivors share their stories

Meghan, Ariella, Morgan and Nicole are survivors of dating violence. To protect the writers’ safety, only their first names have been printed, and their stories have been kept anonymous.

Many survivors of dating violence are still navigating how to recognize abuse and how to heal from harmful relationships. Warning signs of abuse can be hard to recognize, especially when a survivor is still involved with an abusive partner. So for Domestic Violence Awareness Month, four dating violence survivors – one alumna and three current students – have decided to open up about their experiences.

If you or someone you know is currently or has been in an abusive relationship, know there are resources available for justice, support and healing. It’s not your fault. You can leave. You can heal. You can thrive.

Survivor one

I’m still trying to understand “healthy.” After being in an abusive relationship, it’s hard to untangle healthy habits from my former partner’s abusive behaviors.

I recognize I should look for respect, trust, support and honesty. I understand that the relationship should be built on equity, not power and control. I aim to practice communication, establish boundaries, and value my own feelings, needs and wishes.

However, applying this to my own life is challenging because I’ve normalized destructive behaviors. I’m still struggling to identify sexual, emotional, psychological, spiritual, economic, verbal and cyber abuse.

Survivor two

One in three women in the world has experienced some form of violence in her life – physical, sexual or emotional. This number is probably deceptively low. I wouldn’t be counted in that statistic, since I never reported what happened.

All I wanted was to move on from how he made me feel like nothing. I came to GW with this weight on my shoulders, desperately wanting to prove that I am worth something. When I saw him this summer after six years, it all came back. In the Johnny Rocket’s at 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., I panicked. I forgot how to eat. I couldn’t think straight. This is the impact of emotional abuse. It’s a systematic degradation of who we are, and it tears away at the very core of a person.

This one-in-three statistic has simultaneously been my hope and my motivation because I know that when I am bold enough to stand up, others will stand with me. I am not alone. I can be one more who is making a difference.

Survivor three

He said, “I want to hit you” but followed it with, “I love you.” He never actually hit me, and I didn’t realize that the statement alone was abusive. I stayed because I thought he could change, and because I wanted us to get healthy together. He blamed me. I blamed me. He said, “You remind me of all the reasons I want to kill myself.” I felt guilty and excused his behavior, telling myself that my bulimia was taking a toll on him. But now I know better. I am not responsible for being abused.

This abusive relationship triggered a depressive relapse, forcing me to seek treatment. Now I’m learning to validate my emotions and rebuild my self esteem. Never again will I allow another person to dictate my happiness or worth. He told me, “You’re damaged goods, just like me.”

But he’s wrong.

I refuse to view myself that way. I am strong, resilient and determined. The road to recovery is challenging but empowering, I am taking back control of my life and learning to be the independent, happy and confident woman I once was.

Survivor four
My relationship kept me from finding my place on campus. My ex-boyfriend, a senior at the time, would encourage me to go out and be social, then follow up by denigrating all of my new friends, convincing me that he was the only one I could trust.

I couldn’t make my own choices. I couldn’t wear crop tops, and he said I’d “learn how college girls dress eventually.” I couldn’t even sleep in my dorm – if I didn’t sleep at his place he “felt like I didn’t love him.” When he wouldn’t let me go home after an argument, punched the second hole in his wall less than a foot from my head and pushed me down all in the same night, I finally realized that something was very wrong.

If you have experienced dating violence, trust yourself, work to surround yourself with support and learn about resources like the Title IX Office and Network for Victim Recovery of D.C.

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