Anastasia is a college student who looks like a supermodel and comes from a well-off family, and could have went to an Ivy League school if she had wanted. She has long, blonde hair that shines, a small, rounded chin and high cheekbones, icy blue eyes and long eyelashes, waxed eyebrows that rise and go off at a perfect angle. Full, luscious lips. Small nose. Long, slender neck. Flawless skin. Thin body.
She is one of those girls that a guy would turn his head to look at as she walks by.
The guy’s heads she turned happened to be controlling, violent, abusive, and harassing.
It was her first time being out on her own. Anastasia knew no one else other than her new roommates, Jasmi, Coral, and Lyna. But she didn’t go out much, preferring the company of books and studies rather than partying and exploring the city. Coral was pursuing a boy in her class, and he invited her to a party, so she begged Anastasia to come, too.
She went. “It was like a bad Hollywood movie all the way down to the red Solo cups,” Anastasia said. She saw Coral drunkenly walk off to hook up with the boy she was pursuing, ditching her. A boy walked up to her, and said his name was Cage.
Two weeks later, she saw him again on Halloween night. While hanging with Jasmi and Matt, her phoned buzzed. A text from Cage: “What are you doing?” Then another: “Who are you with?” And another: “I thought we were going to hang out, Ana.” And another: “What the fuck, seriously.” And another: “You’re such a teasing little slut.”
She was confused. They had talked on-and-off, and not in detail. She knew he was angry because she was talking to Matt. Her friend Jasmi said, “Just ignore him and deal with it later. Relax and have fun, because you are a strong, independent woman.”
At the end of the night, Matt dropped Ana and her friend off at their dorm. When they begin to walk inside, they saw Cage waiting outside. He spotted them and began screaming, accusing Anastasia of blowing him off, that she teased him and took advantage of him.
Anastasia knew he had somehow convinced himself that she promised him a relationship, sex, and the like. Even though she did no such thing. She barely knew him.
A campus cop was strolling by and ran when he heard the shouting. Cage ran and the cop chased him.
When Ana went to bed, she felt unsettled. She was starting to be unsure of herself. Had I led him on? Had I done the things he accused me of? She knew she hadn’t, but his slurs and anger convinced her that she had.
Throughout the semester, she noticed him stalking him, following her to classes, waiting outside her dorm, and even back at her family’s home when she went for visits.
He threatened and harrassed her daily, that he would slit her throat, break her arms, rape her, and brand her so everyone would know that she belonged to him.
He never threatened her when she was with people, only when she was alone. She had no evidence of him stalking her, so she didn’t tell anyone.
When she went to her car, she found dirty pictures on the windshield, realizing that he was taking nudes and leaving them there any chance he got.
Finally overwhelmed, she told her father who immediately contacted the school. Cage got charged with harassment, but was never suspended or expelled from school.
She sees him from time-to-time. By now, he treats her as if she doesn’t exist.
She’s okay with that.
Her sophomore year she dated a guy named Bryden. They were very heavily attracted to one another often teasing one another with sexual innuendos, compliments, and various flirtations.
He asked her to be his girlfriend by covering her dorm room with flower petals, with some collaboration with her roommate Harra.
The relationship wasn’t perfect. They had small fights, nothing big or explosive.
It didn’t change until they had sex. Their lives were hectic, between working, attending class, and completing homework, and they didn’t want to rush into having sexual relations.
She loved having his arms around her—he was a tall guy, built from his weekly workouts at the campus gym. He made her feel safe. Her campus isn’t in the greatest part of the city and many of the bums that wandered the streets would harass women for money, cigarettes, or bus passes. There was also crime, usually muggings but also rapes, simple assaults, and theft. He’d helped her on several occasions with men she didn’t want talking to her.
The night they started to have sex, he was gentle and sweet starting off, then quickly began to handle her roughly, calling her derogatory names.
It wasn’t her first time having sex, but she still was inexperienced. She thought he was just in the moment. She watched porn, and thought that name-calling was supposed to be a turn on.
After winter break, their relationship crumbled. Bryden was quick to anger. If she called him before they hung out, he accused her of ditching him before she could even speak, even though she never canceled on him. He always assumed she was trying to get out of seeing him because she didn’t want to spend money on transportation.
He would start calling her names and threaten to leave her. He tried punishing her by not seeing her, but when he realized he couldn’t control her that way, he found different ways to punish her. He’d cause fights with her best friends, yell, scream, and even put her in “time-outs.”
One day when she was home alone, he showed up, angry, accusing her of cheating and demanding to know who she hung out with. When she told him it was a girl, he didn’t care. He said she was wasting her time with other people when she could be hanging out with him.
As if he was the center of her world.
His anger had built up so much over the past weeks that he just swung hard as he could ather. She fell back and her head banged off the coffee table as she tumbled to the floor.
She had no idea how to react. She knew abuse was wrong. She had grown up attending a Roman Catholic church, attending a local private high school that was a prep school that had more than enough funding to teach its students a complex curriculum on the do’s and don’ts of dating and on what was right and what was wrong.
She remembered sitting in class learning how to recognize the signs of an abusive relationship. How it was unethical to let a man touch her in such a way. They threw words like learned helplessness, reciprocity, and the like at them. It all felt world’s away to her, like abuse only happened in third world countries.
Not to people like her.
Anything they could have told her would not have prepared her for this moment. She didn’t expect to feel guilty. She would have expected to feel hurt, horrified, angry.
Back on campus, it grew worse. He would come to the dorm every day after dinner, spending the night on the weekends.
He expected sex, every night. If she pushed him away he’d get angry, sometimes tying her to the bed so tightly that she couldn’t move.
Rationally, she knew he was raping her, but her mind felt so skewed by the abuse. Life was a daze. She wasn’t really living. She was depressed and miserable all the time. The only thing that kept her going was her school work, the familiarity of writing a paper and getting an ‘A’.
When the spring semester ended, Bryden graduated. At that point, he controlled almost every aspect of her life: What she wore and ate, where she went outside of class and who she talked to.
He didn’t like the idea of her going back to school without him, even though he wasn’t leaving the Cleveland-area and that they’d still be able to see each other.
She finally realized that she needed to start pushing back. She sent him a text, saying that she was dumping him, thinking it would keep her safe from backlash if she had done it that way.
When she told her best friend Daniella, she was thrilled and took her out to celebrate her freedom. They went to dinner and to meet up with friends.
What she didn’t know was that Bryden was following her, watching her, biding his time until he could get her alone and his revenge.
When her friends were gone, she walked back to her car and saw Bryden appear and approach her. He begged her to take him back and said he didn’t mind her going back to school, that he just wanted to take care of her.
Her brief taste of freedom had been enough to clear her mind of his abuse and his put-downs. She told him to leave me alone and go home. “Forget about me,” Ana said.
He didn’t like this and began throwing punches at her and pushed her onto the asphalt. He grabbed her hair and banged her head against the car. She tumbled back onto the asphalt, then he kicked her and punched her, tore at her hair. Anything he could get his hands he’d try to bruise and maim as much as he could.
A passerby was walking by and noticed, ran to help and pulled Bryden away and chased him off.
Anastasia spent some time in the hospital, pressed charges against Bryden, and tried to move on with her life.
A few weeks ago, at a bar she worked, a male customer was sexually harassing her, grabbing at her. She punched him. Her boss fired her. She is currently without a job (she found a better job at a higher paying bar).
How has all this affected her life?
“I don’t flirt in public. I don’t date. I don’t hook up. I try to avoid men when I can. I started working in bar tending to try and conquer this fear since more of my amorous customers are men. The way I view men has changed drastically. When someone flirts with me I study their body type, whether they’re skinny/chubby/fat/muscular. If they were to strike me, how much would it hurt?
“I usually don’t give them the chance to get to know me.”