Surviving emotional abuse: Emily Phipps

One Sac State student said her support system helped her through a toxic relationship

Kelly Kiernan - The State Hornet

Margherita Beale

Emily Phipps said one of the moments she realized her relationship was toxic was while playing paintball.

As Phipps and her boyfriend at the time, Justin, were playing paintball one day, she saw another male student from one of her classes.

Following a brief conversation with her classmate, Phipps returned to her boyfriend, who proceeded to confront her with accusatory questions about whom she had been talking to and what they had been talking about.

“That was my first red flag that was like, ‘This is not going to work,’” Phipps said.

Phipps, a psychology major at Sacramento State and member of Alpha Chi Omega, said this was the first unhealthy relationship she experienced.

After eight months of dating Justin, Phipps said she finally ended the relationship once she realized her own self-worth and the reality of the situation through the help of her support system.

“I just felt like I wanted to please this guy that I was with all the time and go out of my way to be nice to him,” Phipps said. “It was really good for a while, and then I just felt like he was a leech, emotionally relying on me for everything.”

According to loveisrespect, a project of The National Domestic Violence Hotline, 43 percent of dating college women report experiencing violent and abusive dating behaviors.

While Phipps said Justin was never violent with her, she experienced both financial and emotional abuse.

“He was starting to get to financial abuse because he was like, ‘What are you doing? What are all these charges? What are you spending money on?’” Phipps said. “I felt bad because I knew he needed somebody, but I didn’t realize that it didn’t have to be me.”

Phipps said her sorority played a big role in realizing she was in an unhealthy relationship. Alpha Chi Omega’s philanthropy is domestic violence awareness and places a focus on promoting healthy relationships, she said.

“I’m glad that I caught the precursors to the beginnings of a toxic relationship and I feel like honestly a lot of it has to do with the fact that I’m in Alpha Chi Omega,” Phipps said. “They were like, ‘You don’t need to put up with that. You’re so much stronger.’ I kind of found my voice and my confidence.”

Aside from her sorority sisters and a support system of friends, Phipps said speaking with a therapist on campus also helped her work through the relationship. Counseling and Psychological Services at Sac State offers short-term, individual counseling to students for free.

“The therapist I was with really helped me and was like, ‘You don’t owe this guy anything,’” Phipps said. “I think that’s why I had such a hard time, because I wanted to make his life better but it was hurting me to do that to him and if I don’t love myself, then I cant love this guy.”

After the relationship ended, Phipps said she realized that a healthy relationship shouldn’t be built on her “feeling sorry for herself.” She said that after Justin, she understands that she can love both herself and someone else at the same time.

“If you trust your gut and your instincts and if you don’t feel safe, then try to find a way to leave,” Phipps said. “If you have a support system, then I would call on them. It’s never your fault and it’s never your responsibility to take care of anyone else.”