What is worse than surviving an abusive relationship? Dealing with the aftermath, the scars and insecurities is hard enough but worse: dealing with well meaning people who want to believe the false face the abuser approaches the public with.
It must be an exaggeration. She must be overreacting. It is a little misunderstanding. He says nice things about you, the implied unspoken being: so how dare you tell me what he really treated you like. How dare you take the mask I want to believe off the guy or gal I like.
It is not easy to verbally express what you go through. What you wake up because your mind is reliving it again. The torturous words intended to push you to self destruction. The physical abuse. The control, manipulation, constant gaslighting. The ridicule and humiliation. The repeated nightmare of the worst moments. Struggling in a friend's bathroom to avoid having fingers broken. Breathing and accepting that you might die in a moment when for the ninth day in a row you've had the person dry fire a handgun at you from two to three feet away.
Just a joke, it must be. I didn't see any of that. I've known him for years, he's just a little crazy and loud. Excuses. Excuses. Excuses that corrode and isolate abuse survivors more.
Who wants to have a heart to heart with someone, who in their opening statement empowers your abuser? When you think back and realize how bad it was and where was everyone? Didn't they hear? Didn't they see? Why didn't they say anything? In a silent way they let it happen. Weather the storm. He needs you. He doesn't mean it.
Seriously, why don't you just talk to him? He is so nice. Everyone knows you can't believe a word he says except when you discuss abuse, now somehow his words have validity? You hear the contradiction well meaning people do not realize they are voicing. It hurts. You hear "I would rather believe a notorious liar with a known history of abusive volatile behavior than you. Period."
People come up to justify their continued friendship with both of you. That's fine, your choice. But when you do not want to hear what we dealt with and you tell us what a good friend our abuser is you are telling us you are okay with them abusing us and others. You are telling us you want the fiction that the truth discomforts you. You want the blind eye and we can't unlive the darkest moments and bottom line: you were not there for us. We faced it alone. You didn't step in. We went to our private places, you had a normal evening. We dealt with emotional explosions, threats of physical violence, mandates on how we had to appear to you. We tried showing you by resisting directives and arguing or expressing lesser points- we paid in privacy later but you still missed it, minimized it, justified it for your own reasons.
Do not speculate. Talk to us. Listen to us. Our experiences and emotions are valid. Our safety is important. Do not empower abusers. Do not strive so hard to love the mask they make for you. Tear it off and really understand the horror we deal with in knowing you would rather love and support a falsehood than be there for a real human that was treated inhumanly.
You would not befriend someone who tortures animals. You will explain to me the finer points of someone who spent two years making my daily life hell. Where I coped by blogging about every emotional or psychological bomb I was trying futilely to diffuse. My blog was my figurative defense attorney- a regular plea that he would read like some barbaric king to laud the praises of then dismiss as he gleefully entertained himself hurting me.
I'm awake again. Its the middle of the night. I hate thinking back. I hate talking about it. It isn't going to go away. Perhaps eventually it will lessen. Quietly, I find the friends who understand. Who have also survived or who understand abusers and masks. They make it easier. We talk. We understand the isolation that the hurt, the unintended betrayal and empowerment the community offers those who hurt us. He said she said. And he said nice stuff. She must just be bitching. She's a she. She's a She and it happened in a relationship: 50% off the validity of her words; as we can choose to dismiss on the grounds of the relationship is over so they're just bitter. It could be a He it happened to for the same reason. Same justification. Eww. Relationship gonbe wrong. Sigh. File it under: Invalidate and sweep under rug. Stop. Do not perpetuate a cycle. Do not aid an abuser by dismissing their actions. They didn't do it in front of you because they know you would not have tolerated it, you wouldn't have been able to like them if you heard or saw. That's why they wait until they have you alone. They set you up. They play games. They fuck with your head. They quietly remind you they have all the power and control, you have nothing. Community doesn't intentionally endorse this but unintentionally it empowers it.
We go through each day focusing on goals. Focusing on the friends who encourage us to think and be healthy. Focusing on coping with the scars and fears. Focusing on never wanting to ever have to be in close proximity to the person who threatened us. Who belittled us. Who criticized everything from what we ate, how we look, how we make decisions, what we wear, how we feel, as they wasted our money and told us how much we needed them.
As I talk I listen. So many men and women have come individually, talked of what they are dealing with or have dealt with. What hurts each of us the most: the hurt. The isolation. Hearing alleged friends conjecturing to us and our loved ones that we are oversensitive, overreacting, misunderstanding. Support us. Stop wanting to believe the excuses and dismissals. We didn't fall down the stairs. We didn't deserve to have someone try to break our fingers because we did not jump to one of their rigid rules. Listen. Be aware of the mask. Tell us we don't deserve it: that is the best truth you can give us. Give us a place that is safe. Give us someone to talk to where our words are safe to express without judgements or danger of them getting back to where they hurt us worse.
I appreciate the friends who realized and intervened in a healthy way. The ones who saw the severe depression, anxiety and isolation. The ones who persisted, to be there then and now. People who had an idea of what I was not saying. Who solidly approached the problem with practical sense and compassion. Letting me work it out and validating, reminding me who I was and could be and that I could choose healthier choices and people. The friends who explain abuse and behavior of people who don't understand. The friends who communicate safety and support. The friends who look us in the eye and give us permission to heal and remind us that we were not deserving of the abuse and that we are allowed to heal, that our emotions are valid and they let us cry when we need to, which is far to often. The friends who love us even on days we struggle to like ourselves.
As I sit here awake in the middle of the night having to mentally process again. Having to work on scars and wounds he told me I deserved as I am a terrible human being that is so deplorable no one but him could possibly tolerate my presence. Seeing the gun. Feeling the struggle in the bathroom. Watching my friends Melissa and Amy figure out they could stop him by walking in with a smile when he started shouting, when they heard my voice raise with stress and defensive words. Seeing the look in their eye as these beautiful women stood for me when I didn't believe in myself enough to try. It hurts to remember what they had to hear and go through. But go ahead, invalidate their experiences, tell me how we overreact and are overly sensitive.
What caused that distress and severe sensitivity? Not being treated like a human being. Being tormented and terrified and hurt. But wait? Shhhhh. Don't talk about it. It makes people uncomfortable. Don't talk about it. He doesn't want to people to know how he is when you were alone and the mask was off, they might treat him like the asshole he is. They might call him on his behaviors. The community might have open communication. It might be harder for him to flatter his way into another relationship. The next unwitting person might have a chance to hear something other than the gaslit version of his history that makes him sound like he was just harmless and misunderstood. They might hold him accountable. Him. Her. The abuser. They might avoid the nightmares, anxiety attacks, depression, isolation, the shaking, the fear, the rage and the humiliation of having to remember it and express it to process it and to try to neutralize the poison.
Do not stay in an abusive situation. You do not deserve it. There are places to go. There are people who can help you deal with finances, getting the things you need to live, you are not a burden. You do not deserve it. You deserve to be safe. You deserve to be treated with respect. Your feelings and experiences are valid. You deserve to be treated with respect. You do not deserve humiliation, pain, punishment. You do not deserve guilt. You are not guilty. It is not your fault. We will not be mad at you or stop being your friend because you left or because you are being abused. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not a monster. You are not repugnant or undesirable. You are beautiful, human. You aren't perfect, but that is okay. You make a wonderful you. We value you for who you are. You are brave. You survive. You survived.
I fight the anxiety. I sit here expressing to heal. I sit here thinking of the wonderful moments and people in my life. Thinking positives and breathing, reminding myself I am safe. Reminding myself of constructive goals I am working on. Trying to keep healing and growing.
Putting together resources to start a safety net of support for abuse survivors working faires. Taking time to gather and connect strong resources and working on the framework so a solid network of volunteers who support each other and are there to talk to for those going through or dealing with past abuse to go to for support and community connections if they need more than a supportive conversation. Figuring out what we need, what would help us all heal and grow. Speaking out. Each time I do, my words echo back from another trickle of people dealing with abuse issues hearing they have permission to break the silence- supporting each other. It is hard to speak. It is hard to feel. And the feel doesn't ever fully go away. Someone has to speak. Silence is endorsement. Silence is an ally of Abusers. Quit buying the mask. Quit trying to invalidate our experiences. We aren't buying that mask again and we don't want to hear why you like it. Would hurt you too much to look behind the mask is that why you jump to rationalize our experiences that you weren't there for? Your judgement is empty. Your conjecture invalid. Your choice to hurt us by rubbing the mask in our faces? Not nice. Not healing. Not telling us you are trustworthy. Not demonstrating integrity.
If looking would hurt you, we faced them without their mask- consider that and you may start to understand the sorrow and isolation. You can't handle a horrible peek at what we starkly faced. Paint another sparkle in their eye, use the broken glass of their words and deeds to make their smile glint in the light. So shiny. So friendly. Such a good person you say, as our heart bleed from being chewed up. Such good people abusers are, just misunderstood?