‘At 15, I caught the attention of an older man. ‘You’re jailbait. You could ruin my life.’ He blamed me for the entire affair.’: Autistic woman escapes domestic abuse, ‘It is not my job to carry his pain’

More Stories like:

“When I was fifteen years old, I caught the attention of an older man. He was twenty-two. He could be charming and funny when he chose to be, but arrogance and self-interest were his predominant traits. Flattered by the attention, I was oblivious to his emotional manipulation. He led me on, encouraging me; while feebly protesting that I was too young, that I could ruin his life. He called me jailbait and made me feel like I was the instigator of the entire affair. Looking back now, I see that he had been hurt badly by his last girlfriend which made him feel powerless. In me, he saw an easy target: a naive, damaged girl, easy to control and previously unsoiled goods. I thought I was in love–when in reality I was infatuated with the notion of gaining approval from a selfish, broken man who was incapable of giving it. I gave him my virginity and he stole my entire adolescence.

Courtesy of Vikki Pamphilion

Now, I imagine you’re wondering why I would be receptive to his advances; unfortunately, my start in life had perfectly primed me for the situation.

Chubby and awkward with all the tact of a sledgehammer, I’m autistic but would remain undiagnosed until adulthood, so I had a hard time fitting in at school. My home life was tumultuous, we had moved around a lot so there was no real sense of permanence. My stepfather struggled with mental illness and chose to self-medicate with alcohol. He was prone to frequent outbursts of temper. On a good day, he was the life and soul. Mostly, he was controlling, erratic, occasionally violent and often cruel with his words. My self worth and confidence were stymied early on and living in an environment of fear forced me to grow up much faster than I should have, though nowhere near as much as I thought I had.

Once my hormones settled, I shed my excess weight and returned to school from the 6-week break, barely recognizable. Suddenly I was getting attention from boys and I didn’t know how to handle it. I made some very poor choices, but the worst was running away from a boyfriend who was sweet, earnest, kind and treated me with the utmost respect. I didn’t feel worthy. I was terrified he would realize his mistake and leave me, so I made up a feeble excuse and ran for the hills; straight toward the kind of person I thought I deserved.

He was someone who exploited weaknesses, embarrassing others in order to make himself feel superior. I was used to being belittled and in a way, I believed I deserved it. He demanded petrol money to visit me. I was 15 and had no regular source of income so I had to ask my parents. It was humiliating and they were furious. A huge fight ensued where I defended him so rigorously that I felt even more locked into seeing it through.

My stepfather, already deeply opposed to the relationship, accessed my email and discovered that our relationship had turned sexual. I thought he was going to kill me. Had he caught me, I believe he might have. Luckily, drink had dulled his accuracy and he dealt me a glancing blow as I ran to cower behind my mother. I was the straw that broke the camel’s back. My parents divorced. My stepfather, who had been ‘Dad’ for 12 years, moved away. He quickly met someone new and cut all contact with us. I was devastated. Between that and my boyfriend’s continued reminders that he could go to jail for our relationship and how he had risked his entire reputation on me, I felt completely trapped.

Before long, he was controlling the way I dressed, how I wore my hair, who I was seeing. He told me I was putting on weight (I wasn’t) and made me feel severely insecure. He dangled his approval like the proverbial carrot on a stick. ‘If I just change this part of myself for him, I’ll be enough’, I would think. Though, I never was.

He spoke incessantly of his past and his exes. I grew to hate the term ‘back in the day’ as he would use it to lament past loves and adventures I could never be a part of. I felt worthless and consumed with jealousy, so I would act irrationally and have it spun back onto me as he called me ‘psychotic.’ Although he would often fly into jealous or irrational rages, sometimes kicking down doors and screaming in my face.

If he felt he didn’t have the upper hand in an argument, he would use fears I had confided in him to hurt me. He once told me ‘It’s no wonder all your dads f**k off and leave you, who’d put up with you?’ confirming what I already believed: that I was deficient in some way and nobody would want me.

He pushed me until I felt like I was losing my mind. I didn’t understand at the time, but he was triggering autistic meltdowns. I’m ashamed to admit that I would eventually lash out like a wild animal, swinging my fists and giving him the excuse to pick me up and bodily throw me across the room. Because I instigated the violence.

He objectified me constantly, treating me like a possession, often talking publicly about my genitalia and how no man had ‘had me before.’ In all our time together, he never once told me I was beautiful; instead, he would call me ‘fit/hot/sexy.’ He spoke of sex as something to do ‘to me’ not ‘with me.’ It was incredibly degrading.

Courtesy of Vikki Pamphilion

I began parroting his beliefs and emulating his behaviors. My family later told me I appeared brainwashed. I became distant, cold, and uncaring. My elder brother detested him and as I grew more and more like him, we grew further apart. I missed family gatherings because my boyfriend didn’t want to attend them, and I wasn’t allowed to go without him. I grew more and more isolated.

One day he informed me that we would be moving in together. The fact that I said no didn’t bother him one bit; he guilted me with how hard I was making his life, how he couldn’t afford to live alone, etc. I had no fight left and simply gave in. But once we lived together, I had no form of escape and I finally reached my limit. His criticism was incessant, his mood swings unbearable, and his financial tightness was crippling me. I suffered redundancy and was unemployed for a month. Although he earned enough to cover it, he refused to pay my share of the rent. I racked up considerable charges on my account. I was eighteen and clueless about finances; my debt spiraled and it took me 10 years to clear it.

He overplayed his hand when he refused to attend my brother’s passing out parade into the army, then tried to stop me from attending too. He had put distance between us, but that hadn’t changed how much I loved and respected my brother. He underestimated my pride in his achievement. I finally stood up to him and went without him or his permission. He was furious when I returned; he picked a fight immediately. The framed picture of my brother in uniform I had proudly displayed on top of the TV was ‘too imposing’ and I had to move it. I snapped. All I clearly remember from that fight is him saying ‘If I’m so difficult to live with, why don’t you f**k off back to your Mother’s?’ It was like a light bulb going off above my head and I immediately set about throwing my belongings into a bin bag. I was 4 months away from my 20th birthday.

For the next year, he stalked me. Bombarding me with calls, texts, and letters. Sobbing uncontrollably and begging me to take him back. He sat outside my home and watched me through the windows. When that failed, he tried to turn our small community against me. His relentless campaign, coupled with my unaccustomed freedom, sent me totally off the rails. I began drinking heavily and taking drugs to numb myself. In a misguided attempt to reclaim ownership of my body, I became promiscuous, each meaningless encounter shaving another sliver from my soul.

I moved to the other end of the country, but I still wasn’t free. Social media gave him a new way to hound me. He wouldn’t let me forget.

Every romantic relationship I attempted was affected by my fear of being controlled or that I wasn’t enough. I carried on my self destructive path for 8 years until my less than stellar actions found me pregnant with my son. While I’m not proud of the behavior which led to his conception, I cannot regret it. My little boy has changed me so deeply, I finally felt I had something worth fighting for. I turned myself around: no more drinking, smoking, drugs or promiscuity.

My labor was incredibly traumatic. My son almost died and in the aftermath, I completely lost myself. The next few years leading up to my autism diagnosis were the hardest of my life. That’s a whole other story I don’t have time for now, but at one point I was planning my suicide.

It was the gradual realization that nobody else was going to fix me that finally gave me the courage to embark on my journey to self-improvement.

I turned to meditation and Tai Chi, and I got creative. I started writing my way back to life by turning my hurt and confusion into poetry. I cut out all stressful, triggering experiences and refused contact with anyone who drained me. Two years ago I blocked him, first on my phone, then social media, then email. As he explored all the different ways of contact, he never once asked me why I had blocked him. I would have gladly talked this out with him at any time, but he still isn’t ready to admit any wrongdoing or take responsibility for his actions and until he is, I have no interest in speaking with him.

The day he started following my writing page, the place I have true creative freedom and get to show the real me to the world, that was the day I saw red. I felt violated and angry, that after 15 years, he hadn’t changed his behavior. I am done carrying the shame of how he treated me and believing I earned it. So I blocked him, again, and posted a poem I had written titled ‘Love or Abuse’ which detailed the scariest episode in our relationship. It is not my job to protect his ego or his reputation, it is not my job to carry his pain and if he is unwilling to put the work into mending the damage that he has caused, then I believe the world is entitled to see his behavior for what it truly is.”

Courtesy of Vikki Pamphilion
Courtesy of Vikki Pamphilion

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Vikki Pamphilion of  Newcastle, England. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more powerful stories from courageous women:

‘We can’t be friends anymore. You’ve become ‘That mom.’ That’s a tough pill to swallow.’: 34-year-old Mom diagnosed with autism ‘couldn’t be prouder’ of creating a world where ‘differences are celebrated’

‘This orange long-sleeve blouse will work,’ I remember thinking as I picked the outfit I would wear to stare at the face of the man who raped me.’: Woman overcomes sexual assault

‘Come out tonight! Drink!’ Next thing I remember was a police car coming my way. I hung my head.’: Woman overcomes alcoholism, ‘drinking will not help your depression, put the glass down’

Do you know someone who could benefit from this story? Please SHARE on Facebook to let them know a community of support is available.

 Share  Tweet