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Part 1:

We were in the same grade. We were pretty good friends. We were on the same dance team so I saw him daily. I’d recently broken up with a different guy when he started begging/asking me to be his girlfriend almost every day.

I continued to say no but I was so annoyed by all the pressure. I finally said yes to dating him to get him to stop asking me. In the six weeks we dated, there were some things I consented to, but a lot of moments when I said “no” or “stop” and he didn’t listen.

I ended things, but it was almost worse after that. I saw him daily and that was when all of the emotional abuse happened.

I felt so broken and so alone. Almost a year later, a few good friends went with me to the school officer to report the assault. It felt like a lot of the adults seemed mad or annoyed that I was making the report. At the same time, another girl came forward and her report was dismissed because they said she had lied (no idea what she’d said or if it was true or not) but my report was also brushed to the side.

I felt like so many of the adults couldn’t see that I was scared (of my abuser, of him hurting himself or hurting me or someone else) so I stayed his friend. They treated me like I was a victim and did very little to help me get out of the situation. Some did, but others didn’t and that made me feel more isolated.

This went on for a year and a half after the abuse took place. I was so relieved to know that he was planning to attend a different college so I wouldn’t see him. It took several more years for me to cut all ties from him though.

Beyond the handful of friends who believed me, I felt so isolated. Several people who I thought were friends would ask me again and again why I wouldn’t give him another chance, and they told me that I was the “bad guy” for not giving him what he wanted. It crushed me. It felt like my voice didn’t matter.

That’s why I try to tell my story now, because I’ve found my voice and talking about it does matter.

I wish transferring schools had been an option. Or maybe a bigger push to join a dance team that wasn’t at my school. I don’t know if I would have done either, but it would have been nice to have an option.

Part 2:

A year after my assault, I walked into the school officer's office with my current boyfriend and another girl who my abuser had assaulted. We told the school officer what had happened and he had us write down our official statements. We were given late notes and headed off to the last class of the day.

I remember that shortly after I got a request from one of the school counselors to come to her office to talk more about what had happened. She seemed ready and willing to help in every way possible, at least in that first meeting. I think that she also talked with my abuser, but I have no idea what was said in that meeting, only that he was really pissed off about the report. And that he was upset and angry with me that I'd said those things, because he didn't think that it had happened that way (even though I had said no and stop continually and he hadn't). He said he didn't think it was assault. 

My abuser was on the same ballroom dance team as me, which meant I saw him every single day. My dance coach seemed less than thrilled I hadn't come to her first or talked about reporting with my parents before I'd reported. I don't know what any of them would have said or done had I gone to them first, but I was glad that I'd reported, even though I was nervous about being around my abuser. Thankfully, my dance coach created a contract that my abuser and I both signed saying we wouldn't talk to one another unless it was about dance and the two dances that we were already partners. If we broke the contract once we wouldn't be able to compete in the biggest competition of the year, if either of us broke it again we would be kicked off the team. I hoped the contract would help; dance was my entire world and I knew I'd do anything to keep it. 

A few weeks after I had reported, I was told (I think by that first counselor who had wanted to help) that the other girl had lied in her report and I felt as though my report was also being dismissed because after that I didn't talk with the school counselor anymore (I only had one or two meetings to begin with) and everything sort of just went least, from the school's side.

Seeing him daily was often terrifying and isolating. He had a temper and talked often of hurting himself and others. He had a way of making himself the victim so that I felt bad about ignoring him (even though I had signed a contract saying I would). He made me feel like it was still my job to check in on him and make sure he was okay. I was terrified that if I truly cut all ties that he would do something that would hurt himself, me, or someone else. So I stayed as close as I was able (without breaking that contract I had signed, because then I'd be kicked off the dance team and I wanted to dance still) but close enough to make sure he was okay, even though I was not okay. We would go weeks with being sort of friends and then everything would blow up, he'd scream at me in the hallway at school and I'd yell back and wonder why no one ever stopped as they walked by, why only a handful of friends stood up to him or helped me get away from those very public confrontations that happened so frequently.

This emotional and verbal abuse started after we broke up and continued for the rest of high school (1.5 years). It was an endless cycle that you see so often in abusive relationships. There would be good/okay times where the waters were calm, then something would tip the boat (almost always him asking me to give him another chance and me saying no) which would then cause everything to blow up. Looking back I honestly don't know where I found my strength because it was so emotionally exhausting all of the time. I never knew what was going to happen.

I was so afraid that something bad was going to happen, so when my abuser continued to break his side of the contract and continued to text, email, and message me (and all the fights at school), I told my coach and the school that he could stay on the dance team because I was afraid of the consequences if they kicked him off even though I was already living in my own personal hell.

I wish I had had someone, maybe one of those adults, who I could have shared these fears with. I wish they would have done more to make me feel safe, instead of making me feel so weak and helpless. I wish that instead of making me be the one to decide his consequence for breaking the contract (I'm not even sure why that was on me in the first place) they would have enforced the consequences that he'd agreed too. That when I said he should stay on the team (because of fear of what he might do instead) they would have kicked him off and done more to make sure I was safe and that he didn't hurt anyone (himself included).

Once I graduated and we were both at different schools, I felt more comfortable to start cutting ties because I wasn't physically around him every single day as I had been in high school. I sometimes wonder what would have happened if one of us had been transferred if he had been forced to attend school elsewhere, so I didn't have to live in the fear that came from seeing him (and fighting with him) every single day. I finally cut ties when my mom gave a little extra push to do so (two years after we'd graduated high school.) She'd been encouraging that over the years, but I'd been too afraid to actually do it. But once I felt free from him, physically anyway, I was able to cut ties completely. 

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