I was turning 19 when I met her. Even now, I remember the first time I saw her walk into class. When her eyes met mine, I quickly imagined how her full, pink lips would taste against mine. She carried herself with an overwhelming confidence. It took me two weeks to gather the courage to speak to her.
She was pre-med, a singer, an athlete, and an artist. She was perfect in almost every conceivable way.
Two weeks after we'd met, we were already sleeping with each other. It was almost hard to believe that I was her first boyfriend, but that was the truth. The chemistry between us was unbelievable; every desire was urgent, every emotion was passionate, and every minute with her was just amazing. Being with her was so unimaginably wonderful that I didn’t notice the tendrils of abuse starting to creep in.
We were eight weeks into dating when she first told me I was worthless. She had asked me about my dating history, and was absolutely furious when she learned that I had had girlfriends before. At first I thought that this senseless jealousy and overreaction was because of her inexperience. I was her first boyfriend, after all.
Every other day since that incident, however, the verbal abuse had accelerated. She belittled my worth as a human being, calling me fat, unworthy, worthless, and a liar. All this because I'd loved and touched other women before.
In the few times I had angrily responded to her diatribe, she would just cry nonstop that I'd end up apologizing to her first. In between sobs, she'd say she only wanted me to become a person worthy of her love. We'd reconcile and then have fantastic, mind-numbingly good make-up sex.
It took a year and a half into the relationship before she took the next step in cruelty.
She told me she wanted to start hanging out with my female friends and be less jealous of them, and asked what I knew about them. Then, in an attempt to ruin my friendship with them, she twisted and exaggerated the things I had told her in confidence. Naturally, my friends also got angry with me.
I was infuriated, and tried to break up with her this time, but that same night, she strangled herself with a pillowcase until she passed out; I had to call her mother to save her life. When we were alone in the hospital, she told me she’d cut her throat open the next time I tried to leave her.
Her words grew more vicious and cruel after that incident. She would wish terrible things upon me and my family, and in my fear of causing someone’s death, I accepted them. She stopped apologizing too.
Two and half years in, I had grown numb to the words. I learned to just take the insults. I learned to agree. I was worthless. I was unworthy. I was fat and ugly. She deserved better than me.
None of my friends knew what I was going through. How could I tell anyone? They would have all just thought I was some pathetic weakling who was unable to stand up for himself.
They thought I had just matured or had grown tired in college, as I was no longer my old boisterous self. I had given up many of my hobbies, and skipped meals in order to support my relationship with her—she never once paid for anything, not even load.
It was my birthday when I found the straw to break the camel’s back. She promised me a fantastic day of relentlessly kinky sex. She bound me spread eagle to a bed, telling me she had a surprise for me.
With my eyes closed, I groaned as I felt the sharp, burrowing pain in my arm. I opened my eyes to see that she had stuck a pushpin deep into my skin. She ignored my screams of protest. I had to lie still (because resisting would have ripped open my flesh) as she twisted six more pushpins into my arms like minuscule drills, slapping me if I cried out in pain.
She then took out a pair of medical scissors and caressed the blades menacingly against my penis, threatening to cut it off should I wince—and to make me wince, she flicked and twisted the pins. When she was done (my penis was left mercifully unwounded), she pulled out the pushpins with her teeth, and licked my wounds and sucked my blood, and behaved the most lovingly I had ever seen her.
Violating my consent was the last straw, and that night, I googled “signs of relationship abuse.” She ticked every single thing on it like it was a shopping list at the crazy store. Abusive words. Check. Isolation from friends. Check. Explosive rage. Check. Excessive jealousy and threats of violence and suicide. Check.
I followed through with a plan that I had cooked up on the day she started to abuse me. I had to make her hate me in every imaginable way. I declared I was an atheist (I wasn’t) to spite her religious beliefs (Yes, she was religious). I'd hang up whenever she would hit me with another barrage of hurtful words over the phone. I started seeing other people and my friends again. I resisted every sexual advance, and—finally—stood up for my damn self again.
In the end, she broke up with me. You’d think that the “battered boyfriend” would be a rare occurrence, but 40 percent of all abuse victims are young males of varying ages according to a report by The Guardian. Either sex is equally capable of abuse—physical, sexual, or emotional—but most of the time, it is only men who get ridiculed for being abuse victims.
Almost six years have passed since then, and it still terrifies me today that, for a few years, I had forgotten what it was like to be treated like a human being. I had forgotten what it was like to be respected and valued. And even if seeing pushpins sends an irrational chill up and down my spine every so often, I have this to say to myself: I survived.