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Fear and Being Female: Part Five

Written By: Hanna Wenter

TW: Domestic violence

A few years ago, I reached out to the campus police at my college. I was finally ready to pursue the information and dig into the history. I wanted to know what the official records looked like. I wanted copies of the papers I signed, releasing the school from liability should he hunt me down as promised. I wanted to compare my memories now that I had come to a place where I felt like I was past it so I could understand and close the book forever. I wanted that officer’s name so I could send a very belated thank you card. I wanted to review it all from the perspective of a grown woman instead of a girl transitioning into adulthood through trauma.

They keep those kinds of records for ten years, I learned. There were no more records; I had missed the window. While disappointing, this almost felt like a relief, like maybe I wasn't meant to sift through the 911 calls, the details, the quoted threats, the countless texts and calls and voicemails and emails, the "he was waiting in the hall after my political science class again" reports, the "he was across the quad today just staring," the "he threatened to kill himself again and said his body would be waiting in my dorm when I got home so he could be sure to haunt me forever," the "you think I can't get to you if I want, that you'll ever be free from me?" Enough of the details are burned in my mind; maybe it is better that I didn't reopen those doors that had closed.

I check up on him. I go through phases where a year will pass and I haven't searched his name. But other times I will become obsessed, Googling almost nightly. He is a mess, a drug addict with dozens of arrests. I, on the other hand, have an amazing husband, two sons that expand my heart every day with their bright light and smiles, and a career I'm proud of. I mean, I won. I fucking WON.

But still, I cannot go near that town without fear. Like, what if I was walking down the sidewalk and he saw and recognized me, what if he blames me for his mess of a life, what if he still feels the rage he felt, what if he hasn't forgotten his promise, what if he had nothing to lose, what if he follows through now that I have everything to lose?

This is what abuse does. It might damage every choice you make, forever, or it might be just a packed-away part of you like it is for me. No matter what, it makes you a person who understands what it is like to be afraid.

It has been almost two decades since I closed this chapter. I didn’t know then that its pages would flutter open in my shadow self, but I also didn’t know how much sturdier it would make my book, how it would make me more complete, more empathetic and compassionate and, oddly, grateful. I’ve learned that gratitude can get you through almost anything and for me, fear is no exception.


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