My story began much like any other. I fell for a charming and charismatic man. We were both in the same neuroscience graduate program. Everything seemed so perfect in the beginning. We spent all of our time together; he would surprise me in the lab when I was working in the cell culture hood, help me freeze down my cells in the liquid nitrogen tank, and hold me in his arms and say over and over how unbelievably happy he was with me. However, over time, things started to change. He became possessive and controlling, telling me what to wear, and who I could talk to. He even forbid me from wearing my favorite color, pink (which is now the background color of my blog). Then one night, he got very drunk and became physically aggressive with me. I will never forget the terror I felt that night – him pushing me and shoving me, trying to hit me with his belt, his roommate tackling him to protect me. But what I remember more than anything is how dark his eyes became – they transformed from a light hazel color to pitch black. Those black eyes and the fear they inspired will be ingrained in my memory forever. Because as ignorant as it may sound, I never thought I could be scared of a man. I never thought a man, one I loved no less, could try to hurt me.
After that night, things continued to go downhill. He was threatening me all the time, telling me I was incompetent, everything I did and said was wrong; everything I wore was either too revealing or not fashionable (even though he was color blind and admitted he had a terrible sense of style). He started grabbing me and touching me when I didn’t want him to, but when I told him No he would threaten to break up with me, or worse, get angry. I remember sitting in my car for 20 minutes every time I went to see him and praying that he wouldn’t explode into one of his fits of rage. Finally, I got to a point where I just couldn’t take it any more, when the dread of staying with him finally started to outweigh the fear of losing him. On August 9th, 2016, I told him that I didn’t need this any more. He became angry, furious, the black eyes returned and soon the cops were there as well. I did not want to press charges at the time. However, the cops told him to stay far away from me. He did the exact opposite.
He harassed and stalked me at work for months after we broke up. Unfortunately, our labs were in the same building so this made it quite easy for him, and quite terrifying for me. I learned every secret entrance, elevator, and stairwell in the building to minimize chances of seeing him. I did not confide in anyone in the program or my lab about what had happened. In an academic setting, things can get very complicated very quickly. I was scared that no one would believe me, or worse, that I would be retaliated against for telling the truth. After about 6 months, he finally stopped. That’s when my healing journey truly began.