I hate that people are still making jokes about Chris Brown and Rihanna. I hate that I have to pretend to laugh at them and I hate that I don’t have the balls to slap them and tell them to shut the fuck up. Whenever I hear an ignorant joke or comment about the couple, I hate that I can’t tell them my story and make them understand what they are joking about.
I first met Tom when I was 15. I was young and stupid, and thought that it was love at first sight. I had a boyfriend at the time, but Tom and I texted each other innocently until I eventually broke up with my boyfriend. A few months later, Tom asked me to be his girlfriend and I was the happiest girl in the world.
The first two weeks of our relationship were a whirlwind. I had never felt so loved, so wanted, so needed. We shared all of our deepest secrets, he confided in me about his abusive mother and I told him all of my hopes, dreams and insecurities. He thought I was perfect and I knew that we were in love. One night, he was driving me home and one of the speakers in his car stopped working. This was the first time he hit me, and the moment when I lost everything I knew about myself. At first he punched my arm and I thought he was just being playful, so I giggled until he hit me again and pushed my head into the side of his car. “Don’t fucking laugh at me. Fucking cunt.” I was in shock. I wasn’t even upset, I was just numb. I had never felt such violent hatred, let alone from somebody who was supposed to love me, somebody who I loved so deeply. We sat in silence for the rest of the drive until we were at my house — he kissed me goodbye and told me he’d see me soon.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I sat in bed repeating the moment over and over again. What had I done that made him so mad? He kissed me goodbye so he must not be mad anymore, right? I made hundreds of excuses for him. He had grown up with an abusive mother, so somehow I decided this made his actions justifiable. That day was the just the beginning of a horrifyingly abusive relationship. I spent every day for the next year trying to be whatever he wanted me to be. We could spend hours of happiness together until something flipped a switch in his head and he went from a beautiful, loving man to an angry, violent monster. I had no idea who I was anymore – my identity revolved around being Tom’s girlfriend.
Tom was both emotionally and physically abusive. He convinced me that I was disgusting, that nobody would ever love me and I was lucky that he would even look at me. He convinced me that my family hated me and since I believed this, it became true as I intentionally strained my relationship with them. He had another girlfriend, but somehow he convinced me that I was the most important and that she didn’t matter. He would make me stand in the bathroom with him while he showered because I was a “whore” and he couldn’t trust me to be alone with his friends. He forced me to prove my love to him through sex. If I didn’t, he would claim that I was cheating on him and would describe in detail how he would make me watch as he killed whoever I was sleeping with and then would kill me after. Throughout all of this, I wasn’t scared or sad, I was completely numb. My emotions didn’t matter anymore all that mattered was making Tom happy. When Tom was happy, he loved me and when Tom loved me, I was happy.
One day, I was with Tom, his friend, my sister, and my best friend. Tom wanted me to go upstairs and grab him a glass of water. He was in a good mood so I laughed and said no way get it yourself. I saw the switch, something that I had become so accustomed to but that nobody else recognized. He held me down in front of everybody and dick slapped me on my face. My sister and my best friend watched and did NOTHING. Looking back, I’m sure they thought it was a joke, but I was humiliated and disgusted. This moment solidified the fact that my family/friends didn’t care about me and that I was on my own — except for Tom.
I convinced myself that I couldn’t break up with him because I was scared for my physical safety, but this was the least of my worries. I had been told so many times that I was a worthless piece of shit from somebody that I cared so deeply about that I truly believed it and I truly believed that he was the only person in the world who would ever care about me.
When I finally decided to break up with him, we had been at his friend’s apartment and he had just gotten off the phone with his other girlfriend. I told him that I was leaving and that I couldn’t do this anymore. Again, I saw the switch turn and he became the monster again. He slapped me, grabbed my hair, dragged me out in the living room and proceeded to beat me and rape me in front of five of his closest friends. Nobody even tried to stop him. At this point, I had fully accepted and welcomed the thought of dying. I thought that he was going to kill me in that living room and I was looking forward to it. Instead, he pulled me up and drove me home. I wish I had been brave enough to tell somebody and to go to the police, but at the time, I fully believed that this was my fault and was too humiliated to tell anybody.
After we broke up, he called and texted me every single day for four months. It was a constant reminder of what had happened to me. The messages ranged from telling me how much he loved and missed me, to calling me the disgusting whore that he had always known I was, to threatening to kill me. Eventually I made up an excuse to tell my parents why I wanted to change my number, but he found it less than a month later.
I began to hate my family and my friends for not helping me through this. Even though I had never told them, I blamed them for not realizing that something was wrong. I hated everything – especially myself. Every time I would look in the mirror I would either cry or become infuriated with how disgusting I was. I couldn’t be alone in a room with a man for almost six months. The first time I had sex with somebody after the incident, I had a complete emotional breakdown and almost killed myself. I decided to move because I couldn’t go anywhere without being terrified that I would run into him or his friends.
It’s been six years and I still have nightmares about him every night. I still hate cuddling because sometimes the thought of somebody touching me literally makes me want to vomit. I haven’t been able to have a normal relationship because I’m incapable of explaining what I have been through. How can I explain to a boyfriend that sometimes when we have sex, I feel like I’m being raped all over again? That I can’t sleep in the same bed as him because I wake up horrified from my nightmares? That I can’t fight with him because if he starts to yell I revert to the numb, speechless girl that I was with Tom?
So no, Chris Brown jokes don’t make me mad. The jokes make me so sad because people don’t even realize what they are joking about. They have no idea how one violent moment can change you from a happy, loving teenager to an empty shell of a human. It took a wonderful friend to hold my hand and help me recover from this relationship. I honestly believe that I owe him my life. I have only told this story to four people – and even when I do I can’t make the right words come out of my mouth to make them fully comprehend what I went through.
If I hadn’t heard so many jokes about abuse and hadn’t heard so many people ask “well what did she do to deserve it?”, I like to think that I could have come forward with my story a long time ago. Tom is now in prison for almost killing another girl. I blame myself everyday for not putting him in prison sooner. I could have saved this girl the pain and horror, but I was a coward. I’m thrilled that conversations about rape have begun to turn away from victim blaming, but now it’s time to do the same with abuse. Please, no more Chris Brown jokes.