I’ve never been entirely open about my ex Gabe Toro because I felt shame for what happened to me with him. I sidestepped around naming him as my abuser and rapist for years but I don’t care anymore, I just don’t. Gabe and I dated in a long distance relationship from late 2008 until November 2010. I was 22-23 during that time and somewhat naive, wanting so badly to be loved and incorrectly thinking you had to work at love, to make someone be with you. Gabe was trying to be a film writer when I met him, something he eventually did, while I was still in college in Florida. I visited as often as I could, tried to keep in touch as much as we could, pushed everything into making this work.
It took going to therapy months after our breakup to realize that our relationship wasn’t just unhealthy but abusive. He constantly agreed to take borrowed money from me while I was in college instead of going out and getting a job. He never paid me back the $1000 he owed me. He was mean and petty, jealous and angry when my blog became well read and I started writing for other sites. I was “the best writer he had ever met” out of one side of his mouth and “being lied to about my talent by guys who want to fuck you” out of the other. I don’t know if he physically cheated on me but I know he tried to, having since heard from other women who he went after while with me. Women who were often manipulated and groomed the way that I was. He talked about other women he wanted to fuck to my face.
He wanted to do humiliating things to me sexually, things I refused to do. As a result, when we did have sex he’d punish and hit me even though I asked him to stop. He would keep going as I sobbed hysterically. There were so many times I said no and he kept going. He raped me. He told me I “ruined it” for him when he backhanded me during sex and I couldn’t stop myself from crying. He ruined oral sex for me by holding my head down on his dick until I threw up; I still can’t even think of doing it today. He lied to me when we were on a break and told me he did want to have kids only to tell me a year later that he had only said that so I would consider getting back together with him. He constantly gaslighted me & told me I was “too emotional & anxious.” That “everything was ok.”
The end finally came when my beloved aunt, more like my big sister, died in Oct 2010 & my world fell apart. I texted Gabe to say she had passed & he replied “I’m sorry. NY ComicCon is great!” Still, I begged him to come to the funeral, even offered to pay his ticket & he refused. Everything just clicked in my head and I saw things as they were. I wanted to do it in person so when I went to NY a few weeks later, I finally ended things. He took it very badly, falling apart and telling me he couldn’t live without me. My bags were packed, I had called my best friends and my dad who told me to book a hotel room and come home ASAP. Gabe lost it and grabbed me by the wrists and held onto me so tight I ended up with bruises. I finally managed to leave and get to my hotel where I fell into a heap. He begged me to see him before I left town & so I met him in a public place where we didn’t really say much but he promised he was going to win me back, be a better man. A small part of me hoped this was true but more of me knew that I was in danger being around him. I flew home.
I wrote about the end of our relationship on my blog but didn’t reveal anything about the reality of our time together. Gabe lost it and became hyperfocused on his own pain and taking me down. He blogged about how I was probably cheating on him and how heartbroken he was. I blocked him everywhere, unable to deal with his vitriol & victim act, refused to look at anything he’d written on the internet, no matter what people said he was saying about me. I removed comments from my blog when his supporters began to leave derogatory comments about me. My breaking point came around Valentines 2011. It was a few days after I received an email from someone I didn’t know who told me that my ex had not only made a pornographic tumblr where he reblogged photos of girls and explicitly told them what he wanted to do to them sexually but that he had hinted at having naked photos of me that he wanted to distribute. I figured this was a lie but it shook me nonetheless. I puked on the side of the road driving home after reading this email on my phone while out with friends. A day or two later I sat banging my head against the steering wheel of my car because my neck, back & head pain were so great that I just wanted to die. I went to the doctor who told me my physical pain was stress-related & asked if I had any stress in my life; I laughed & cried.
We were in & out of contact over the next few months, Gabe saying I was the only one for him but he didn’t trust me because I’d left. It took a few months of mind games & my best friend looking me in the eye & saying, “you deserve love, Anaïs,” to shake me out of this for good. I wrote him an email in September 2011 where I politely as possible told him that I was glad he had been a part of my life but that I wanted to leave him in the past for good. I haven’t talked to him since. I started therapy that month, met Ian in November, and my life changed.
June 2015. I was running early for a management seminar and thinking about how I needed to have a skype catch up with my best friend back home who had news about an ex of hers from ages ago. I wondered how some of my exes were and I began googling. Most normal, fine. I got to Gabe expecting the usual internet presence, film reviews, podcast episodes. Instead I found multiple pages and news stories and the links here and here that confirmed that he had been arrested for truly heinous crimes. I was shocked because how can you not be but I was also not shocked at all. I was saddened and horrified and just completely disgusted; I am still all of these things. I puked in the middle of my day when I thought about the fact that he used to touch me. I was heartbroken for this girl, a literal child, that he abused and exploited. I don’t even believe in prison but I’m glad he’s there with a mandatory minimum of 10 years. I could only think over and over again that I got out, that I was ok.
I still have nightmares that he will find me. I wake up next to Ian terrified and have to breathe and remind myself that I’m safe, I’m in a different country, that I’m ok. It’s been so many years and it’s like the scars he left are still raised and fresh. I’m sorry I didn’t leave sooner. I’m sorry I didn’t trust my gut sooner. I’m sorry that you have ruined so many lives and hurt so many people. I’m sorry that you made me feel ashamed for so long that I couldn’t even say the things you did to me. Shame on you. Here they are. I can only hope every other person you’ve hurt can speak their truth and feel free, too. Thank you for reading this if you did. My hands are shaking but I feel stronger than ever.