By Ashika Raval – Staff Writer – firstname.lastname@example.org
Ashley Trogdon has spent more than two years in college, but has never had the chance to experience the life of a regular college student. She spent her first year here at UNC Asheville in the shadows of her boyfriend and the next following him to Texas to live a life of verbal and sexual abuse.
Her story starts off like any other relationship on a college campus: you come in freshman year trying to find your comfort zone. Ashley, a Greensboro native, was 18 at the time and came to UNCA not knowing many people. When she met a guy she liked, she immediately felt at home and stuck with him.
“I came to UNC Asheville as a freshman and I lived on the same floor as him. Initially the first thing we had in common was that we both wanted to have fun. It didn’t seem like a very good relationship to start with and I was really dependent on him; everybody I knew, I knew through him. I didn’t really care that I was so dependent on him, but looking back I should’ve made my own friends and focused on my life,” she said.
According to Ashley, her relationship was unbalanced from the start.
“I was just really excited to have a boyfriend in college and thought I was so awesome, so I wanted to do everything with him and focus all my time on him,” Ashley said.
Ashley and her boyfriend dated for about a year at UNCA, and for the most part everything seemed pretty normal to her.
“Nothing bad really happened, he used me a lot and there was a lot of like, ‘Let’s have sex and then I’m going to hang out with my friends and ignore you.’ But to me it wasn’t a big deal, it was just typical bad boyfriend stuff,” she said.
After their freshman year of college, he decided he wanted to move back to his hometown in Texas and told Ashley she could either move with him or they would have to break up.
“Being 18 years old, I was immediately like, ‘Yeah, let’s move to Texas!’ So that summer I went back home to Greensboro and he went back to Texas. So that was our first year a part, and that’s when the verbal abuse began,” she said.
The next year Ashley moved to Texas to live with her boyfriend.
“Rent was cheap and we ate rice, beans and anything he would hunt. It was awful. I lost every ounce of self respect I had for myself. He had a superiority complex and would always tell the guys to look at his woman cleaning and doing work for him,” she said.
After a month or so, their relationship completely transformed. He slowly began abusing Ashley, from doing little things like getting rough when tickling to comparing Ashley to other girls.
“We would be play-fighting and he would start squeezing me, and it got to the point where I would have to say, ‘Get the f**k off of me,’ and have to push him off. It was all subtle enough to where I wasn’t sure if he was hurting me or if I was taking an extreme look at it. His friends would even comment on it and tell him to stop, and people would always ask me about my bruises,” she said.
He constantly made Ashley do things for him because he believed a girlfriend is required to do whatever he wants.
“He would make me feel bad if I didn’t do anything he wanted. He wanted to do things that would please him, even if I didn’t like it and after we did them he would just leave,” she said.
Ashley began to distance herself from her boyfriend and became good friends with a guy named Jacob. Her boyfriend would throw fits if she was with him, she said.
“We went to his parent’s house one weekend for dinner, and after dinner I looked over and saw him texting a girl saying he wasn’t doing much and leading her on. I immediately began to yell at him and a huge fight ensued. We bickered to the point where he exploded and pulled out two of his dad’s revolvers,” she said.
He fully loaded both revolvers and told Ashley to follow him upstairs onto the balcony. He handed Ashley a gun and told her to shoot him at the same time he shot her so they would both die together at the same time.
“I mean we were both pretty drunk, but I wasn’t nearly as drunk as him. So I was like, ‘I don’t want to die with you, we can break up or something but we don’t need to both die right now.’ He was horribly wasted and told me if I didn’t shoot him he would shoot me and then shoot himself, so I told him I would shoot him,” she said.
Horrified, Ashley tried to calm him down and convinced him to put the gun down. She jumped on top of him and tried to run off.
“I grabbed my keys and ran to my car as fast as I could. I had the key in the ignition, but he opened up my car, grabbed me by my hair and threw me on the ground. I got rocks stuck in my foot and had scabs all over me, but all I wanted to do was go to bed so I slept with him that night. The next morning he begged me to forgive him, on hands and knees,” she said.
They stayed together and a couple of weeks later another fight escalated to the point where he punched Ashley unconscious.
“I had a black eye for two weeks and then I finally realized I needed to break up with him,” she said.
After they broke up, Ashley’s ex continued to harass her. He shared intimate details about his and Ashley’s relationship with people on campus and continued to send vulgar emails.
“He really tore down my self-esteem. I’m afraid of men now. The thought of even trying to getting to know or date someone just horrifies me, I just think you’re going to hit me or you’re just going to guilt me into performing sexual things for you,” she said.
Throughout their relationship Ashley says there were several times where she was unsure about their relationship.
“I was afraid of him. I loved him for a while, but I don’t think I was in love with him in the end. I was afraid to break up with him. I didn’t know what he was going to do to me physically. And I didn’t know anyone in Texas so I didn’t want him to turn the community against me.”
Verbal and sexual abuse in a relationship is more common than people think and Ashley says the most important thing she can tell other people is to pay attention to people’s relationship more than you might think is necessary.
“I know that sounds creepy, but if you have close relationships with the people around you and you see any sort of thing that is sketchy find a way to communicate with them, because they aren’t going to come up to you. They are afraid,” she said.
Ashley said if her friend Jacob didn’t point out the flaws in her relationship and support her, she would have never noticed the red flags.
Ashley, 21, moved back to Asheville this year and is working on becoming biology major here at UNCA and eventually getting her Ph.D.