Belle O’Swalt

Belle O’Swalt

Belle’s Story

How we met… I needed some help getting back on my feet so I was staying with a friend while I saved money. He too was living there at the time. He was charming and sweet. Motivated and kind. He was in about the same place as me, not financially but mentally. After loosing his girlfriend to illness, well, she hadn't died but he couldn't stay and watch it either... So, he had moved in with his best friend from college (my friend’s husband). I think he was in limbo, unsure of what comes next after such a loss.

We fell in love so fast. Thinking back on it, maybe I was just so exhausted from struggling to take care of my then two year old by myself and desperate for some help, or maybe my co-dependency took over and and I was too blind to see what it really was.

Shortly after confessing feelings for one another he had gone back home for the holidays. Mistakes were made. I was drunk. Young. Whatever, I have no excuses or apologies for my actions. I had unfinished business with a previous love and we found closure. That was my business. We hadn't talked about being exclusive, hell we were still getting to know each other. It may have been wrong, but I own my choices.

We eventually ended up moving in together, things were moving so fast.

I came home one day to all of his things gone from our apartment. A friend had told him that I cheated when he had left for the holidays (this was almost a year later). I tried to explain and begged for forgiveness, told him it was before we had decided to start dating, but words went unheard, hearts were broken. He had already made up his mind and no apologies or tears would change that.

A few months later we ended up getting back together. Turns out he was far from forgiveness. For months it was brought up, small comments here and there. That's when it started. It started so quietly I didn't even notice it at first. Things like giving him social media or email passwords. I noticed it after my kiddo had gotten into my phone so I changed my lock screen password. He lost it. Accused me of cheating, of having secrets, of not being honest, talking poorly about him to my friends. He had been going through my phone when I wasn't looking. I knew now, and he knew that I knew it.

When I called him out he some how turned it around on me. His manipulation skills were masterful. So masterful in fact that I had been completely blind to them. I had nothing to hide. So, I hid nothing. He continued to spy and I continued to ignore it. Obviously my view of what love should look like was frayed at the edges. Thanks Mom. But that's a story for another time.

Months went by and things got worse. Slowly, or maybe fast. You see... I have found that when you're in this kind of situation, time seems... off. Its like your watch chooses the speed it wants to go, sometimes fast, sometimes slow.

I remember a friend’s dad had been admitted to the hospital from a medical emergency so I raced up to the town he was in about 30 minutes away to be with her. I stayed at her house that night to show support. My phone was going off every ten minutes. "Where are you at", My response, "Babe, I'm at Beths, don't worry", "I knew I shouldn't have let you go", "You always choose your friends over me", My response, "Babe I love you, you’re being silly, I’ll be home first thing tomorrow".

I cried after my friend went to sleep. I cried on the way home. She saw what was happening. She knew me well enough to know I would make my own choices. Time passed and I guess I just ... got used to that life style. I stopped hanging out with friends, stopped even calling really. I even changed my job to accommodate his schedule.

We eventually moved to his home town in Alaska. Decided to have a baby and be around his family for a while. I thought maybe we just need to get out of this place, go somewhere new. Maybe that will make this better.
While I was pregnant I ended up having to be put on light bed rest. Couldn't work a lot and had to stay off my feet. Enter the real change. The drinking.

He had started this weird thing while I was pregnant. If we went three or four days without having sex he would start to ignore me and act rude. He would be very pushy when we laid down to sleep. I tried to talk to his mother about it (we were pretty close at the time) her advice was "Sometimes you have to take on for the team", "Men are Men".

This went on for my entire pregnancy and after the birth. It was most terrible right after my son’s birth. Not even three weeks... that's all I could take before giving in because of how awful and rude he was. I cried. I cried a few times on different occasions actually. I tried to hide it but he knew and chose to ignored it.

Eventually I started to stay up until he fell asleep, it wasn't long before he noticed. I would try to go to bed early, he would get angry, nothing worked. He would turn the TV up loudly so I couldn't sleep, sometimes even just come in and sit at the edge of the bed huffing like a child. I was living a nightmare.

The drinking continued. I would find empty bottles when I cleaned closets. Hidden between blankets. He would start on his way home from work with those little shooter bottles that I would later find stuffed into a paper bag under the seat in the truck. It always turned into a huge fight.

I got a job working nights at this local restaurant. Sometimes I would have to stay until ten thirty or eleven at night to clean and set up for the morning shift. He used this to say I was staying out all night. He would call my phone at nine asking where I was. He was even known for calling my work. People started to notice. It was humiliating.

I began to think about leaving. Talking to my friends who were tired of hearing me complain but still supportive. I had wanted to leave for a long time. There were a few days of buildup before I actually made the decision.

We had a pretty good argument after not having sex for a week. How could I? I could barely look at him after everything. I had cried the last time we were intimate and explained to him I felt forced and that it kind of hurt when there wasn't any foreplay to help me get in the mood. He tried to mansplain. I tried to understand.

The next night I had to work, after I was off I helped a friend put together things for her mother’s birthday party we had been planning for a week. He knew this would be happening. When I got home a little before eleven he was pissed, acted rude so I went to bed, listened to him huff and puff for a half hour then fell asleep.

The next day was my day off. I helped my friend set up for her mother’s party. It started at six pm that night. Seven o'clock rolled around and still no word from him. At midnight he finally showed up. Drunk. We had the obvious talk about the situation, which turned into frustration and him making me feel guilty for being a bad partner and worse mother.

I tried to go to bed and talk to him when he was sober. He turned the TV up so loud I was forced out of bed and turn it down so the kids wouldn't wake up. This was a back and forth thing a while. Eventually they woke up. I told him he needed to leave. Things escalated and I eventually had to run upstairs and get his mother because the kids were scared. I tried to leave before she came down and he had ripped my 5 year old out of my arms.

He was crying. His mother got him calm and he left. The next day I told him I was leaving. Two weeks later I was moved out and into my own place. I gave him the option to stop drinking and get help. I knew that wasn't the root of the problem. Even then I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt. After everything he had done. Everything he had said. How far he had stripped me down to nothing. The mental abuse. Two years of sexual abuse.

They say that love can make you blind. What is it then when you don't love the person but you continue to stay blind. I have talked to people about the relationship, but never about the abuse. Some days I even find myself questioning if it really happened the way I see it. Am I just being dramatic? Was it really that bad? Was it my fault for staying so long? Was he right about everything?

You see...rape has so many different faces. So many different outfits. It can disguise itself. It's not just black and white.

This is my #metoo story.