What I am telling is a story about physical abuse (also a TW for self-harm though I’m not yet at the explicit part of the story). I am telling this because it’s a story about domestic violence, yes. But I’m also telling it because it’s a safe story to tell.
For starters, it is an old story about a brief time in my life. Not to discount the emotional badness from just that experience, but the additional interpersonal entanglements were few, and those entanglements are now pretty far removed. I can tell this story now because I’m reasonably certain that no one will recognize it — or themselves in it — with sufficient certainty to want to act.
That’s not true for my other stories, the ones I’m not telling. Those are the stories where the people in it — including people not involved in the violence or other abuse — were friends and family or are friends and family now. Those are the stories with even more questions:
“Why didn’t you tell someone?”
“Why didn’t you leave?”
“Why didn’t you come to me? I would have helped you.”
Those are answers I’m not prepared to give right now, may never be prepared to give in the realm of real life, either because they’d hurt people I love or because I just don’t know. Some questions have no good answers, and others have answers that hurt too much to speak.
The second reason this story feels safer to me is because it entails physical hitting. It’s a societal line in the sand that a lot of folk — though by no means everyone — has been conditioned to accept as not okay, though they may or may not act on it. But even after I recognized and named how shitty other wrongs made me feel — a process that in itself took years — it took me a long time to label verbal abuse and sexual manipulation as abuse. It took even longer to accept, on an emotional level, that they could be just as harmful as physical abuse. Not because I think people should “just get over” them but because I’d trained myself to believe they didn’t matter as they were happening to me.
I feel safer telling this story because I think more people will understand that this is abuse. Because where I’m less sure, I don’t think I can handle the reactions:
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”
“You probably just need to grow a thicker skin.”
“This is why you have the responsibility to protect yourself.”
“You could have just said no, right?”
What I’m not sharing are the details of those stories. It might not be for a while, and when I do, it will almost certainly be in fiction first. That’s a safer outlet for me, though I think it still mars the truth a little.
What I am saying now, though, is that I still have stories to tell.
This post is part of the Domestic Violence Awareness Month Blog Carnival.