The summer before starting eighth grade, roughly 10 years ago, Alexa moved to a Faribault County town with her family.
She attended school at an area school, and things seemed to be going well for Alexa during her eighth grade year.
It was that following summer that Alexa’s life would be changed forever.
“High school is supposed to be the best years of your life, but they were the worst years of my life,” she says, reflecting. “Those are the memories I have of high school the fear, the pain, constantly running. I don’t get a do over. I just have to learn to live around it. Live despite it.”
The summer before her freshman year of high school, 14-year-old Alexa met a boy at a Faribault town summer festival. Through mutual friends, Alexa met the boy who became infatuated with Alexa. And eventually, even obsessed over Alexa.
Before the school year even started, Alexa too, became convinced of the boy’s affections and suddenly, she had a new boyfriend.
“I did not know what a real relationship looked like then. I don’t think any teenager does. He was my first real boyfriend,” she says.
Shortly after the couple became exclusive to one another, Alexa’s boyfriend began questioning what she was wearing, and who she was talking to, hanging out with, even talking to in the halls. Even a kind gesture like wearing his sweatshirt was a way of limiting Alexa’s ability to wear what she wanted. “He was very persistent. And at that time, I listened because I thought he cared about me. I thought he was trying to protect me, so I did what I was told,” says Alexa. “I thought that’s what it meant when somebody loves you.”
As the fall of that year progressed, Alexa kept noticing her boyfriend’s behavior become more and more controlling.
“When I was trying to make friends and get to know my classmates, he didn’t want me hanging out with them. He would say it was because he wanted to hang out with me, and I didn’t see anything wrong with that, so I hung out with him.”
This is a tactic abusers use known as isolation, and this man used it to his benefit. One evening, at her boyfriend’s home while in the company of her companion, Alexa received a message on Facebook from a male classmate.
“It was normal small talk,” says Alexa. “Nothing out of the ordinary. But then, he saw that the guy had messaged me, and he became enraged. He started accusing me of cheating on him, calling me names, screaming at me, so I ran up the stairs and locked the door behind me.”
Once Alexa thought her boyfriend was gone, she opened the bedroom of his parents room where she had sought safety, she explains.
She thought he had calmed down, but that was hardly the case.
He chased her down the stairs and pinned her up against the front door, her only means of escape, and punched her in the stomach, she says.
Alexa says she somehow talked her boyfriend down from his anger.
But he still would not let her leave.
Shaken, terrified, and unsure of what to do, Alexa went to his room to lay down. Even while he stayed with her, keeping a watchful eye on her, Alexa says she slept for hours because of the physical and emotional exhaustion.
“That was the beginning of the physical violence,” says Alexa. “My parents and my friends were not a fan of him, but what he was saying to me was essentially brainwashing me. Here was a guy who kept saying, ‘I’m doing this because I love you,’ and ‘this is your fault because I’m trying to protect you’ and I did not have any other relationship to equate that what he was saying was abusive and not actual love.”
Alexa, who is now 21 and currently studying social work at Minnesota State University, Mankato, says that now, years later, she realized her then boyfriend was using a cycle of mental and physical abuse to keep her in the relationship. To keep her in his control.
“I was still a freshman in high school and this was all happening while I was trying to learn, trying to be a part of school activities, and have friends,” she says. “And things only got worse.”
That spring, Alexa came close to a dangerous demise.
Her boyfriend called her and said he was going to kill himself, she says. Alexa was terrified.
“I was so deep into his head games that he made his life my responsibility. I didn’t know then how much he did not care about mine,” she says.
Alexa went outside of her home in rural Faribault County, where her boyfriend was waiting.
As she approached him, Alexa did what she could to talk her boyfriend out of harming himself. But this only escalated her boyfriend’s anger and hostility.
“I tried to stop him, and I was trying to call 9-1-1, but he took my phone and threw it as hard as he could and smashed it. At that point, I knew I had to start running towards my house,” she recalls.
The man grabbed a hold of Alexa and kept her firm in his grip, but Alexa knew she had to get away, or it could cost her her life. She remembers how hard of a grip her abuser had on her arm, but regardless of the pain in her arm, she ripped away from his grip and got to safety.
“My arm just burned. It was stinging and painful, and somehow, I don’t know how, I convinced him to leave. The next day at school, my friends saw my arm, and they knew, without me saying anything, what had happened,” she says.
“My friends took me to our school social worker, and my friends all tried to ask him what happened, and he took off,” says Alexa. “The school reported it to the police. The police couldn’t find him. They looked everywhere.”
At home, Alexa received over 50 phone calls from her abuser that day on her cell phone. Alexa informed the police, who later caught him. Because he was a juvenile, he was given probation, and was allowed back at school.
“If he was in the hallway, I had to go down another hallway,” she says. And now Alexa was facing isolation from her peers as well. “They made fun of me; different stories were told, rumors were spread, people thought I was lying. I just couldn’t be a part of that.”
This was the first time Alexa had to change high schools because of her abuser; a person whose words said “love” but actions said otherwise.
“Looking back, I know our justice system is flawed, and I don’t think, at the time, anyone really knew what to do or how to handle that situation,” she says. “I don’t think people understood the true severity of the situation and how deep this cycle of abuse was.”
The abuse, though Alexa was now in a different high school, continued. He pursued her throughout her sophomore and junior year.
He had his hooks in. Alexa did not know how to stop her abuser’s game and she took every possible step she could think of to protect herself and stop the cycle of his abuse.
Statistically, it takes a person up to seven times to leave an abusive relationship. And at a mere 16 years of age at the time, Alexa did not know how to leave her abuser.
On April 3, 2013, Alexa’s abuser picked her up at the mall in Mankato to take her home.
A regular route home became another horrendous memory for Alexa.
“At this point, I had learned to delete all of my texts after messaging my friends because he would get insanely jealous whether it was a girl or a boy and I forgot to delete a text,” Alexa recalls.
“He pulled off onto a gravel road, grabbed my phone, and threw it. It was early in the evening, I didn’t know where we were really, but I could tell by how he looked that I had to run. I had to run and find my phone or I could wind up dead.” She immediately exited her abuser’s vehicle and ran in the direction of where he threw her phone. Her abuser, following her in his vehicle, kept telling her to get into the car, to which Alexa vehemently refused.
“I was looking for my phone in a muddy field, but I found it, I grabbed it, and I tried to call 9-1-1,” she says. “I kept hoping someone would drive by or stop and see me. That didn’t happen.”
Her abuser grabbed Alexa, and forced her back into the vehicle, turned down several roads, and then violently beat Alexa’s head into the console of the car by gripping Alexa’s hair.
“All I remember is asking him if he was going to kill me and I remember him saying, ‘maybe I should.’ He drove us to his house. His room was in the basement, and his parents were home. I came in, crying, and he took me down to his room.”
Her abuser kept her restrained as he yelled, cussed, and called Alexa names, his anger and hostility still climbing.
“I got away from him somehow, and I went to his mom and begged her to take me home,” says Alexa.
The friend Alexa was texting that night was the one who helped Alexa get to the police to report the incident.
Her abuser was charged with two felony counts of domestic assault, one count of kidnapping, one count of stalking with a pattern of stalking, one count of stalking with a third violation in 10 years, and false imprisonment with intentional restraint.
Of those six charges, Alexa’s abuser was convicted of one of the felony domestic assault charges. He was sentenced to 107 days, but was given credit for all 107 days, was placed on probation and only paid a fine of $77.
His sentence was also a stay of imposition, meaning if he completed his probation successfully, the offense would only result in a misdemeanor conviction on his criminal record.
That was the end of it for Alexa. She was done being a victim. She was done running. She was done trying to pick up pieces of her life and trying to put them back together. Alexa took her life back.
“Summer of my senior year, he was in and out of jail. He would get bailed out, and kept trying to find me, call me, text me, drive by the house. He was relentless,” says Alexa. “But I couldn’t do it anymore. I avoided him. I was already living with my dad and moved back in with my mom, and went to another school again. I completely removed myself from those negative environments each time, and he kept following. That September, he finally stopped, and I honestly believe it is because he found someone else closer that he could abuse.”
Alexa’s survival story is not unique. But it is hers.
“While he’s around, I think a part of me will always feel some aprehension, but now I am surrounded by people who truly love me.”