Christmas morning of 2014 I woke up to the sound of my phone buzzing. I groggily opened my eyes to see my family gathered around me whispering and opening presents from “Santa.” I smiled and mouthed “Merry Christmas” to them, trying to be as quiet as possible because my brother was asleep in the bed next to mine. I momentarily forgot about the stream of snapchats I had received a few minutes earlier.
After opening a few presents: a new pair of leggings and some candy, my phone started buzzing again. I glanced over to see that my boyfriend had messaged me “check snap, babe.” I rolled my eyes and picked up my phone to open the snapchats he had sent me. Naively assuming it would be of him out with his friends making a dumb joke or something. I opened them. Big mistake.
In front of me was an uncensored, unsolicited picture of his penis. I’m a nervous laugher, so my immediate response was to burst out giggling, which of course, caught the attention of my entire family, demanding me to tell them “what was so funny.” I silently looked up from my phone screen, shook my head and told them it was nothing, “just a text from a friend.”
Embarrassed and taken off guard, I didn’t know how to reply to the explicit photos, so I ignored them. I decided that if I pretended I hadn’t received them he wouldn’t notice. A few minutes of silence passed before he sent me another text. “Your turn.” I could feel my face turn bright red. “Haha no :/” I immediately replied hoping he would just let it go. He didn’t. Throughout the next hour or so I received dozens of texts from him trying to convince me that he cared about me and that I could trust him, but after no response, his attitude quickly changed. Soon he was badgering me, calling me a tease and a bitch.
My stomach dropped at the word. Bitch. Of course I’d heard the word used, said it myself, and surely been called it before behind my back, but I never imagined someone who was supposed to care about me saying it so easily. In a futile attempt to get him to forgive me, I made up a story about how my previous boyfriend had tried to pressure me into sending him nudes and that I hated feeling pressured into doing anything I didn’t want to do. But, instead of responding with empathy he told me I was “one year older now” and I should get over myself.
Needless to say, that led to a turning point in our relationship. We went from talking nonstop, to once or twice a week, to not at all. At the time I was devastated. I felt like I had done something wrong and regretted my response to the situation. Looking back on it now, I can’t believe how I could have let someone treat me so poorly and make me feel so horrible about myself. I learned just how easy it can be to get caught up in a toxic relationship, and the importance of sticking to your values even if you feel pressure from others.