Dear Nina in a Prom Dress.

My train passes the park where we gallivanted and took our prom photos. Sometimes I notice it. More than often, I don’t. Today I did.Picture 078 Dear Nina in the Prom Dress,

I wish I could grab you by the hand and stop you, not because tonight will change your life, or because you will do anything drastic, or because you’ll give him more than a goodnight kiss after the festivities, but because you still believe that monsters are in the newspaper or in someone else’s town. Not that long ago, you thought they lived under the bed or in dark closets. You don’t yet know monsters–the kind that can really hurt you, with words and hands and a familiar roughness–live inside skin, just like the kind you wear beneath your prom dress. People like that surely don’t make you laugh or leave butterflies in your stomach.But Nina, I wish I could stop you from falling in love with him, believing that the lightness beneath his skin will over take the dark. You haven’t seen all the dark yet; you have not plumbed its depths. You won’t see it tonight either. But this may be a turning point. I wish I could call you back.Picture 065 But these wishes are like dandelion puffs I blow in the wind, promises unkept, words that when I really consider it, I cannot mean (though I want to). I cannot call you back and I should not. Because some type of powerful story is being written even then and even now. Even if it takes years to believe that others will mark your story as true and even longer to tell all of it.

A year after prom, when your head cracks open, slammed so hard against a door, I cannot do anything about that either. Or worse, what you waited so long to tell a soul: knocked out from your wisdom teeth, lying on the couch, waking to find your clothes in disarray, with a mouth packed full of cotton and a mind muddled with painkillers, though he already started you could not say no wait stop as he continued. He didn’t even give the pretext of a kiss because what did a kiss matter in that moment when he had your body to use? You could only think: I could be a blow up doll right now…I’m not even a person, let alone the girl he loves and thank God (literally) that he didn’t complete the act.

But a part of me has to wish because oh baby, no one should have to cry like that or think like that or lie like that, in the summers when bruises from pinches show.

And I know you loved him. Some people will never understand that. But you did. Even after he left you on that couch and walked out the front door, you loved him and did not think to tell anyone.

Wishes aren’t the same as regrets and God is writing some type of powerful story in you. But like a big sister or a mother, I look at you, so fresh faced and young (though you would never want me to say so at that time) so innocent (another word you wouldn’t want me to use). You think you are so strong, Nina. So tough. And you are. But even that strength of self will fail against pure muscle and raw anger and the love all mixed together, binding you like some horrible kind of magic.

Picture 071
Get out, I want to scream. Just a few short months from the night you hang up your prom dress you will hear that little whisper inside yourself: Get out. Get out. But for the first time in your whole life, you will ignore it because love is a dangerous and powerful thing. And because he is a Christian. Even now, I believe that he is. Why would you hear that whisper if he is a Christian? Your gut, your hardly-ever-wrong gut, must be wrong this time. The thing is, Nina, even Christian men can be dangerous. But I still don’t hear the churches talking about this even though I am hearing more and more the hushed stories of other young women, girlfriends, wives with stories not so different from yours and it is a Christian man on the other side.

Upon those first whispers in your gut, you didn’t know how bad it would or could become. So how can I blame you for not running in the other direction? There was only a feeling, maybe a fleeting warning sign, but nothing so serious. No one knew, most especially not you, what was inside his head and heart, what a boy or maybe a man is capable of doing to a girl or maybe a woman he claims to love. You didn’t know. No one did. And I do believe he loved you.

So you see, it is complicated.

I don’t believe in regrets because our God is bigger than pure muscle and raw anger and that twisted kind of love. Our God writes stories with so many chapters and so many pages that may not make sense in the middle or in the beginning (and baby girl, in your prom dress, you are certainly at the beginning). Our God works all things for good for those who love Him.Picture 051

I do know that silence is medicine for a slow death in situations like this. So I try not to be silent, even though it is hard. I tried to tell those closest to me and they didn’t or couldn’t hear it (with a few exceptions…sadly, the ones who listen are typically the ones who have gone through something similar.) Silence and secrets like these can kill souls, eating away at a person bit by bit. No matter how complicated or difficult, we need to learn a language to tell such stories and we must learn that language in order to listen to these stories.

Still, no one on this entire earth knows the full story or how bad it was or how complicated. Not yet anyway.

People who knew both of you…well some will never believe. And even with those closest, you can’t bear to explain how bad it truly was (not even here). Would they believe you? Some don’t ask for details because the they would have to know and acknowledge it. Those will be the hardest people for you to understand and they will be those closest to you–some family and even your very best friends. Their silence will feel like they are condoning his actions or as if they don’t believe you. For them to simply say: I’m sorry he hurt you would change everything. But who can say what wordlessness truly means? Maybe they are afraid too. And soon, though not yet in that prom dress, you will know what it feels like to be afraid.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And though you are falling in love with him, you love Him more. So as if I am holding a video camera, I zoom out from you in the prom dress smiling up into his face. I zoom out further and watch you cling to Him years later when the breakup happens, when your heart is shattered, even as you realize He, God, rescued you from something much more horrible than anything you endured by the human hands of the someone, the him, you loved but lived in fear of. He saved you from a lifetime of that. Farther and farther out I go.  Farther still. And you only think of him when you happen to glance up at the exact right moment when you see the park where those prom photos were taken. Or maybe when it comes to relationships with other men but you are hopeful this will ease just as the pain has. Do not worry. You get out. You are healing all the time. You are free.

But for now, you are in a beautiful prom dress. Be strong, brave girl.

(One year to the day after this post was written: I wrote another letter.)


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93 thoughts on “Dear Nina in a Prom Dress.

  1. Anne

    Oh Nina….how does your heart break for someone that you never met? I guess the same way that your heart soars when reading further into a post and seeing that the same person you never met is triumphing over evil, over people’s denial, over people’s complacency and coming out on top and with more faith. As a woman, this post broke my heart. As a mom of 3 daughters (one of which just went to the prom with her boyfriend of 2 years) this made me shiver. We think that when we are young we are invincible; when we are falling in love we take the good with the bad because maybe this is how it is supposed to be. We hide the dark sides of things because isn’t love supposed to be all roses, and besides who would ever believe that someone is capable of those horrible things? Domestic violence is everywhere and at every age. Awareness is key. Thank you for sharing what I know was not an easy post to write. You will touch so many people with this and open the doors to discussion and spreading awareness. So , I thank you for putting yourself out there. Much love to you and sending prayers and hugs your way.

    1. Nina Post author

      Anne…Yours was the first comment I received and after being so nervous to publish this and thinking and praying on it for so long, I’m so grateful for every single one of your words. I am not a mom but I have an excellent one…and you put it so perfectly…I was so smart and so strong. I didn’t settle for “loser” guys but “when we are falling in love we take the good with the bad because maybe this is how it is supposed to be. We hide the dark sides of things because isn’t love supposed to be all roses, and besides who would ever believe that someone is capable of those horrible things?” I don’t know any advice or words to give parents because I had the best parents that I told EVERYTHING to. It just never crossed my mind to tell them this because he was so smart and good and made me happy (though I now I recognize how twisted it all was.) Thank you, thank you, thank you for your words. They were a balm to my nervous heart.

  2. Amanda Batinich

    My dearest sweet Nina – I can only imagine how hard this was for you to write and then to share with others. It had to be said – it has to speak volumes to you and to others that have suffered a similar situations. No one knows why there are “bad” people out there – perhaps they too have been damaged and are hurting with no way to figure out how to stop. As I sit here this morning reading your blog – I am saddened for you as the beautiful, innocent girl I knew in HS who was afraid and did not know where to turn. Then I am happy for you, glad that you could chase these demons away and share this with many whom might be suffering today and not know where to turn. We know that we can always turn to God, but not everyone sees that as an option. Today I am hopeful that you have made that possible.

    1. Nina Post author

      Mrs. Batinich…Thank you for your words. This has been something on my heart so share here since this is a platform for a long time. I’ve deleted countless posts about it. But this happens more often than people think and so…I tried to be brave today. You are so right: hurt people hurt people and damaged people damage others. I don’t consider this person to be a “bad” person because none of us are wholly good or wholly bad. Our righteousness comes from God alone. I do want you to know that I have the most amazing parents that I have always told everything to. When it came to this, it didn’t cross my mind to share it…not because I was hiding it (at least while I was in it) but because love was all mixed up in it and none of this was a daily occurrence. If someone would have asked me if there was a problem, I don’t even know what I would have said because of that mixed up love. Did I know it was a problem when it was happening? Yes and no. A part of me knew…when we talked about the future I became sick to my stomach and yet back then I couldn’t imagine a future without them. It’s so messy and that’s what I hope I conveyed here. That is by no means okay or all right but it is complicated and there is no villain because I doubt this person understood what he was doing. And it goes back to damaged people damage people. Thanks for your comment. Really.

  3. Biana Perez

    Girl you have a serious gift – you took me to my own prom and to my own feelings of a guy that I seriously thought was going to be “the one” I was that same girl looking up hopefully at a guy that would literally destroy me and my heart – but he never took away the most important thing – the ability to love!! I’m really happy to hear that now “he” is just a distant memory for you as is that guy for me!!

    1. Nina Post author

      B, we spoke about the future and I would be simultaneously sick and also could not imagine it without him. I am so glad God rescued me from what I could not get out of myself. risking my heart in love, trusting, those are still things I struggle with.

  4. Amanda {Kids and Cabernet}

    My heart broke while reading this. So sorry you had to go through such a horrible time. So happy you’re out of that situation and have that experience to learn and grow from. No one should ever have to go through that. {Hugs}

  5. Liz @ Baby Got B.A.

    You have such a powerful story Nina, and I am so sorry you had to go through that. But God is going to use your story to touch so many people’s lives. Thank you for sharing – it can be completely terrifying I’m sure – I truly believe this post will serve so many people. Love you girl!

    1. Nina Post author

      I was so scared. I’ve written countless posts on the subject and discarded them all. I had Binx anxiety all last night. Ha. But not haha funny.

  6. Sarah Marchant

    Oh sweetheart… I’m so sorry to hear that you had to go through such horrible things, and also that I can relate. No one deserves that sort of treatment. But at the same time, I’m so glad you got through it and have been in the process of healing.

    1. Nina Post author

      Thanks. I am 26 now so it was a long time ago and God and therapy have done incredible things. Thank you for the encouragement. I certainly need it with this post. xo

  7. Jamie

    You’re story is so intense and relatable. I think we have all held on too tight to a man who treated us like an object rather than the people we are. You are brave and I am so proud that you are able to share your story.

    1. Nina Post author

      Thank you for the encouragement, Jamie. I’m 26 and this was a long time ago but I am so passioante about it because even the strongest girls at that age with first loves…And I do believe that God is at work in that person (though we have no contact and I don’t want to know what work haha)

  8. Sarah

    I am so sorry that you had to go through that. My heart is so heavy and aches for you after reading that.
    I honestly can’t imagine how horrible that was to experience or hard to write. I pray that other women who are in the same situations will find your courage to share an inspiration to find their ways out of similar relationships.
    I know someone who was married to a physically abusive pastor for over 20 years, so you’re incredibly right it can happen in any relationship–people just have a hard time believing it.

    1. Nina Post author

      Sarah…Your last sentence broke my heart. As I said, I am hearing this more and more. Christian men and women are not immune to all of the factors, environments,etc that lead to violence of any kind.

  9. Elise @ Cheers Yall

    Beautiful, brave, heartfelt, “owning it” words, friend. Girl, link this up!! OWNING IT!
    You are beautiful inside and out. I feel the same way about regrets too.
    Hugging you.

  10. Rachel

    This was beautifully written. My heart breaks for that girl in the prom dress but cheers for the woman you have become. xo.

  11. Rebecca Jo

    What a brave post… I’m praying it speaks to another ‘Nina’ that is about ready to put on that prom dress… & lets them know they’re not alone.

  12. Carroll

    Oh Nina, I am so sorry for all of the hurt you experienced. How brave and strong of you to speak your story. These words are so powerful and I know will be used to help others. Thank you.

  13. Mia @ makemeupmia

    Nina, you are so brave & strong. So glad that you shared this. You are NOT alone, and I 100% believe this post will help other women. I cringed as I read this, thinking about my first “love” and the abuse I endured for so many of the same reasons. Thank you for sharing this story with us, it’s going to help and speak life into others.

    1. Nina Post author

      Thank you SO much, Mia. This whole day has been filled with bits of anxiety and words like this, encouragement like this…It’s all I want from this. I don’t want to vilify anyone.

  14. Katie Elizabeth

    Oh Nina, I am so so sorry you had to go through this. My heart aches for you but I’m so happy that you are in a good place now. Your story and testimony is reaching someone that *needs* to read this right now, I just know it. Thank you for being brave and sharing this with us!

    1. Nina Post author

      Thanks, Katie. I am 26 now and the break up was many years ago but I felt strongly that it was a story that needed to be told, even though I was so nervous to post it. Thanks for reading as always but especially today.

  15. Terin Garrett

    How brave of you to share this! You had me in tears… wonderfully written! I’m so sorry you had to go through that, but you’re right, God knew what was best and got you out of that situation!!

    1. Nina Post author

      He got me out of what I could not get myself out and I am so grateful. Thank you for reading and for your words.

  16. Rebekah @ Living Lavender

    Thank you so much for having the strength and courage to share your story. While reading this story I couldn’t help but think of my extremely emotionally and psychologically abusive college sweetheart, a relationship that continued past college. He never laid an abusive finger on me, but after 4 years when I finally found the courage to leave him I was left with so many scars. I had to spend a lot of time getting help to get past them, my shame, and then anger. You are not alone and you are helping so many women by sharing this story.

    1. Nina Post author

      I am so proud of you for leaving him, for doing what I could not do. I too went through that cycle (lots o’ therapy haha) but it would be a lie to say everything is okay. I still won’t risk my heart or my safety and have trust issues.

  17. Rachel Wright

    Oh Nina, this just really struck a real cord with me, I came from an abusive childhood and early adulthood. My 1st husband abused me, i took it as love as that is all I knew in life. I thought that if people loved you and you loved them, you withstood the abuse. I learned differently as time went on.
    Thank you for being so raw and honest with this post. i wish I could just hug you now.

    1. Nina Post author

      I wish I could hug YOU! This sentence hit me so hard and you are so right when you are in the thick of it: “I thought that if people loved you and you loved them, you withstood the abuse.” Heartbreakingly true for someone living in it, as we once were. It’s like living an alternate reality, one I swore I would never live in and yet did.

  18. meagan

    Nina–what a powerful story–you are so brave! I know it took a lot to post this and I really admire your huge heart in doing so. Trust and know that The Lord makes beautiful things out of our mess..out of us. I believe that He will use your story to empower others…there is SO much power in sharing our stories. 🙂 happy to *know* you!

    1. Nina Post author

      Beauty from the ashes. So much healing has taken place from when the relationship ended in college. I’m now 26 and I am so privately passionate about it; I realized I needed to be publiclly as well. I want to be a story teller, an advocate. What God has done in my life…it’s amazing.

  19. Jackie

    Thank you SO much for sharing this. I look at my little lady, sleeping in her crib and think of all the ways I want to protect her from the world. But how good our God is that He has used even these harsh trials to refine you and to bring you closer to Himself. I love to read your writing! I love how real and raw you are! Would love to see you now that you are back in Chi-town. Once this craziness dies down for you though, of course 😉

    1. Nina Post author

      Jackie, thank you for writing. He is so good. It’s honestly something I cannot fathom. I am moving into the city on Sunday so things are crazy but yes. I would love to see you and little lady gray too! ps i know her name but lady gray sounds so downton abbey ha.

  20. Kate

    Nina, you have such a powerful story. I’m speechless. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. My heart broke for you as I was reading. You are such a brave girl and definitely OWNING IT- cheers to you!! I’m so glad you published your story, it’s going to touch the lives of so many girls. xo

  21. Kelly Gossett

    Oh Neen, through the years you have shown me what it means to be brave: to be vulnerable. Although it is scarey to go there, wherever ” there” might be, you don’t shy away. Your trust and faith in The Lord and His plan for you shines in these moments because I know you believe He is doing His work. Your willingness to trust and to be shaped and molded is inspiring. Keep the faith, love. Xoxo

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  23. Alyssa

    Nina, you are so incredibly brave for sharing this with the world. You are strong. You are beautiful. And you are forever more than the sum of the pain you have felt. I’m so sorry that you had to go through this. Love is such a blinding feeling that we completely miss the signs that the person we’re with isn’t good for us. My story is like yours and I can only imagine the day that I have the guts to come up and share it like you did. But, as much as the pain was awful, it happened because it shaped you into the woman you are today and it helped to make you stronger and smarter. I pray lots of love and peace come your way.

    Alyssa Nicole

    1. Nina Post author

      Alyssa…thank you so much for sharing even a bit of your story. I am sorry he hurt you and what he did was not okay. I was terrified to publish but each time someone shares a story, privately or publicly…my fear cannot matter in the face of so much pain. If on my little blog, this many have women have reached out to me…that’s startling and frightening and I don’t think the stats are right because no one wants to be a stat. Love to you.

  24. Kelli {A Deeper Joy}

    Nina, there are tears in my eyes. (Btw, sorry for being behind on comments) My heart broke for you while reading this. Thank you so much for sharing, being honest and your raw emotion. I wish I could change all of that for you but am so glad that God has redeemed you and is working on healing you. Wow. I just want to hug you and I’ve never met you! I was once leading down a path like this (a little older than you were) and thankfully the Lord took me out of it before much happened. I hurt and didn’t understand at the time but am so grateful now. Love you and am going to read your post from today!

    1. Nina Post author

      No need to be sorry, Kelli. I am so glad and thankful the Lord steered you somewhere else. That makes my heart so happy to hear.

  25. Southern komfort blog

    Nina, my heart just broke in so many places over this story. I know it was probably very nerve-wrecking for you to share this story and I thank you for being so brave to do this. It always amazes me (even to this day – and I’m speaking from experience as well) how blind I was to my abusers tactics at the time. And when I look back now, it’s like I can’t help but wonder, “What were you thinking?!” I absolutely agree with you – it’s been many years for me and God is still healing my heart in different ways. The memories aren’t as painful and I’m no longer gun-shy. But being a woman on the other side of all that mess that was many years ago, I can honestly say I’m so grateful for God’s steady hands in the process. Many thoughts and prayers are with you as you continue to grow and heal from that experience.

    1. Nina Post author

      Thanks for your courage in sharing. I am sorry he hurt you. it is so far from okay. I understand what it like to look back and think: what???how did I explain that to myself? But it’s all part of it and yes, hitting publish is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. That fear is still there too. But I keep getting public and private comments from women and that makes my fear smaller. Thank you for writing. So much love.

  26. taylor

    I’m sorry. I know better than to throw Bible verses at a broken heart, so forgive me, but this immediately sprang into my mind when reading your story:

    ‘For he wounds, but he binds up;
    he shatters, but his hands heal.’ – Job 5:18

    I am so grateful for your honesty, and for how you are trusting Him as where you find healing. I hope we as your friends are a blessing to you as we all grow together.

    1. Nina Post author

      that sums it up, doesn’t it? thank you for always being supportive no matter what.

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  28. catherine gacad

    i’m so glad you wrote this, nina, as so many of us (maybe all of us!) have been there in some form or another—feeling used, disrespected, and still loving the abuser just the same. that was an awful time in my life. i still struggle with how i let that abuse happen to me despite the fact that i was strong, confident, and believed in myself. i love how you put it: that love can be both beautiful and dangerous. this is an important story to tell. thank you for sharing your truth with us.

    1. Nina Post author

      Thank you for reading. I can relate to this sooo much: ” i still struggle with how i let that abuse happen to me despite the fact that i was strong, confident, and believed in myself. ” Who was that girl? what if I become her again? thank you for the encouragement. truly.

  29. Rebecca

    Wow. I don’t know what is more beautiful – the powerful, honest writing to your younger self, or the faith and trust in God underlining the message and the ending. This really touched me. I’m so, so sorry that you went through what you did. And that there are people who you cared for & cared for you, that didn’t wrap you in their arms and cry with you about it when they heard your story. Because that is what I would do and I don’t even know you, Nina. I was moved to tears upon reading this. I’m filled with awe at your strength and ability to heal and become close to Him again. Keep following Him – you will not be led astray.

    1. Nina Post author

      Rebecca, please forgive me for replying to this comment one year later (almost to the fact, I was reading the comments to give me strength for what I am writing on Thursday which is the one year anniversary). I thought I replied to everyone and that I missed someone makes me sick to my stomach! Thank you for words and the feeling behind them. Maybe (though this does not make my mistake in not replying okay) I needed to read them today in order to write Thursday’s post. So much love!

  30. Cassie

    Oh this post speaks so deeply to my heart. I was in a similarly horrible relationship, going through so many of the same highs and lows and beaten down confidence and tears and confusion. It still feels so real. But thank god for grace, healing, and men that are not monsters. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    1. Nina Post author

      Cassie, I have no idea how I missed this comment a year ago. I thought I was so thorough in reaching out to those who reached out to me. I reread this to remember what I want to write this Thursday and I read the comments to give me strength. I am so sorry for what you went through. You are so such an encouragement to me, knowing how I know you know, and the relationship you have now (not all men are monsters are you say). Please forgive me for being a year late in saying: thank you from the bottom of my heart. I’m sorry for what he did to you. It is not okay. It was wrong.

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  32. Jessi Otey

    I am just now seeing this and with your strength for posting this I only want to share my story as well which is scarily so similar. Oh if only these notes really could have reached our younger more vulnerable selves. You are so strong and you can clearly see how hard God is working through you from this very post! These are the posts that make the blogging world so raw and so real. Thinking of you girl!! xoxo

    1. Nina Post author

      I am thinking of YOU. I am so sorry that he hurt you. Sorry is a small word, only five little words. But I am sorry. And what he did? Whatever it was? Based on what you wrote: it is not okay. It is not okay at all. SO much love to you.

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  35. Sam

    You are a phoenix. You’re strong and so brave. You rose above the circumstances. You are more powerful than you give yourself credit.

    1. Nina Post author

      Thank you is not a strong enough word for the image you just gave me. Seriously. writing it in my journal.

  36. Liz @ Fitness Blondie

    Nina, I am so touched by your story. As I wrote in my previous comment, you are so incredible. Through my pain and experience, I started the #BeFearless project about living fearlessly. I would be honored if you would link this blog post up (or I could do it) to share your story. OR if you wanted to write another one. You are a true inspiration. I am so happy to have found your blog.

    Here is my project:

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  43. Lindsey

    I’m late in finding this, but thank you so much for sharing. It’s such an intimate detail, an intimate glance at your life. Thank you for being vulnerable in writing this piece, that I think could be so empowering to women in similar situations, or with similar stories. It’s so sad to think some men out there lead those double lives. One way in public, and a monster at home. It’s makes me so angry! But thank you for this poetic, eloquent writing on such a deeply personal experience.

    1. Nina Post author

      You aren’t late in finding it. I keep it up on my navigation bar for a reason, as hard as it is to be vulnerable like that because every day I have to make the choice to keep it up. Comments like yours are the reason I keep it up. Thank you. xo.

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  48. Kristen

    Your strength is incredible. Thank you for sharing something so personal. Thank you for having the courage to say what so many can’t. My heart breaks that you went through this, but your faith is God is so encouraging. You are such a strong woman and I feel so lucky to be a blog follower and have the chance you read your words.

    1. Nina Post author

      Kristen, thank you so much. I can’t believe this is from a year ago (exactly tomorrow). I was terrified. Tomorrow, I am posting something regarding this letter and reflecting on the past year after telling my story and…I’m nervous. Thank you so much for the encouragement. Really.

  49. Jenn

    I give you a TON of credit for sharing this part of your life, and this post, with the world. You will likely be helping someone out there to feel not alone, and hopefully give them the courage to stand up for themselves and leave. I hope that this post helped you, too!

  50. Caroline @ In Due Time

    wow Nina. I am so sorry. I so appreciate you sharing this, because as awful is it is, you are not alone in what you went through. Thanks for opening up – I can’t imagine how hard this was to share, but I appreciate you being real! No doubt you helped many who have/are going through the same thing!

  51. Kay R.

    Im so sorry you went through this. Thanks for sharing it and opening what Im sure is a still tender wound for your readers.

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