Dedication: No but to anyone who is hurting know that you are strong enough to be happy one day.

For the most part the bad days have stopped. Every now and then I’m blindsided by one. A morning that started off normally and then I’m hit with it. Trying to process and make sense of what has happened. And it’s always the same. I can’t. The answers I come up with are just as awful as they were the day before. Who I blame depends on my mood. On the really bad days it’s me. I should have known better. I should have made better choices. I had a plan for this. I was so far down that I knew I could attempt it. But thoughts of my family stopped me.

I used to live somewhere else. A city. And bad things happened. Abusive relationships can taint a place. My memories of this city were really the memories of him. How he slowly chipped away my happiness. He was genius. All the while I never suspected that the dread I felt was something he was manufacturing just for me. All my nightmares he made come true. He literally took everything from me. He was winning. I was far from my family, had no friends that weren’t his friends and they wouldn’t help me. He had done this to plenty of women and they all knew. It was like a dark family secret. He’s abusive but we don’t talk about it. LIke it was a mere addiction that would eventually correct itself. Every night I would plan my escape. I would think of the one place that made me happy. The most beautiful place I’d ever been. I needed to get back there. I knew it was right because when I thought about it my heart beat faster and I smiled. I was giddy. It was what I was hiding from him so he couldn’t destroy it. If I could still feel this way just thinking about being free then that meant that I could leave. I could deal with harassment that I knew would follow. There was no way he would let me get away. There was a “grace period.” I moved out and he left me alone for a while. It was hard. I had next to no money and I was going hungry. Recovery was tough. I never cried at work but at home I was left alone with my fury and sadness. I was so insignificant that no one cared. No one helped me. Worse they sided with him. This whole time I was waiting for someone decent to step up and say “I’m sorry for what he did. I’m sorry I didn’t help you.” And none of that. They were waiting for me to apologize. Sadness can only take you so far. I was beyond livid. How dare I be treated this way. And what about all the other women? The ones who were too afraid to come forward. The women after me that he was going to destroy. I told the whole world. Any media outlet I let it fly. It came from a place that is hard to describe. I was lonely and hurting. I could burst into tears at any moment. I did it because it made me feel better. Itfelt good to get it out. I did it because I wanted to feel brave again. I would never let something like this happen to someone I loved and not say anything. I deserved that same respect even if the only person who cared was me. I knew the harassment would start. I knew he would target me. I knew I would pay for exposing him to the world. I did it anyway. Little things started to go wrong with my car. I was stranded a couple times. A woman I didn’t know knocked on my door. When I answered she looked startled and then said “Sorry wrong apartment.” She got in her car and drove off. Someone left a rose on my porch on Valentines Day. The next time someone knocked on my door it was a young kid. I watched him through the peephole. My heart was hammering in my chest. I didn’t answer. That night I didn’t sleep well. The next morning I saw a note on my door. “I’d like to meet you. Will you call me?” This happened again only the next time it was a different person. A man. I didn’t answer the door. I watched out the window as he crossed the parking lot, got in a car, and watched my apartment. After about 10 minutes he got out and went around the other side of the apartment complex. He left a note in the same handwriting as the last one asking the same thing. I had to get out of here. I documented everything but what good was that? I could go to the police but they really wouldn’t help me until I was physically attacked. I thought about my special place. I could go there and be happy again. It was in a different state but I could be safe there. I would have to give up my job which I loved and relocate but it would be a lot harder for him to reach me there. I began to plan when the harassment started happening at work. The one place I felt safest he had managed to infiltrate even though I worked at different offices during the week. He was letting me know that he had control. I always wonder what he told other women to get them to harass me. Obviously they didn’t know what they were doing right? The damage they were causing?

The day I left for Idaho I was so excited. I quit my job and gave everything I owned to my brother. Completely starting over. Abusive relationships never go away though. The dread was constant. What if the car broke down, what if someone stole my debit card, what if I got in an accident. I came up with a backup plan for all these scenarios. I was exhausted. How could it be that I was going to get what I wanted? He was just going to let me go? Did he know someone in Idaho? The hypervigilance stayed with me longer than I anticipated. I looked over my shoulder. Panicked when I saw a truck that looked like his only to remind myself that he could be driving any vehicle. But why were people looking at me funny? My new job was going well and my boss was great and I loved hiking. Every trail gave me goosebumps. Even the ones that I had hiked before in previous summers. When I hiked I was me again. Just another person. Not a victim or a piece of garbage. I had always hiked alone before and I did so now. Hiking was mine and especially now I didn’t want to share it with anyone. Buy I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off. At first I thought I was just adjusting. Everything that I had been through I thought it showed on my face. Maybe that’s why people gave me dirty looks and didn’t want to hang out with me. I mean no one wanted to be seen with me. Could they sense my shame?

It came back to me though. The first summer I was here a girl I worked with spread a rumor. But so what it’s a small town and rumors happen all the time. I remember that summer and it didn’t seem to be a big deal. Even the summer after that and the one after that were fine. But the fourth one things did change a little. Three people in particular seemed to have it out for me it still didn’t affect me too much. Everyone seemed smart enough to know most rumors are BS. Once I moved back to Idaho I hung out with a few people and two of them were those three. She apologized saying she was sorry about the way she had behaved all those summers ago. Something didn’t ring true but I said “okay.”

Certainly this didn’t have anything to do with the way people were avoiding me, right? Two people that I know pretty well and have always been nice to me flat out avoided me. Like they didn’t see me. The new person that I was working with seemed to be harassing me and saying borderline racist things to me when no one else was around. I noticed my boss seemed to favor her and being detail oriented seemed to be something that only applied to me. At first I did go places by myself like I had done in the past but the unfriendliness got to me and I just stopped. I focused on working and hiking. I didn’t understand why this was happening. It had never been like this before. I never got the racist vibe before, but now is that what was going on here? But I loved this place. And I wasn’t hurting anyone. But then why were people asking me, “what were you doing before this?” There was one bar I felt comfortable going to and I mentioned how I felt and someone said “well it’s not like you’re trying to buy up property.” What?

I know some people from certain states aren’t necessarily welcome here but I wasn’t from that state. I did have out of state plates from a “less than desirable” state but people here knew me. And they knew better than to judge me by my license plate right? But it flashed in my mind, the dirty look some guy gave me when I drove past him. And at the store one time someone parked so close to me that I had to get in the passenger side door. Was this place really so elitist that I had to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was a good person? I was working as a housekeeper and someone was throwing chewing tobacco in the urinal that I had to clean. And at work I could hear the people in the business downstairs saying mean things about me. Loud enough that I could hear. Men were leering at me and hitting on me. Women gave me dirty looks. My hair was talked about obsessively. Someone suggested that I used a curling iron to fake having curly hair. I was devastated. What the hell was going on here? I gave up everything to be here and now I was being ostracized and made fun of for how I looked. And I was trapped. I had next to no money so I couldn’t move again. Everyday I just felt miserable. I became anti social and only went to work and hiked. Sometimes I went to the next town over to shop and it was such a huge relief. People were nice! They smiled and said “hi.”
Things got worse during the fall. Three men tried to walk in my cabin. In broad daylight. The second time it happened it was the back door and it sounded like someone was trying to break it down. It was one man that tried to get in but he wasn’t alone. There were at least 4 other men there.They were working nearby. At night I heard noises although I’m pretty sure that was my imagination. I didn’t feel safe. I cried a lot. I dreamed about moving even though I couldn’t afford to. Winter is rough and I lost some weight because the money just wasn’t there. I made another mistake. I moved here to make my life better and it got worse. I should have stayed where I was and let a psychopath destroy me. At least that I had been prepared for. This was a shock. This was my happy place. I was supposed to be happy here. Did he have something to do with this? The very first time someone tried to walk into my cabin I got a message that day from a woman claiming to be his girlfriend. She said she needed help leaving him. But who could he know here? Why couldn’t he just let me go? Could this have something to do with the rumor from all those years ago? Why did someone say to me “when someone’s privacy is broken we do our best to protect them”, or “some people don’t have enough money to make it through the winter.”

After Christmas my friend posted pictures of my family. I hadn’t been able to make it home for the holidays. I posted them and made them public. I am poor and I grew up in poverty which is not something I like to announce. If someone was saying the exact opposite surely these pictures would take care of that. The first person I saw after smiled and waved. He had been my neighbor for a while. He is the guy who asked me to live with him in the winter and called me babe. He was there to help me when I woke up to a flat tire. I could tell a difference after I posted the pictures. It was obvious who had seen them and who hadn’t. Why the hell would someone make up a rumor about me that would cause people to harass me? And why did people believe it? There must have been a better reason than so and so wouldn’t lie right? Is this how all outsiders were treated or just people who looked like me? And of course my being anti social only “proved” that they were telling the truth. And people were distubed that I had out of county plates. But I figured if they treated me like this here they were gonna to treat me like that over there. So I went where I felt comfortable. I didn’t lie about where I lived. Winter was a struggle. I got offered a job working from home but I still didn’t have the money to move. I tried everything. In the end I had to get a title loan just to move down the street. Working from home meant that I almost never had to see anyone. I stopped shopping in town. Summer came and I worked and hiked. My neighbors seemed nice but I was leary. Something was off. My plan was to avoid them which I did until I was invited over one day. I started hanging out with them more and I told them some of what had happened to me. It felt good to have someone to talk to. I still tried to keep my distance but she would come over sometimes and invite me over for dinner. One evening we were talking and her husband said that she thinks the two of us are sleeping together. What? I look at her and she shrugs. She says she wouldn’t hold it against him just him. She’s crazy I remember thinking. Then I thought of all the times she had invited me over. She never ate any of the food she made. And when she asked me to get something from the cupboard there was weight gain powder in there. Not to mention some mysterious powder that her husband was addicted to that he couldn’t seem to get off of. No way this was happening again. I stopped going over there and they fought constantly. I could hear glass breaking, fighting in the yard. One night she was outside my cabin screaming into her phone about how I wasn’t really working from home and how I was sleeping with her husband. She went down the street screaming this. I don’t know how many people heard or how many people she talked to on her phone. On her way back she stopped in my yard and was looking in my windows. This place is fucking crazy! What are the odds of any of this happening? But oh it happened. All over again. People giving me dirty looks. I started keeping a knife in my back door. One night when I fell asleep on the couch I woke up because I heard a noise. It was the knife falling out of the door. All of this was happening and it was because she saw how other people treated me and she knew she could say and do whatever she wanted. Anyone at any time could do anything to me and it would be okay. No one would stand up for me. I could produce all the proof in the world and it still wouldn’t matter. I was garbage. I had been struggling with depression when I first moved to Idaho and it got worse. No amount of hiking could cure it. I had been keeping a list of all the things that had happened. Men walking into my cabin, waking up to a mysterious flat tire, people making fun of me loud enough so that I could hear, not being offered a PO Box even though everyone else in town had to have one, someone outside my bedroom window a couple of times at night. I eventually stopped shopping in town but before I did I noticed that the price went up on everything I bought. So I bought different stuff and the prices went up on those. Things with the neighbor just got worse. She got as many people involved as she could. She did everything she could to try and force me into saying that I had slept with her husband. Leaving him a couple times and claiming it was because I wrecked her marriage. Since I worked from home she said that this was the time that it was happening. I wasn’t really working from home I was sleeping with her husband while she was at work and he was home with a broken leg.

Another lie to ruin my life. I would never be safe here. I was trapped in a lease so I had to deal with the nightmare next door everyday. I always had to watch my back. I started to feel paranoid on hiking trails. Even if there were other people around. One trail I was on I passed a group of young girls. They said “hi” and after I passed them one of them yelled “cheater.” Other times no one was around but I swore someone was following me. Whenever someone was nice to me I questioned it. No one is nice to me. I was all alone and always wondering what was going to happen next. They certainly don’t lack imagination. Fall came and she moved out because apparently her husband just found out what his wife had been doing the whole time. She came back over the winter. Winter has been uneventful. I am counting the days until I can leave. This place that I loved so much. This place that was supposed to heal me just beat me down instead. I was hanging on by a thread and they severed it. To this day they still don’t want to believe the truth because then they have to face the reality of who they really are. They are what they did to me.