Samantha Graviano

Ridge • New York


My life has been filled with many obstacles. I grew up in a house with 2 siblings and we didn't have much money but no matter what my mom always made sure I was always able to be in dance class. When I was just 12 years old money got so tight that my mom said she couldn't send me back to dance for the summer and I'll have to wait until fall comes along. My mom explained the situation we were in to the owner of my studio and she told me if I wanted to do competition I had to take summer classes but I couldn't do that, she then told me if I couldn't afford summer classes than there was no way for me to afford fall so I needed to find a new studio. At 12 I was crushed, I felt as if my world was ending until an old teacher of mine invited me to dance at her studio.

For the past 17 years dance has been all I had and she knew that. We explained our family's situation to her and she knew I really couldn't afford all the competition fees and extra classes, so she came up with an idea. She saw my drive, determination and love for dance so she offered me to work for the dance studio and in return I'll be able to be on the competition team free of charge. So I did. I spent hours upon hours at the studio and did everything I possibly could to continue my love for dance. It meant the absolute world to me. Sadly, when I was 16 the studio had closed down. I then was invited by a teacher from that studio to go dance at a studio she taught at so I did, and finally found my home.

I found who I was as a person and dancer in that studio. I worked so hard to be the best dancer I could possibly be and it finally paid off. Senior year I finally was the dancer I knew I had in me until one day I just lost the fire that I had inside. I was always the friend that stood up for my friends and for myself. I never let anyone walk all over us especially guys. I always gave the best advice. I never understood why girls would let guys walk all over them. But then one day I realized you don’t always know how to handle a situation until you go through it yourself. October 18th, 2014 was a day that changed my life forever and one I will never forget. It still haunts me today. I want to share my story with the world, especially with young girls going through what I did. It was a very dark, scary, and lonely place that I fell into. I feel like society dismisses these problems and blames it all on us for staying in the relationship. I want to make young girls today understand it is okay to walk away from a harmful relationship and there is light at the end of the tunnel. I want people to understand this is still a huge problem in society today. I want to share how I overcame this horrible nightmare and help people who can get the help I needed. I can only repeat myself so much: you truly don’t know what anyone is going through until you go through it yourself.

Physical, sexual, and verbal abuse is a major problem with teens and young adults today, and we need to face and solve this issue. This problem holds a very special place in my heart because I am someone who was affected by verbal abuse. I was in a relationship with a guy I thought I knew and loved. In the beginning it was good until one day he snapped and his whole attitude changed. The boy I grew up with down the block, the boy who I thought loved me as much as I loved him, took the most important thing I ever had away from me. He took who I was away from me and that changed my life completely. I fell into his trap called “love.” If you told me my relationship was going to end like this in the very beginning I would’ve laughed. He made me feel like I was in a fairy tale and that’s what messed me up. I never knew he was going to snap, but he did. We were always together, always smiling, always laughing, always happy. We were like that couple everyone judged when they went out to eat or the movies because we were just so caught in the moment. It was not until February when it all went down hill. Now, looking back at these moments today I realize this is where I screwed up. Instead of crying in my hotel room and thinking of excuses as to why, I should've been thinking I need to end this. Unfortunately, like many teens and young adults today who are affected by abusive relationships, I became embarrassed and tried to hide it from my loved ones and that made the issue get worse. I was defending him left and right. I didn’t want anyone to know about the situation. My relationship with him was different in my head than his. I was blinded by it all.

Then came college. We both went our separate ways into two different states. Two weeks into school he broke up with me and I couldn’t understand why. I was so heartbroken when little did I know it was for the better. I always look back and wonder if he never broke up with me where would I be today? What would I be doing? My first semester of college was a mess because of him. I failed basically all of my classes, I drank my problems away, I couldn’t sleep, and I never went to class. I became so unstable I started going to the psychologist at school and she told me I was unstable and should go home and take a leave of absence until second semester. I refused to do so because I was so embarrassed. At that moment, I woke up. I realized what I needed to do. Sadly, it was too late in the semester for me to catch up, so I failed my first semester of college. I was devastated. I was so mad because I knew it was my fault. A million thoughts were running in my head: “I could’ve prevented this. Why did I let him treat me like this? What did I become?” I not only was mad at the fact that I let myself go, but most importantly I was mad I let him affect my education, my passion for dance, my drive and dedication. I needed to get that back.

When I came back second semester, I was a totally different person. I was finally myself again. I attended meetings and groups while I was home surrounded by people who went through the same thing I did. I was so nervous to go and planned on leaving after the first 5 minuets but I ended up staying the full hour. We sat in a big circle, introduced ourselves, and told our stories. I thought I was alone but in reality there are so many people going through things you would never even know. To this day the memories still haunt me. Quite frankly I don’t think they’re ever going to go away, but I can tell you they are just memories because they will never happen again. I look back at the memories in disbelief. Did I really know the true meaning of “love”? I always said no matter what nobody could ever take dance away from me but he did. I never wanted to go, I gave up, I lost my fire flame in my heart. All because I thought it was over. I thought this was gonna be the end. But it wasn't. I picked myself up and I am now better than I have ever been.

I'm going into my second year of college at the University of Hartford. I'm also Captain of the Dance Team and teach at a local dance studio in Farmington, Connecticut. I brought back the happiness I needed in my life and I'm finally bringing myself back, The real Sam Graviano. I want to tell young girls and guys that it is going to be okay and we all need to stand up and make a difference. Share our stories and maybe they'll touch the lives of at least one person. Dance saved me from everything I had lost and everything I became, that I never wanted to be. Dance will forever have a special place in my heart and dance will forever be a part of me.