I found you on Facebook last week. I don’t know why, but now and again I wonder about you: what you’re doing, what kind of person you are now. You’ve moved away from your hometown. You have a girlfriend. You’ve changed your name, which seems strange. Like the sort of thing someone trying to hide from something would do, maybe.
That’s where my mind leaps. I haven’t seen you for 20 years; maybe I should give you the benefit of the doubt. But I wonder whether a leopard ever does change his spots.
I think most people who know me now would be astonished to find out I was in an abusive relationship. I am a confident and successful woman, forthright and bold and not afraid to speak up. But before all of that, way back in my formative years, I somehow let myself be treated appallingly by you.
I was 14 and honestly I can’t even really see why I was in the relationship at all. But you were in the year above and I think I was flattered. I remember the dreadful picture I had of you, your school picture. It’s like a past life, it feels so far removed. I don’t remember how long it took for you to start controlling me but I remember it was insidious. It started by you not wanting me to see my friends after to school. Instead I had to go straight home so I could come and see you. That’s so easy to dress up as wanting to spend time together, isn’t it? I didn’t realise initially, of course. That’s how people like you function. Little by little so that your victim doesn’t notice until it’s much too late.
I remember where we were the day you spat into my ear because you were angry. I don’t remember what I had done but I remember the feel of it. Physically, but also the degradation of it. That’s an act of pure loathing.
I remember where we were when you kicked me so hard I still have a scar. Mostly you were more subtle with your violence; often you’d squeeze my fingers together until I yelped and fell in line. You bent my ring out of shape that way once.
That ring. You bought me it for Christmas and made me wear it on my engagement finger, saying I’d be yours forever. I had to switch it at home as I knew my parents would not be happy at the idea. Sometimes I forgot and would arrive to you with it on the wrong hand. You’d let me know you were angry.
Do you remember that you forced me to have sex with you? At 14 you blackmailed me, the usual stuff that girls’ magazines warn you not to fall for – you’d dump me, no-one else would want me, all that stuff. By then you were already controlling me so it wasn’t such a leap.
I will forever be grateful to the boy I met, who was kind and sweet and made me realise that I needed to get out of the relationship. He became my boyfriend and eventually I stopped flinching when he moved too quickly. It took a long time, actually.
Your best friend got in touch with me about 5 years later, asking if I would contact you. I can’t remember exactly what he said you wanted but I had the impression you wanted to be absolved of your guilt. I politely declined, whilst outlining some of what you’d done.
You didn’t break me. I didn’t fall into a series of bad relationships. I am happy and successful and have a really good life. I look back and I don’t recognise that girl. But I think about you sometimes, because I wonder if there were more after me. Other girls that you controlled and hit and essentially raped? I wonder if the people around you now have any idea what you were like then.
I hope you are a decent man now. I hope you look back and are horrified at what you did to me.
I hope you are different now. I hope you are sorry.