A Teen Success Story: Jeni
My name is Jeni and I am happily married to an amazing man, and I have two beautiful little boys. But, I haven’t always been so lucky in love. My first serious relationship was one in which I suffered extreme emotional abuse. Unfortunately, despite concerns voiced frequently by friends and family alike, I was only able to really see the abuse after I had gotten out of the relationship. This is one of the most frustrating and potentially dangerous aspects of teen relationship abuse (or any relationship abuse, really). The survivor is often so busy defending her love for the abuser that she “overlooks” the abuse.
I was 15 years old, growing up in a small town in Iowa where everyone knows everyone. This is where I met an older boy named “Rick”. At first, everything was great. He treated me really well and wanted to spend time with me. In fact, he wanted to spend practically every free moment with me. I was flattered. I had never had anyone want to be with me so badly. No one had ever wanted to spend so much time with me. No one had made me feel so desired and so loved. We were together almost every free moment. I fell in love with him.
Looking back now, as an adult, I think to myself, “I should have seen the signs”. He was extremely jealous, practically from the beginning. At first, I was flattered. I thought that his jealousy showed how much he cared for me. But, after about six months or so, he became downright possessive and didn’t trust me even talking to anyone of the opposite sex.
I remember when someone first suggested that he might be abusive. He would yell at me, say terrible things to me, and make me hate myself so much that I actually wished he would hit me. I mean, I deserved it, right? How could I possibly think of leaving him? I was such a loser that I would never find anyone else to love me. I was lucky that he cared so much about me.
But, do you know what the saddest part is? On night, he was knocking on my window to tell me he’d beaten up this guy I’d dated because he’d found out that I had slept with him. The thought that I might have been with anyone else really pissed him off! I was his! How dare I?! How dare he? Didn’t that guy know better than to sleep with “Rick’s girl”?!
And, so, life went on. We had good times; we had bad times. When he graduated from school, he got a job at a local rental store. Things got a lot worse that year. He wasn’t at school every day to keep an eye on me anymore. I had more freedom at school and began to talk to other kids in my class more often, even the boys. It was our senior year and we were all bonding. But Rick wasn’t a part of it; and he hated it. He became even more jealous and accusatory than usual. We fought more and more often.
Even though we sort of broke up before I went to college in Miami, but I began to call Rick more often again. Almost every time we talked, he was either telling me how much he loved me and missed me, or he was cursing me out, calling me a whore, telling him how much I was hurting him and how selfish I was.
I met a nice guy who lived just a few doors down the hall in my dorm. His name was Tim, who was a mid-westerner like me. We clicked immediately. This time, when Rich was so rude, I had a support system—and a “ready-made” boyfriend.
I finally called Rick and told him that I didn’t want to see him anymore and that we were done. He didn’t take it well. He swore at me and called me a whore. But, he didn’t hunt me down.
I am now happily married. I honestly rarely think about Rich or my experiences with him, although I know that those experiences still impact my life. I still worry about running into him whenever I go back to visit my family, as I believe he still lives in his dad’s house in the town I grew up in. With each passing year, the anxiety lessens just a little.
And now, I’m hoping that by sharing my story, I can prevent others from having to go through the same trauma that I did. I hope if you recognize yourself and your relationship in my story, hearing it will give you the strength to move on—to put yourself first and to do whatever it takes to be free. I’m hoping if you recognize an abusive pattern in a friend’s relationship, you can help support that friend in doing whatever it takes to get out. It can be very difficult to see a friend or family member in this situation. Often, as was the case with me, the more that friends and family try to interfere, the more protective the survivor becomes of their significant other and their relationship.
If you or someone you know needs helps, please call:
Harbor House of Central Florida’s Crisis Hotline
407-886-2856 or 407-800-500-1119.