Why Not Now?

Why didn’t I talk about it sooner? [1]
Why did I wait 6 years, after the relationship had ended, to come forward?
Leaving my mental illness, trauma and emotional struggle – my nearly non-existent self-preservation in constant disagreement with my love for him – aside:

But he has changed, why dig it up now?
– a good female friend

It is just a big misunderstanding.
– another female friend

It was 6 years ago, there’s no rush, it is not that pressing anymore.
– the committee dealing with the letter addressing the situation

I am doing so much better, why bring me back down like this?
– him, to one of my friends

He is not capable of that.
– another friend

Are you sure it was abuse? Are you sure you said no?
– my male doctor, when I asked for a referral letter for a therapist

But if you stopped saying no, how could he know?
– a friend

He is not like that anymore, why punish him now?
– another friend

Knowing that your loved ones might not believe you, might not take you seriously.
As if the emotional trauma he caused wasn’t enough.
As if actually admitting to myself that it was abuse wasn’t difficult enough.
As if being extremely vulnerable by finally telling people wasn’t difficult enough either.

People I considered close friends did not seem to care about the pain and damage he caused, but instead got frustrated with me, because I was ‘creating drama’.
Why couldn’t I let bygones be bygones?[2]

Let it go!

Move on.

I was 13 years old when we met and started having regular contact through email and text outside of camp, 16 when he told me I’d become a fine woman as I sat on his lap at a friend’s birthday party, 17 when he went to second base, and 18 years old (because he insisted that I needed to be 18) when we started dating.
We were both members of a youth group that organises summer camps for kids; I was a camper, and he was a counsellor.

And even after the relationship ended – when I was 19, 20, 21 and so on – the gaslighting continued, just in a different manner. He always found different tactics to reel me in.
Invisible to everyone around us. Stripping me of the possibility to talk about it with anyone.
It didn’t exist, yet I could feel my body and mind crumbling where I stood. Pieces falling to the floor around me.

No one noticed.

Now, at 27 years old, I’ve lost a lot of friends by telling my truth.
Friends who did not understand why I wouldn’t come to parties if he was there, and how much it hurt that they expected that of me, knowing I would decline the offer if he was invited, yet inviting him anyway.
If it was truly that bad, why hadn’t I done something when it was happening?

But even now, while I haven’t seen him in over 3 years, I am still afraid of him.
Afraid he will hurt me for talking about our ‘relationship’ and what happened, because he always told me I was not allowed to.
Afraid he will find a way into my house and that he will damage me further.
Afraid to even call it abuse because it will make him angry.
One nightmare constantly haunts me. I need to defend myself, but my arms do not have bones, they lack the strength to strike.
I feel powerless.
I’m the same defenceless teen.

What he did when I was an adolescent girl still influences me and my life.
It shaped my romantic relationships after him.
It shaped how I viewed sex, as something that was required, but not enjoyed; how I viewed my body, as an object for others.

I am still struggling with all the ways in which he affected me, how he influenced me when I was young, growing up, and learning how to be/become an adult.
Such an essential and critical age of development.
I am still undoing all the thought patterns that were created around his will and behaviour.

So why not now?
If it took me until I was 24 to work up the courage to talk about it, why not now?
Even if he had changed,[3] it is not about him. This is not a witch hunt.
What about me?
When am I allowed to reclaim my body, my life?

It is my turn to speak.

By Alyssa Vreeken

Footnotes

[1] This piece was written in response to a Young Adult Fiction author’s tweet:

[2] Because he did not change. Because he was still a camp counsellor. Because he started a relationship with another camper who was younger than me. The list was endless.

[3] Ha! Yeah, sure. I hoped and waited for that for over a decade.

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