Carpri Diem!

It’s been quite some time since I wrote that last post, and I’m so sorry about not keeping this blog as updated as I ought to. A lot has happened in a little while, and I just haven’t given myself the time to write!

Anyway, summer has well and truly kicked off! All of my friends have moved off campus now, and I’ve been given the keys to my new studio flat! I’m sat in it at the moment, writing this. I started moving some bits and pieces over yesterday evening, and slept here for the first time last night. I have my own kitchen, bathroom, dining room, my bed is in the corner of the kitchen, along with my wardrobe, and my desk is in a lovely little conservatory section, which I love when it’s sunnier (the rain has kicked off today, sadly).

Update on the guy, we’re actually now together, as a proper couple! I even met his father the other week, and I’ve been given the thumbs up, apparently! Next week we’ll have been together for two months, scary how the time flies! I’ve never met someone so supportive and understanding about me and my issues, and I often have him behind me every step of the way when I embark on new projects, go off to places and generally follow my dreams. It’s lovely, I feel beautiful when I’m with him, and it’s wonderful.

All my coursework is finally complete! All I have to do now is print the last bits off, which I’ll do today, and hand them into the registrar’s office, then I can sit back, and wait for my grades, which I’ll get in September before the new academic year starts. Yikes! As long as I pass, then it’ll be ok, I’ll be aiming higher next year!

Speaking of university, my job as Careleaver Liberation Rep starts properly as of now! Clearing is happening, and young people across the country are finding out if they got into their university of choice. Careleavers are doing this too, and I remember opening my results letter telling me I got into my university, and wondering ‘how is this going to work out?’. So I’ll be on Twitter today, with the hashtag #careleaverlibrep to answer any questions about leaving care and starting up at university as a careleaver. Exciting time to be had by all!

So, on top of everything else, I’ve helped out with the development of an app for careleavers to assist with pathway plans, education/work/training and identity. It’ll be promoted during Careleaver Week, in October half term, so I’ll be promoting it to my students, as well as you guys. Just because you grew up in care, it doesn’t mean that you’re society’s offcast. You still have so much to offer! I promise!

I’ve also started work on a WWI novel for young people, so am hoping to have the first draft completed by the end of the year. In the meantime, I should really start moving some more stuff over…

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Relationship Abuse: Why No Young Person Should Go Through It

(TW, Abusive relationships, rape, emotional abuse, physical abuse)

I’m going to be brutally honest.

I am a Survivor.

Why do I say this?

I’ve been in quite a few abusive relationships. And I’m only twenty years old.

I’m not the only girl in this position. So many young women under the age of 20 go through all sorts of domestic violence every year. I have friends who admit to being raped by boyfriends, emotionally manipulated by partners and their families, beaten by those who they thought would love and protect them. By telling my story, I hope that I can get more young people saved from violence, manipulation and abuse.

It all started when I was fifteen. I was young, vulnerable and impressionable. I met a guy at the new school I’d started at. We started dating. He wanted to touch my breasts, my crotch. I didn’t like it, but I’d heard that’s what girlfriends allow their boyfriends to do, so I gritted my teeth, and allowed it. Because I said yes’, it was assumed that I’d consented. Therefore it wouldn’t be seen as assault every time he touched me, pawed at me. I allowed him to tell me what makeup I was/wasn’t allowed to wear, how short my skirts were allowed to be. I wasn’t to eat too many sweets because ‘I could get fat’. Even the books I read had to be approved, as did the friends I spent time with. After a while, I turned seventeen. We’d ‘broken up’ because there was a weird thing with me bouncing between this guy and another one. But we went to prom together, and agreed to start ‘seeing’ each other. We’d meet up for secret ‘dates’ at the beach near where we both lived. Usually it would be fine, we’d kiss, hold hands, etc.

But one afternoon, it all changed.

We were in a field, walking his dog, holding hands, like any other young teenage couple, nothing out of the ordinary.

Until he spun me round. He grabbed me, and I could feel him grinding against me, thrusting his hand down my shirt, I could feel the erection through our clothes. I felt frightened, rigid to the spot, as he carried on snogging me, grinding, grinding.

I didn’t realise this was sexual assault until I turned nineteen, and started university.

I was seventeen, and got with the guy I’d been on-off with for a few years. I lost my virginity to him. I remember screaming in pain, as I wasn’t ready deep down, I remember being told that if I didn’t have sex, then he’d leave me to be alone. That I wasn’t even beautiful anyway.

I didn’t realise it was rape until today.

And I’m twenty.

I got with my ex fiancé not long into my first year of college.

I remember the night I got with him.

A lot of alcohol had been drunk. I had only recently turned eighteen, and didn’t have very much experience with alcohol before this point. A lot of people, his family, his friends, told me that he liked me, that I really should go out with him, etc. And, after all the pressure, and because I was drunk, I agreed, and we kissed as the clock struck midnight.

That kiss sealed my fate for the next two years of my life.

At first, I decided that I’d allow things to just take its course. Perhaps it would get better. Make the most out of a bad situation, right? But as time went on, things didn’t get much better.

It started when I wore shorts on a hot day to college. I remember it, because he said to me ‘Are they not too short?’. The time I first wore red lipstick ‘I don’t like it, it’s messy and you look bad in it’. Anything I wore had to pass a test of approval. He preferred me to buy clothes either he or his sister preferred.

And then his temper.

I never thought that I’d be in a relationship where I would fear for my own safety.

But the day he first slapped me, I feared for my life.

It sounds dramatic, but that’s the god-honest truth. We were having yet another row, when, without warning, he backhanded me across the face. I knew it wasn’t the usual playfighting that we used to enjoy. It wasn’t spoken of again, he apologised.

But the threats started.

Every time I dared to irritate him, he’d threaten to throw the nearest heavy thing at my head, or to throw me out of the top floor window. He’d tell me that he’d slap me, punch me in the head, if I carried on irritating him.

His family took control of most of my life, guising it as ‘support’ because of my autism. My finances, posessions, fashion, diet, everything was controlled, my alcohol intake was something to be commented about. The people I befriended had to be approved by being ‘friends’ with my ex as well, which made it hard to have friends outside of his preferences. And even when I was with those friends, he would attach himself to me, making sure it was made crystal clear that I was his, and no one else could ever have ‘dibs’ on me. I was no longer a person, more a possession. And it sucked.

I was only able to leave because…

I have a male best friend, who I fell in love with whilst at university. I’d talk with him often about my life, and the way I felt. He realised I was unhappy, and would give me a lot of advice. One morning, after a night watching the stars and falling asleep at his room, we slept together, and it was one of the best things that ever happened to me. I told my ex, and promptly left him as a result. He saved my life, and I am grateful. He’s now with one of my other best friends, and I’m glad for that, even though I still love him with all my being.

However, during the break up, my ex started to get even more abusive, messaging me accusing me of turning our ‘mutual’ friends against him, telling ‘mutual’ friends that I was a lying, manipulative and abusive bitch in order to make me out to be the bad person, and generally attempting to mess things up among my friendships. I’m lucky that my friends all saw right through him, and stuck by my side. During that time, he reminded me of things he told me during my relationship.

“You leave me, you’ll always be alone”  

“You’ll never find anyone else like me”

“You’re lucky to have me, because no one else will want you”

“Once you leave me, you won’t have a family anymore, we’ve given you everything.”

I’m lucky to have made sure that I had friends not involving him, or if they know him, that I was friends with them in their own right.

So, you’re probably wondering what this has to do with other young people.

Young people are not properly taught about abuse in relationships, in schools, or by parents/caregivers. People don’t know about dating abuse, and how it can affect young people. One of my friends was raped by her first boyfriend, and her friends and family still don’t believe that she was attacked. Another male friend of mine was sexually assaulted by a woman, and no one believed him, as men can’t get abused by women, surely?

It’s stupid, and needs to stop.

Young people need to be educated about relationship abuse, dating violence. You try to look up stats about abuse in teenage relationships, and there isn’t much in the way of reliable information.

This isn’t good enough. Young people deserve the same protection from abuse as adults do. I’m a disabled young adult, so I’m more vulnerable than others in my situation, as (like my ex and his family) my disability can be taken advantage of as an excuse for control and manipulation as much as my age and experience. So I dread to think what it could be like for someone who is just young and impressionable.

I’ve never told my story before online. I only hope, by doing so, that I can encourage someone to seek help, to leave an abusive relationship, or to even decide to think about taking the steps needed to get out. It’s hard when you’re being told that if you leave them, you’ll be completely alone. Which is bullshit, by the way. You have family, friends, me. I’ll always be a click away. That much I can promise you.

No one should ever go through abuse in relationships. No matter age, gender, race or sexuality. It’s time more young people spoke out about dating and relationship abuse. They need to know that there are more types of abuse than just being raped and slapped about. Sticks and stones may break bones, but words will always cut deeper than any other weapon.

Abuse is prevalent in our society, culture. It’s in our music, our films, even our magazines. The families of those young people who have survived still don’t believe them. It’s seen to be OK for someone to be emotionally manipulated by their partner, or to be raped, because it was in a relationship/dating scenario. It’s wrong. And has to stop.

I no longer see myself as a victim.

I am a survivor.