A lot of people are confused by words like abuse, domestic violence, and intimate partner violence. I know I was.
For me when I thought of abuse it was always physical – shoving, slapping, punching, kicking, choking or worse. Yes, there is worse. Those images were very clear in my mind.
But what I experienced was different than what I had in my head.
I did experience physical abuse, but it was what lead up to that moment and thereafter, that took a lot of healing. The subtleties of abuse are what I’m talking about.
Name calling by my X was pretty common. He told me jokingly and bluntly that I was: a naïve little girl, innocent and ignorant, stupid, dumb, a moron, idiot, bitch, pathetic, a loser.
He took the personal details I’d told him about my complex relationship with my family, and used that information to criticize my character and control me. He made it seem like I was always fucking up, too lazy or working too much, uneducated and unintelligent, or too argumentative when I tried to stand up for myself.
Yelling at me, his children, his pets, his neighbors, friends, and the TV was his way of “releasing tension”. There was always a problem brewing for him, and shouting seemed to be the number one solution. It startled and scared his entire family.
He would consistently embarrass me in public by telling friends or strangers things I privately told him about myself, then have a good laugh about it while he psychoanalyzed me. It shamed me into silence.
When the children or myself were ill or hurt, he would play doctor, dismiss our basic health needs, and tell me I was exaggerating pain and that it was all in my head, or that I was creating imaginary scenarios and was fear mongering. This was with health issue like skin infections, sprained or broken bones, concussions, birthing a child and mastitis. He truly believed he himself had the same skills as a doctor and could fix up anything.
He picked apart my appearance, telling me I was fat and had saggy boobs. When he was jealous he told me that I dressed like a slut. When he was ranting he told me that I was so ugly even a dog wouldn’t fuck me.
I know this is hard to read. You may have questions or judgements or feel sickened.
This is what you need to know if you’ve never in your life experienced this level of insidious hate from your intimate partner: there are millions upon millions of women living in these relationships right now.
And the question isn’t why are they? The question isn’t why don’t they leave? The question isn’t what’s wrong with them? We have enough studies and writing and theorizing about women and abuse.
The question is: what happened to these millions and millions and millions of men? What experiences throughout their lives, from childhood to teens to adulthood, shaped this hatred? How have they been harmed by their families, schools, and society? How have they indoctrinated themselves into abuse of power? How have they been trained to deal with their emotions? How have they been trained to evaluate their aggressive reactions? How can they heal? How can we collectively help them heal?
I feel like it’s time to start there. Isn’t that the root of the problem?
Sending love and protection to all the women who’ve experienced harm at the hands of men.