This is an anonymous piece submitted to Project Ava:
I click the link “14 Tweets That Answer #WhyIStayed” and begin to slowly scroll through. I’m only half paying attention to the professor in front of me. Half way through the list, my eyes are wide… my mind alert. Tears start forming. I close my laptop. I need to get my mind off my emotions and back onto the lecture I should have been taking notes on. I don’t really want to be the person sobbing in the back of the classroom.
In that short article, I saw flashbacks to my all-too-recent past.
“#WhyIStayed: He told me no one will ever love me like he does”
“Because I no longer knew who I was. #WhyIStayed”
“It’s not one day he hits you. He works every day to make you smaller. #WhyIStayed”
Domestic Violence and partner abuse have dominated the media recently, but there are big shortcomings in the public understanding of the issue. The conversation presently paints domestic violence as solely physical abuse. This portrayal marginalizes the voices and experiences of those who are victims of sexual, emotional and verbal abuse.
The conversation presently paints domestic violence as solely physical abuse.
Domestic Abuse is NOT always physical. Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me? Yeah – bullshit.
“I’m the best thing that will ever happen to you.” He told me the first time I tried to leave him. I stood in the apartment doorway, crying, looking for the right answer. He used his words to manipulate my mind, and to make me feel weak. “I couldn’t sleep with anyone else – I couldn’t get my mind off of you.” He lied. He used my vulnerabilities to make me feel “special” and used lies and manipulation to take my virginity. He robbed me of my ability to give informed consent. “Won’t you try it? I just really want to try it with you.” He pushed me. I told him my limits and what I was comfortable doing, but he pushed me. He used guilt and shame to persuade me. “That doesn’t count as cheating, you’re being over dramatic.” He said… time after time. “You’re nothing but a psycho bitch that ruins every man that comes into your life.” He used my emotional vulnerabilities against me. Two years later, he left me broken and bruised, but these are bruises that manifest on my mind and on my heart… not my body.
he left me broken and bruised, but these are bruises that manifest on my mind and on my heart… not my body.
Domestic abuse is not instantaneous. My partner didn’t go from Prince Charming to Chris Brown overnight. My partner never physically hit me at all, though he did hit walls, throw things, and use physical intimidation. Abuse is something that can build. It starts with one mistake, one manipulation, one lie. I loved him. I wanted to believe him. I wanted things to be ‘okay’. Abuse is something that can build up over time, and ensnares you into a life that you barely recognize.
I escaped the relationship destroyed, with no idea of who I was or how I had gotten into such a dark place. I had relapsed into self-harm as a result of how he treated me throughout the break-up – something I hadn’t done since high school. But society tells me that because he didn’t physically hit me, that it wasn’t abuse. Society tells me it was just a nasty break up. Society tells me I am just a bitter ex-girlfriend now, blowing things out of proportion because our break-up was nasty. Even when I tell them I filled out paper work for a restraining order, some people thought I was just overreacting.
Abuse is not something that happens only to the weak and desperate women of society, women with low standards, or women who ‘should have known better’. Abuse is not just physical. In order to stand in solidarity with survivors, we must understand what abuse is. Abuse is manipulation and power. Abuse is about breaking a partner down in every way in order to maintain control.
Abuse is manipulation and power. Abuse is about breaking a partner down in every way in order to maintain control.
Instead of placing judgment on a survivor of abuse, asking why he/she stayed, let’s instead cultivate a culture of care and acceptance. Let’s validate the experiences of people who are abused, and let them know that they don’t stand alone. I shouldn’t have to show my friends a bruise or a scar for them to understand that the treatment I received was wrong.