My weight struggles led to many decisions in my life, which had I known better I would not have made. Of course I will not say that I regret those decisions, because had I not made those decisions, I would not be where I am today. I fully believe that everything that we have experienced in our lives, the good, the bad and yes, even the ugly, has brought us to where we are right now. If one thing changed in my life, then I might not be here to share the lessons that I’ve learned. People will often hear me say that while my life really sucked while I was going through the things that I have experienced, I’ve made a commitment to myself to take the lessons that I’ve learned and use those experiences to empower others to see that they can make different choices.
When I was a teenager, my step-father was an emotionally, mentally and verbally abusive man. It wasn’t just to me, it was to the people who were his employees and I would often wonder why someone didn’t reach across his desk and just punch his lights out. Now, I am not sitting here advocating violence in anyway, just pondering a thought that I used to have. Towards me, he also attempted to put his hands on me sexually, although he was not successful at that. I recall moments where he would touch my leg or touch my arm and rub me and it just felt wrong. It wasn’t as if he was touching my arm and patting me like he was saying “Hey, how are you doing?” It was a touch and a linger and a rub and it just made me feel disgusted. There was a time, just a few years ago where I saw him do that to a young girl and I saw that same touch and that same rub and it brought all of those memories flooding back to me and I found myself shouting out “Is your dick getting hard?!” Sorry if anyone is offended by my saying that.
No one in my family believed that this man was such a horrible person and they all brushed it off whenever I said anything about him. No one believed me. To the outside world, to anyone who was not a victim of his abuse, he came off as the nicest guy in the world…funny, caring, thoughtful…but he was far from that. The funny nice guy was just a mask that he wore when he was out in the world, anyone in his inner circle knew better. I remember an Aunt who came to work for us at Arven many years after I told everyone what he was doing to me…she too was a victim of his verbal abuse and she came to me one day and apologized. She said no one ever believed me about Art and that she owed me an apology, because everything I said about him was true. There was also my assistant who years after, told me that he was inappropriate with her.
A guy came into my life back then who made me feel like I was important to him. I was an inexperienced, naive girl, who didn’t really know any better and I got sucked into him, believing that he really meant everything he was saying to me. I think that I must have just turned 17 when I met him and was overwhelmed with emotions, not having a support system to hear me and at the same time searching for the love and acceptance that I had been searching for, for as long as I can remember. Joe was really good at making me feel like he was the person who was going to save me and escape from the abuse of my step-father.
I left home and moved in with Joe. However, life was not a bowl of cherries as I expected it to be. I don’t remember when it was…the first time he hit me, but I do remember how I felt and I was blown away. I couldn’t believe that it had happened and I was confused, hurt, scared and more. I didn’t even know what it was that had happened. I didn’t know there was a name for it, because I couldn’t imagine that anyone else had ever experienced that, in fact, I was certain that people just didn’t do this. Over the next few months he would do it again and again. He did whatever he wanted to me, whenever he wanted to do it. Whether it was beat me or rape me, Joe just did what he wanted to. By the way, I had been a virgin before I met him. The loss of my virginity was not in a loving manner, it wasn’t the whole roses and champagne fantasy that I’d had in my head, it was in a violent, unloving and careless action. There did come a point that I just knew all of this was wrong, but I didn’t know what to do about it. My father was no where to be found, my step-father was abusive, so I stayed. Some days were better than others, they weren’t always violent, but when they were, it was bad.
If he had a bad day at work, if he had car trouble, if the dog did something wrong, he would take it out on me. There are several moments in our relationship that remain very vivid in my mind and those were particularly violent days. I remember the last day too as well as the days building up to it. As you may know by reading and looking at my photos, I was morbidly obese and Joe made sure that I was very aware of that, in fact he monitored how much food I got and even how much I went to the bathroom! I had started walking at night by myself. We lived by the beach and there was a long boardwalk, so every night I would escape for just a short while and have some sense of calm…I would walk the boardwalk up and back and hope that he’d calm down by the time I returned. But, the last night, I never returned. He had come home from work and was in a particularly bad mood, really bad and I knew what that meant for me….he would start with the music and turn it up loud, (can’t have the upstairs neighbor hearing anything, he knew what he was doing), then he would grab me, rape me and beat me while he was doing so. Sometimes he would just rape me, without the violence, but he never just hit me without the sex. That night however…that last night I knew. So, I went for my usual walk, he was good with that, he never questioned it, in fact he took credit for it, because he said he was helping me lose weight. I think in the few short months that I was with him, which looking back seemed much longer than it actually was, I had lost somewhere around 80 pounds.
I went for my walk that night and I knew I wasn’t coming back. I didn’t want to go back to what I had been living in, so I left. I didn’t know where I was going, or what I was going to do, I just knew that I couldn’t go back there. So I didn’t…I walked and walked and found myself ending up at the police station. I convinced them that I had an Aunt who was waiting for me and that I needed to get my stuff, so they went back to the house with me to do that. Joe was pretty shocked when I showed up with the cops and I honestly don’t even remember now what he did but I do remember him saying he didn’t understand what the problem was.Looking back now, I don’t even know what I went back for…it wasn’t like I had much there. But for whatever reasons I had back then, I did go back. It was embarrassing because Joe was a hoarder and half of the apartment was filled with boxes from floor to ceiling of his stuff…I never even knew what was in those boxes, but it was floor to ceiling with stuff. So, I got my things and I left and I got on a train and went to New York City.
For many years after that, I was afraid Joe would find me. I’m certain he probably ended up in jail or at the very least arrested. I wrote a letter about him and put it in my wallet and carried it for a long time. The letter basically said that if anyone ever found me dead, that they should look for him.
Unfortunately, that was not my last abusive relationship and there was more to come.
Are you in a similar relationship? Do you even think that you might be? Pay attention to what is going on in your relationship and realize the things that are not right. Does he yell at you? Do he put you down and demean you? Does he push you, slap you, hit you? Do he take sex from you when you say no? I didn’t know that there were places to go back then, I didn’t know that agencies existed to help people like me. I thought I was alone. But now, I know better…so I encourage you to search them out. They will keep you safe. And, if you find that you can’t talk to them, then talk to me.
No one deserves to be hit or treated poorly and you most certainly do not make someone do that to you. They’re doing it by their own choice and are just looking to blame someone else. Don’t accept that blame, it’s not yours to have.