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Sunday sentiments/

 
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SUNDAY

SENTIMENTS/

#thoughtfeelings

 

Hubble Spies Glowing Galaxies in Massive Cluster. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA.

 

 

SUNDAY SENTIMENTS/// is a weekly gesture of rebellion, an offering, a disruption to the present. It is a site to develop a practice to share/exchange radically vulnerable thoughtfeelings and build communal knowledge from it. We believe in the invaluable potential of what we know that is still raw, unpolished, a draft, in the particular search of strategies to inhabit our disabled bodymindspirits with wisdom and kindness.

 

This is an invitation to open genuine conversations about what we–as disabled queer/trans people–long, need, and dream. It is an alternative reality when/where we can create radically vulnerable collaborative knowledge and foster communal intimacy through fragmented memories, flashbacks, presentiments, and ecstatic raptures . 

 

thoughtfeelings

 

Mirroring Abuse/Surviving Abuse: 18 notes to my 18 year old self

By Sav Schlauderaff

I have found myself returning to this topic, particularly in light of increased visibility or increased discussions around “disposability” and “cancelled culture” and what it means to, then, center accountability when discussing abuse—particularly in academic and activist spaces. Moreover, this language has been taken up by abusers/harm-doers (depending on what language you might use) to evade being removed from their social circles.For example, this process has been co-opted and oftentimes does not meet the requirements for an accountability process of including the person(s) who have experienced harm and those who are harm-doers. However, that is a very different conversation for another time, and perhaps I am not the person to write out any advice or insight on this.

What I do want to take the timespace for is to talk about my own experiences as a victim/survivor of domestic abuse, and about how these experiences often bled into me causing harm to others in subsequent relationships. I want to write this as a reminder that abusers/harm-doers are not a special kind of person that is more capable of doing harm, they are not inherently bad, and they are surely not an outlier. And further, a reminder that being in an abusive relationship pushes you to survive and also teaches you how to also cause harm to others—all while normalizing these behaviors.

These are notes to my past self, and potentially to current/future/past you.

These notes are a work in progress, what I wish I had known, what I wish someone could have told me, what I have learned in the almost 7 years of experiencing abuse from intimate relationships.

1. Abuse is so much more than physical and sexual violence; and waiting and telling yourself that “at least they didn’t hit me” will make it harder to leave when they do actually physically assault you.

Definitions and societal understandings of Domestic Abuse and Interpersonal Violence (IPV) have broadened in recent years to also include emotional, sexual, reproductive and financial abuse. However, society has normalized many of these forms of abuse and control in relationships so that only physical abuse is understood as real abuse.

For me, the normalization of these forms of abuse made me stay so much longer than I should have because it felt like something I could still control and correct. And honestly, I was still invested in making the relationship work. By creating an “ending point” at physical abuse, I was excusing all the rest of my pain. Therefore, when I was physically abused, it was like I made it to the end of the line I had drawn but I was already trapped and didn’t have my exit plan figured out. Truthfully it wasn’t until my family’s lives were threatened that I left.

Leaving takes so much strength, it takes the strength of admitting you are in danger, it takes the strength of admitting you have been lying, it takes the strength of reaching out to people you may have been isolated from that may not want to talk to you. It takes the strength of admitting to yourself that you can no longer try to fix your relationship.

2. Financial abuse, coupled with the hyper-production expected from capitalism, will do more damage to your bodymindspirit than you can predict

This is the point I have been thinking the most about lately as my body has become overcome with fatigue and chronic pain. After being in a relationship for about 2 years where I was forced to pay all of the bills, and then work 40+ hours a week while going to school full time to be able to pay all of the bills, I have done irreparable damage to my bodymindspirit.

This led to housing insecurity, food insecurity, and more fuel for my eating disorder. I have done irreprable damage to my bodymindspirit/ irreparable damage has been done to me.

Domestic violence is a disability justice issue.

3. The looming expectation to be in a cisheterosexual monogamous relationship has an incredibly strong impact on victim/survivors feeling pressure to stay.

When I started my first “real” relationship I was still very much in the closet and forcing myself to be in a straight relationship. This came after years of pestering and teasing and taunting by my family and classmates because I hadn’t had a boyfriend yet. So, in many ways this was me “proving” (read: performing) my straightness to everyone else to hide my queer and trans identities. And in other ways it was me proving that I was desirable and valuable.

This first relationship went very wrong very quickly (read my DV story here if you like), but my parents were so ecstatic that I was finally in a relationship, and I on some level felt wanted.

These expectations and aspirations to be in a cishet monogamous relationship made me ashamed to admit I was being abused. I felt like I had failed.

We need to stop pressuring others to be in relationships, and we need to understand that most all relationships will end.

4. The normalization of going through each other’s phones & constantly surveilling your partner isn’t caring for them, it is teaching them that their privacy and personal boundaries are not important.

I want to repeat that it is NOT cute to force your partner to give you their phone, their passcode, or to go through their messages. This was an action I definitely needed to work through and unlearn. It is a question of trust that requires a conversation around why you don’t feel you can trust them, and it is a question of insecurity that generally revolves around cheating.

Through having my actions surveilled (such as being forced to send pictures and videos of where I was, having my partner show up without me knowing, and having them go through my phone, computer and social media accounts) it impacted me making new friends and it took away my outlet of being able to talk about my relationship.

5. The feeling of needing to “walk on eggshells” to not anger your partner will translate into all of your relationships & it will take years for you to regain confidence and the ability to discuss your feelings.

I still break down crying when people raise their voices or yell.

I am still working on truthfully communicating my feelings to others.

I am still unlearning that I cannot predict someone else’s feelings or actions.

I am still learning to take up space.

6. You shouldn’t have sex until you are comfortable talking about it and your own pleasure first.

Further, you don’t need to tell your partner exactly how many people you have slept with, you don’t need to comply to sex acts that you don’t feel comfortable with, having a partner take pictures and videos of you during sex without your consent is abuse, talking about consent also requires consent for the conversation to happen.

It wasn’t until I was 19/20 that I had a conversation with someone about what I wanted during sex. I am 24 now and I still have a hard time having these conversations with partners.

I have had over 100 sexual partners and I have not been able to communicate about my own desires. I have used sex as a bad coping mechanism to feel desired by others. I have kept my sex life very secret from friends because I am ashamed to talk openly about sex.

I couldn’t truthfully answer if I think I actually enjoy having sex.

Sex is generally painful and I have often vomited and cried after.

All of these are reasons why I wrote this long article about asexuality and painful sex.

This is all to say I wish I could have had the power to wait, I wish that so many people would have listened when I said no, I wish that friends and partners could have respected my boundaries.

7. If someone is forcing you to tell your story of abuse, they are not listening to support you they are listening for their own personal gain. You don’t owe anyone your story. You are not their #inspirationporn.

That’s it. Bold, highlight, 28 point font this, retweet/repost, print this on a billboard sign.

8. If they don’t want to meet your friends and family, or after they meet them only have negative things to say this is the start of them isolating you.

Is this an absolute? Potentially not, because you might have a great romantic relationship and a harmful relationship with your parents or friends. However, in all of my abusive relationships their negative comments and feelings towards my friends and family started small and eventually grew into “I don’t want to see X anymore” “you shouldn’t be their friend anymore” or “but can’t we just spend the day/weekend together?” To “you can’t talk to X anymore” or them deleting people’s contact information out of my phone or deleting them off of my social media. These are all attempts, conscious or not, to isolate you and remove people from your life.

The isolation and loneliness is one of the hardest part of being in a domestically abusive relationship. The only person you talk to and trust is also the person harming you.   

9. Your partner should never get to make your reproductive choices for you. It is not romantic for them to want to “get you pregnant.” It is not their decision whether or not you are on birth control.  

Reproductive abuse is a form of sexual abuse, and it is also not discussed enough in relation to domestic violence. At 18, at 19, at 20, at 21 at 22 I was not ready nor did I ever want to have children. Yet I had partner’s consistently push this narrative, as well as unsafe sex practices onto me such as: hiding and throwing away my birth control, having sex without using any protection, and repeating/threatening that I needed to get pregnant.

Pregnancy is a way for you to remain tied to your abuser and a way for them to stay in contact with you. It is also a way that many people feel they can “fix” their relationships. These are choices only you can make about your body and your future.

10. Comments about your appearance, weight, style etc. are rarely actually about any of those aspects of you, rather, they are ways of decreasing your self confidence and increasing the feeling that you need them in your life.

You’re too fat, you’re too skinny, if you don’t shave your armpits I won’t be attracted to you anymore, you need to dress better, why are you dressed like a slut, you never dress up for me, you’re ugly you’re ugly you’re ugly, no one else will want you.

The fact that these insults would contradict one another, oftentimes within the same argument became an indication that this was never about my actual appearance. These comments were ways for them to tear me down, so I would feel like I needed them more when they complimented me.

11. Abusers will all too often never actually “apologize” but instead will perform being upset about being a “bad person.” This is a way to make you care for them, and a way to switch the conversation from the harm they did to how being confronted about it hurt them.

Read this. And then read it again.

Listen to their words to understand if they are actually apologizing or trying to center their own feelings in the conversation.

12. You are not the end-all be-all for your partner, and vice-versa.

You partner and you both need healthy relationships with friends, family, co-workers, classmates etc. outside of your relationship. Don’t listen to societal expectations of monogamy because it is impossible to meet all of the needs of another human.

13. You will learn their routine for hurting/arguing with you, and you may even learn how to “deal” with them. This may become easy for you to normalize to yourself and others, but you should never downplay their actions.

I have sat with friends numerous times towards the end of my own and others’ abusive relationships reading over text and email fights, and we always learn to predict what trick they are going to try next. It’s anger, more anger, pity me, I love you, you are the best thing to ever happen to me, I don’t deserve you, why do you hate me, you’re wrong, bringing up a past argument, I hate you. (or some rendition of this arc). This is to say that abusers/harm-doers know what they are doing.

However, just because you can predict and hopefully evade their hurtful actions, these actions are still serious and can do damage. And you won’t be able to predict everything, this normalization leads to staying in the relationship and further putting yourself at risk. These actions are intended to harm you.

14. Your experiences as a victim/survivor do not shield you from also doing harm to others, you will mirror parts of the abuse you experienced.

I suppose this was one of the central points of this article. A reminder that being a victim isn’t a fixed position, and through being in abusive relationships we observe and absorb these harmful behaviors through normalizing them. They become our experience of “being in a relationship” and then we have the potential of dragging these behaviors directly into our next romantic relationship, into our friendships and into our relationships with our family.

You need to process the harmful behaviors from your past relationships so you can not only point them out in your current or future relationships, but also so you can be mindful of your own actions.

15. Helping other victim/survivors will always leave you vulnerable to re-experiencing your pain. Be mindful of this and inform/reach out to others to support you.

It is important to connect with other victim/survivors to understand that you have a support network and that you can speak openly about your experiences without feeling ostracized.

BUT you don’t need to prove your strength around this topic or prove that you are “healed.”

Remember to protect yourself and never assume you are “over” your past experiences. Don’t force yourself to watch a sexual assault documentary or a show/movie with domestic violence in it, inform your friends of content warnings you may need, and be kind and patient with yourself.

16. You will likely lose friends and close relationships with family.

People will say the wrong thing to you and it will take time to repair relationships with those around you. You will push away those that are trying to help you, you will isolate yourself. But know that you will build strong relationships.

17. On Healing: You cannot control your PTSD. It will take time to work through this and even more time to heal. Remember that healing isn’t a destination, and become aware when you are getting lost in the past. You shouldn’t force your healing to mimic others’.

You don’t need to publicly call out your abusers, you don’t need to confront everyone who has hurt you, you have the space to mess up and try again.

I have written other articles here and here on my relationship to healing and growing through trauma.

18. You do not deserve your abuse. That while it will feel like something is wrong with you, and you will blame yourself for “attracting” abuse in your personal life, you deserve to be cared for and supported and loved.

You do not deserve your abuse. That while it will feel like something is wrong with you, and you will blame yourself for “attracting” abuse in your personal life, you deserve to be cared for and supported and loved.

You do not deserve your abuse. That while it will feel like something is wrong with you, and you will blame yourself for “attracting” abuse in your personal life, you deserve to be cared for and supported and loved.

You do not deserve your abuse. That while it will feel like something is wrong with you, and you will blame yourself for “attracting” abuse in your personal life, you deserve to be cared for and supported and loved.


And lastly, a note for those who have not experienced domestic violence, if you sense something is wrong or see abuse/ abusive patterns happening in your friend/family/co-workers relationships have a conversation with them about it. Check in with them, and let them know you are there if they need to talk to you. Maybe they never will, but I know that it was the small comments from those around me that gave me the strength to trust my own perceptions.

Being in an abusive relationship makes you doubt everything and oftentimes I felt like I was in a never-ending and exhaustive non-reality, sometimes you just need the extra validation that something is wrong in your relationship.

Be aware of resources and support for people experiencing domestic violence.

If someone is opening up to you about their experience, what they need most of all is someone to listen. Don’t try and solve anything for them and don’t force any actions upon them. Listen and provide support.

Leaving takes so much strength, it takes the strength of admitting you are in danger, it takes the strength of admitting you have been lying, it takes the strength of reaching out to people you may have been isolated from that may not want to talk to you. It takes the strength of admitting to yourself that you can no longer try to fix your relationship.

SAV SCHLAUDERAFFComment