After getting fairly good grades in high school and trying out for a number of colleges, I got a chance to study at one of the best universities not only in New Delhi, but in India. I was happy; going to college was my gateway to liberty and experimentation. What could be better than that? Except I rarely had a clue as to what would happen after I went to college.
It was my first time not living with my parents. Some colleges in India have very strict rules for their students, especially for girls. A cousin back in my home state of Odisha had a curfew of 6:30 in the evening! But parents are happy their daughters are being taken care of. They prefer their daughters’ safety to their freedom. Victim blaming is big in the country too — I have lost count the number of times my parents would scold me for coming home late. (It is unsafe for a girl to stay outside after dark whereas I had rarely seen boys imposed with such rules.) College was going to be an escape from all this.
I had hoped to make tons of friends in college. But there were only a few kids in my class and many boys in my class were shy in front of girls. Maybe I had set my expectations too high for college. But then a guy came up to me asking where a certain class was happening. He was good-looking and seemed smart. My heart fluttered a little once I knew he was in my class. We made some small talk that day and would say hi to each other in class when we could.
Sometime later, there was a small party where many people from my class turned up. I decided to go too. I ran into the guy I had started talking with and started dancing with him. After a while, we were making out. The next day we decided we would not get seriously involved with each other. Even though we had decided that, he told me not to see any other person. I found that weird but did not pay much attention to it. I found it cute when he would occasionally get jealous of my guy friends and felt sorry for him when he told me that his previous girlfriend had cheated on him. I trusted him completely and told him about the abuse I had gone through when I was a child. He told me that I could count
Then we had a small fight. He had read some texts on my phone and said that I was getting too friendly with a school friend. I thought I was the one who had made the mistake and didn’t say that I felt it was wrong to check someone’s phone like that. He would constantly invite over his girl friends but it was a problem whenever I met with a guy friend. It became worse when he slapped me for just hanging out with two male friends. I was still hung up on the idea of saving whatever we had together. So I decided to stay. The fights became bigger and louder, but we would always get back together. I was too busy being a loyal girlfriend and was scared that I would get lonely if I left him. On one particular morning, we woke up together and he told me to have intercourse with him.
I was not in the mood and told him so but he wouldn’t listen and kept forcing himself on me. I let him do whatever he wanted but told him that we would not see each other after that. He didn’t feel that he had done anything wrong and would not even apologize. When it dawned on him that he might have done something wrong, he begged me to keep it a secret and said that he would do anything to fix it. I was going through a hard time myself and he was so nice to me the next few days I really felt like he had changed. Now when I look back, I think of the number of times I thought he would change.
Things changed after a year when he moved to a different city because he got into another college. I was sad because he was leaving. But I didn’t know what a boon this would turn out to be. I made some new friends because I had more time now. More time without him, more time not fighting. We would talk on the phone and when I told him I had made some
new friends, specifically guy friends, he would get mad. Then some of my friends advised me not to tell him every single thing. And when I did so, I saw that I was saving myself from his toxic reactions. He would sometimes come to meet me and I would do the same. But I was starting to learn that life could be okay without him in it. It would actually be better.
One of the final nails in the coffin was him telling me during a fight that he would leak my private pictures on Instagram. That was not only scary but really hurtful. I did not know he could go that far. He did not go ahead with it but told me to not tell anyone and followed the same pattern of being nice for a few days before he became his real self. This had become my life for the last two years. I couldn’t believe I had wasted so much time with a person who had taken so much from me. I knew I had to get out of this. I knew it would be one of the hardest things to do because of how attached I had become. It took me some time to accept the idea that I had to leave him but I finally did it over a phone call. He didn’t try to stop me but he would try to stay in touch; I did have some trouble cutting him off completely.
But it’s going to be a year since I broke off all contact with him. A write-up of a thousand words doesn’t begin to say all that I felt. I wouldn’t say I have moved on completely as some memories still remain fresh in my mind; there were many good ones. But other memories were those of abuse, emotional as well as physical. It took me a lot of time to accept that it was abuse and call it that. I see so many people, mostly women still going through the same thing. It is important to listen to their stories and make them feel safe.
One of my major reasons to start writing for an organization working for domestic violence survivors was to get my story out there and listen to what other women have had to say. I feel a solidarity of sorts when I read their life experiences. There is a lot that still has to be changed in society and progress is hardly unilaterally forward. But each day when a person comes
out of their abusive environment, it is a win for all survivors.
Written by Siddhi Samal