My Story of Domestic Abuse (And Yes, I'm a Feminist)
I fall head in heels in love quickly. I love the catch of your breath when that new person looks at you like just maybe you are magic and with your entire beating heart, you hope you can live up to that look. I like the way it settles down too, for a while, into a comfy love. When you start leaving the bathroom door open as you pee, not worrying about which outfit or mood you have on that day, letting yourself relax, sure that your person still finds you attractive and just, so, effervescent.
I've had this experience over and over in life. I look for it, reach for it, ignore a lot of warning signs in search of it. I jump all the way in and fast. I am open and honest almost all of the time - with everyone, to be sure. I hide little, conceal almost nothing. I am constantly sharing, re-sharing, over-sharing. There is so little of me I keep locked away.
And I'm a feminist.
But you knew that much, right?
I am used to fighting for equality, so I'll also fight for you. I want to be respected for everything that's in my head and heart, not just what I look like, so I cling to every poetic pronouncement a man makes about my soul, my passion, my drive. I let myself believe it's true and he sees more than he can show because a strong feminist is also vulnerable and kind and achingly patient too, no? "He's not there yet, but he could be". I'm not the first to say it or passionately believe it, I know.
I'm empathetic. I feel pain where it's not real and can't watch horror movies, or read about abuse, or watch torture. I can't separate myself from other people (or animals). That motivates my activism, drives my life, but it keeps me vulnerable. I'm wary, but not wary enough. I'm trusting because I have to believe there's good in the world, you see, or the weight of the pain is too crushing.
And all this combined makes me a target, I know now. Because how easy is it to manipulate someone's emotions when they lay them bare at your feet?
I never saw it coming, though. I didn't see it happening as it got worse and built.
It all started so simply - he wanted me to marry him, pushed the issue, despite conversations where I said that no, I like long relationships, let's slow it down just enough, we can keep moving forward together but marriage is huge, that's life altering stuff. I convinced myself it was romantic that he pushed the issue - shows how much he loves me, after all. That's what my books and movies tell me. It never occurred to me he was showing an utter lack of respect for my needs, communicated and real to him. I didn't see it was a test - one of many - to see how far I could be pushed.
It turns out I can be pushed super far before I even realize what's happening. It turns out I can be convinced to hand over half of my salary to match his higher half in the name of equality (isn't that what you want, feminist?) despite the fact that he makes more because obviously. But he paid a piece of my debt so I owe him that. You owe me. That's your problem. Fifty fifty. Except when he's not working. Then 100 because you have to support the ones you love. Women can be breadwinners too, feminist, or didn't you know that?
It turns out I will start to believe someone if they tell me enough times, loudly enough, that I'm obnoxious, no good, a selfish bitch. Turns out I will trust that I've done something to harm them if they say those things to me because I can't fathom a world in which you would torment another person to get your way, to gain control.
Even though I fight it every day, don't I? Isn't that what I'm pushing against, railing against? Can I fathom it but just not for me, not in my world? I don't know, because I'm too afraid to keep questioning things. Maybe feminists are man-haters, I do talk loud, after all, and I can be startlingly opinionated so...
It turns out punching the wall is a very effective way to make your point. If I've made you that upset, it's my fault, it's my fault, it's my fault. A little fear goes a long way and you know that. You know what violence does to me. I said it up above. He knows it too.
I change my dreams, shift them, downplay them because relationships are all about compromise. That's what we tell women. Don't be a man-hating bitch - compromise with him. His job matters, too. Make it work. You're such a beautiful couple.
But he made a grave error in judgment and set the wheels in reverse. He came after the ones I love. Told me they were obnoxious, no good, selfish bitches, belligerent assholes. He thought it was the final straw - pull me away and just take me over. He didn't know that there are bonds deeper than self-love and beliefs stronger than feminism. He could not have known what I would finally see. I may be unlovable, unforgivable, unmanageable but they are the air that I breathe and the lights in my life and the reasons I live.
He made a grave error in judgment.
But someone like that can never let go, never be wrong, never move on. He stalks my every move, makes false claims of control and ownership, abuses and torments. "You're a weak fucking feminist cunt", "You owe me money you conniving bitch", "Dirty chode", "Girls like you don't deserve to live". Three years later and it doesn't stop. Your abuse continues, every couple of months you pop up, force me back into that awful world, try to make me re-live that time.
Well this fucking feminist cunt just exposed you, Jon.
And your abuse informed my feminism so much more than anything in life ever has or possibly could again. So thank you for tracking me down, reading my blog, and giving me the chance to tell you and the world what your abuse looks like.
Please feel free to share widely.
I am stronger now than you could ever have imagined.
If you are currently experiencing domestic abuse or have in the past and need somewhere to turn, please call The National Domestic Violence hotline across Canada is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233).