Archives for posts with tag: self-love

While doing internet research yesterday, I found my way to the website of Washington state nonprofit Domestic Abuse Women’s Network (DAWN). Curious, I clicked on the link “Is my relationship abusive?” The page presented the following questions:

Do you feel…

  • Confused about your relationship?
  • Like you are going crazy?
  • That you are “walking on eggshells”?
  • It is hard for you to spend time with family or friends?
  • As if you can’t do anything right?
  • That your partner decides when and where you have sex?
  • Like you are in a relationship with two completely different people?
  • That you need to justify everything you do?
  • Drained?

Does your partner…

  • Call you names or put you down?
  • Want to know what you’re doing and who you’re with all the time?
  • Act extremely jealous?
  • Find excuses to keep you from getting enough sleep?
  • Push, shove, or grab you?
  • Keep you from leaving when you want to leave?
  • Force you to do things sexually you don’t feel comfortable doing?
  • Promise to change (get counseling, go to AA, etc.)?

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes, when considering my last serious relationship. I didn’t even need to think twice before I wholeheartedly agreed with every single statement on the page, except for one (which was more of a half-truth).

Just as I have been many times since I was attacked by my ex-boyfriend (and subsequently came to the devastating realization that I was a victim of domestic violence, emotional abuse, and manipulation to the highest degree), I am dumbfounded by how stereotypical my DV experience was.

And as always, I wonder why I didn’t realize what was going on sooner. But that’s all part of being with an abusive person – it’s a constant battle between listening to your own logic and what you know is right in your heart of hearts, and listening the things that your partner tells you. The reality presented to me by my ex was one in which I was the most selfish, foolish, shameful, and undeserving person. He was “trying so hard to forgive me” for all of my many “sins,” but he just didn’t know if he could be strong enough to do so. I’ve always struggled with my self-confidence and self-worth, so it was easy to believe these things coming from the person who I was deeply in love with (not to mention living with).

Would I have left earlier if I had known what I know now? There’s no way to know for sure, but I’d like to think that the answer is yes. That’s why I challenge every person reading this post to consider their relationship with their partner. If you have any question in your mind whether it is abusive, please do yourself the incredible, possibly lifesaving, favor of learning more about what domestic abuse looks like.

If you are pondering whether or not you are involved in an abusive relationship, I suggest that you read the book “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. This book is an incredible investigation of the mind of abusive and controlling men (please note: people who are in relationships with abusive women, as well as folks who are in same-sex relationships, can also gain a lot of valuable information from the book, but it is written primarily for cisgender women who are in abusive romantic relationships with cisgender men).

The incredibly strong and brave women that I met at my first DV support group meeting suggested this book to me. It changed my perspective on everything. It made me realize that I wasn’t crazy – that the horrible feelings of self-doubt, self-loathing, and isolation – along with the attachment I was feeling towards my abuser – were all normal things. More than normal in fact – they were the standard.

The more I read about domestic violence and abusive partners, the clearer the pattern becomes. I only wish that I could have recognized it earlier. But maybe, just maybe, sharing my story will help someone else do just that.

If you have any question in your mind about whether or not you are being controlled or abused – or you answered “yes” to any of the questions listed above – please take a harder look at your relationship. Read Bancroft’s book. If you can’t read it at home for fear of your partner, read it at the library or at work. Seek help. Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-SAFE) to get your questions answered by a real human being who understands what you are going through.

Whatever you choose to do, remember first and foremost that you are worthy of true, unconditional love and you do not deserve to be abused (physically, mentally, emotionally, sexual, or in any other way) – no matter what your partner would have you believe.

For immediate assistance, call the National Domestic Violence Hotline:
1-800-799-SAFE
TTY: 1-800-787-3224

sunset

I haven’t written in a long time. I haven’t been able to.

Every time I considered starting an article or researching a new topic, I stopped myself. Instead of the intrigue and passion that I usually feel, all I found was a stinging, bitter pain.

Because I was hurting; because I was afraid.

Writing is usually like therapy for me – it allows me to vent to the world and at the same time to no one at all. If I end up writing something worthwhile, fantastic. If all I get is a sore back from hunching over my laptop and a sappy piece of nonsense that no one would ever want to read, so be it.

But for the last month, I have avoided my laptop like the plague.

Where did this pain come from? And why was it so hard to get past?

It originated with the very act of writing an article about something I care about. About something that I am so sure of that I could never have imagined the backlash that I received from expressing my beliefs – or that they could even have been interpreted the way that they were.

But as I was once told, intent is not always the same thing as effect.

The topic of the article that started it all? Self-protection through assault prevention techniques and self-defense.

The aftermath of a sexual assault is so complicated – the range of emotions  can jump from guilt to shame to anger to confusion and beyond; the reality of self-blame can be crippling; and the effect on a victim’s life is unquantifiable. Not only this, but every victim deals with and recovers from sexual assault in their own way. What is true for one person might be unthinkable for another. And no one – whether a survivor themselves or not – has the right to tell another person how they should feel in the wake of this horrendous crime.

Keeping this in mind, I tried to write my article in a way that would place blame solely on the perpetrator. I wanted to present ideas for self-protection and self-defense as possibilities for those who might find them worthwhile. Nowhere did I hint that if you eschew taking a self-defense class or find no use in my ideas it would be your fault if you were assaulted. I would never – could never – say, think or believe anything even close to that.

Others took my article differently. In fact, on the day of its publication, it caused a veritable scandal in the feminist community. I was harassed on Twitter, called a failure and a victim blamer, told that I epitomized the Patriarchy, and watched as my article was smashed to smithereens. In the opinion of the individuals making these comments, I was placing blame on victims of rape by offering ideas about prevention.

The piece was far from perfect. In fact, if I were to write it again, I would make an absolutely rigid point of trying to look at what I wrote from eyes different from my own. To read every last word from a completely different perspective. Maybe then I would have seen what these people saw.

And yet, I was also commended by the women’s self-defense community for writing it. I received emails, tweets, posts and texts from people who were as dismayed as I was about the reaction. A well-known, deeply respected self-defense instructor even wrote an article in The Hairpin about the whole mess (note: opinions in The Hairpin piece are strictly those expressed by Susan Schorn).

The thing is, it really was a huge, ugly mess. No one was to blame. It just kind of happened – and then exploded in a nasty way. But I am about as sensitive as they come (great quality in a writer, right? ha!). I was shattered. I cried for an entire day and went into bouts of depression every time I thought about it for a month afterward.

Not that I can’t take being criticized or called names. People criticize my opinions all the time, and I have been called some verrrry interesting things (especially by Men’s Rights Activists)! Generally, I welcome or endure it – to a point. I suppose the deeply reactive subject matter made everything different this time.

I felt…invalidated. Silenced. As if my experiences and beliefs could be overturned and expelled with a gust of wind.

The thing is, they can’t. Others don’t have to agree with me, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t hold true to my ideals. And more appropriate to this situation, others may not always see the intended message in my writing. There isn’t much that I can do about this except to keep moving forward, carefully, while trying to be sensitive to the feelings of the world around me.

This has been a huge lesson. And from where I stand today, it won’t stop me from writing in the future. My sadness and frustration are still there; I’ve just learned how to move beyond them and try to turn them into something more positive and healing. And that’s why I’m sitting at home writing a blog post on this rainy Friday night.

Because really – hiding my laptop behind the couch isn’t helping anyone, especially not myself.