Posted at 12 p.m. Oct. 10, 2013

Mandy Neely

Mandy Neely


Searching for heels
leads to tattered sneakers

By Mandy Neely
Co-editor

Remember when we were kids, and all we wanted to do was grow up? Looking back, I laugh at my younger self waiting to fill my adult self's high heels. Now that I'm older, I realize I just have my mangled old sneakers.

Though they are frayed and dirty I still love them. In spite of and because of their imperfections, no one else has the same ones. Mine are tattered from my climbing fences, my trudging through puddles, my dog’s obsessive gnawing and just being on my feet as I ran through life. They have scars.

In my childhood, I was a naive girl, perpetuating the Hollywood stereotype. I believed the best of everyone, a trait that led to some of those scars. A little harsher than the ones on my sneakers.

When I was 16, I started dating for the first time. I was a geek, quiet and shy. When a friend I had known for a short time found out I was dating, he jumped at the first chance to ask me out. He was a confident, athletic guy who liked “nerdy girls” as he so boisterously put it on our first date.

For a while, it was fun. I made friends with his friends and quickly gained some confidence. Leaving the marching band clique, I was introduced to an edgier circle, and I was excited at the prospect of being wanted and included.

Girls can be weird like that. We always “want you to want me” and fall for all the cheap tricks that follow.

Abuse nightmare begins

We had been dating for a couple of months when I noticed he kept a very strict watch on me. I had to answer his text messages and phone calls quickly or he would show up at my house or work. Feeling empowered with my newfound confidence, I confronted him about loosening the leash.

That's when it started.

He was angry I had spoken out against him. So I chose to talk to him about the issue when he gave me a ride home from school. I lived farther out of town, in a rather deserted area.

No one could hear the smack as he grabbed my jacket, snarled, “Is this too tight?” and pulled me in close enough to ram the heel of his palm into my eye.

He ejected me from the car and sped off.

I endured all the clichés: “It was my fault. I shouldn't have made him angry. He didn't mean to hurt me.” I covered my black eye with makeup but still stayed with him.

Another month went by, and I realized he had a serious anger problem. He would argue with our friends over the smallest issues. When he became frustrated, he would leave for the gym.

One day, we were hanging out, and he became more and more irate as he wanted to take more than I was willing to give him. He cornered me as his hand searched for any front I couldn't defend, growling that I was a prude. In that instant, a mixture of courage and stupidity surged through me as I shoved him against a wall and spewed the obscenities I just couldn’t hold back anymore.

For a moment, his face went blank. Then he grabbed me by the throat and pressed me to the floor. Perched on my chest, he seized a fistful of my hair. Pulling me up by my hair, he forced my face into his crotch. “Think you're too good for me?” he shouted. “You should be here.”

His rant continued, but my teeth bit the inside of his thigh, causing him to shove my head away from him and to leap up. I tried to rise but was stopped by a swift kick to the stomach.

I'm not sure how long I was on the floor, but when he stopped to catch his breath, anger surged through me, delivering me to my feet and tackling him. I put my weight, my fear and my anger into every blow I could deal. I ended up cracking his collarbone.

He threw me off and resumed kicking me as I curled into the fetal position.

I cannot remember many sounds from that fight, other than my pulse pounding in my ears and my body banging on the floor. I don't remember whether I screamed.

But I do recall the sound my shoulder made when it popped out of its socket. He had stopped suddenly (I found out later he had heard a snap as my ribs broke.) and began trying to drag me up by yanking violently on my right arm.

He forced me to a standing position and shoved me against a wall so I would stay upright. His weight fell completely on my right shoulder, and it popped.

Fortunately, a friend walked in and pulled him off me. I fainted as the friend carried me away.

Maybe he changed

For a while, I watched for more proof he was the terrible human being I saw in my mind. However, he seemed to have calmed down. He stopped arguing with our friends. I thought he might have realized what he had been doing wrong.

One of the biggest mistakes in my life was talking to that boy again. He apologized profusely for what had happened, even bringing me flowers every day for a week. He praised my defiance such as the breaking of his collarbone. Everything he did, he used to draw me more closely to him. I was too naive to realize how dangerous that situation was.

One day, we went on a bike ride. The air, crisp from a brewing storm, fueled our energy. We raced to a nearby orchard and stopped to rest. I followed him as he walked into the rows of trees, and we sat on the ground, laughing and joking.

We talked for a while, and everything was OK.

As he started moving near me, my pulse escalated. He forced himself onto me, and I pushed him off and shook my head no.

The rainstorm began in full force. Snatching me up by my hair, he shifted his grip to my neck and pounded my head into his bike handlebars. He dropped me when my screaming and sobbing became too loud.

He left me in the orchard. Lightning cracked, and thunder rolled as I bled.

(Today I'm still afraid of thunder.)

I went into that orchard with all the innocence of my childhood. I left without it, sobbing and bleeding. I called an older friend who rushed me to urgent care where it was confirmed I had a concussion. I told everyone I had fallen off one of my horses.

After the orchard incident I experienced panic attacks for months especially if people, particularly males, touched me. I took up smoking because it calmed me enough to allow physical contact but also opened the door to my anger.

Spiraling out of control I pulled stunts and picked fights.

The worst stunt was doing a backflip off my roof.

One fight led to my arrest.

My parents, who were going through a nasty divorce at the time, just thought I was going wild, which I was, in an attempt to stop the memories from returning.

Scream, let's scream together

I regained a foothold when he moved away. I rebuilt myself with help from close friends.

Now I feel stitched back together. I support myself and have a healthy relationship with a new boyfriend. I've rebuilt my trust in people.

October marks domestic violence awareness month to remind us the subject of abuse should not be taboo, only to be whispered about in dark corners.

Stop whispering. It's time to scream.

I realize women don't talk about experiences like this. I didn't talk about it then. I couldn't speak out when I was with him, but I now have enough courage to scream for those who cannot. The victims of abuse shouldn't be portrayed as weak. They are victimized by weak people.

This experience scarred me irrevocably, but it also made me stand strong in my old sneakers. That strength must be shared with those women in similar situations, the ones who cannot bring themselves to speak out.

The boy who beat me will always be a boy to me. He will never be a man. Just the boy who gave me my scars…and my courage.  

 

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Bio

Opinion September 2013

2013 SFAC

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For more on abuse help and prevention:

There is a safe place the Cheyenne Safehouse is available to victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault and stalking. If you need help,
call the local crisis line at
307-637-7233.

Visit wyomingsafehouse.org to read moe aboutwhat it can do for victims.

futureswithoutviolence.org

safehorizon.org

justyellfire.com

nomore.org

rainn.org