BY MEGAN DUFFY
Last New Year’s Eve, I went on a 2nd date with a guy I’d met through a close friend. He’d asked that mutual friend for permission to romantically pursue me, and after I asked "are you sure he’s not a psycho?" my friend assured me he was a "great guy."
Our first date was to Disneyland and seemed to go well. We kissed but I didn’t spend the night. On NYE I was loaded into a big limo with his closest friends and shuffled from party to party. He was my kiss at midnight but didn’t really talk to me much until the party was dying down and the sun was coming up.
Him, his best friend, and his best friend’s girlfriend and I, as well as the evening’s leftovers, landed back at his house around 9 in the morning. He made bacon for me/us and insisted I have a cocktail while he then did a bunch more cocaine. Having been up all night, and now drunk, I was tired and said I needed a nap. As I started to pass out he carried me off to his bedroom. I told him I wanted to just sleep but he was already aggressively pulling my clothes off and grabbing at me. My protests were admittedly weak, and since it was clear there was no stopping him, I tried insisting he put on a condom, to which he laughed and said something like "that’s cute" and then just shoved it in. It hurt a lot. He didn’t seem to notice the water coming out of my eyes.
I convinced myself that even though this wasn’t how I wanted our first time to be, I probably would’ve ended up having sex with him eventually anyway. And I’d been nude in a hot tub at some point in the evening so surely to him it seemed like I was asking for it. Some people don’t understand the difference between nudity and promiscuity. He was supposed to be a great guy--after all, my friend who introduced us said so. He’d even asked permission to ask me out. That meant he liked me, right? Maybe he was really excited, and this was probably just a misunderstanding. Also he was on drugs so I was he didn’t realize he was hurting me. I didn’t want to cause a scene, especially not with his friends in the next room. I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be tough. I was stronger than this.
So I took it like an adult.
But it went on for hours. I would pass out and wake up to him shoving it in again. Each time hurt worse but I kept my composure. I attempted a few times to get up and leave, using the excuse that I needed to go home to feed my cat, but he’d pull me back down saying he wasn’t done with me yet. I considered that maybe I was inside of a bad dream. After about four hours when he wasn’t coked up anymore it finally stopped. I felt humiliated having to face his best friend who knocked on the door to suggest the group of us spend the afternoon ordering pizza and watching movies. I wondered if he had any idea of what I’d been experiencing, or if this was something normal in their world.
He let me leave to go home to feed my cat as long as I promised to come back.
When I got home I cried in the shower while cleaning my wounds. I shouldn’t have gone back, but I did. I desperately wanted to be comforted, like I was a girl he’d actually liked and hadn’t meant to hurt. We spent the afternoon and evening cuddling on the couch with his friends and his friend’s dog and he was nice to me. I felt soothed.
I continued dating him for half a year, partly because I was in denial that I’d gotten into a bad situation and wanted to feel like I had some kind of control over what’d happened and partly because the injuries he caused me led to so many infections (over $300 worth of medical bills AFTER insurance) that I couldn’t sleep with anyone else even if I wanted to. Also, every time he would be rough with me he’d justify it as passion and/or excitement, saying things like, "I’d been waiting for hours to do that." This was always followed by some gesture of kindness. Like one night when, while under the influence of a mixture of adderall, cocaine, and MDMA, he bit my arm so hard I started to cry. The next day he took me to meet his mom for the first time. It calmed the terror I felt and replaced it with a feeling of being cared about. I put on a sweater with long sleeves.
I found myself craving those kind moments like a drug. I needed them to feel good about myself, and about what had happened/was happening. I started thinking maybe something was wrong with me--that I was too sensitive, or I just bruised easily, or was a prude for not enjoying rough sex. I also thought that it wasn’t his fault my body was so delicate that I kept getting so sick, and that previous relationships had made me feel afraid to be vulnerable. Given my life experiences and age I didn’t believe there was any way I’d find myself in a relationship with a bad guy. That’s something that’s supposed to happen when you’re 23 and don’t know any better, right? Not to a smart successful feminist in her 30s.
And to be honest, it wasn’t all bad. We got along pretty well, and there was an electricity between us that sometimes felt magical. Sometimes the sex was fun and I would initiate it, (though I was never able to finish). We were spending every weekend together, often with his friends who were warm and kind to me and I liked them a lot. Some would reiterate what a great guy he was while expressing their hopes that I wouldn’t break his heart like the previous women in his life had. We would make dinner together, and had a TV show we were watching. The more I opened up to him the better he treated me. There were a lot of things I liked about him--like that he was smart and funny and talented and seemed to work hard and would bend over backwards to be there for his friends. We never had any arguments. I stopped questioning whether or not he was a good person and began to trust him.
Then one Saturday afternoon, he showed up at my house and told me that he had to end things because he didn’t have feelings for me. He told me he’d known when he met me that he was never going to love me, that he had been telling friends that since the beginning, and that this game he’d been playing with me had gone too far. He cried three times before I did, swinging back and forth between sobbing like a scared child-victim, and a vicious evil stranger. I kept telling him it didn’t make sense, asking him to tell me what was really going on. Why would he take a girl he didn’t like to meet his family, or ask her out in the first place, especially with the fanfare of asking for permission? Instead of answering he’d spin the conversation in another direction, feigning sadness, or pulling out more waterworks. In one derailment he just started to cry about how his roommate wouldn’t let him adopt a cat. This went on for an hour. I felt so confused and scared and knew there was a giant missing piece he was leaving out. It was the most emotionally violent experience of my life. The bruise, still on my arm from his bite a month before, stayed for 2 more weeks after he was gone. I had to look at it in the mirror everyday. Regardless of whether he was gaslighting me or being "honest," I finally had to admit to myself that I had been in a relationship with an abuser.
It turned out what actually happened is he’d hooked up with another girl the night before, and rather than admit to being a bad guy (and arguably a cheater), decided to attack me and negate our entire relationship. Once I found out the truth I started doing research on him (as well as ex-girlfriends of his that I knew about), It turned out his ex-girlfriend before me, a girl whom he and all his friends referred to as a "crazy bitch" (and who I’d been assured was out of the picture), hadn’t really been an ex yet when we started dating. I discovered he had a history of gaslighting, cheating, and being physically violent with women he had dated. He’d label them as "crazy" when they reacted to his mistreatment, and then manipulate them into believing it was somehow their fault. He was definitely not the good guy his friends all believed him to be.
I wasn’t going to be a victim anymore. I got the chance to stand up to him two months later, calling him out on his abuse of not just me but other women as well. I made sure it happened in a public place with people around. The scars were still going to take some time to heal, but I finally felt empowered.
So when I was offered the role of Mandy in the upcoming film "Holidays," a girl who is tortured and abused by her New Year’s Eve date, I immediately said yes. While Mandy doesn’t make it out alive, in real life I continue to heal and am living a life full of amazing people, good work, and fulfilling adventures. I’m thankful for everyone who’s been a part of it. And I donated a portion of my paycheck from the project to Planned Parenthood. They do a lot of good work saving vaginas from harm.
Nurturing a body of work that encompasses film and television, Megan Duffy has not only carved her own path in Hollywood but her career continues to evolve with exciting and challenging projects.
Megan garnered attention for her standout role as "Lucie" starring alongside Elijah Wood in the remake of 1980’s horror thriller "Maniac," which debuted at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. Her next film "Holidays," directed by Adam Egypt Mortimer and produced by Kevin Smith will be released in 2016.
A former professional dancer as well as music video producer, segueing effortlessly between the big and small screen, Megan has had guest starring roles in some of primetimes most popular shows including "Criminal Minds," "How I Met Your Mother, “Mad Men" and "Gilmore Girls," and has appeared in over 50 national commercials. She was the recipient of the "Best Guest Actress in a Comedy" award at the 2015 Indie Series Awards for her role as "Piper" in "Dating Pains," and will next appear on the show "Pretty Vacant" from Maker Studios.
A native of Enfield, Connecticut, Megan currently resides in Los Angeles.