"My family rarely saw me, and when they did I was often in a
hurry to leave. Sign number one. I withdrew--my friends did not hear
from me. Sign number two. I wore long sleeves and long pants--all
the time. Sign number three. I was very thin--not eating. Sign
number four. I had a distinct inability to make a decision. Sign
number five. I never ever drove--he always did. Sign number six. I
was working two jobs--he did nothing. Sign number seven."
I was engaged during the gap year between undergraduate college
and my unsuccessful grad school attempt. My friends and family were
sure my fiancé was the cat's pajamas. I was seeing red flags. My
prior experiences with guys had given me a strong (and in this case
healthy) cynicism when it came to men. He was very jealous of anyone
I spent time with or even talked to on the phone. I gave him an
ultimatum. I didn't deserve his distrust. He had three months. If
he didn't get help he'd be history. When he offered to buy us an
house on a pond in the boonies I was even more alarmed. Don't abusers
isolate their victims? At that point he had become subtly verbally
abusive but not laid a hand on me. I wasn't about to take chances. I
told him goodbye. I said that there are better ways to make the 6:00
news than being carted out in a body bag.
Try to see the irony here. I made one of the best decisions of
my life because I was about as far as you can get from being a paragon
of robust mental health and not be institutionalized. Losing my
virginity by aggravated rape to a friend of my mother who had stalked
me before the act had not only made me not a big fan of sex, but had
alienated me from my own sexuality and, no doubt, contributed to my
anorexia. What I'd observed of my parents' acrimonious marriage had
left me deeply suspicious of the institution.
I have indulged in this extra long review introduction so you,
dear reader, can see how reading Elin Stebbins Waldal's Tornado
Warning: A Memoir Of Teen Dating Violence And Its Effect On A Woman's
Life (quoted from above) was for me like a blow to the gut. The
abuser in her book reminded me in many ways of that ex fiancé. Having
a severely disabled sibling had pretty much put me off mom's parenting
radar. Dad by then couldn't take care of his own self. I got a
chilling glimpse of where my own life could have gone if I'd trusted
guys enough to let boyfriend dearest get close to me.
Elin was seventeen when she attended a party that changed her
life. She was being bullied when a knight in work boots and levis,
Derrick, rescued her. It wasn't long until they were a couple. Then
the abuse began--first verbal and then physical. At one point he
tried to run her over with her own car. Of course he'd always be
contrite afterward, promising that this time things would change.
Luckily Elin was eventually able to get out of Derrick's grasp.
She went on to marry and give birth to three children--children she is
despearate not to see in abusive relationships. Tornado warning
alternates between sometimes heartbreaking excerpts from her teenage
diary and her intensely personal and candid reflections. Her
relationship with Derrick effected her long after she physically left
Many of us at some point have a friend or loved one who keeps
returning to an abuser, refusing to press charges. There is a
tendency to wonder why (the Hell), to believe it can never happen to
me. Tornado Warning reminds us that the lines we swear we'd never
cross may not be all that visible until we're on the other side. It
should be in every public and high school library, highly visible and
accessible. Let's make it another summer read for high school
guidance counselors and college and university student services
On a personal note, right before fall semester ended I had quite a
long chat with Elizabeth Allan who is a head honcho in the grad school
program I'm trying to get into. Now I'm even more excited than ever
about the program. Who would have thought that was possible?
A great big shout out goes out to my grad school friend chums,
especially my fairy godsquad. Hope you're having a great vaca!
Sent from my iPod