"Why for example, does a twenty-two-year-old man pursue a sixteen-year-old adolescent? Because he is stimulated by her? Obviously not. They are at completely different developmental points in life with a dramatic imbalance in their levels of knowledge and experience. He is attracted to power and seeks a partner who will look up to him with awe and allow him to lead her. Of course, he usually tells her the opposite, insisting that he wants to be with her because of how unusually mature and sophisticated she is for her age. He may even compliment her on her sexual prowess and say how much power she has over him, setting up the young victim so that she won’t recognize what is happening to her. Even without a chronological age difference, some abusive men are drawn to women who have less life experience, knowledge, or self-confidence, and who will look up to the man as a teacher or mentor."
"There’s this recurring theme in our love lives – a man will admire us for our independence and freedom, and of course, our money. We’ll thrive on the attention for a while and we’ll enjoy spoiling him with gifts or trips. Maybe he moves in because his roommates are irresponsible, or maybe we move in with him because we’re sleeping over all the time anyway. And then the fights start.
“Where the fuck were you until five in the morning?”
And we’ll be surprised. He knew we were strippers when we started dating. Hell, maybe we met AT the strip club.
“I was at work, where else would I be? And then I got Denny’s with the crew. Like I always do on Wednesday nights.” And we shake it off. That was weird.
But the fights escalate. Maybe he refuses to give us rides to work, or maybe he insists on giving us rides and picking us up so he can account for our whereabouts. He reminds us that most guys wouldn’t be so understanding about our line of work, that most guys think we’re diseased and damaged, just one night stand material. He needs more money, because he lost his job because he was so distracted worrying about us all day.
It’s our fault he’s drinking more. It’s our fault he’s smoking more. It’s our fault he stayed up all night sharpening his knife collection. It’s our fault he was too tired to take the dog for a walk, and so the dog shit on the kitchen floor, and do you think he enjoys putting our face in dog shit?
We talk about these things at work, with an air of resignation. It’s not that bad, it wasn’t in the face. Good thing the red lights cover bruises. But an older girl pulls us aside one day and says “Look, I know you’re young and you think this is some fairy tale shit and he’s gonna change his act, but he won’t. You need to leave. Like yesterday. Don’t end up like me,” she says as she parts her hair just over her ear and we see a thin, ropey line of scar tissue.
We don’t leave. Not yet.
No, it takes a few more fights, a few more close calls, before we can really admit how bad it’s gotten. Maybe it’s when we go out on a rare night off from work with some friends, and he ruins the night by calling and texting every minute, demanding to know who you’re sucking off behind some dumpster, you fucking whore. Or maybe it’s when he plans an actual date, just the two of us, like old times, but before we can even get out the door he criticizes every outfit for being too slutty, and you want other men to know what you’re doing behind his back, don’t you?
So we leave. We sneak out a few articles of clothing at a time and stash them with a co-worker. Or we find a motel room on the other side of town. Or we take our chances and sleep in our car because we have nowhere else to go. But so often, leaving isn’t the end. It’s the beginning of a new fight.
If we had any property that was shared, we calculate how much it was worth, how much it will cost to replace, and how much personal injury we’re willing to risk. If there were children, multiply by lawyer’s fees and court costs and the risk of him painting us as bad parents because of our job. Oddly enough, it’s times like this that we’re grateful for the jobs we have because we have more room to control our schedules and almost any manager has had their own interactions with the legal system and they know.
But there’s always the risk that the fight won’t be contained by legal channels. There’s always the risk that he’ll bring the fight to us, long after we thought it was over. There’s the risk that he’ll show up at the club or at our new apartment or at our “day” job or at our school. And that’s when we start having really shitty nights, curled up with a kettle of coffee or a bottle of wine, wondering if we should write our own obituary so if he does come back again and finish what he started, we won’t be reduced to the “troubled woman” by the press.
I escaped. It took a few thousand dollars, 500 miles, and seven months of lawyers playing “Dueling Fax Machines” but I got out."