The following article/column was written, not only as therapy but with the purpose of bringing to light the fact that there is domestic abuse within the punk community. The author wishes to remain anonymous and may post more in the future. With that, please read on and comment if you see fit.
How could I let this happen? How could I allow myself to fall into such a deep pit? Why do I keep going back to him? What is wrong with me? How do I get out of this situation? I need help!!!!!
These were the sentiments that ran through my being during one of the lowest points in my life. I married an abuser, a manipulator, a liar, and a selfish man. I had no idea. I thought I was marrying my prince and I was going to live happily ever after. HA! Once my prince got out of prison, he turned into a beast right before my eyes.
At first it was very subtle. There were signs here and there that he was not the man I thought he was or that he claimed to be. Outbursts of anger directed at me, clinginess, lack of direction/purpose in life, sharp criticism of others, lack of communication, lack of romance, putting the burden of keeping the relationship together on my shoulders. If I would be upset because of his behavior towards me, he would say, “You’re the stronger one. You need to hold it together.”
He knew exactly where my soft spots were. He knew how to get me to doubt myself and to cast myself into the land of confusion. He liked it when I dwelled there because then he could manipulate and control me much easier.
Then it got worse. Drinking and partying, not coming home days at a time, taking trips without me, sleeping with other women, lying, neglect, blaming me, cursing me, and being outright cruel. I left once early on in the relationship, hoping he would understand that what was happening was not acceptable to me, but I was only gone for a few days. I felt sorry for him and so went back. I was functioning as a total co-dependent/enabler and didn’t even know it.
Marriage is a complex institution. On the one hand, I respect the aspect of making a commitment to another person to be monogamous and to walk with them through the good, the bad, and the ugly. But on the other hand, it can be used by abusers as a means of control, and it can also make it harder for the victim to leave. This was so in my situation. He would bring up our marriage vows a lot, how I’m supposed to stand by him no matter what, that I’m his wife so I should have sex with him even when I don’t want to….that type of thing.
How awful right? What an abuse of power and of another human soul. Thankfully, now that I am out of this relationship, I have different views about marriage altogether.
About a year into this thing and I was a wreck. I would be driving down the street and burst into tears , saying out-loud, “I need help, I need help!” I finally overcame my pride and started to see a counselor at the YWCA. That was the beginning of my journey back to sanity. She taught me about the difference between healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships. About the cycle of abuse, about how domestic violence is not just a physical act but can also be sexual and emotional, both of which I was experiencing. She gave me a mirror to help me better understand the situation I was in. I didn’t like what I saw but whenever I put the mirror down, I slipped right back into the same behavior and thought patterns.
After I ended counseling, I started going to Al-anon meetings and reading a bunch of their literature. This was a huge help to me as well. It was there I started to learn about co-dependency and its destructiveness. I found a group meeting I really liked (and that was in biking distance!) and people who understood what I was going through. But most important, I realized that I was putting my husband’s needs above my own and that I needed to tear down the existing framework and rebuild a new one. Somewhere along the way, he made himself the center of the relationship. If our relationship was represented by a circle, its like he walked right to the middle of the circle, took a shit, laid down, and stayed there. He expected me to carry his weight and dwell in his toxic space, which I did—but only for a season.
Its tricky being a woman in an abusive relationship. We are, by nature, nurturers. We want to help. We want to give, we want to support. We have a high tolerance for suffering and pain. We also still live in a patriarchal society where violence is the norm, not the exception, which makes it harder to realize when domestic violence is taking place, especially if its emotional, financial, or sexual. Men know this, and consciously or unconsciously, they use it to their advantage.
This is how the typical cycle of abuse goes in an unhealthy relationship. They hurt us in some way. We get upset and angry. They promise to do better. They say they love us and can’t live without us. We like hearing that. It makes us feel good. We want to help them. We want the relationship to work (if not for our sake, then the children’s sake). They romance us and make sweet love to us and we are hooked. We see a shimmer of the person we fell in love with and it gives us hope. Then the abuse starts all over again. The only way to end the cycle is not for the other person to magically change or stop doing what they are doing, but to GET OUT.
For many of us, if we are experiencing abuse, we keep it quiet. We are ashamed to talk about it. We don’t want to expose ourselves or our partner. We feel shame, guilt, hopeless, helpless, angry, afraid….. At one point in my relationship, I felt so stuck, not having the faith and courage to leave but knowing that staying meant dying inside. For the first time in my life I briefly contemplated suicide. Briefly.
The cycle of abuse is the same no matter your gender, religion, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation. It is a scientific reality. What I want to stress here is how powerful the oppressor can be and how easy it is to get sucked up into this cycle, no matter who you are, no matter what you stand for. Abusers also come from all different walks of life. My husband grew up in the punk scene and is still a part of it this day. I guess for him its more about social status than conscious awareness.
I was considered by those who knew me to be a strong minded, hard headed woman. I was my own person, an individual who could take care of herself, who could handle life’s blows and take them in stride. I had confidence and an inner peace. I never thought I would fall prey to the ravishes of an abuser. He almost destroyed my spirit. I was to the point where I was going to settle for being in a slave-like situation and make the best of it. I gave him that much power over me! It wasn’t until he physically abused me that I finally split. This time I left the state.
Its been two months now that I have been gone. Funny thing is, the abuse hasn’t stopped. Any way that he can subtly put me down he will. I realize he feels that I owe him my life somehow, like a wild beast whose food has been taken away from him. He wants me but realizes he can’t possess my soul—so instead of loving me and setting me free, he wants to destroy that which he can’t have.
At first, he was very verbally abusive towards me, calling me all kinds of names: coward, run-away, a fake , a phony, a horrible mom…the list goes on and on. Now he has settled down somewhat though he still expects me to get back together with him if/when he gets sober. Not realizing he has many more deep seated issues to deal with than just substance abuse.
I still find myself falling into the guilt trap. Why don’t I call him more? I don’t care about him. I help out everyone else but him. Where’s my compassion? This is just some of the butter he lays on me and some of it I have let penetrate to where I will call him or text him to see how he’s doing. But luckily, I’m in recovery/rebuilding mode and am scruitinizing my thoughts, behaviors, and those of the people around me. Other people too have been a sounding board for me which has been essential to staying away from him.
Today is a new day. It has been a long roller coaster ride but I can see the road beginning to straighten itself out and that is encouraging. In all of this, one of the hardest things to face is how I let myself get sucked into this relationship in the first place, why I stayed so long, and how even today, there is still a heart string or two of mine attached to him.
Abusers are very good at what they do and they tend to be attracted to compassionate people with high self esteem. If you have fallen prey to an abuser or are in an abusive situation, know that you can escape. One of the first steps is to let someone you trust know what is going on. Don’t be ashamed. What is happening to you is not because of anything you’ve done. You are with a sick person who is feeding off you and your strength. They are trying to suck it all out for themselves. You are caught in a spider’s web. Realize that if you stay for the long haul, you will eventually get eaten from the inside out. You will become an empty shell. And you could end up losing your life.
Self-respect and confidence in ourselves help us to keep our heads held high and our vision clear. When we are in an abusive relationship, our heads bow down and we can only see the ground. You are valuable in this world. There are people who need you to be strong and emotionally healthy: your children, your friends, your siblings, your nieces and nephews, your students…..whoever is in your life, if you can’t do it for yourself, do it for them. Do it for all of us. Because the more each of us walks away from abusive relationships and says, “No more!”, the less abuse will be tolerated in our society.
Note: I wrote this article associating abusers with men and victims with women. I realize that men also experience domestic violence and women can be the perpetrators. I also used generalizations regarding gender. I realize as well that not all women have a dominant feminine nature and not all men have a dominant masculine nature. For sure! We are all our own people!