If I had a dollar for every person who said to me, “you don’t seem like the type of person who let’s themselves be abused,” I’d have a good deal of dollars. Maybe even enough to buy a fancy purse or those hideous red shoes with the vinyl socks at Nordstrom. What even are these? Well, in response to the question at hand, pull up a carpet square kids because it’s story time.
Growing up I was taught not to take anyone’s shit. It’s one of the reasons I am constantly questioned on how I “let” abuse happen. Well let’s just get one thing straight, I didn’t LET anything happened. Shit just happened and this form of victim blaming needs to take a very long walk off a short pier. That take no shit attitude I had growing up became one of the pillars of my abuse. “I don’t take shit from anyone.” “Oh, you mean you don’t compromise? You won’t meet me halfway.” “No, that’s not what I mean, I mean, wait is that what it means?” I was led to believe that me not putting up with being wronged meant I wouldn’t compromise in a relationship. I was young when I married A1. I didn’t know what marriage was supposed to be like. I didn’t know what I wanted out of a relationship. I believed him when he told me that me sticking up for myself was me not compromising.
During the short time we did what I call tag team parenting. He worked during the day and I worked at night during the weekdays and during the day on the weekends. His job provided flexibility that let him work his own hours, as long as he worked 40 hours in 5 days. He could have easily worked 7am to 4pm if that’s what he wanted to do. But, that’s not what he did. My job did not have flexibility. I worked 5:30 pm to 11 pm on the weekdays and 7 am to 4 pm on the weekends. A1 would get home with just enough time for me to get to work and not be late. We’d pass at the door, barely. I tell you this so you understand when I tell you about his claims of me not compromising. At first he’d go in a little earlier some days and get home in time for dinner. We’d eat dinner together and then I’d go to work. It was nice. As time passed he stopped doing any of that, but he was still demanding dinner on the table when he got home, even though he’d be eating by himself. For a while I did it. I’d make dinner and eat by myself and make sure there was something for him when he got home. He started to complain that the food was cold by the time he got there. I told him if he wanted hot food on the table, he’d need to get home earlier, otherwise I wouldn’t have time to eat. Suddenly I was a horrible wife who didn’t want to take care of her husband. I started cooking and putting the leftovers in the fridge. After a while, I just stopped cooking. I would make sure me and my daughter ate, and that was it. If I happened to cook and there were leftovers, sometimes I would put them in the fridge for him. Other times I would take them to work. My unwillingness to serve him was looked at as an unwillingness to compromise.
A2 had the same mentality. If I was sticking up for myself that meant I was mean to him or that I didn’t care. On the contrary, I cared too much. I did everything in my power to keep things together with both A1 and A2, but you can only get so far when all of your pieces crumble to the ground. This is the key factor in abuse, breaking the victim down. making the victim believe that they are the one who is wrong. Chipping away at every fiber of their being.
Abuse is like erosion. The abuser slowly chips away at the victim until they are reshaped into a whole new person. The Grand Canyon, for example, wasn’t always the Grand Canyon. Most scientists believe that the Grand Canyon started taking shape around 5 or 6 millions years ago due to erosion from the Colorado River. The canyon itself is a result of constant erosion from the river over millions of years. Yes, millions of years! That’s how abuse is. It’s a process and it’s slow. It’s quite common to not realize it’s happening until you’re already invested in the relationship. Once that happens you spend a great deal of time trying to reconnect with the person you fell in love with. A person who doesn’t even exist anymore.
As a victim I can tell you we are the hardest on ourselves. We ask ourselves all the time why we stayed, why we “let” it happened, why we didn’t see the signs. You’d be doing us all a solid if you’d stop telling us we don’t seem the type.