(Triggers: physical and mental abuse)
A favourite song and video: “Would I Lie to You,” by Eurythmics. I watched it this evening after responding to a friend’s Facebook call for songs by or about badass women.
The video starts with the band waiting on Annie, who’s really late for the concert they’re giving. She arrives, driven by her lout of a boyfriend, who’s been at her all evening, it seems. As she tells him she may not come home to him tonight and walks away from his abuse, towards the stage entrance, he calls her a “Queen bitch” and adds “I hope your voice gives out”! Annie gets inside, sits before a mirror …
DAVE: Hey, you’re really late. What’s the matter?
ANNIE: Everything’s the matter, that’s all.
DAVE: Don’t worry. Just be yourself tonight.
This video, and especially that little exchange at the start, helped me break up with a guy who’d hit me. We were teenagers. He hit me during a minor dispute — not even a dispute, but a discussion — over what we might do that evening. I declined a suggestion. He punched me on the upper arm, hard enough to make me stagger, then seized my forearm and twisted it behind my back. I had no idea this attack was coming. I was so furious that the second he let me go I belted him one back.
This happened in public, in broad daylight.
He told me to calm down, as if it was my fault.
We were just teenagers, and I had a safe place to go: home. But even as a teenager, this guy tried mind-games on me, tried to convince me that if I somehow hurt or rejected him — he was sensitive and creative, after all, so I had to be careful, ya know — bad shit might happen. Nothing happened afterwards. I lived in dread of him for weeks. He didn’t come near me. We crossed paths a few times later, and I was civil, too polite, really — because I didn’t want anyone to know he’d hit me, and because, I think, I was afraid he’d do it again if I said the wrong thing.
The wrong thing — as if it was my fault.
We were both just teenagers, and he’d got no way to control other parts of my life, like my finances or, as happens now, my phone. So, yes, I could just walk away.
I couldn’t speak of it, though. And I’m pretty damn mouthy. I’ve no doubt there are people out there who hope my voice gives out some day. But I couldn’t speak of this. For years. Because I felt so ashamed of it. And I’d done nothing wrong. One smack and one arm-twist, from one teenage boy, and I couldn’t speak of it.
What does serial abuse do? Hey? An abusive partner who lives with you, has a finger in your bank account, puts surveillance shit on your cell phone: what toll does that take?
I think about him sometimes, wondering if he ever learned to deal with his anger.
I think about battered partners and the smug shit they have to hear from other people, shit like “Just leave,” as though it’s the battered partner’s fault somehow.
It’s never that easy.