Friday, March 08, 2013

DV Ruminations

[Excerpted from a letter I wrote regarding my own domestic violence experience -- this is pretty much navelgazing, y'all, but you're welcome to read on.  It's just not your standard perky Friday reading fare.  My apologies :) 

Oh, and standard "may be triggering" warnings apply.]


Growing up hearing about my maternal grandmother's marriage and how she left, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'd never let myself be in a relationship that involved domestic violence.  The second someone reaches out to strike you, you leave.  Full stop, end of discussion. G taught it, Mom seconded it, I believed it.  But over the course of my first two marriages I learned that abuse has more forms than a raised fist.  Between the two of them, I endured every type of marital abuse that exists with the exception of an outright, bloody beating.

What kills me (and this appears to be a universal feeling among various subsets of domestic violence survivors) is that I know better.  I knew it going in.  I'm intelligent, I'm educated, and I grew up in a family where we were taught to be honest, kind, and to use our words -- by anyone's measure, a "good family."

I know it's wrong to talk to people like they're trash.  I know it's wrong to threaten to abandon your family on a regular basis simply as a means of venting your displeasure.  I know it's wrong to withhold money for basic household bills.  I know it's wrong to make your family suffer because you refuse to provide the means to secure adequate medical and dental care.  I know it's wrong to threaten to discipline your children physically to coerce your spouse into behaving a certain way.  All of that is wrong and there is so much more to add that I dare not even attempt a comprehensive list; but every item on that list is a means of one person increasing their control over another.  I get that.  Because every item on that list (and more) was employed against me, by the person I should have been able to trust most.

And yet I let it happen not only once, but twice.  As it was occurring in my life, I didn't see it as abuse.  I saw it as irresponsibility, as idiocy, and at times as plain-out meanness, but the fact that all those behaviors put together created a pattern of abuse just didn't take, and dealing with it turned me into a person I didn't even recognize at times.  Looking back, I still don’t.  It took me finally getting sick of the constant divorce threats from my second husband, leaving him, and then actually sitting there in the Parents Children and Divorce class with that domestic violence cycle diagram staring up at me from the workbook for the reality of what I'd lived for the previous decade and more to actually sink in.

This was all because they didn't hit me.  Somehow the lack of a direct strike was supposed to make it okay.

But it wasn't okay.

I want other people to understand that.  I want them to understand that domestic violence isn't only found at the end of a fist, but also in a pattern of behavior used to belittle and control.  The simple fact of the matter is that there isn't a batterer out there who didn't first start with verbal abuse, with emotional abuse.  Not one.  I remember the story of how G's husband started treating her differently right after they got married.  When she asked him about it -- contrary to common perception, women who deal with domestic violence are rarely voiceless doormats -- he said, "We're married.  No use to be dragging bait when the fish is caught."

That was the first overt sign of things to come.

I'd like fewer women to have to deal with those "things to come".  I'm not sure how to accomplish it*, but that's what I'd like to see.


 *Actually, how I accomplish it now, outside of putting my limited monies where my mouth is -- including a specific donation this letter accompanied -- is by occasionally sharing about domestic violence on my blog.  I don't want to go nuts with it here, because as I've said before this is not the place.  But on occasion... definitely.  Because I'm a normal, relatively well-adjusted woman who also happens to also be a domestic violence survivor.  If it could happen to me, it could happen to anybody.  The only shame is silence.


Ria said...

I agree with all you've written bar 'I'd like fewer women...' though an undoubtedly gendered crime, there are many men who also suffer from DV, especially the type of emotional abuse you've mentioned. But you're completely right, just because there's no physical abuse, it doesn't mean that there's no domestic violence.

Amanda said...

Agreed, regarding the lack of gender distinction. I usually try to be inclusive. I am a woman and my focus is there for varying reasons, but I'm rather intimately aware that domestic violence doesn't discriminate on the basis of the presenting gender of either perpetrator or victim.

I'd go back and edit it, but I think I'll leave the post as stands because your point is well taken.

Norma said...

Thanks for putting this out there, mon ami. You never know who is reading, who might stumble upon it, and who might hear their own future self speaking to them in your words.

Amanda said...

You bet, Norma -- I know it was just a bunch of little things like running across an article or blog entry like this that finally led to me leaving/ initiating divorce back in 2007 with my second husband.

So I have to speak up, because staying quiet means that someone who might need to see this wouldn't otherwise. That would be more than a pity.

Choreboy's a fluke. I wasn't planning to get remarried ever. I hadn't done a good job of picking the two times before, yanno? But the man is just flat-out awesome.

PlumPetals said...

Words like these need to be written and read. It is unfortunate that so many degrees of domestic violence (violence) in general occur on a daily basis. Knowing that you/we're not alone gives great strength.

Amanda said...

PP, it does absolutely. I think we all want to know that we're heard, that we're seen; I think that becomes even more critical when we've been deliberately squelched into silence and invisibility by those who should care most.

Val said...

Great post! I followed you over from Allan's & I'm tickled to read you have herps (the universe just sent us a half-starved redtail boa)... My teenager named him Pablo Escobar & we're busily feeding him up. Need to post before & after pix.
(Fellow veteran of psychological warfare in 1st marriage so your words truly resonate w/me - I'm tempted to forward to H2 so he might "get" why I'm Not Over It Yet, and likely won't be until my son reaches adulthood & we don't have to do that crazy co-parenting dance anymore...)

Amanda said...

Hey Val, nice to meet you! Yes, the snakes are a constant source of entertainment :) Okay, so they mostly sit there... but they entertain me by doing that.

Maybe I'm easy to please? LOL

Nah, I just like having them, caring for them, and serving as a snake treadmill. They're just awesome.

I'm sorry you've had a similar experience to mine. Feel free to point your husband to this. I work to be as "over" my past as possible but just last night I had to leave the room because Choreboy was getting stressed over something piddly, so he was sighing and whatnot. Perfectly normal, right?

Well, my ex used to start with sighing which would quickl move to hitting the desk, cursing, then the throwing would commence... bleah. So even sighing just raises my hackles a bit. Fortunately Choreboy understands. He knows he didn't do anything wrong, and he knows I know it. But I can't be around it.

Sucks, but there it is.