High school are the years that you’re full of experimentation, not giving a shit unless it’s fun and doing whatever the fuck you want and making sure your folks don’t find out about it. I don’t know about you, but that sure as shit was me. I was a good student, played sport and outside of my all girls school persona, most of my mates were from public schools and I thrived off the excitement of getting to know as many people as possible at parties.

I remember being at a friends party one Friday evening, sitting at a long table full of amazing and fun friends that I never got to see at school. I was wearing a tight headband (that I fully regret now), a black t-shirt with some graffiti glittery (regret that one too) looking shit on it and a skirt straight out of Supre. The ultimate teenager. I spotted a gorgeous looking guy, the popular one and someone I wanted to know straight away. From there it was a blur.

I remember the first time it happened. He was sitting on the bed when I went up to give him a cuddle and I accidentally stood on his toe, so he slapped me, hard. I remember stepping back, holding my cheek and thinking to myself “did I really deserve that?'“ and shrugged it off after he said, “don’t do that again”. Lauren, you should have bolted.

The challenge is, 60% of teenage relationships end in violence. That is a fucked up statistic.

Within a couple of months I was diagnosed were severe depression and anxiety after symptoms of uncontrollable crying, not leaving my bedroom, my skin broke out in cystic acne and I was no longer Lauren, the outgoing, social, confident and academic student that I was just months before. No one knew what was going on, I don’t even think I knew, I was just going with the flow because I was in the midst of teenage infatuation.

Soon enough slapping turned into verbal arguments, which turned into dragging, which turned into being locked into a room when family was around, which turned into a knife against my throat which eventually turned into aggressive sexual assault. I wasn’t allowed to wear makeup, even when my mum spent hundreds of dollars on it because of my acne. I wasn’t allowed to hang out with my guy friends, because it meant I was cheating. I remember being screamed at through the phone when I did. I remember saying I would leave, just to have pills and pills put out on the bench, with him saying he’d swallow them all if I did. It went on for nearly a year and I still to this day remember every second of it, when I choose to. Now the only reason I choose to remember is to help others.

I lost myself. I cried so much that I couldn’t attend my classes. I would spend my days in the student counsellors office at school. The school would call my parents, who would ground me to try and keep me at home but because I didn’t tell ANYONE what was going on, they didn’t know why I was acting up. They would ground me and I would run away. They did everything that they could to help me, without knowing my situation and yet I fought every second of it. I climbed my walls of my bedroom in hysterical tears if they tried to keep me there, but because I had built up so many years of trust with them being the normal “Lauren”, the minute they left me alone, I escaped to my hell that was my relationship. I think back now, knowing that I was SO FUCKING SAFE with my family yet I chose to escape to my hell. Why? I don’t fucking know.

I am not someone that ever uses the word “problem”, yet my problem was that I was blind and I didn’t know that I was unsafe. I had every single friend of mine begging me to leave him, my family trying to keep me at home and I was spiralling at school. Yet because I thought that this amazing person loved me, that I was going to be okay. I wasn’t, not for a second.

I was so young, naive and what I thought was “in love”. Domestic violence doesn’t equal love, domestic violence equals control, manipulation and I would never wish it upon my worst enemy. I am over a decade on from my experience and I have had to recondition myself to learnt that love means compassion, trust and honesty. A relationship is being able to talk and be heard, to be cuddled, to hang out and laugh, have fun and be best friends. It means not flinching from a punch because you’ve had a disagreement, it means not having to deal with girls being dangled right in front of your face and it means being able to meet someones family and not being locked in the back room and not making a sound so you’re un heard. I had to learn that all over again, just like someone going through rehabilitation.

I was young. I didn’t know anything about it, and I am writing this so someone going through it does recognise the signs. No longer do I let my past dictate my future.

The next step is yours. The help is out there and you don’t have to fight it alone.
It’s not easy, please reach out for help.


Help for you:

Lauren Patterson