One Teen's Experience
Escaping Abuse

by Mandy Rousch, Age 18

I got my first real boyfriend when I was in the seventh grade. He was everything I had wanted in a first boyfriend. He told me how beautiful I was and how much he loved me. He was great.

Then things slowly started to change. Instead of him telling me he loved me, he would say no one else could ever love me. He would also tell me that we would be together forever. I ignored these comments the first few times. Being only thirteen, and he being my first boyfriend and I his first girlfriend, I thought this was normal. I knew we would not be together forever. Although after a while I did start to believe that no one else could ever love me.

When the physical and sexual abuse started I was at a point where I believed I was in too deep. I felt we had built a relationship I could not just walk away from. Even though the relationship was abusive most of the time, there were the times when he was the sweetest, most loving guy. I lived for those moments.

I finally got out of the relationship when my boyfriend wanted to go on a "break." I was so relieved. After a couple of weeks on the break he came back to me and said, "O.K., I'm ready to get back together."

I gathered my courage and told him "no."

This was not what he was expecting, and he became emotionally upset. We were at school at the time and we were both called into the counselor's office. I simply explained to the counselor that we had been on a break and that I no longer wanted to be with him. Even when the counselor asked with my boyfriend out of the room, whether he was abusive, I told her "no." I did not want him to get into trouble.

Even though I did not want to be with him, I still cared about him. We made an agreement at that time that we would not talk or see each other. No phone calls, no talking at school, and no talking on the Internet. My now ex-boyfriend broke that agreement every chance he got. After a few more visits with the counselor and some talks with our teachers and parents, he finally backed off and left me alone.

For about a year after we had broken up, I mentioned the abuse to very few people, just to my best friend and my new boyfriend. My new boyfriend really was great. He treated me with nothing but respect. Even so I was still afraid to let him get close. The haunting of my previous relationship was affecting my new one. I was now in high school and decided to go talk with my new counselor. She told me about the Expect Respect group held weekly at my school by SafePlace, our local shelter here in Austin.

I started going to the meetings weekly and quickly became involved. I learned in the meetings that none of the abuse was my fault, and I was finally able to move forward in my new relationship. After being in the group for almost a year, my counselor from Expect Respect told me about a group starting up at SafePlace called POWER (Powerful, Outrageous Women Expecting Respect)Girls, and she thought I would be great at it. I quickly joined the group and became a leader. In this group I am able to share my experience with others, hoping to spare another from what I had to go through.

I will start my freshman year of college, where I hope to further my involvement in dating violence awareness and prevention. Although I have healed from my experience, I will never forget. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, don't be afraid to reach out. Call the National Teen Dating Abuse Helpline at 866-331-8453 or visit their website at

For more information about the POWERGirls go to