The other day I got a call from a worried parent, concerned about her 17-year-old daughter who is in an abusive relationship. She asked about what she could do and how she could get her daughter away from him. A question I am sure is mirrored by lots of worried parents, friends or co-workers who know someone they care about is in an abusive relationship but don't know what to do about it. I thought long and hard before I answered this parent and I just said, "Be there for her."
How do I know that is the right advice? Surly there is more we can do? Well I know, I have been there. A story I tell very rarely but it feels that in domestic violence month, this is a story I should share, if not only to give hope to other young girls and mothers out there. As an ex-police officer, an ex-Disney employee and now an author and TV star, my murky past has stayed somewhat murky, but it is time to spill the beans.
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I met the man of my dreams, or so I thought, when I was in my teens. He was tall, blond, and blue-eyed, had a motorbike and was in "the Gang"; this was the 80's after all. I fell for him hook, line and sinker, and we were madly in love. The abuse started small. Telling me what I could and could not wear, where I could and could not go, who IHe could and could not look at and to be honest I thought it was sweet, nice that he loved me that much. It made me feel so great to be so wanted.
I started skipping college to be with him, dumping old friends he didn't like and changing my hair to a style he felt was more appealing. I know, all the signs were there, but I thought I was going to be with him forever. This went on for months and everyone thought we were the perfect couple, as did I. A few people questioned why I never saw my friends, but I had found the person I was going to marry, so I didn't care.
As the relationship got more intense, so did the controlling, and it came to a head when I went to a college interview, which meant that I would have to leave him. I went to that interview with a black eye and a much-bruised ego. I still remember the first time he hit me, all because I said I was going to this interview.
Why didn't I tell anyone?
Firstly, I blamed myself for winding him up. I blamed myself for wanting to leave and get ahead in my life, and he was apologetic. I knew it was wrong and I knew I needed out, but leaving such a controlling man is not that easy and I needed a cover or some excuse.
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I did try to leave him once, but he got into a fight and got stabbed, which I blamed myself for, and another time he jumped off a building. Hard to think at such a young age that you hold someone's life in your hands. I really thought I could save him.
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