October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Grace Erbe, a communications student and intern with the Women’s and Children’s Alliance (WCA), is sharing her story to help those who have been impacted by domestic violence and sexual assault.
Boise State University has been such an amazing place to call my home for the past 3 years. Yes the campus itself is beautiful, but it’s the people that have made my experience so special. I’ve been able to learn, grow, and change into a person that my younger self would be proud of.
Entering my first year of college, I was not in a great place. I was in a very toxic and unhealthy relationship that caused so much pain and stress throughout my first year. The relationship didn’t start off in a way that I identified as unhealthy, although I know now there were many red flags that I missed.
At the beginning of our relationship, my partner put me on a pedestal, showering me with constant attention and compliments. At the time it felt good, and I assumed that was normal. Now I know this type of behavior can be a manipulation tactic, commonly referred to as love bombing, that can often be part of a cycle of abuse. Towards the end of our relationship it was like a switch flipped. The once sweet, charismatic person I thought I knew suddenly felt like a stranger who was constantly finding new ways to tear me down and make me feel insecure.
At the time I felt this was my fault, and if I did all the right things, the situation would get better. Even after the relationship ended, the emotional abuse continued and I finally decided to reach out for help. It didn’t happen overnight, but little by little I was able to open up and begin to heal and move forward.
The people and support that I found at Boise State gave me the tools, courage, and strength to finally remove myself from the abusive situation that I was in. Boise State’s Counseling Services gave me the knowledge to begin to understand what a healthy relationship should really look like.
Learning that emotional and verbal abuse can have effects that are just as serious as the effects of physical abuse was a shock to me – but also an enormous relief. I finally had the words to describe what I had experienced. I could finally confirm that I wasn’t dramatic, or crazy, or too sensitive. I’d been in a long term emotionally-abusive situation for years, and I hadn’t even known.
This experience led me to the Women’s and Children’s Alliance. Through Boise State’s internship program I’ve had the opportunity to work with the WCA this semester, creating Instagram graphics, being featured on the WCA podcast, attending philanthropy events, and learning about all the amazing ways that the WCA supports the Boise community.
Being able to empathize with those who’ve been in situations similar to mine is something I will carry with me for the rest of my life. Working for the WCA has allowed me to take this challenging experience from my past and turn it into a passion for helping others, which I hope to continue as I enter the workforce and begin my career.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you or someone you know needs help, you are never alone. Boise State, the WCA, and other community organizations have resources and people that are here to help.