Finding Balance Finding Balance

I am doing this project because I want people to know that abuse may not start at the beginning of a relationship but several years later and they need to watch for signs or changes in the relationship whether it is intentional or not. Once the change happens toward abuse, it may never stop.

I was 14, going out with someone who was 18. This is the individual that I lost my virginity with and he said he lost his with me. For at least 4 out of the 5 years we were going out everything was fine and good. I got my way most of the time with little resistance. He smoked marijuana and I wanted him to stop. His smoking caused lots of problems in the relationship. He kept saying he would quit but, evidence was found otherwise. His frustration probably built up from year to year.

We got a newspaper route together in the fifth year of the relationship. We were delivering for a couple of months. One of the Sundays I told him I did not want to work that day. He said it was the biggest Sunday and that I had to go with him. He knew I didn't want to be there and got angrier with every newspaper we put together. We argued and then his fingers went around my neck.

I was shocked and surprised. I never expected him to do something like that and I was very frightened. It was about two weeks before I broke off the relationship because I did not know what to expect from him.

Not long afterward, we got into an argument over the phone. He walked into my house and started throwing things at me. I asked "what the hell is wrong with you?", and he started to choke me again. I fought back and my brother, who heard the commotion, jumped in between us. From them on I avoided associating with him at any cost.

My portrait was done to portray that I am more watchful in my relationships with others now after this incident in my life. I try to compare relationships to see if they would balance me without harm. This has helped me with the relationship and marriage I am in right now, and we have been married for almost 12 years.

Artist's Note: When I first spoke with this survivor, she didn't think that she had experienced domestic violence. The surprising thing about her story is that it is an example of teen dating violence that is now escalating at alarming rates. What we think are short experiences of mean behavior are actually domestic violence episodes that will continue to escalate if unchecked. Awareness is key in recognizing the signs and learning the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.