Profile of an “innocent” bystander

(Quotes taken from a conversation I had with a “friend” and “supportive person” yesterday):

“I have been nothing but respectful to you through this whole process.”

“I haven’t been shitty to you, Jane. Your ex was and just because I hung out with [insert ex’s name here] doesn’t mean I supported or chose sides.”

“I don’t make a hobby of making other people’s business mine unless they ask for help.”

“I’m sorry for what you went through, however I was not a party in that relationship.”

“Good luck to you. I am done being made to feel as though I did something to hurt you.”

“I’m here if you ever want or need to talk but I will not be blamed for something I didn’t do.”

——————————-

As much support as I have had through all of this, these are the people who stick with me because I’m not important enough as a person to recognize how I have been affected by their actions. I know, in the long run, they don’t matter, but that doesn’t make it hurt less in the meantime.

Statements such as these are what perpetuate victim blaming and alienate survivors from their communities. I reached out to someone who used to be a friend to show them that how they have been treating me since my ex and I broke up is wrong and hurtful. They chose to be defensive and lash out instead of apologizing and admitting they were wrong and hurt me.

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Healing is painful

Some days, it feels like my pain will never end. I underestimated how long it would take for me to get over all of the heartache and manipulation over the past 6 years. This wasn’t just a break up, it was a prison break. I had to escape the claws of control that gripped my soul and continue to battle them after leaving. But at that point, those claws tried to disguise themselves as sweet vines, waiting to capture me again if a weakness was sensed.

I had to stand my ground, and remember all the shit I had been wading through for years. I had to squelch the good times, the happy times, the good parts of them. I had to believe wholeheartedly that I would be better without her, not matter how hard it would be to extract myself from her grasp.

But, their vines still encircle my soul, stealing my sunlight, my growth, my power. I’d like to think that I am slowly killing their grip on me, but I still feel suffocated.

Even now that it is all over, and I don’t think I will ever have to see them again, I am still wading through their shit. I have to deal with it every day. I have to walk past the place where she threw the bowl at my feet, and where she pinned me against the wall. I have to sit on the couch we bought together and live in the house we picked out. I can’t escape it. They got a fresh start, but sometimes I feel like I am still stuck in the same place.

Daily Prompt: Murmuration

via Daily Prompt: Murmuration

I feel her hands around my throat and it jerks me awake with no warning, in the middle of the night. I don’t know where I am, or what time it is.

I dig my fingernails on the inside of my wrist to feel something other than her hands encircling my neck. My breathing starts to slow and I look around the room.

The darkness presses on my eyes and I struggle to identify 5 things in the room to ground myself in reality: the comforter heavy against my legs, the door leading to the hallway, my alarm clock glowing on the bedside table, the dresser looming across the room, A murmuring quietly in her sleep next to me.

She was still there, sleeping peacefully beside me. My dream wasn’t real. I slide back underneath the covers and scoot closer to her, throwing my arm around her waist and placing my hand between her breasts. I take a deep breath and close my eyes.

The past is behind me, and I don’t have to be afraid of anymore. She is my rock, my safe place, my home.

I am a survivor.

I am a private person, and do not like to parade my personal life in the open for everyone to see, but I have stayed silent for too long. I have been afraid of backlash and not being believed, but I counsel people every day that staying silent only helps perpetrators continue the cycle and hurt someone else, and only makes you feel more isolated. So here it goes:

There is never an excuse for someone to put their hands around your throat and pin you against a wall. It does not matter how long you were together, what promises you made to each other, or what the health of one or the other is. “For better or worse” does not include feeling afraid of being hurt by your partner for any reason or in any context, and “just dealing with it” to stay together because that is easier than the alternative.

In addition to that night of violence, throughout our relationship I was cheated on and told that I was second choice. They said that they were in love with someone else for the majority of our relationship, but that I should be grateful that they chose me over her. My feelings were not taken into account for a lot of their decisions, and I was blamed when something went wrong. Double standards dominated my life, and we weren’t equal. I tried to be the person that they wanted/needed me to be, and I was in the relationship for the long haul, until their hands closed around my throat.

I should not have to justify, or feel guilty for, ending a relationship to take care of myself and be rid of a person who manipulated and hurt me for years. I deserve better. It took the worst of the worst to prove to me that my relationship wasn’t healthy, and that I was trying to be someone I wasn’t.

If you have gotten this far, not only do I sincerely thank you for caring enough about me to read my story, I hope you take something important from my experience: things aren’t always the way they seem. Throughout this break-up, only one person asked about my side of the story, and for them I will be forever grateful. They showed me that at least one person didn’t think I was capable of hurting someone so completely without good reason. I chose to end an unhealthy relationship, nothing more and nothing less.

I have started to heal with the help of my friends and family, but it is not something I can just get over in a few short months. My life has forever been changed, and I refuse to let anyone control me in the way that I was. I am a strong, intelligent, and resilient individual who is still learning her worth as a person. Publishing this post is one more step in the many I will need to take in order to fully accept my past and move on to the future.

Intimate partner violence is real, and happens more often than you think. I am proud to be a survivor.

 

-J

#7

“I’m fine.”
          I’m terrified.
          Hands squeezing my throat.
          ‘You get what you deserve.’

“I’m fine.”
          I’m worried.
          Forced to make a choice.
          Ended a 5 year relationship.

“I’m fine.”
          I’m worthless.
          Arrived at rock bottom.
          Shamed for taking care of myself.

“I’m fine.”

 

-J

#6

I wrapped my arms around my knees saying, “I just want you to be happy.” From my perch on the toilet seat, I watched her eyes dart to mine and then slide back to studying the swirling water in the bathtub. “If you are going to die in the next couple of years, I don’t want you to feel like you missed out on something just because you wanted to stay with me.”

“What if you fall in love with someone else? I don’t want you to stay just because you feel like you have to.”

I paused and thought about the last several months of our relationship. In many ways, it was a lot better than it used to be: we actually spent time together doing things we enjoyed, we looked forward to seeing each other, we tried to be good to each other. But at the same time, things were worse: I did feel trapped by the responsibility I felt for taking care of her, I wasn’t sure that I wanted to marry her (even if it was just a ceremony and not an official marriage because of her medical debt), and I didn’t feel appreciated, happy, or secure in our relationship.

Her illness didn’t erase the problems we had or make me forget how many times she had cheated and lied in the last 5 years. I had tried my best to forgive her and put my bitterness aside in order to be a good girlfriend, but those things still happened. I knew in my heart that she was still in love with one of the people she cheated on me with, and that she mentioned before that she wasn’t sure monogamy was for her. I thought my love for her would be enough, and that I was okay with all of those things as long as, at the end of the day, we had each other.

“Then we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, but right now my main concern is taking care of you. I don’t have any plans for leaving you.” We both cried, and I hoped that my friendship with A would fall under the newly-formed ‘open relationship’ terms and I could rationalize away my guilt for starting to fall for her.

#5

Since it was late, we decided to cuddle up and watch TV to fall asleep. I changed into sweats and curled up next to her, trying not to put my cold feet on her leg and contemplating how close I should get. I was trying to watch the show, but I could only focus on the parts of my body that were touching hers. I’m surprised she couldn’t feel my heart beating against her. I hoped she was thinking the same things I was.

She pulled me closer and my heart felt like it was going to come out of my chest. She put her lips to my hairline and I stopped breathing. After what felt like forever, I looked up at her and she leaned over and kissed me.

Simultaneously, my brain couldn’t process what was happening and was working in overdrive. I felt tingly all over, and pressed closer to her. I had never been kissed like that. All the words we had spoken and all the emotions we had shared passed between us in that moment. The pain of our past, the excitement for the future, the anxiety of the present, every tear, every smile, and every uncertainty ignited a fire inside my belly that spread and pulsed through my extremities.

#4

You lied to me.
You broke my trust.
You cheated on me multiple times, with multiple people.
We broke up.
I forgave you and we got back together.

You ignored my feelings.
You didn’t make me a priority.
You blamed me for all your problems.
We broke up.
I forgave you and we got back together.

You said you resented me.
You told me I wasn’t your first choice.
You told me you didn’t think monogamy was for you.
We broke up.
I forgave you and we got back together.

You called me names.
You threatened to kill yourself.
You put your hands around my neck.
We broke up.

I can never forgive you.

Assumptions

via Daily Prompt: Automatic

When someone makes a snap decision about someone or something, they are using information that they already know, or think they know. They assess the situation using automatic processes that have been groomed from birth because of family, friends, the media, movies, stranger interactions, societal beliefs, norms, and ideologies, and personal experiences.

For example: when a person sees a young black man, many automatically become fearful and put their guard up.

Socialization is the main motivator for these such reactions. People have been taught from a young age from many different sources that young black men are bad and to be feared. Does this mean everyone is racist: yes. Does this mean that everyone is prejudice: no.

Let me explain. The fact that there is that reaction means that you have grown up in a racist society and have been told consciously and subconsciously things about black individuals. Your automatic reaction is what you have been socialized to believe from a young age. But this does not make you prejudiced. As you grow up, you learn more and more things about race and how those are affected by media and you become more informed about racial differences, so you don’t believe that you should be afraid when you see a young black man down the street. Your second reaction is what you actually believe. If you check yourself after that automatic reaction saying, “Than man is not doing me any harm and I have no reason to think that they are other than the apparent color of his skin. I need to mind my own business and not jump to conclusions,” then you are not prejudiced: you don’t believe in the validity of the reaction you just had, and you aren’t discriminatory: you don’t act on a prejudiced belief (e.g. crossing the street or holding you purse closer to you.)

In a country that is founded on freedom, these automatic responses are something that should be combated, not exploited. The current President of the United States, is playing on America’s automatic thoughts and feelings as a basis for foreign policy change and as a platform for general societal reform. America needs a President (a leader of the free world!) who is willing and able to keep lifting us up and expecting us to be better and think more critically than before.

 

-J

#3

As someone’s rock:
     Too much emotion,
     Falling apart,
     Saying, “No,”
     Wanting to spend time apart,
     Forgetting anything,
     Being weak,
     Voicing an opinion,
     Losing control,
                         Isn’t allowed.