National Domestic Violence Hotline Blog

Dating Abuse

The following blog entry was written by Emily Toothman. She graduated from The University of Texas in 2005.  She is now 26 years old, working as a Program Specialist at The National Domestic Violence Hotline.  In February of 2007, she had the honor of answering the first call to the loveisrespect, National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline.

I was 19, a student in my second year at college, when I met the man of my dreams in one of my classes.  He was tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and All-American — with a smooth demeanor and a knack for saying all the right things.  He treated me like a princess.  Gifts, surprise visits to my dorm room and classes, frequent phone calls to see where I was and how I was doing.  He told me he loved me within the first month of our relationship, and he wanted to be near me all the time.  On our first anniversary, he surprised me with a candlelit dinner in a house overlooking the lake.  I was living the fairy tale that every little girl is taught to dream.

But then, two weeks after our first anniversary, I found him in bed with an ex-girlfriend.  I immediately broke up with him.  It was only then that I began to truly see his controlling nature.

I started to see him everywhere I went.  He showed up to my classes and sat two rows behind me.  I caught glimpses of him walking a couple paces behind me on campus.  Pretty soon, he started calling my cell phone constantly, leaving up to twenty voice messages a day begging me to reconsider our relationship.  When I started hanging out with other guys, he would follow me and leave threatening notes under the windshield wipers on my car.  My professors started to confide in me that “my boyfriend” had told them about my “drug problem.”

I returned home one evening after going to a meeting on campus, and he was on my doorstep.  He was drunk, and he was angry.  As his anger escalated, he began to shove me around and pin me by my neck against my front door, smashing empty beer bottles against the corner of the building and holding the shattered glass up to my face.  He had simply snapped.  I escaped to a friend’s house an hour later with a broken rib, a sprained wrist, a black eye, and bruises from head to toe.

Following the first attack, I took some self-defense lessons from a friend of mine who was a black-belt in karate.  I stayed with some friends so that I didn’t have to go back to my apartment alone.  I felt like everyone was looking at me, even though I had carefully caked on make-up to cover the bruises.  It took me days to build up the courage to leave the apartment to go to class.  I was terrified, and I felt more alone than ever.  Though I have always been close to my parents, I refused to tell them.  I felt that they would be hurt, worried – or worse – disappointed in how I’d handled the situation.   My friends, though they tried to be supportive, had a hard time even believing what was happening.

A week later, he confronted me again.  This time, he was sober, and it was in broad daylight in the center of campus.  He once again pinned me to the wall, but this time he threatened me with a butterfly knife to my jugular.  Students would walk by and stare, but not one interfered.  I struggled with him for close to a quarter of an hour, and finally, I managed to kick his knee backwards.  It broke.  As he was writhing on the ground, I used my cell phone to call the police.  A week later, he would break bail and leave the country.  I would never see him again.

The experience did change me – sometimes for the worse, but (I hope) mostly for the better.  I had to struggle with fear, anger, depression, insomnia, and even nausea.  I had to mend the breach of trust that my parents felt when they found out about my situation after the fact.  I’ve had to fight to break down my defensive walls, so that I could be less guarded in my romantic relationships and less cautious in my friendships.  It has not been easy.

But — to be completely honest with you – I wouldn’t change a moment of my experience for anything in the world.  It shook me to the core.  It created a passion in me for justice and peace, and it led me down a path that I would have never expected.  It led me here, to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.  I will always remember, with the highest gratitude, the role that my experience has allowed me to play in reaching out to survivors.

Dating abuse is a reality for many, many teens across this country — a terrifying, overwhelming reality that is largely hidden and ignored.  I wish that I had known at the time what I know now, thanks to the work of the National Domestic Violence Hotline and the loveisrespect, National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline: I am not alone.  I am not the only one to have experienced what I experienced, and I am not the only one who has decided to turn those experiences into positive changes for others like me.  I am very honored to be a part of such an amazing generation of young people who will start the conversation about dating abuse, and who will change the realities of young people across the nation.

By Emily Toothman

Please visit loveisrespect.org  for resources on teen dating abuse or to chat with a peer advocate. If chat is unavailable, call 1-866-331-9474 or 1-866-331-8453 TTY. loveisrespect has recently been called on for its expert guidance by the popular soap opera General Hospital for a teen dating abuse storyline. The storyline will air today, Friday July 17th and a PSA will air directly following the program.

16 replies
  1. monica says:

    i commend u for your courage. i am not a teenager but i have been in a few abusive relationships. For some reason I keep picking the bad guys. Im divorced right now I currently single but my ex husband will not leave me alone, we have 1 child together and he holds that against me as saying he will never leave me alone. Ive had several order of protections. His been to jail about four times to prison once and you still harasses me if I dont do what he say. Im tired i really am. He says if he see me with someone else he will kill me I dont believe him. But I just wish I could move away somewhere I cant afford to now though I work full time and go to school, and im a mother of three daughters. Please tell me what you think I should do!

    • Dana says:

      I was a teen when my boyfriend was abusive to me. I didn’t tell my parents and friends. I was protecting him. But they all eventually found out and I lost a lot of trust with my friends and family that way. Monica, please go find help. Tell them the truth and people will help you. I had to move to another state after I broke up with my boyfriend because he stalked me badly. Nothing is worth sticking around for if you or your children are in danger. I pray this helps you and you are safe.

  2. Candi says:

    Props to you for getting away from the abuse. I too was in a very abusive relationship for a year. He beat me but always on my body where nobody could see the bruises, he threatened to cut my throat, threatened to kill my family, threw things at me. I was ashamed and didnt tell my family because I was afraid that my father or brothers would kill him. After a year, I went to victims assistance and they helped me obtain a domestic violence petition. When we went to court, he was put on home confinement for 6 months and a restraining order was granted. I will never be with anyone like that again but I still have issues with men and seem to always choose the wrong ones. I have been seeing a guy for almost a year and he is not violent toward me, he mentally abuses me by not coming home everyday, never saying that he loves me, has been seen with other women, wants me to spend money on him all of the time. I believe that he has a drug problem but I love him and I know that I cant stay with him. Any suggestions on how to be strong enough to back away.

  3. R says:

    You know it’s nice that there is a web site with real information. All to often D.V. or portrayed as women being the sole victims of domestic violence. When in reality it’s close to being right down the middle. When children are in the home they are the TRUE victims. What they see, hear and learn shapes their perceptions of how relationships are.
    The difference I found in my own relationship after she was arrested was sources or even somebody to talk to as a man. Even with a police report which outlined the incident, and pictures of my face there was this air of “your the man get over it”. Fair enough, but when somebody you once cared about and made sacrifices for betrays that trust. That person treats you sub-human. GENDER means nothing. Being without a place to stay because you had to leave NOW means nothing. No man worth anything hits a woman. No woman who has a shred of self respect hits a man.
    I do have to chime in on the topic of “verbal abuse” come on now. This shouldn’t be considered domestic violence. The way the laws are written already cover this “a fear of body harm”. I think the D.V. industry needs to narrow it’s scopes and tackle the issue at hand.

  4. adriane says:

    Dear friend,

    I am not sure what to do?, I am living in Illinois, I have 2 boys 5 and 11. I have been in a relationship wrih this man for 12 years. Our relationship has been very volatile up and down. I left him 4 years ago because the physical abuse was escalating. He was the man of my dreams for the first 2 years of our rarelationship, until he started to hit me. He was in the millitary for 7 years and this did not help the situation, because he already had a bad temper. I am going to college at this moment and things are going pretty bad with us. I have no family around and no one knows my situation. He has punched me in the head many times, kicked me, grabbed me by the hair, slapped me in the face and I can go on and on. I am affraid of him now than before, because he started using one of his knieves to treated me. He owns several guns, and has several millitary guns. Sometimes i think he will kill me. I told a friend in a e-mail letter that if something happens to me, he will be the one who is responsible. Harsh words but i just don’t trust him anymore. If I call the police, he said he will kill me or take my kids away, because i suffer from depression. On top of this mess, he is an alcoholic, he may not look like one. He is a bussines man, has a good job, dresses in a suit for work and always smiles to others. People will not believe, he is capable of doing those things to me, but I know and his family knows. He has no contact with his mom and dad for almost 2 months. He is angry at them for being so abusive with him as a child, but he is doing the same, not to his kids, but to me. My son doesn’t want to go to a shelter, I have no money, and I am not moving with my mother in Mexico because i need to finsh my career, so i can be able to support my kids and myself. I need guidence….I am living in a dangerous circle ….

  5. hotlineadmin_NF says:

    Verbal abuse should not be underestimated in its power to hurt and damage another’s person self worth. What we know about verbal abuse is that it plays a very intricate role in abuser’s maintaining power and control over their partners. Many of our callers report that the verbal violence inflicted upon them by their partners is almost as bad if not worse than the physical injuries they sustain. Please visit the get educated section of our website for more information about the impact of verbal abuse and the role it plays in maintaining and sustaining domestic violence. http://www.ndvh.org/get-educated/what-is-domestic-violence/

  6. hotlineadmin_NF says:

    Adriane,

    We are so sorry to hear that you are living in this dangerous and abusive situation. The internet is not the safest forum for us to support you in this process. We would love to speak with you confidentially at the Hotline so please call us when you’re in a safe place at 1-800-799-7233. We’re open 24/7 and are completely anonymous. We have extensive resources in our database to locate support and help for you and we can do some safety planning for your situation. There is help out there for you and you are not alone with this.

    NDVH Admin

  7. Kimberly says:

    I am 24 years old and have been experiencing abuse from my b/f. I have only recently been able to speak of the abuse which has been going on for over a year. I still can’t tell my friends or family members, only bits to my therapist. How do you finally overcome the fear of telling people? My b/f abused me any and every way he could. Even now I type and erase because I want to talk but I don’t want to hurt my loved ones and it hurts all over again. Now that we are broken up he destroys anything that he had in his possession and harasses me. Unfortunately I work with him.

  8. Lena says:

    When I was in highschool my boyfriend abused me. He hit me, grabbed me, choked me and controlled everything I did. I hid everything from the world, I was so ashamed. I thought all of my troubles were over when I was in college. I started dating my current boyfriend while in college. Unlike before, my boyfriend didn’t outright hit me or controll me at first. I am becoming more isolated from my family and friends and he is becoming physical at times. I tell myself that it isn’t a big deal and I can’t seem to tell anyone about this secret. It will only make it worse. I wanna leave but get sucked back in everytime. I feel like the crazy one. It seems like I’m in this alone!!!

    • Kimberly says:

      You are not alone. Your story sounds exactly like mine. After my bf abused me the last time I just felt it was time to leave. I give hints to people to make them realize someone is going on wanting people to ask more questions. If anyone knew, they never said anything. I too always just said I can handle this one day it will stop. But it never did. The longer you stay the worse it gets. You need to fight to stay alive. It is so rough, it has only been 2 months for me. Once it is done there is a freedom you feel. I literally felt free…free to live my life. You too can have that freedom.

  9. Matt says:

    My name is Matt and I have been in a relationship for 9 months, 9 months yesterday to be exact. But I have made a huge decision in my life. I was the kid that would always be playing sports and never have girls on my mind. Well years pass and I find a girl that I really do care for. We spent so many amazing times together and I fell in love and I am still in love. We had a situation just the other day that was extremely bad. I never thought I would do something like that in my life. I literally chased her in my truck just to talk to her for a few minutes because I had so much on my mind and it ended up being a disaster. Police almost got involved, family love seemed to diminish, and my life as well as my girlfriends’ were in jeopardy. The next day we finally came together to talk about it. Prior to then I was at home thinking about what I had done and I just couldn’t believe myself. I was abusive and I didn’t know it until she told me. Many of the signs that we researched from the internet linked to my actions exactly. I lived this relationship loving the wrong way. And after almost losing her for good, I knew things needed to change. I am going to my pastor today to talk about things and ask for advice. I hope whoever reads this will also give me advice. It seems like I would never be that person in a billion years, but I was, and I am fighting to stop because if I love my girlfriend, I will do whatever it takes. It is just so difficult to cope with, I am the kind of guy that is always sweet, always caring and loving, well, I thought. Some of the problems I realized I evoked were checking her phone, not being able to fully trust her, telling her not to wear certain cloths, what am I doing! This isn’t me! Thank You for all you people who have read this and honestly if you have any advice to give me please share it with me. I am crushed at the damage I have done and I can’t believe myself. I truly love this girl with all my heart and I can’t believe I have done what I did. Please give me any advice you have. This is my experience and my awakening to a problem that I can solve and will solve because I love her.

    please e-mail me with advice
    lostsurfer327@aim.com

    -Matt

  10. Martha says:

    Matt, Run, don’t walk to a ‘behaviorial modification specialist’ working under the supervision of a Paychiatrist. Get COUNSELING AND STICK IT OUT UNTIL YOU HAVE SOLVED THIS PROBLEM.. Be thankful that you know you need help. You will have a beautifuul life with the one you truly love if you overcome your emotional problems.

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