“If you love me…”
Maria’s Story as told by Ty Batey and Lillian Marsh
I didn’t know your boyfriend could rape you.
I was 15 when we started dating. Travis was 17. The relationship moved pretty fast, and everything was fine at first. Within the first three months, he told me he loved me. He was always a little jealous, but it didn’t seem like a big deal at the time. As time went on, I realized I was hanging out less and less with my friends, and it was always just the two of us.
Then Travis made me start checking in with him during passing periods at school. He wanted to know where I was going, who I would be with. I found myself asking for permission to see my friends, to even go to family gatherings. Looking back now, that was really significant. But at the time, I was completely blinded. I used to be really involved with school activities, but he made me drop out of almost all of them. I only continued doing dance because that wasn’t something I could just let go.
Less than a year in, I was completely isolated. I began feeling depressed and suicidal. I developed bulimia. Travis didn’t let me talk to anyone. He called me names. Every time we hung out, he always wanted to have sex. At that time, it was just not something I wanted to do, but he would say things like, “If you love me, you’ll have sex with me,” or “Are you not attracted to me anymore?” Sometimes he would be aggressive, accusing me of sleeping with other people. So I would sleep with him, just to get it over with. I would just lay there, and he would just get even more upset by that, and it became another argument. Over and over again. At the time, I thought it was okay because we were together. I loved him. Everything I did was to please him.
I didn’t know what was happening was rape.
Travis and I had been dating for about a year and a half when a close friend of mine passed away. He told me he didn’t want me to go to the funeral. It turned into another argument. He told me that if I went, we would break up. He didn’t give me an option, and I was devastated. At the same time, I was just completely lost in the relationship. So at first, I accepted it.
We continued to argue about it for a couple weeks before the funeral, though. Finally, the morning of the funeral, I simply told him, “I’m going. I don’t care what you say. He’s passed away. I’m going.” And that’s when Travis decided to tell me that he’d been seeing someone else.
I had heard the rumors and seen her in the halls at school. She was a grade above me. I decided to confront her at school; I just wanted to know what was going on. She was really understanding and simply explained what he had told her. He told her that he couldn’t break up with me because I was emotionally unstable, that I was crazy and I was threatening to kill myself if he ever left me.
That was the moment I realized something was very wrong. When I went to confront him about it after school, I told him that I needed him to be honest with me for once in the relationship. He tried defending himself, saying things like, “She’s lying. I never said that.”
And then he slapped me.
I knew that was it for me; I wasn’t going to put up with that anymore. I told him I was done. He tried calling me for a few days after that, and I just wouldn’t answer. A week later, he slashed the tires to my car. He started blowing up my phone, calling and texting thousands of times a day. My phone crashed twice. I couldn’t even finish a text; I couldn’t do anything on my phone without him calling or texting me.
He knew my routine, so he told me he’d be there at my friend’s house in the morning. He’d be waiting for me after school; he’d be waiting for me after dance. And that was the scariest part for me: the stalking. I didn’t know what was going on throughout the relationship; I was too blinded. But at that moment, I had just recognized it for what it was, and I was terrified.
Everywhere I went, he was there; he was watching me.
Knowing that there was someone out there who could possibly hurt me was really, really scary. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to tell my parents about the extent of the stalking because I blamed myself. “This is my fault. I did this to myself. I have to handle this. I don’t want to get them involved. This is my fault.”
One night, I came home around midnight and, as I was getting ready for bed, I felt someone watching me. I looked out my window, and he was standing right outside my window. I told him to leave, but he wouldn’t. “We just need to talk,” he kept saying. “Will you just come out here and talk to me? If you don’t come out here to talk to me, I’m going to wake up your parents, I don’t care.” Eventually, I got him to leave, but the next morning I knew: I couldn’t do this anymore. This was completely out of my control. So I told my parents about the stalking.
We got a restraining order, and things calmed down. He still tries to contact me, but I’ve learned to live around it, to move on. During this nightmare, I was never alone; I always had my friends with me. I’m really grateful for them because usually people lose their friends during times like this. Mine were still there after the fact.
I don’t know if I would have been able to get through it without the support system I had. But I always had my friends with me.