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Marissa’s Purple Key Moment: “It’s helped me develop my own way of protecting myself.”

My parents weren’t as strict as they come but I had a pretty good set of rules that seemed to me like no other teenager had. My parents constantly warned me of how situations could turn awry, to me they just sounded like pessimists. How could anything bad happen to me? I had too many rules, too many warnings. There was no way that I could actually get hurt, kidnapped, raped, or killed. Those people on the news were nothing like me.

My sophomore year of high school I met Brett.  He was a junior and a member of a pre-professional sports team who were known to only talk to the prettiest girls in school, so of course I fell head over heels for him. About two months into our relationship I lost my virginity to him. After that, I noticed a change in the way Brett treated me. He belittled me all the time. He lectured me on what I was supposedly doing right and wrong and started to control my activities and time with my friends. Six months into the relationship I was a completely different person. I don’t think a day went by that I didn’t cry about something. I was scared and I wanted to be out of the situation but I had no friends after a while so without him I had nothing, or so it seemed. My parents saw this and tried to help but it only caused me to rebel against them.

The next two months were extremely rocky. There was a lot of “breaks” because I had done something wrong according to him. This is when the abuse went from verbal and emotional, and then physical to sexual. One night he and his friend pushed me and shook me around because it was funny to them because I was small and practically like a “rag doll” as they described it. I laughed at first but then it was too much and I kept telling them to stop but they wouldn’t. When you say stop, whether you are laughing, crying, smiling, frowning, whatever, it means stop and it should be a HUGE red flag when someone you are hanging out with does not listen to you.  But it wasn’t for me at that time.

The other thing that happened went on without my knowledge of it for about a year, but I remember every single detail of that night like it was yesterday. I went over to Brett’s house to hang out. We were starting to be on good terms again and he was being strangely sweet to me so I was happy and oblivious. We went for a walk out in the field behind his house and we even held hands, which Brett NEVER did. We got farther away when he asked to use my phone because he left his in the house, so I let him. He called his friends because they were coming over later and wanted to see what they were up to and what their plans were. We then walked back towards his house and had sex. He insisted that the lights be off and music on over and over again and I just laughed because I thought he was being romantic. But he wasn’t. What I didn’t know was that his phone call to his friends was to make sure all five of them were hidden in his closet: watching, listening and I didn’t know what else. The lights off, music on was to make it so I definitely couldn’t see or hear them.

It was then that I became known to everyone, as you can imagine, because they certainly didn’t keep what they saw and heard a secret. A few weeks later we got into a huge fight and instead of being sad and submissive I was angry. When he had tried the routine “let’s get back together” a few days later I flipped. I yelled at him and I told him what I really thought of him and I threatened to ruin any chance of a career if he didn’t leave me alone (he later ruined those chances himself but that’s beside the point). It felt amazing to finally stand up for myself and get out of such an abusive relationship, but I didn’t get out unscathed. In the next year when I had learned of what he did to me that night, knowing that others were watching and then telling, combined with the trauma of the relationship itself and a few other events, I developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and struggled with that for several years. I still struggle with it today. I would say that what I have now is more General Anxiety Disorder but I really don’t have the credentials to decide that.

Was what happened to me fair? No. Was it okay that it happened to me? Hell no. Did it make me a stronger and ultimately the person I am today? Yes. Being in an abusive relationship is not an ideal way for finding yourself. But in the end it made me grow up and ask myself questions that didn’t come with easy answers. Going through the self-defense program a whole four times (thanks to my mom forcing me to do it) has helped me develop my own method of protecting myself  and that’s what the program is built to do. I didn’t take the class seriously in the beginning. Like I said I never thought anything bad would ever happen to me so I did act like it was stupid. But I realize now it gives you a lot of structured tools should you ever need them and it puts thoughts into your head that you may not have ever wanted to confront before because they were scary. My safety is my responsibility; no one else is going to do it for me so for that I am glad I have a purple key.