Awhile back on twitter I saw someone post about abusive relationships. She basically said something along the lines of: “If you continued to go back to him after the abuse, it’s your fault.”
This is something that frustrates the hell out of me, and quite frankly, that way of thinking is detrimental to society and victims of abuse everywhere. It is absolutely not the victim’s fault that someone was abusive to them, even if they repeatedly go back. This is called victim shaming.
Abuse isn’t black and white like that. While my last relationship wasn’t what most would call “physical abuse” it was still 100% domestic violence. I had a lot of people doubting me, calling me a liar, telling me I couldn’t “call myself a survivor because it wasn’t that bad.” He never hit me so it wasn’t abuse, they were glad I left before it “became abuse.” When you say things like this, you MAKE IT HARDER for people in horrible situations to leave, to speak out about their abuse (hell, to even question if it’s abuse), and you make them feel shame for staying.
I constantly asked myself if it was bad enough to leave him, to divorce him, and why was I so stupid for not being able to make that decision? Why was it so hard to accept that my marriage was over the minute he destroyed our bedroom door? What could I have done differently to make him not become physically violent? Was it my fault?
There are so many layers of abuse – in my case, it was a lot of gas lighting and manipulation that slowly lead into him becoming physically violent. It was only a few times a year, if that, and the “good always outweighed the bad.” That’s why I continued to allow him to treat me like that. He treated me like a queen until he got mad.
Abuse and manipulation start off slow. It is so gradual and minuscule that you don’t even notice it happening. They do something that immediately your brain registers: “I don’t think this is okay. I shouldn’t be treated like this… right?” You know logically that what they said or did was not acceptable, yet they lay on the excuses so thick and so convincingly well, you start to believe why they did it. At this point you love them and you would believe anything they said. I trusted my ex-husband more than anyone else in the world, he was my person, someone who I thought was my soulmate. He wouldn’t try to harm me or make me feel bad, it was an accident and completely unintentional every single time he scared me. He merely got mad and couldn’t control himself. He was justifying his actions so both of us would believe it.
This is the way of an abusive relationship. It’s not something that just happens, you realize it’s not a good situation, and then you leave. Gas lighting is also another interesting term I learned while in therapy for domestic violence. My ex used to do things and then tell me because of my ADHD, or my forgetfulness, that I didn’t remember it right. He didn’t physically rip a drink out of my hands and then throw it across the room because he couldn’t control his anger – he did it because he was afraid I would spill it because I was clumsy and panicking while we were arguing. After being with someone for 6 years, do you see why I would believe him?
I was lucky enough to leave before it got worse. Statistically speaking, when physical intimidation and violence happens (he did not hit me), it almost always escalates.
So the moral of this rant:
It is not your fault. It is not your fault that you loved them so incredibly much that you would have believed anything they said. It is not your fault for repeatedly going back because you can’t see their manipulation in plain sight. It is not your fault for sticking through it for all those months or even years.
IT IS THE ABUSER’S FAULT. NOT YOURS.
Please reach out. Make a phone call. Ask questions. Tell your story. Reach out to your friends, your family, anyone who will listen (I will). You are not alone.