“Are you okay?” the man in the parking lot asked me. “What do you need?” He was middle-aged and heavily muscled with a short gray beard. I was standing next to my car, looking in frustration at my boyfriend, Greg, who had blocked me in with his car. Greg was yelling at me, just as he had during much of our 45-minute drive from San Francisco to the train station parking lot where I’d left my car.
It was turning out to be one of the worst days of my life since I’d been widowed in 2013.
“Why are you being such a bitch?” Greg shouted. Seeing the man standing next to me, he pleaded, lowering his voice, “It’s Saturday night. Let’s just go back to your place.”
Moments earlier, Greg insisted on crossing a busy intersection just as the light changed against us, grabbing my wrist to drag me along with him. A speeding car almost hit us. I’d stopped in the middle of the street, frozen with fear. By the time that car had screeched to a halt, other cars were coming at us too.
When we finally made it across the street, he started yelling that I didn’t trust him, that I didn’t know how to cross a street, that he should just leave me there. He said I should take the train home without him, but then he then blocked me from entering the station.
LISTEN: Tracey Spicer, who told her own stories of abuse in her memoir The Good Girl Stripped Bare, is now working with police and other media organisations to take on – and take down the boys club. Post continues after audio.
I turned to the man standing next to me in the parking lot and said, “I need him to leave.”
The man turned to Greg. In a calm but intimidating manner, he said, “I’m not leaving until you do. And I need you to go now.”
The man’s companion asked me, “Do you know that person?”
Not only did I know him — I’d been dating him for over two years.
This was a wake-up call. I’d needed a stranger to come to my rescue. It was July 29th, the date of my late husband’s birthday. I saw this as a sign — it was time to break up.
During our time together, Greg had acted erratically and occasionally even angrily. Sometimes when we disagreed, he’d start yelling and insulting me, becoming out-of-control, ramping up in intensity as if unable to stop himself.
But I’d never considered his behavior as abusive. For the very first time, I was able to use that word to describe him.
So why did I stay with him for so long?
I’m a former attorney, assertive and financially secure. I have my own place. I don’t put up with crap in other areas of my life. My late husband was a calm, rational man who treated me and everyone else with respect.
But I was so lonely after he died.
After sixteen months of widowhood, I decided to dip into the dating pool. I was thrilled when I met Greg online, admiring his high cheekbones and almond-shaped green eyes. I was blinded by our chemistry.