Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Physical contact

One of the hardest things to deal with since the abuse stopped has been the lack of physical contact. What I find strange about this is not the lack of contact when the abuse was happening, I could deal with the isolation because I was getting physical contact from somebody even though it was abusive.

Somebody still cared about me enough to do physical things to me even if the care that he had was that he had somebody to abuse. Physical contact is physical contact. It means that somebody feels for you enough to do things to you. Maybe what they feel is derision, or anger, or that you are a convenient punch bag but if they felt you were inadequate or insignificant then they wouldn't abuse you because it wouldn't be worth them using their time on you.

When it ends and you are alone it's hard. It's hard that there is nobody who notices you enough to do anything. It doesn't matter that the physical contact you used to have was horrible, at least it was there. Obviously it matters that it was horrible but in this context it was important because it was there. When it ends and there is nothing it's easy to feel insignificant, you are living a life where nobody hugs you, nobody thinks of you enough to do anything to you and that reinforces the feelings of worthlessness. When you are abused you have some worth because the abuser thinks you are worth their attention.

It's easy to end up craving some physical contact, now matter how small or how unpleasant. Not having it is hard and reinforces how you feel worthless and that's hard. It'd be easy to fall into another abusive relationship out of desperation. I have decided that I'll never have another relationship.

Living without physical contact is hard, I wish I had some but not as much as I hope never to have another abusive relationship. If you have a friend who has been abused, offer them a hug, or even just a touch on their arm, anything that says to them that you value them. It could mean more to them than any amount of money or material possessions.

Provocation and Consent

I sometimes wonder if people who have experienced domestic violence can in some way provoke the person who abuses them. I know sometimes are forced to change the way they act to avoid the violence, which is not acceptable.

What if they are assertive and stand up to him? Does that provoke violence? Should anger about the experiences be suppressed in order to avoid them happening again? Should the survivor have taken responsibility for the violence if they did provoke it?

The answer to the first two, sadly, is probably yes. The answer to the rest should, perhaps, be no. I say perhaps because only the person in the situation can answer the third. The rest, well, it should be a clear No to them all.

If you've been in that situation and have taken out your anger on your abuser and done things that you now think may have provoked him you don't need to take responsibility. He needs to take the responsibility for whatever he has done.

Eleanor Roosevelt famously said nobody can make you inferior without your consent. I disagree. Women who have experienced domestic violence are treated in a way that may make them feel inferior. Whatever actions you take in order to survive are self protection and not consent.

If their actions are making you feel inferior remember that it's precisely that, their actions, not yours.
They choose their actions. Not you. If you feel inferior then it's not because you have consented.

Why I'm not a victim.

We're victims, right? To me a victim implies a person who is downtrodden, who has been defeated by whatever experiences they have had. A victim is to be pitied, they are to be supported because they can't do it on their own, a victim is weak. That's my point of view. Maybe it's not yours, maybe you see yourself as a victim and if so then that's fine - we all apply our own labels and meanings to things based on our own experience.

Some would say I'm a victim, today somebody said something which used the word victim. They were wrong, so very, very wrong. I'm not a victim. I experienced some appalling things which hurt me considerably and should never have happened. I have needed support to deal with those things, yes. Not because I couldn't do it on my own, I mean I coped with the abuse for many years and had no help to do it so to me that means I am not a victim.

Yes, it was horrible, yes, it terrified me, yes, I thought I would die because of it. Yes, it's left physical and emotional scars. Yes, I've needed counselling to come to terms with it and I'm still coming to terms with it. I think it'll take some time.

But, despite it all, one thing I am not is a victim. I am strong, brave and determined, I survived against some pretty tough odds. Nobody should be calling me a victim. The only person who can choose to call me a victim is me. I don't choose to be called a victim, not then, not now, not ever.