By: Jenny Tolep
He didn’t hit me a lot. But when he did hit me…he hit me hard.”
Jordyn, who asked that her last name not be used, hid her bruises with makeup and wore pants on hot summer days. Jordyn was a victim of dating violence.
She met her first boyfriend at age 16. He was a soccer player, just like her.
After being teased and bullied as a teenager, Jordyn lacked self-confidence. He told her she was pretty and made her feel special.
After five months of dating, Jordyn received an unnerving phone call from her boyfriend. He suspected Jordyn had kissed a friend of his.
“If you just tell me what happened I won’t be angry. I just want to know,” he said. Jordyn confirmed it was true, but assured him it was before they started dating. Words exploded like firecrackers.
“Slut.” “Whore.” “Liar.”
He told Jordyn she couldn’t be trusted and they were through. “I wouldn’t eat, I was so upset. I was heartbroken.”
The breakup didn’t last long. He apologized the next day and Jordyn forgave him. But from that moment, nothing was ever the same. He had started taking steroids to improve his physical appearance.
“He let the steroids take over. It was almost like he was a different person after he started taking them.”
He controlled her every move. She wasn’t allowed to wear skirts, dresses or leggings. She was with him every free moment and didn’t see her friends for months.
His verbal abuse turned physical during the 10th or 11th month of the relationship. When the couple argued, he would sometimes hold Jordyn down or punch her in the arm or leg.
“I was afraid if I lost him, I wouldn’t have anything else.”
According to Joy Beth Curtis, a doctoral intern in counseling at James Madison University’s Varner House, the abuser makes his partner feel that she can’t do any better.
“When you’ve fallen in love, it’s hard to leave, even if it’s not the safest place for you,” said Curtis.
It wasn’t until she spoke with her best friend, Joe, about the situation that Jordyn built up enough courage to end the relationship.
She never told her parents and doesn’t know if she ever will.
According to Curtis, abusive relationships are not something our society likes to talk about, but it is more common than people think.
One in three adolescents in the United States is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.” (www.loveisrespect.org)
Since ending her relationship, Jordyn has grown more confident. She began dating Joe and they’ve been in a healthy relationship for more than a year.
During the first week of university, Jordyn found out her freshman orientation guide used to be in an abusive relationship, just like her.
The guide, named Megan, dated her boyfriend during her freshman year of school. With her boyfriend verbally abusing her, it was difficult to adjust to her new life in college.
“Verbal abuse is overlooked. It is just as serious as physical abuse,” said Megan.
Jeri Lee, an advocate at First Step, Harrisonburg’s domestic violence shelter, agrees.
“Somebody can be hit in more ways than physical.“
According to Lee, a victim may believe the insults if she is constantly put down. Verbal abuse is a warning sign that the relationship can turn violent.
By the following summer, Megan cut off communication and ended the relationship. She got counseling and started building a better life.
She decided to work as a freshman orientation guide because she understands how difficult the transition to college can be. Megan built a relationship with her freshmen, in particular Jordyn.
“She knows she can talk to me about anything,” said Megan.
Jordyn has grown close to Megan and her new college friends. Jordyn’s friend Janee looks up to her and admires her strength.
“After my best friend opened up to me about her abusive relationship, I realized that this is a battle that no girl should ever have to face alone. It has influenced me to volunteer for nonviolence and domestic abuse organizations in the future,” said Janee.
It is not easy to talk about an abusive past, but Jordyn is open to sharing herself with new people.
“If I give them a piece of me, then maybe they will give me a piece of them.”