Names have been changed.
Meet Jade. She is a 22-year-old female that grew up in New England. Jade describes her childhood as stable and loving. Her parents are still married and frequently go on dates and take time for themselves. Jade describes her parents as happily married. They have only ever fought twice, that she can recall, and are very loving towards one another.
Tom was Jade’s first abusive relationship. They dated briefly (a few weeks) when she was fourteen, but the bulk of their relationship was when she was sixteen. The relationship lasted about a year and a half and the abuse began after three months.
Derek was Jade’s second abusive relationship. She was seventeen and he was nineteen. Their relationship lasted one year and the abuse began after six months.
Jeffrey was Jade’s third abusive relationship. The met when she was seventeen and he was twenty-three. They were only seeing each other a few weeks and the abuse was ongoing.
Alan was Jade’s fourth abusive relationship. She was twenty-two and he was twenty-four. The relationship lasted two months and the abuse began within three weeks.
Using Social Status/Peer Pressure
When I asked Jade about being treated like a servant, she talked to me about Tom. Whenever they needed condoms, Jade had to buy them. Whenever Tom needed anything, he told Jade to go and get it for him. She had to make the popcorn when they were watching television or movies, even if it was at his house.
As far as making decisions for the other partner, Tom did not allow Jade to have certain hair colors or wear flip-flops. When they did not attend the same school, Jade was not allowed to do her hair or makeup because Tom felt that if she did, she was showing off for other boys at school. She wasn’t allowed to go to the beach because she would be in a bikini. She wasn’t allowed to eat certain things or she’d get fat, according to Tom.
Alan behaved in a similar fashion. Alan did not allow Jade to have certain hair colors, get piercings, or tattoos. Jade told me that Alan would present it as if he were looking out for her, for example, she would not look very good in a certain hair color, but she now feels that he was simply being controlling. He only allowed her to hang out with certain people and whenever she went somewhere she had to clear it with him first.
With Tom, Jade says, “I had no backbone. If he said it, it was word. Whenever Alan tried to control me I would tell him ‘I don’t care what you think, I do what I want.’ ” She credits this as being a reason why their relationship was so brief.
Jade also told me that Tom was very adamant about her role as the female in their relationship. During their relationship, Tom told her that it was her responsibility, as the woman, to clean and cook. That she is the woman and should assume a “housewife” role and that women are subservient to men.
When I asked Jade how she felt about relationships prior to her relationship with Tom, she told me that she never really thought about it. She describes her relationship with Tom as being brainwashed and it caused the subsequent abusive relationships.
Jade also told me that Tom would tell lies and spread rumors about her. When they dated briefly, at fourteen, after they broke up Tom told everyone that they had sex when they didn’t. That is the reason that he broke up with her, because she would not have sex with him. Nicknames and harsh words followed her all throughout high school as a result of Tom’s lies.
Tom, in their second attempt at a relationship a few years later, would threaten to show his friends intimate pictures of her if she did not behave the way he wanted her to. Her defiance was met with threats to embarrass her. Jade told me that he would typically use this to make her do something sexual, but sometimes for something as simple as preventing her from cutting her hair or hanging out with her friends. Jade told me that the threats worked: she behaved how he wanted her to and lost a lot of friends as a result.
Tom would frequently tell Jade she was fat. He would grab her hips and tell her that she needed to get rid of her muffin top. She told me that she never ate as a result.
Derek would tell Jade that her clothing made her look terrible, mostly when it was even remotely revealing. He would put her down to control how she dressed.
Alan and Tom would call Jade names all the time. Jade recalls that she was called retarded, bitch, and cunt. They would speak to her in an extremely derogatory fashion.
When I asked Jade if any of her partners made her feel crazy, she said that Tom was really good at that. Alan tried, but by that point she did not believe it as much as the first time it happened. With Tom, it got to the point that Jade started to believe what they were saying. Tom would tell her that she was not normal because of the things that she liked, as far as hobbies. He would tell her that normal girls don’t like the things that she likes and she is not normal. This made her wonder if maybe she really was abnormal.
Tom would also play mind games with Jade, boasting about how good a boyfriend he was and showering her with gifts and affection that made her think she was crazy for having doubts about their relationship.
Alan would also play mind games with Jade, making her feel guilty for almost everything in their relationship. He would make her feel guilty for not reciprocating feelings or having trouble opening up to him. Every time Jade wanted to spend time with other friends, he would make her feel guilty for not spending time with him, or for spending time with male friends as if it made her a bad girlfriend.
When I asked Jade if she was ever afraid in her relationships, she told me that Tom made her afraid several times. He would threaten Jade with his gun, not by pointing it at her, but by reminding her that he had a gun and would shoot her. He had swords and he would swing them at her.
Jade recalls an incident where she wore flip-flops. Remember from the first section that Tom did not allow Jade to wear flip-flops. When she arrived at his house wearing them, Tom grabbed his air soft gun. An air soft gun is a gun that fires plastic or rubber pellets by means of compressed air or a spring. They are designed to be non-lethal but can leave welts and bruises. Tom told her to take the flip-flops off or else he would shoot her in the foot. When she didn’t, Tom shot her, point-blank, in the foot and said to her: “You won’t be wearing flip-flops again, now will you?”
Alan would also threaten Jade. He would grab her arm tightly to reinforce his point: that she could not do this or could not do that. Jade told me that she would frequently have finger-shaped bruises and marks on her arms from him grabbing her so firmly.
Jade also told me that Tom would describe, in casual conversation and specific detail, how he would kill her if he ever found out that she was cheating on him. She tells me one conversation that sticks out in her memory: Tom told Jade that if she ever cheated on him, he would hang her upside down in the woods. He would then wrap her in wet rawhide. When rawhide is wet, and begins to dry, it shrinks. By wrapping her in wet rawhide, it would slowly crush her to death while it dried. Jade told me that it never clicked in her head that Tom might actually be crazy. She just thought to herself, at the time, that she better never cheat on him.
Tom and Alan would both threaten to break up with Jade if she didn’t behave in a certain way. They would also threaten to commit suicide if Jade broke up with them. Jade told me that she didn’t really believe that they would do that, but she recognizes that it worked because the bottom line is a person doesn’t want that on his or her conscience.
When Jade and I talked about partners making her do illegal things, she told me that Tom would make her steal cigarettes from her job. Sometimes she would buy the cigarettes underage, and her coworkers would sell them to her. Other times when she did not have the money to buy the cigarettes, Tom would tell her to steal them. Jade stole the cigarettes for him because he demanded her to, but also because when he did not have nicotine he was even worse. She never got caught stealing, but hated it every time.
Jade and I also talked about sexual coercion. Alan would spike Jade’s drinks. When I asked her what she meant, she told me that Alan would make the drinks really strong to get her drunk. Even if she told him she didn’t want to have sex, once she was drunk she was more willing to comply.
Tom would not have to get Jade drunk to have sex. Instead he would accuse her of not loving him or threaten to expose the aforementioned pictures of her.
Jeffrey took things to a whole new level. Although Jade does not remember most of what happened, she told me what she did know. Jeffrey and Jade had mutual friends and were at a house party. He put roofies in her drink and raped her that night and stole her car. She did not tell anyone about the rape for years and did not press charges because she didn’t want to talk about it. She was seventeen when she was raped and twenty-one when she told her parents what happened.
Jade was so calm and nonchalant during this portion of our interview, I had to ask her if she remembered what happened. She told me that she doesn’t remember what happened and I asked her how she knew she had been raped. She told me that it had been recorded on a camera. The camera is now missing, but she saw it. I asked Jade how many times this occurred and she told me that it’s only the one incident that she is completely aware of. There are blocks of time in her memory where she is not sure what happened, and she has received multiple stories about that night and other nights. Some witnesses told her that she was not just raped by Jeffrey, but also two other men at the party. Some witnesses tell her that it didn’t happen.
Jade tried to talk to Alan about the abusive behavior. She would tell him the things that he did or said and he would outright deny grabbing her arm or saying that she was retarded.
Jade never brought up the abusive treatment with Tom or Derek because she did not want the partners to get angry with her. She did not handle confrontation well and wanted to avoid it.
As far as blame transference, Tom would always twist Jade’s words around and make her feel like the abuse was her fault. Alan would also tell Jade that the abuse was her fault, or that she brought it upon herself. She ended up believing both of them.
Tom would not allow Jade to hang out with her girlfriends because they did not like him. Derek did not allow Jade to hang out with her friends because they were “bad influences”. Alan did not want her to hang out with her friends by herself, because he knew that they would try to convince her to break up with him when he wasn’t around.
When Jade and I talked about her abusive partners and their personalities, Jade commented that Tom was supremely arrogant. He would always brag about how amazing he was as a boyfriend and a person and would get angry if she was better at something than him. Tom has divorced parents and Jade told me that his father was mean and his mother was a drug addict.
Derek was a pathological liar, according to Jade. She had no idea that he had children the entire year of their relationship. He was always very vague when talking about his childhood or pretty much anything. This experience caused her to feel that vague partners or partners that are not forthcoming are usually liars.
Alan was also very arrogant and delusional, according to Jade. He thought he was better than what he was. He made up his own rules for the world around him. Jade comments that in Alan’s mind, “If two plus two equals fish, he believes it. There was no telling him that two plus two actually equals four.” Both his parents are children, according to Jade, and have alcohol and drug problems. Alan would have to go on the street to get pain medication for his father and then started taking the pain medication as well.
I asked Jade how she felt about the abuse in her relationship with Tom (the first abusive relationship) and she told me that she immediately recognized that his behavior was odd. She would let it slide and then eventually got used to it and let him get away with it. Jade told me that she would make excuses for his behavior, that he was just having a bad day and everyone is allowed to have a bad day. Or that he was just in a mood.
I asked Jade how the relationship ended. She told me that she realized that she was not happy. She also told me that she tried to commit suicide. She went to sleep one night and before going to sleep took six Tylenol PM and said to herself before she went to sleep: “I wonder if I’ll wake up?” Jade told me that she woke up in the morning she was vomiting violently and knew she had to do something. She knew she had to do something and went to therapy to eliminate the negativity in her life. Tom was very upset when Jade broke up with him, begged for her to take him back, but she cut him out of her life completely.
With Alan, Jade knew immediately the abuse was occurring. Since it was a new relationship, she let it slide, thinking that maybe they were just “working out the quirks”. Once she realized that he was not going to change, she broke up with him. I think it bears mentioning that their relationship was two months long and he has continued to contact her – for a period of time longer than the actual relationship. He tells her that he loves her and he wants to be with her, both of which seem to irritate Jade. They have mutual friends – she comments that he integrated into her social group – but she is careful not to be alone with him.
With Derek, when she broke up with him, he behaved indifferently. He had cheated on her with two of her friends and treated her like she did not matter because he had other women. This made things easier for Jade, she felt grateful that these other women had taken him away from her.
Jade did have several friends that she talked to about the abusive relationships. They were women that she met online and they were incredibly supportive and gave her advice to get away from all of these men. Jade told me that she did not talk about the abuse with her “real life physical friends”, meaning friends in her social group or at school. Only with the girls she met online, and her therapist.
When we talked about Jade’s depression, she told me that Tom was the cause of that and it has had a lasting effect. She has attended therapy and has had other moments where she considered committing suicide but did not go through with it. When it comes to the rape with Jeffrey, Jade told me that it doesn’t really upset her because she doesn’t remember it happening. She sees it as a third-party and she said she is thankful that she doesn’t remember as a result of being drugged.
Jade and I also talked about self-esteem and self-worth. Prior to the first abusive relationship, Jade felt that she was an average girl. Tom would frequently put Jade up on a pedestal, making her feel like the most amazing woman on the planet, and then quickly realize that she was feeling too good about herself and knock her down. This happened over and over again. It got to the point where Jade felt so bad about herself that she felt that Tom was the only person that could love her, and she stayed with him for that reason. Their relationship also drove her friends away, and Jade felt that Tom was all she had.
After the relationship with Tom, Jade found ways to increase her self-esteem and sense of self-worth. She describes her relationship with Derek as being lonely and he just happened to be there. Derek’s abuse was not as severe and her self-esteem was much higher so eventually she just got tired of it. With Alan, Jade felt very secure with herself but he had a terrible self-esteem. He put her on a very high pedestal and would always tell her that he was not good enough for him. Then he would try to keep her in a box and contain her awesomeness because it made him feel small.
She talked about her boundaries and being aware of red-flags as they happened. Jade describes personality traits to look out for: someone being vague typically means that they have a lot of secrets, extreme arrogance, rudeness and lack of manners, controlling behavior, and jealousy.
Jade defines abuse as mental and physical. In physical abuse, any kind of hitting or shoving. As far as mental, being controlling and verbally abusive.
Jade thinks that society defines abuse as hitting. She feels that mental abuse is known, but typically it’s thought of in a physical way. She comments that the worst kind of bruises society can’t see because they are emotional.
My interpretation of Jade’s experiences is that it has made her a much stronger person, and she has handled everything in her life with grace, but she talked about how she wishes that she didn’t have to experience the abuse the learn what she learned about boundaries. We agreed that it is important to learn from mistakes and experiences and that something can always be gained, but that it is a terrible thing to have to learn this way.