Tag Archives: domestic abuse

Was the relationship abusive or just bad?

Recently I was put in a position to explain what delineates an abusive relationship from a regular ol’ bad one.  Unfortunately, I can speak from personal experience.

In 2013, I left a bad relationship in California to come back home and pursue one that, obviously unbeknownst to me at the time, would become an abusive one very quickly.  I left my ex, Ken*–who I had a bad, but not abusive relationship with–after 4.5 years, to try to rekindle things with my (unofficial) ex Kevin–who became abusive very quickly.

Kevin was abusive financially, emotionally, and sexually.  He purposely stole from me on a regular basis, he lived off me completely and refused to move out when I told him he had to, he insulted me and set unreasonable benchmarks, he essentially tried to turn me into his estranged wife, he beat me unbelievably hard during sex, and he even forced me down and brazenly attempted to rape me once.  These things constitute abuse.

For those reasons–so many months later, after learning I’m not his only victim–he is currently facing criminal charges.  I wish I had pressed charges sooner, but it’s hard when you’re dealing with a sociopath.  Sociopaths are pure evil, but they’re very convincing, especially when they’re extremely charismatic and also classically handsome.  For well over a year, he managed to pathologically lie to me and convince me that anything wrong was all a mistake.

My other ex Ken*, though, is not a sociopath and is not evil.  We had a bad relationship, after the first couple years went by.  It was unhealthy, punctuated by cheating and lying.  But it was not an abusive relationship.  While he and I both individually did things that could classify as abuse when viewed through a lens, it was not an abusive relationship on the whole.  It boils down to two people hurting each other a lot but also loving each other (platonically), and being too afraid to let go.  I made the move to let go, eventually.  I’m sure that hurt him immensely, and that alone makes me sad.

To this day, any time I’m at a Chicago airport, I still cry.  He travels constantly for business, and Chicago is a layover city.  I cry just knowing he could be there.  A part of me misses him, as a family member.  Not at all as a boyfriend.  I do love him.  Just not in the way he needed.

So if you want to know what separates a bad relationship from an abusive one, I can tell you.  One is full of love and hope, and then eventual disengagement.  The other is full of sadness, resentment, and even violent assault.

There you go.  One ends in letting love go.  The other ends in pure, unbridled hatred.

*Name has been changed but you can also see below.

Advertisements

I think I’m finally ready to talk about my experience with intimate partner violence

It’s kind of out of nowhere, but I think I’m ready to talk about the time I was sexually assaulted, even though it’s minor compared to what other women have experienced. Inspired by this Feministing story, I decided to just go ahead and share it. The more we talk, the better the world may become.

I was already asleep in the bedroom and had been for awhile.  My then-boyfriend Kevin was in the living room, presumably binge-watching Netflix or channel 11 and growling profanities at my pet duck.  I woke up when he opened the bedroom door, and I saw him standing there, just his dark silhouette in the doorway.  He loomed there looking at me for a moment, and then suddenly he threw himself on top of me, pinning me down with his weight.  I shifted under him as he started kissing my neck, telling him politely, “No, Kevin, not now.  I need to sleep.”  He didn’t stop, but grabbed my hands and held them down so I’d stop trying to push him away.  “No, stop, I have to work tomorrow.”  He was pulling my pajamas off and I started fighting, trying to push him and protesting, “Stop, stop!”  But he wouldn’t listen.  He said nothing, just held me down under the weight of his body, tearing at my pajamas, swatting my hands away when I tried to grab or shove him.  I was crying hysterically, protesting louder and louder, and we fought progressively harder.  It continued on, in a violent struggle on the bed, as he used his strength to try to get me naked and force me to compliance.

Then suddenly, the look in his eyes changed.  The animalistic passion disappeared and they became clearer.  It was almost like he suddenly remembered that rape is bad.  He stopped, rolled off me, and said sorry.  He fell asleep, and eventually after I’d calmed down, I admittedly went back to sleep next to him.

Worse things have happened to other victims of intimate partner violence.  I’m lucky that the lightbulb went off in his brain and he stopped trying to rape me.  But in those five minutes or so that he attacked me, I felt what it’s like to be a helpless victim of a physical assault.  Fortunately that was the extent of the experience. I’m also lucky that he was my boyfriend, so I consented to sex with him many times, though not that particular time. It would’ve been much worse if it was someone I never consented to sex with.  Regardless, it was not at all consensual by any stretch of the imagination.

People question why women stay with men who hurt them, and the reasons are usually very valid and important: financial dependence, fear of further violence, protecting the children.  But reasons of that magnitude are not why I stayed with him.  I stayed because I was so physically (though not very emotionally) attracted to him, and I stayed because I wanted to see where his music would go.  I also stayed because I felt sorry for him, for what a wreck his life was.  He still needed me.  But even though I stayed, things did change after that incident.  I saw a glimpse of the abuser he really was, underneath the charisma and charm.  My rose-tinted glasses came off, and what I saw was scary.  I should’ve explored those feelings further, but I didn’t at the time.

I didn’t tell anyone about it for almost six months, and even then, I only told a couple of my closest friends.  I was embarrassed, I guess, and while we were together I still wanted to protect him.  I didn’t want people to know he was capable of being violent.  But now I think it’s time for me to be open about it, because silence helps no one.  What happened to me is on the low end of the scale of intimate partner violence, but it was real and it was scary, and I have much sympathy and empathy for other victims.

So why speak out?  Just for awareness.  To remind people that these things happen, and they can happen to anyone.  Anyone can be a victim or a perpetrator.  Anyone can be hiding this secret.  Trust victims.  Believe them.