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I stumbled across Honey about six months ago, and reading the stories has been nothing short of therapeutic. I finally decided that I wanted to submit my own story. Bear with me, it's going to be a long one. I feel like I need to get it all out.

The summer before my sophomore year of high school, I tried out to be a cheerleader. I made the squad, and it was the best thing that had ever happened to me up to that point. To celebrate, I went to a dance with my friend, and we both decided that we were going to have our first kisses that night. I danced with a boy who was 19, and I was thrilled by the attention he gave me. I kissed him, and 20 minutes later I found another boy, who I also kissed. I was 14.

That same summer, I went to a youth camp. There was a cute boy in my group, and I decided to try to befriend him. Word got out that I was a cheerleader (even though I technically wasn't at that point), and he gravitated to me. He would walk me, arm-in-arm, to our classes. Except when no one was looking, he would grope my breast with the arm he had linked through mine. His justification was that I was a cheerleader, and I should be used to it. Everyone thought we were adorable, and I kept quiet. I didn't know what to do, or say. I was still 14.

After the summer ended, and my sophomore year officially started, cheer became my life. My best friends had tried out with me and made it, so we were together all the time. About halfway through the year, a football player started giving me attention. I thought he was way out of my league, and I was very flattered. After a few months, we had our first date, and our first kiss. I was 15 by that point, and wasn't allowed to 'officially' date, so we tried to keep it quiet. When my parents found out, they insisted we go on dates with other people. I can see now what they were trying to prevent. I lost my virginity to this boy at 15 years old, after months of him pressuring me, fully convinced that he was my future husband. We dated into my junior year, and it went downhill. He started cutting me off from my friends, and my family, and soon enough my whole life was about him. It was extremely unhealthy, and I later saw it for what it was after finding out that he cheated on me. I was devastated, but soon realized that I was better off. He claimed it was the worst mistake of his life, and he wanted me back, but I was already moving on.

It was the beginning of my senior year and I had switched high schools because I was terrified that my ex would make my life hell. I stayed away from boys entirely for the first half of the year, and then went on a double date with one of my friends around Christmas. It was love at first sight. We texted constantly, were together every minute we could spare, and once again, I thought that this was it. In retrospect, I can't believe my teenage naïveté. After about three months of us dating, again, convinced that this was my future husband, we started sleeping together. Before we did, he was a virgin, and warned me that "if he started, he wouldn't be able to stop." I didn't take that as literally as he meant it. Soon, it became a weapon. If I wasn't in the mood, he wouldn't speak to me, tell me he loved me, or touch me at all. I remember one night in particular—I was sleeping over and we were watching a movie, and I just kept saying no. Eventually, I lay there crying while he went about his business on top of me.

It was worse from that point on. He was horrible to my family, wouldn't let me hang out with my friends, and eventually began being physically abusive. Every time he hit me, he would cry, say he was going to get help, and that he didn't deserve me. He was right. Around Christmas in 2011, I finally decided I'd had enough. But I didn't know how to leave. I told my parents, and they saved my life. They sent me to live with a family that we were really good friends with, who lived about an hour and a half away. I disappeared off the face of his planet, but not before trying to report him. I went to the police, who cataloged my bruises, and then told me there was nothing they could do but mandatory anger management classes. That was all the punishment he ever got.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2013, I'd moved back home, and had started dating my now-husband, who showed me everything that healthy relationships are supposed to be. My family adored him, he adored them, and more importantly, I was safe, and truly loved. It was, and still is, a dream come true. We were married in October of 2013, and he holds me and tells me he loves me whenever I have an unexplained breakdown. I am so very blessed.

But my nightmare has resurfaced.

My ex, the one who physically, emotionally, and sexually abused me, also raped one of my friends. Someone I introduced him to. I found out that it had happened while I was happily engaged and oblivious. I spent two full days in tears, feeling responsible. I should've warned her. How could she possibly have known what he was? I confessed everything to her, and she was amazing about it, saying it wasn't my fault and that I shouldn't hold myself guilty. She's happily married now as well. But now there's two of us, and now our story has more credibility. Now, we might actually have a chance of some justice. And so, Honey, fellow survivors, my friend and I are going to try. We might even know of more girls that he's assaulted. It's going to be rough, and emotionally exhausting, but we're going to try to press charges. Because enough is enough. Thank you to everyone at Honey, and thank you to the men and women who've shared their stories, for helping me gather the courage to do what needs to be done. Thank you to my husband, who supports me and loves me through anything that I need to do. Thank you for helping me take back control.

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