Like Mithridates, the ancient Greek King who–legend has it–ingested small amounts of poison to create immunity, it is the art of swallowing what we hate little by little, of being formed by it, developing an immunity to it and even learning to appreciate the rush it gives us so we can make it in this sick world. If it is no longer poisonous to us, it is easier to dish it out as we deny that it’s poison. It’s still poison though.
The powerful emotional link that binds families who grow up together often manifests itself in curious ways when adult adoptees meet their biological families. Yet as common as it is, few want to touch it because–well–incest. But this issue needs more awareness, and not only because according to recent reports it’s on the rise. Also because I believe that it’s a fertile ground for a particular type of abuse.
I explain that when you live as a woman, there is often a power imbalance. And that power imbalance means that I would in all likelihood let myself be raped if I perceived a threat. And seeing as the prevalent power imbalance means that threat is ever present, rape is always a viable possibility.
If you are not at the centre then don’t shit on the person whose been hurt – your job is to support them. If you yourself need support in order to do that, bitch to people who are less affected by it; comfort in, dump out… On a macro scale don’t give more burdens to those who have been oppressed. Don’t expect compassion from those who have been dumped on. It is not their job to show it.
Many abuse victims like me, have also demonstrated the same behaviours which can be tagged as emotionally abusive. Yet they are not abusers themselves. Why? At what point does hurt become abuse?
I can understand of course, why that always has to be the line in our culture of legal, illegal. Ethical, unethical. But language both drives and is driven by, humanity and culture. Defining polar opposites of ‘yes and no’ means simply by their definitions these opposites are reinforced. Of course they do exist but as with everything else… they exist on a spectrum. Our positions of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ are only two binary values in a world full of grey.
Yet emotional abuse is incredibly damaging, perhaps in part because it cannot be recognised and dealt with in the same way. Emotional abuse gets swept under the carpet because it is supported and perpetuated by society as a whole.
These are the piercing secrets we whisper to one another in our late night conversations, in those moments of vulnerability, before putting our metaphorical masks on again. Life is a game. A game driven by our kinks, our fascination with power and objectification.
We are programmed as human beings with a biological reaction called ‘disgust’ and as a society, have reinforced this through any number of mechanisms to be able to live together. It’s part of the reason why so many stories of abuse remain untold and why many abusers can go on abusing, sometimes over decades. Abusees become disgusting by their association to abuse. Their stories are often doubted, shunned or dismissed as inconsequential.
‘Couples can communicate without words,’ you said and you were right. I knew for instance that a raise of your eyebrow meant I had overstepped the fine line of being generously open and embarrassing myself… and you. A curl of your lip set me on edge wondering what I had done and where I had gone wrong. Our non-verbal communication grew until that night I didn’t understand that my refusal to participate in a foursome you’d organized without telling me, would mean that you would punch me.
We undermine our children’s powers of consent because we know better the repercussions of their desires. Which mother might not consider a threat or worse, to prevent something which we could conceivably justify as ‘for their own good’? Where is the line?
Abusive? Oh no, I said confidently, and still believed it even then. But I stayed in my apartment, fearing to go outside because I saw you waiting for me across the street.
I have a son and a daughter (with a man who is as far removed from being an asshole as it is possible to be). If either of them were ever caught up in a situation where they were the perpetrator or the victim of such a situation, I don’t know how I would contain my vitriol …or my guilt. Because in both positions, my children would be operating out of a place of low self-esteem. One who needed to feed their ego by taking power to control and manipulate. One who felt they were worth very little and that this was the only relationship they deserved.
The guilt of who I am, what I have done and now what I continue to do is so shameful that I cannot face the pain. It is better to display no remorse. There is no point in holding an image together that is shattered and worthless.
At the time I didn’t know there was such a phenomenon called Genetic Sexual Attraction; if I had, I might have been able to intellectualize what was happening. But I doubt it. Because at 21 although legally an adult, I still had the naive mind of a child. A child who simply wanted love and acceptance, and who’d been searching for it her whole life.
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