Friday, May 15

How My Abuser Still Haunts Me [2]

This is [part 2 of] a long article/memoir essay I wrote for SkirtCollective last month. It was hard to write, but once I started it just kept going and going until I had said everything I could. I had nightmares that night. 
Trigger warning here, I guess.


After a while, I said ‘no’ more often, hung up on him more often, went out of my way to spend time with my family or old friends instead of him. Eventually, I stopped picking up the phone altogether.
It’s extremely hard – and terrifying – to break up with an abuser. Especially one who’s known you for so long. After all, breaking up had happened before: over and over for years. This time I was determined, and after a week of angry phone calls, threats, insults, guilt and harassment, it seemed to stick.
I don’t remember how terrified I was. Maybe I blocked it out.
It was the end of the school year and I do remember him hovering near my classrooms and parking spot. There was one day, near the end, when I was waiting for my ride next to the school. He was standing by the entrance, eyes on me. I knew he would come closer when more people had left, but I didn’t know what he would do.

But for some reason, two boys I knew came out of nowhere to sit with me. One was a friend, the other an old friend’s brother. I didn’t know why they were there, suddenly on each side of me, making random, simple small talk about pretty much nothing. When my ride showed up, they left, and I’d made it through the day without a confrontation. I’ve never mentioned it to the one of them I still keep up with, but I’ve told the story a lot. I don’t know if this was intentional, to keep him away or just keep me company, but I couldn’t have been more grateful. It meant so much to me to feel protected, even in that small way.
After that, things were easier. Less angry phone calls to ignore, less days I stuck close to the few friends I still had, avoiding him in the halls. Then it was summer, and I could almost pretend he didn’t exist.
It didn’t occur to me at the time how much other people had my back in that time. Not only the boys after school, but old friends that seemed to conveniently intervene here and there. I have little doubt that everyone knew things were awful – though not how awful – and they seemed to accept me back pretty easily. It never felt like they judged me for distancing myself from everyone, and they seemed to take my side – even some that had once been his friends.
I wish I’d noticed that then, and appreciated that support more.
It’s been ten years, I suppose, since the summer I got out, but every once in a while he tries to contact me. We chatted once, not long after I started college – because I was stupid and thought it would be okay. He said I was crazy for still feeling bad about our relationship. That I must be really fucked up if it all bothered me so much.
He will never remember half of the things I will never forget.
I think that’s the only thing that still hurts.
He still tries to add me on Facebook sometimes, and once he contacted me via my tumblr page, violating a space I saw as my own. I don’t use it anymore.
There’s a special kind of pain that comes from sexual coercion. A very particular type of guilt that rots your insides. It hurts to think of all the things that were done to you and to think ‘I said yes.’
Now, years later, sex is an endless exercise in willful, selective memory. Exposed nipples remind me of the abandoned movie theater where he lifted my shirt to fondle me, barely hidden behind the building’s columns, pretending to be interested in it all and trying not to cry when a car drove past and might have seen. I have a strange relationship with my vagina as well, remembering his fingers, rough and forced, in my parent’s moldy, dingy basement, or his lips when he convinced me to lie to my mother, sneaking out of a movie to go to his empty bedroom.
Then there’s his hand pulling mine towards him under a blanket or table, moving my hand to stroke him while people around us talked. There’s a sense of hidden shame when my pubic hair grows out too much, remembering the time he sent me a series of instant messages that said ‘SHAVE THAT BUSH’ over and over again. Or the time he convinced me to go down on him for the first time, sitting on the floor in my bedroom with my parents in the next room. I have to be high to enjoy doing that now, to block out memories that make me want to curl up, shivering. I know this would legally be considered rape, and that there’s some kind of irony to it all, considering the context, but sometimes the only way I can have sex is to be able to let go – to focus on the sensations of my skin without the flashbacks. It isn’t fair, but it works.
Still, it leaves a sick, queasy feeling in the very core of me. Like it’s me that’s rotten. Sick. The days my depression hits hard and I can’t get all of these stupid moments out of my head, I feel broken.
But on my good days, when my husband is sweet and patient and caring, I feel free again. I remember how lucky I am. That I got out. That it didn’t get worse than it was.
That I am stronger and braver than he ever gave me credit for.
That it will never, ever, happen to me again.

Tuesday, May 12

How My Abuser Still Haunts Me [1]

This is [part 1 of] a long article/memoir essay I wrote for SkirtCollective last month. It was hard to write, but once I started it just kept going and going until I had said everything I could. I had nightmares that night.
Trigger warning here, I guess.


I talk about him openly: the abusive boyfriend I had for most of high school. I talk about how he separated me from my friends and family so well. My isolation was important to him. I talk about how he would “hug” me when he was angry in public; squeezing me so tight I felt like I might break. How he’d wrap his arm around my waist or shoulder in a similar way. From the outside it looked like affection, and if anyone could tell that his fingers were digging into my skin, they didn’t say anything. It made me feel so far away from everyone else. So alone.
I complain about the day he thought my jeans were too tight, so – when we were alone – he criticized me and grabbed the crotch of my jeans and squeezed so tight that I ached for the rest of the day. Or the time I visited my best friend at the beach and – because I’d mentioned that she was bi – he was certain I would end up in a threesome with her and her boyfriend.
He called me three times to make sure I wasn’t doing anything he didn’t want me to. He begged me to go back to my family at the hotel, to promise I wouldn’t spend time with her. He hissed insults through the phone line and, when I hung up on him, he called again. And again. And again. I turned off my cell phone, knowing I would regret it later.
Sometimes I laugh off the way he’d threatened me on the phone, or threatened to kill himself if we broke up. I always say I wish he had. It’s kind of true, but I know it would have made him a martyr to our teenage romance; our tragic love story. I also know he probably would have botched it on purpose – for sympathy and attention and to make me feel guilty. I vaguely remember him doing something like that. Still, it would have saved me a lot of pain, fear, and isolation.
It’s hard to ask an abuse victim of any kind why they stayed with their abuser, because it’s hard to answer. Love? Fear? Desperation? Guilt? It’s so hard to explain all of the bizarre feelings that come along with being someone who hurts you. The excuses I told myself so often were internalized over time, so I could almost convince myself that it was all true.
I can’t say I didn’t think I could do better, or that he was just misunderstood or needed love. I was a teenager. He said he loved me and that was important – that was what mattered. I still thought Romeo and Juliet was a love story. That fighting and persevering somehow made our relationship more real, as if it meant we care more, or something. It didn’t help that I thrive on emotional drama, though this all might have been how it started. I used to pick fights with my now-husband just because I could.
I think I also wanted to be saved. I wanted someone sweet and strong and brave to stand up for me. I wanted someone who would tell me I was brave and strong for living through it all. I wanted a hero.
I thought I got one, years into the wreck that my life had become. Three years of being pushed against walls, threatened, called a slut and a bitch then being coerced into activities that made me cringe. Three years of him being so very good at convincing me that these sexual activities I didn’t want a part of were about love. Three years of being made to feel guilty for anything I wanted that didn’t involve him. Three years of the kind of pain that never left a bruise or a bloody lip.
My so-called hero talked his way into my heart via online instant messaging. I was desperate for a savior and he was happy to oblige through text, though only in theory – never doing anything for me offline. But I didn’t see that he never really stood up for me, never tried to protect me, and I never questioned his claims or confessions. I have known a few mildly compulsive liars over time, but none were quite as damaging as this one. Eventually this would all lead to the most intense heartbreaks I would ever experience; one that lasted for too many years and too many nights feeling like such an idiot. But for now he was my reason for wanting more, for wanting out. I felt special – loved – in a beautiful, magical, safe way.


Weetzie Board

Did I ever mention that Francesca Lia Block has a Pinterest board dedicated to Weetzie Bat inspiration, particularly for her Weetzie Bat movie plans? She also has a bunch of other themed
boards for her novels, and they're all pretty awesome

Well, she does, and it's amazing, so check it out.

It's a public board that accepts pin submissions, but I've never figured out exactly how to do this, so I still just use my own Weetzie Bat & Love board for those kinds of things.

It's still very cool, so you should check it out.

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