Witness to Dating Abuse
Erica L., 21 years old
During my sophomore year of college, I saw dating abuse firsthand. I had a roommate who had a hard time recognizing that her boyfriend’s behavior was more than just normal conflict and arguing, and that it was really abuse. What made the situation worse was that he lived on the floor below us in the same residence hall. It was almost impossible for her to get away from him because he knew where she lived and it made it easier for him to be controlling and obsessive.
His emotional and verbal abuse took over their relationship. He would scream at her so loud on the phone that I could hear him from across the room. He called her every insult, curse word, or hurtful name you could imagine. He belittled her and made her believe that she was worthless, that nobody would ever want her, and that if she left him she would have nothing, be nothing. He was also extremely controlling, always texting her wanting to know where she was, what she was doing, and who she was with. If she didn’t answer him right away, he wouldn’t stop until he got a hold of her.
One night, they were fighting and I convinced her to stop answering his calls. She must have had over 50 missed calls within an hour. Her phone would ring, she would ignore it, and within two seconds he would be calling again. It went on like that all night, along with angry voicemails and text messages. Finally at about 4:00 a.m. he came up to our room and started banging on the door and wouldn’t stop even though we were ignoring him. My roommate was scared so finally I opened up the door to tell him to go away and he tried to push his way into our room. I basically told him off and that he wasn’t welcome there anymore. I shut the door on him and he went away. About 15 minutes later he came back and slipped a letter under the door. He would not give up.
Up until that night, I didn’t know how involved I should get in the situation and if it was really any of my business. I would always listen to my roommate and try to be respectful of her choices, but I just had to do something. I couldn’t sit back and let my friend be treated this way. She would say that everything was fine and that he was sorry, but I knew that the situation wasn’t healthy and I was really concerned for her safety. I sat down with her and we had a serious talk. I explained my concerns and I was able to convince her to talk to our RA and Assistant Dean of Students, who were able to help keep him away from her.
Dating abuse may not always be obvious to an outsider, but if you think you know someone involved in a dating abuse situation, speak up and say something. You never know how much that person may need your help realizing that what is happening to them is not OK and figuring out how to get help.
Editor’s Note – Every situation is different, but you should always think about your safety and the safety of everyone involved before intervening in an abusive situation. Call the police if you are not sure what to do. See our section on being an active bystander for more information and tips on what to do if you see or hear dating abuse.
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