TW: abusive relationships and sexual assault.
When I met you, I thought you could’ve been the one. Yes, we were young- but I thought we had done everything right.
We were still kids when we met. People would say we both had a lot of growing up to do, and I guess we thought we could do that alongside one another. I think we knew deep down that it would never work; we were children, and we were making grand plans for our future, without even truly knowing who we were or what we wanted from the world.
And that’s where it all went wrong. The intensity was too much. After all, we’d gone from strangers to being in a very intense relationship in only a few weeks- we were doomed from the start. But we made it so much worse for one another, we were too inexperienced to truly know how to navigate a relationship. I was scared, jealous and anxious. You were manipulative, clingy and turbulent. I never knew if I was on the right side of you, or if you were serious about our relationship at all. I knew you wanted me for something, but I didn’t know if it was for happiness or for what I could physically give you.
I wasn’t ready to give you anything sexual. A 14-year-old shouldn’t have felt physically indebted to someone 2 years older than her. The first day we met, you touched me without asking. Every morning before I put my school uniform on, you asked me to show you my underwear. Every time I saw you, you wanted sex- it didn’t matter where we were. You bragged to your friends that you’d been able to get me to put out, you took condoms to school with you and showed them to everyone. I felt like an achievement to you. When I didn’t want you to touch me, you did it anyway. But you made up for it with nice messages, telling me how much you loved me. I still wonder sometimes whether you were telling the truth or not.
But nothing hurt me more than your vicious mood swings. You could be one of the nastiest people I’d ever met but pull it back straight away and act like nothing had ever happened. You strung me along for over a year, manipulating me into staying with you. You’d make me think you truly loved me but shatter it all in the next breath. I couldn’t get a break from your short temper, your jealousy, your manipulation. And yet, I fell so deeply in love with you. And I loved you for so long after we finally broke up.
But our time together left lasting scars on my mental health, and you made me terrified to love anyone again. I still struggle with the fact that you get to live peacefully. One day maybe I’ll reach the point where I have recovered enough to forgive you for my sake, not yours- but I will never forget the pain that you caused me.
To the person I thought I knew,
I saw you walking past me in the street, when you tried to stop me and apologise for what you did. This time – unlike the others – I didn’t let you speak over me or dismiss my feelings. I told you that I didn’t forgive you, not that I still cared, but because you didn’t deserve it. I told you that I knew the lies you had said to your friends about me, and it was laughable that you made all that up. You were sheepish, and finally admitted what you’d done wrong. Your friends, stood behind you, couldn’t say anything – they knew the part that they’d had to play in those lies. At least, that’s how it sometimes goes in my head.
On a day when I’m feeling particularly angry at our past, I’d walk to the shops with my earphones in, playing my vindication over and over in my head, hoping that if I think it hard enough, I’ll either receive my own closure, or somehow will the event to life. Of course, the latter is highly unlikely. I don’t think you’d ever say sorry, not for your lies, nor the way you behaved at that festival, and definitely not for the way you acted in our relationship. It wasn’t till a year later that I realised just how odd your focus on our age difference was, or the need you had to comment on my supposedly inferior intelligence.
So, in the absence of ever being able to sit down with you and just tell you the myriad ways you’ve hurt me, I’m writing this public letter. Perhaps you’ll see this at some point, scrolling through the site disdainfully, publicly diminishing it whilst privately wishing you were brave enough to write an article, because we both knew you secretly wished you could. Perhaps you won’t, and the only eyes on my words will be friends of mine who know exactly who I’m moaning about, or strangers with mild curiosity. Either way, I just wanted to let you know: you were wrong. You did hurt me, and I was not crazy for telling you I was upset. It wasn’t okay what you did at that festival and you knew I wasn’t comfortable doing it. I’m not, and never was, stupid, or too immature for you. If I was, why was I mature enough when it came to fulfilling your needs, but not when I called you out for not fulfilling mine? Why was I only harmful when you’d messed up? These are rhetorical questions as, of course, you and I both know the answer.
You were wrong. You were wrong. It’s taken me years to accept that, against the lasting effects of your abuse, and I still occasionally doubt my own mind. But we both know it, and I can at least hope that the knowledge of that will always remain with you, and the guilt you should feel changes your behaviour in future relationships. Because, wow, do I feel sorry for them.