Written By: Hanna Wenter
TW: Domestic violence
Sometimes I feel like I owe more to young women. Like I should be involved with sharing warnings and cautionary tales, helping to ensure that the teenage girls I cross paths with don’t have a similar tale to tell in their future. On other days I feel overwhelmed with regular life like we all sometimes do, and the idea of engaging in such emotional work is too daunting to pursue.
As a teenager, I was certain I would have a career working with young women; the mentors I knew had helped me through the challenges of all of the hormones and social struggles and confusion of going from girlhood to adolescence in the female body. I figured I could offer that same mentorship and kindness to younger women traveling that winding road. But after him, I lost trust in the process and felt this strange sense of betrayal.
Like how could I have been encouraged to find the beauty in myself, to build self-esteem, to cherish sisterhood, but was never warned about this? Why wasn’t I cautioned about the dangers of the male ego, the hazards of misguided romance? Sadly, I grew tired of the conversation and felt that if I had been so foolish, I must not have much to offer; people with better judgment were more suited to share their wisdom. Of course, wisdom is sometimes gained through painful lessons, and perhaps by writing this, I am creating an opportunity to share mine.
Every time a girl or a woman is on the news because her abuser followed through with their evil promise, I feel a twinge of solidarity, of pain, of heartbreak, of understanding. And of fear. Fear for myself but also a collective fear for all the naïve girls from small towns who just want to connect and don't realize how dark this world can be. Fear for every girl everywhere who will walk this earth in the body of a woman. And every time I learn about a survivor, I am in awe. My entire ordeal—from when we got together to the beginnings of verbal abuse, from the first threat to that final, awful night, from the dorm meetings to the police escorts—lasted about seven months. Yet some women endure for years, for decades, and still somehow escape. I cannot imagine that they ever really return to themselves, but instead find a version of themselves that they simultaneously never wanted and are immensely grateful to have lived to become.
Despite all that he took from me, I have built an amazing life. Many stumbles to get here, sure, but everyone has those, and it wouldn’t be fair to blame it all on him. I tell my story when people want to listen; sharing lightens the load. But there is no real condensed version, maybe because I have to explain it all so I don’t feel that same old judgment of, oh so YOU are THAT girl.
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