After my abusive ex-boyfriend started to stalk and harass me on our college campus, I was forced to get a no contact order against him that barred contact of any kind. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t enough to make me feel safe or address his threatening behavior. When it comes to intimate partner violence, more needs to be done to protect the victims.
My ex was still on campus so I still had to be around him.
Even though campus safety had documented his abuse, the school still had to respect his rights as a student. That meant he was still on campus and very involved in the social scene and campus leadership. At one point, he even registered for a class I was taking. The school said nothing could be done unless he spoke to me. I didn’t want to sit in a small discussion-based class with someone who had stalked and abused me, so I dropped the class. I guess he knows more about the “History of the Tsars” than I do. Bummer.
He could still talk about me.
My ex couldn’t talk to me, but that didn’t stop him from talking about me. The energy he had spent stalking, threatening, and verbally abusing me, now went towards gossiping about me. We went to a small school so his words often found their way back to me. He also reached out to my friends to share incredibly private information about me or come onto them, successfully ending some of my friendships. He even shared personal messages and pictures with his frat brothers. Overall, I would say his strategy was pretty successful at making me feel attacked and alienated. But since he hadn’t spoken directly to me, there was nothing I could do.
I never felt at ease or at home.
Since I ran into my ex on campus all the time and I knew he was waging a PR campaign against me, I never felt totally safe on campus. When I made new friends, I knew he might try to “warn” them about me or sleep with them. College is the time when you get to connect with people and figure out who you are, but with my ex around, I never truly felt comfortable making campus my safe space. It wasn’t until he graduated that I really felt confident with campus life.
He sent me anonymous messages.
My ex got around not being able to talk to me by sending anonymous messages on social media. Usually, they were just bad sad-boy poetry, but being contacted by an abusive ex can always mess up your day. Other times, his messages were vaguely threatening, like song lyrics about death and murder. Since I couldn’t prove he had sent the messages, campus safety refused to do anything about them. Instead, the messages were just a painful reminder that he could still make me feel unsafe without suffering any consequences.
He didn’t get help.
The only way to break the cycle of abuse is for both parties to seek help. It’s important to do the personal work to heal our wounds and end destructive patterns. My ex claimed he was going to therapy but actually didn’t. Instead, he continued his crazy behavior towards women and added a drug problem to the cocktail of crazy.
I didn’t break the cycle.
I perceived our relationship itself as the problem, so when it ended, I didn’t see a reason to continue with therapy. I didn’t yet understand how my past trauma had fed into our toxic dynamic. Nobody explained to me that I was also responsible for our relationship and that I needed to work on myself in order to break the pattern of abuse. It may sound harsh to say that to the victim of intimate partner violence, but I think it would have been empowering to claim some agency over the situation.
We never got closure.
Because our relationship was suddenly and legally brought to an end, we never got the chance to talk it out before the breakup. True, I had been trying to end the relationship for awhile and he was so irrational that I wouldn’t have gotten what I needed anyway, but the fact that we suddenly stopped speaking made the breakup feel weirdly unreal. I don’t think either of us was really able to process the split, recover, and move on.
The restraining order eventually expired.
The no-contact order only lasted the length of the school year, which meant he could contact me as soon as exams ended. Neither of us had done any serious work to heal ourselves, so the expiration of the order opened the door for an ill-fated reunion.
We got back together.
With no closure and no personal growth, it’s no surprise that we ended up getting back together. He started contacting me almost immediately after the order expired. Unaware of my patterns and triggers, I fell right back into our old dynamic. Sometimes familiar feelings are the most comfortable, even if they’re bad for you. Within a month of getting back together, I realized it had been a huge mistake. Sadly, I lacked the awareness and fortitude to get out until almost a year later. Our reunion was horribly painful and even dangerous, but it did force me to do some serious work on myself. I hate to admit it, but I’m now a happier and healthier person because of our relationship.
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