For The Rumpus, writer and book publisher Laura Stanfill movingly details the traumatic story of domestic abuse and male violence that she kept to herself for 25 years. A week-long writing retreat helped her to see that silence no longer protected her, talking openly did. At the retreat, she was surrounded by story, so she decided it was time, as she put it, to “add my voice to the chorus of women who have said, I survived.” The trouble started in college, when her boyfriend bought a pistol and quickly revealed who he really was.
Instead of confiding in a friend or alerting the college administration that my boyfriend shot at me, I moved into his dorm room. He wanted me where he could keep an eye on me. It seemed safest to follow his commands. To say, If that’s what you want. I covered the lodged bullet with putty, filling in the hole in the wood, wanting to hide the evidence. I stepped over that mismatched blotch on the way to and from class.
Through the rest of my college years, I hid from friends and classmates, inventing excuses when they extended invitations. I spent hours on the bathroom floor, sick to my stomach at the thought of appearing in public with my boyfriend. He might yell or humiliate or hurt me. He often became more dangerous if a stranger interfered. I wrote false, cheer-filled notes to old friends on other campuses. I lost weight, became bones and savage bile. The doctors couldn’t figure it out; I didn’t give them any context. My parents worried about me and paid the medical bills and never suspected the cause. Or, if they did, they didn’t confront me about him.
When I turned twenty-one, my boyfriend proposed at a fancy restaurant and called me stupid for not noticing the gold ring shining at the bottom of the champagne glass. He had gone to all this effort.