MY TEEN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STORY: THREE DECADES LATER
MY TEEN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STORY: THREE DECADES LATER
MY TEEN DOMESTIC VIOLENCE STORY: 3 DECADES LATER
by Gina Silvestri
When there’s trauma in our childhood, we want to bury it and fast.
Why wouldn’t we?
It’s pure survival.
We have this instinct built right into us to shut down the extreme, intense emotion that makes us feel like we are going to die.
Some of us nearly did die during the traumatic experience.
Then, we spend our lifetime either burying, or fighting like hell to re-program our built-for-survival brains.To make the very part of our brain that does not know the difference between “back then” and “now” understand that the danger is over.
We are safe now.
And we need to deal with that intense emotion we’ve buried if we’re going to thrive in life.
For me, this process took the good part of three decades, and I’m sharing my story with you today, to show you:
1) how powerful a single incident can be in a woman’s life
2) how possible it is to overcome and thrive, no matter what happened to you.
I originally wrote this piece in February 2018, in honour of Teen Domestic Violence Month, and the courageous teenage girl who still lives on inside of me, and your inner courageous girl inside of you, thriving against all odds - here is my story …
Most girls separate from their high school sweethearts with broken hearts, not broken bones.
I was fifteen years old when all my girlhood fantasies about romance died forever.
We’d been dating a year and a half. He was quarterback on the football team, I was an honors student, on the quiet more studious side.
Together, we had so many friends and so much fun! Camping, partying, snuggling at home — not once did he show any signs that he could ever hurt me. I was in love; I believed I would marry him!
Then one night, an argument crossed “that line.”
I’ve gone through much therapy to remember and re-process this, over and over and over.
The shock I felt thinking we were in love one day, then that I would die at his hand the next, sends chills down my spine, even as I type this – even though it’s been twenty-nine years.
I still remember the Lysol scent of his apartment, how our voices always echoed across the hollow wood floors, that creaked as if they were haunted.
He had left work early, in the middle of his shift, to barge through the door, demanding to know who I was talking to on the phone.
He’d been calling all night, saying “I can tell you are on the other line.” I told him I was, with my friend Kerry. Passing time while I waited for him to get home from work. I had nothing to hide.
I lost my vision as he plunged at me. Suddenly the man I had loved was a big, scary male body, the very one that once protected me. He knocked me in the chest until I couldn’t breathe, then again and again, until I was fully unconscious.
When I came to, he was crying on my chest saying “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry Gina” over and over as the red and blue lights of police cars danced across the walls I once felt happy and safe in.
I was so confused. I didn’t know what happened or who called police or ambulance as they took me away on a stretcher.
Why was he crying? Why are the police here? What the hell happened?
No. Can’t be.
I was taken to hospital. A few days later, my bruises were photographed by Victim Services. My torso and thighs and legs were covered in yellow and blue and green and red bruises that kept spreading and growing across my body.
It’s for the trial, they told me. By law, they had to press charges, since I was a minor. My trial was a few months later, a re-traumatizing experience that ended with this now strange, cold-eyed human being, who lied to the judges and lawyers about me, our relationship, and how I got bruised. He left with an order to see a probation officer once a month and to stay away from me.
Two weeks later, he showed up at my home when my mom was working nights at the hospital and banged my head on a brick wall until I was, again, left unconscious.
He was sent to prison for nine months after that.
I was confused and lost and felt like I was constantly living in a nightmare.
My whole world had changed. I was now at fifteen years old a victim of crime. I no longer had a boyfriend. And as I would soon find out, I’d barely even have any friends left.
Why I was being ostracized at school for “putting him in jail?” I’ll never know. Everyone believed his version of the story. I was still the same quiet, soft-spoken Gina – yet all of my usual life circumstances had been rearranged, and not in my favor.
Things got so bad that my mom transferred me to a public school nearby, even though we were Catholic. They found me there, too. I was harassed and stalked, I never felt safe. I’d shake for hours after school and my grades went down to D’s and incomplete. I didn’t have the focus or healing to finish school, even though it was my favorite thing in the world.
Mama had me take the semester off and she moved us away to a forest-filled province far, far away from him and the nasty social groups that felt it fit to punish and bully victims.
I stayed away from boys for eight years after that, but had the best of girl friends. My grades recovered. I graduated with honors and scholarship – today I’m a successful business owner doing what I love and allowing myself all the fun and nurturing and healing and enjoyment of life I’ve always deserved.
It’s taken three decades to get here, and even though I understand the depths of what happened, and why it impacted my life as it did, and even though I teach this to others and guide women through their successful healing journeys, my innocent teenage heart may not ever fully understand what happened. I was in love one day, and I never saw him again after that final abusive incident. I was just left to artfully pick up the pieces of my life again and heal with the incredible men that came into my life after that abusive boyfriend.
It took me decades, and I’m still releasing and healing the last bits of it. Perhaps I always will be.
But I did it.
I am really feeling whole again.
I now feel free of what I see as the worst parts of any early trauma: the jail that closes around us when we aren’t fully and completely treated. When unresolved trauma drives the seat of our lives.
I thought I never would be free of this.
I did it, you can too.