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Relationship Reform: Student reflects on consequences of negative relationship


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Graphic by Ramya Iyer

Alex Vandenberg, Lance Feature Editor

A big part of high school culture is building friendships and dating. Unfortunately, issues can come with developing relationships, one of which being the potential for sexual misconduct. According to the Rape, Abuse, & Incest National Network, every 98 seconds another person experiences sexual assault. People between the ages of 12 and 34 are more susceptible to experiencing sexual violence, but women aged 16 to 19 are at the highest risk.

Westside student Grace* is someone who has firsthand experience with sexual misconduct. Grace began going out with her boyfriend during freshman year and ended the relationship at the beginning of her senior year. She said that, with time, the misconduct became more prevalent within the relationship.   

“It was really good at first,” Grace said. “It was really fun and he was a great person, but about six months into it, I noticed the nice things stopped happening and it turned into a blunt, unhappy relationship.”

Her boyfriend began to criticize her for everyday things, such as what she wore or who she spent time with.

“A few months later, it became a verbal thing,” Grace said. “[My boyfriend] would call me ‘stupid’ and ‘whore’ and he would try to mentally break me down. Being disciplined [for] doing normal things made me not want to do them anymore.”

With time, Grace said the verbal manipulation turned into sexual manipulation.

“It got to a point where I felt like I was being used for my body,” Grace said. “To me it was, ‘Oh, I love this person. I should do this for them.’ It was something I wanted to do, but I felt like I was only being used for [sexual purposes] and I shouldn’t feel that way in a relationship with someone who says they love me.”

For over a year, Grace’s boyfriend continued to manipulate her, both physically and emotionally, which took a toll on Grace’s mental health.

“Junior year, I just became numb,” Grace said. “I didn’t feel the pain he was causing me because I chose to ignore it. Eventually, I decided to just do what I wanted, but I just let the bad things keep happening. At that point, I was just like, ‘I can’t feel it, I don’t care’ and that caused a really low self-esteem issue. I accepted that I was going to let myself get treated like this so I could keep doing what I wanted to do and because I cared for him and truly loved him.”

Grace said she felt trapped in the relationship until the summer between her junior and senior year.

“During the summer, [my boyfriend] and his family went on vacation, so I went two weeks without seeing him,” Grace said. “In those two weeks, I was working at my job and I really loved [my coworkers]. I was out enjoying myself and he didn’t really know what I was doing. It was weird. I was actually having fun with life and not getting in trouble for small things and I realized that maybe that relationship wasn’t something that I wanted.”

By the beginning of the school year, Grace ended the relationship, but doing so came with many struggles.

“I had fully committed to not talking to him,” Grace said. “I blocked him and did whatever was necessary because that was the only way I could separate myself from him. I ended up being stalked when I was going out to dinner with my friends. The relationship itself was a rollercoaster. The breakup was even worse because of him stalking me and contacting me on every social media platform.”

With everything that’s happened in regards to her relationship, Grace said she learned many lessons in detecting unhealthy relationships and she wants to help others who are dealing with the same situation.

“A red flag would definitely be when their happiness is being put over yours,” Grace said. “There were many nights I would compromise my happiness just to make him happy. Another thing to watch for is [derogatory] language. If it’s a word that you know you shouldn’t be called, then there’s something obviously wrong. If and when you start to become numb to the situation, it becomes a constant thing where you make excuses to justify what they’re doing like ‘Oh, it’s just a bad day, it’ll be better tomorrow.’ It shouldn’t be like that.”  

Grace also said that talking to people about her situation was difficult, but it really helped her make her decisions and realize the severity of what was going on.

“There would be times where I would have a ton of my friends sitting around me and they’d keep telling me that I needed to be done with the relationship and I’d just cry,” Grace said. “Sometimes my mom and I would get into huge arguments because she didn’t want me to be treated so poorly, but that’s just how the relationship was happening and I wanted to keep trying to make it better. I spent [a long time] trying to make sure everything was okay, but then again, it took my mind and heart a long time to realize that what was happening was wrong.”

By being able to recognize various warning signs of a toxic relationship, Grace said she’s been able to easily remove herself from these situations.

“Since the end of my relationship, I’ve developed a ton of relationships, both friends and dating-wise,” Grace said. “Once you realize how you’re supposed to be treated, it’s definitely very eye-opening, but very difficult. There’s been times where I’ve become interested in a guy, but I don’t pursue it because I’m really guarded. I think it’s a good thing that I’ve become more conscious of things because I know how I want to be treated in a relationship and I’ve taken that into my friendships as well. I know all of the red flags, so I’ve made a lot of positive relationships and friendships in the last year or so.”

Grace said she agrees with the ideas behind both the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements and she believes it’s important to raise awareness.

“I definitely think it’s a great thing that people are starting to speak up,” Grace said. “The reason why I did this interview is because I want other people, whether you’re dating or just friends, to know that they shouldn’t be treated poorly. I just want this to maybe resonate in someone’s head and help them realize that something’s going on when it shouldn’t be.”

After removing this negativity from her life, Grace is more content with herself and her current relationships.

“I’m still not fully healed or whatever because I have my own personal issues which play into things, but I’m definitely growing and I’ve been having a lot of fun since then,” Grace said. “I still have more progress to make and I have things that will stick with me forever, but I do know how I want to be treated and that’s really important.”

*Grace is a psuedonym for a student who
wished to remain anonymous

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Relationship Reform: Student reflects on consequences of negative relationship