Domestic Abuse Victim Speaks Out


Photo Illustration by Xavier Rivera

Photo Illustration by Xavier Rivera
Photo Illustration by Xavier Rivera

“How did I not see the whole picture? How did I not pre vent this from happening?” Julia* often asked herself these ques tions. She is a high school student and a former victim of emo tional abuse during a nine-month-long relationship.

Although the abuse was never physical, Julia never forgets feeling intimidated by her now ex-boyfriend. He would draw her out of getting involved in any activities without him, such as lunchtime club meetings, and make comments about not caring about her at all.

“Like with most people who have experienced abuse, it was all really gradual,” Julia said.

According to, “One in three adoles cents in the U.S. is a victim of physical, sexual, emotional or ver bal abuse from a dating partner, a figure that far exceeds rates of other types of youth violence.”

It might be obvious that physical beatings are abusive, but it is not so obvious to see the red flags in an emotionally abusive relationship. These signs include controlling behavior such as calling repeatedly to ask where you are and what you are doing, telling you who you can hang out with and forcing you to show texts. Another sign is extremely possessive or jealous behavior.

“I don’t think he was intentionally trying to do any of this, but it was still abuse and it was still harmful,” Julia said. Her moment of epiphany came when she was watching a web-series in which a character was being abused.

“I watch it every now and then and it still gives me chills,” Julia said. “This one part, the “bada�� guy character says “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean ita�� and it was so similar to how my boyfriend at the time had acted that I actually had to pause the video and walk away.”

After that point, Julia told her friends, some of whom brushed her off and acted dismissive or neutral. Others, like her friend Barbara*, recognized that the relationship was harmful but didn’t know what to do.

“[Julia] occasionally would mention things he said that made her uncomfortable, and show me their conversations over text,” Barbara said. “I wish I could’ve been more supportive. I definitely would have tried harder to help her out of that situa tion, but back then I had no idea what I could do to help.”

Julia found the best help in an online support group a�� the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network ( a�� where she anonymously asked professionals if her relation ship was abusive. Once that was confirmed, she knew her next course of action.

“I knew that I had to get out of the relationship, but I had no idea how I would go about doing that,” Julia said. With a sudden burst of energy, she did it one day by text. The break-up itself was pretty simple, and she still sees her ex around the halls of RHS now and then, but she is unaffected.

Health classes at RHS do cover domestic abuse, but within a larger umbrella of sexual assault and violence. Julia, who was in health at the time of the abuse, does not think the unit went in depth enough to stick with her.

One of the ways health teacher Debra Williams covers these topics is by distributing resources. She gives out phone numbers to call for students experiencing abuse or violence, and brings in a powerful speaker, Cheryl Banks, who works for the county sexual assault unit. “That’s what we do in the class: enlighten and inform,” Williams said.

Education about domestic abuse is essential in preventing it from occurring because it often occurs very gradually until the behavior seems normal.

“The reason why it’s not reported is because [the victims] still have feelings for that person, and they don’t want to get that person in trouble. So they take the abuse,” Williams said. “They’re setting themselves up for a pattern, because if they’re not recognizing it now as a teenager a�� it will continue.”

Being aware of resources could be life-changing for victims. “[Without the online support group] I never would have had exposure to what precisely makes an abusive relationship abu sive, and what’s unhealthy,” Julia said. “I would have probably still been in the relationship for a really long time.”

*The Rampage has withheld some names to protect the victim’s identity.