[Sort of picking up from yesterday]
It’s possible that I didn’t explain clearly or fully or quickly enough what was going on and to the extent it was going on. It’s possible I still haven’t.
It’s possible that we have a screwed up society that is unbothered by abuse.
Lots more things are possible, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m tired (and I think I’m done) explaining to myself or anyone else that this dude was abusive.
I’ve been on this planet a while now – well over a couple of decades. And I’ve been having various romantic (ish) and/or sexual experiences for somewhere near half that time. (Heck, most of that time, if we think of technically my first kiss all the way back in kindergarten.)
I have run into the normal “crummy guy tropes.” I have met (and sometimes slept with, or gone on a couple of dates with) the guy who’s a liiiittle too pressure-y, or the guy who’s a liiiittle too conceited, or the guy who is really a terrible listener, or the guy who’s a liiiittle too into prescribed gender roles, etc… I have most definitely encountered the “ugh, that guy” stereotypes. Usually, they’re just annoying, maybe frustrating, but they’re not this abusive guy. I know the [guy you met on [insert any dating app] who kinda skeeved you out and just felt ugh]. And this is not that. This is way super above and below the normal range. He was markedly different.
I know the difference between “that person was kind of a jerk,” and “that person is abusive.”
And we can argue maybe I don’t reeeeally know the difference, or live in it all the time, because I had to go to therapy, and I blamed myself sometimes (many times). But there was a reason this resulted in therapy for me!
There’s a difference between a guy who does a little negging (which still isn’t good!) vs the guy who tries to take away your humanity and ridicule you at every turn.
There’s a difference between a guy who’s maybe, I guess “overly-chivalrous” and might order your food without consulting you (which on it’s own might not be all that giant of a deal), vs one who is so controlling you feel paralyzed because you get to do nothing for yourself, and if you do, oh get ready for more ridicule, because you can do literally nothing right.
There’s a difference between a guy who can’t repeat back to you any details about the crazy story you told him from work today because he didn’t listen, vs the guy who willingly keeps having sex with you when you’re crying and shaking and telling him he’s making you uncomfortable, and he just barrels on because he “doesn’t listen.” That’s not just someone who’s not totally keyed in to you. That’s a rapist.
There’s a difference between a guy who’s just kinda confusing and you enlist your friends to help decode a text, vs a guy who is so skilled at gaslighting it makes you start to question the whole world around you.
I got some worksheets from my therapist. One has 76 signs of red flags of abusive behavior. If someone has a tiny handful of those, they’re probably just a person with some quirks or a rough patch or a different kind of past. Some of them on their own are totally innocuous. I think the most innocuous one is “has no job.” Obviously people could be unemployed for so many reasons. And nearly everyone I know (especially in our freelance world) has been unemployed multiple times. That in itself certainly doesn’t mean someone is an abuser.
I could go down a number on this list and explain away why, by themselves, they don’t mean much. But he has over 2/3 of the list. That paints a picture.
He. is. abusive.
And it is hard to explain, because sometimes it feels like I lose it over a “small” thing, because it’s the top of the mountain he’s burying me under. It’s like that last little scoop of sand (or whatever this mountain is being made of) is the one that finally suffocates me. So, how can I get mad about a teeny tiny bit of sand? Because that’s the sand taking away my ability to breathe.
And speaking of not breathing, it’s like a whole ‘nother mountain to hear people (especially if they’re my friends) trying to play devil’s advocate.
I know we play devil’s advocate for our friends. It can be wildly helpful (and I’m sure it was easy to join me if I’d get in a spiral). But in this situation, it is not. I may play that dangerous game with myself thinking about him, and a lot of my ridiculous questions that follow. “Is he really all that bad? But what if I just misconstrued every single thing ever, and all of this abusive stuff was all just misunderstandings? What if, what if, what if, what if [a lot of what-ifs that realistically are most definitely not true or relevant, but common for abuse victims to ask]” but hearing it from other people never helped.
“Oh, was he really all that bad? You know, guys are kinda awful. [Blah blah blah.]”
Yes. Yes, he was that awful. (And also, let’s maybe try to be a little more mindful of using language to lump in all-guy traits with these abusive guy traits. That seems really toxic! The fact that we can’t tell if a guy is abusive, because we apparently expect a certain level of “mean/uncaring/refusing to listen/and more” behavior?… that sucks.
One time, one of my friends I’ve been friends with for a super long time told me he didn’t totally get it (esp when I was complaining about sexual assault guy being mad that I wanted to go up steps instead of an escalator, which seems like a very small thing without all the context I had)… but that even though he didn’t 100% understand everything by the example I gave (and who would?), he trusted me. He said he’s known me forever and he trusted me, and knew that if I said it was really bad, it was really bad.
That moment meant a lot to me – to have someone just believe the truth of the situation without feeling the need to litigate it. I deeply appreciate his friendship, but of course I know I can’t expect (or even hope for) everyone to blindly trust me. (Who am I? Some dictator in the making?)
So, trust me, and the books, and the worksheets, and my therapist, and the girl before me, and the girl before that, and some other people I’ve met who happened to know him and spoke off the cuff about his controlling nature (before I even mentioned my own thoughts). Trust everybody.
Of course I want people to understand and believe me (since I’m telling the truth). But I’m doing this whole thing on the blog, in large part as a way to document/explore all the issues surrounding all of this (e.g. abuse, how we think of men, and what we teach them as kids, and expect of them later, how we treat women, how we treat survivors, how to be a good friend/ally to a friend going through this stuff, sexual assault in general, what recovery’s like and how to go through it. And on and on and on.)
And to the best of my ability, on this specific subject (trying to explain that he was abusive, and what it was like to be on the receiving end of this abusive relationship), I have. I think I’ve said everything I have left to say on this specific piece of puzzle.
I don’t think I can write any more posts about how he was abusive. If I haven’t explained it well, and you want to know more about abuse and gaslighting and such, there are many good resources (better/more official than me because they’re written by doctors (or other medical professionals) or scholars, as opposed to my firsthand account). [One good one is “Why Does He Do That?” by Lundy Bancroft. I think it might be more helpful for someone who’s experienced abuse to try to understand the why, as opposed to if you’re really trying to understand what abuse is. So, for these circumstances, I’m not sure what the best book recommendation is. And if you have one, feel free to leave it in the comments.
But I can no longer try to explain abuse or put it in any more context. I can potentially answer specific questions (maybe) if some clarification is needed on certain things (though I don’t promise to answer anymore, as it is draining and I think I’ve explained things as best I can…but I’m partially here to start conversations, so I will definitely consider answering more if people really need help in understanding). But I can’t stay in a loop of just trying to explain reality. I want my world to grow way bigger than just trying to prove basic reality is true.
So, as we’re finally getting toward the end of the sexual assault posts on the blog, I’m gonna go ahead and say on this specific subject (of trying to explain that he’s abusive), that we’re closing out. And I’ll try to close out a few more soon! Thanks!