This article I read yesterday has haunted me the last 24 hours. I’m a new Lenny reader and have been deeply impressed by Lena Dunham’s informed, passionate and articulate writing. She really touched some chords in me with this piece; there’s so much to champion and take away from the issue it tackles. Although I don’t know Kesha as an artist, I recognize her as victim.
Some of my thoughts after reading about Kesha’s experiences:
1. A clean break is a good break. I am ever so fortunate to have been able to make a clean and complete break from my abuser by divorcing him. I never had to see or hear from him again – his influence over me is over forever. Thank goodness there were no children or other ties that kept us bound to one another. This, sadly, is not the case for others such as Kesha whose livelihood (and most likely her emotional well-being) will continue to be affected by someone to whom she had the misfortune to be connected. So often the circumstance of being associated with our abuser is due to innocence, ignorance or lack of personal choice – none of which put us at fault and shouldn’t have to handicap us indefinitely.
2. The myth of an”acceptable amount of contact.” No, there is no amount of “professional distance” that can be achieved so that she can (or should be expected to) continue to fulfill her contractual obligations to – or ever have any contact whatsoever with – someone who used, abused and took advantage of her. To require that is to expect her to volunteer to continue to feel controlled by her abuser.
3. When enough is enough…it’s enough! I’m not the only victim who has ever “tried to make it work” for a time before emphatically declaring, “NO! I WILL NO LONGER ALLOW YOU TO HAVE THIS HOLD ON ME BECAUSE IT IS LITERALLY KILLING ME! In fact, it’s common that the stress of living life influenced by an abusive relationship or incident can bring on symptoms of underlying mental or emotional conditions; it manifested in Kesha as an eating disorder. These can be disabling in and of themselves, furthering the burden of living as a victimized person.
4. It takes a lot of guts to speak out. Our silence is not tacit consent, nor should it be construed as an indication that we are unaffected by the abuse. It’s tremendously difficult to rise from the insignificance we feel to declare the truth about our circumstances. It’s embarrassing. It’s humiliating. It’s scary as hell. Yet, when the time comes, it’s a matter of life and death – and we’ve never felt more empowered.
5. It’s really pretty simple…just don’t abuse. This statement from Lena’s article echoed through my mind: “The human contract that says we will not hurt one another physically and emotionally.” Though it should be apparent, you can’t legislate – or otherwise enforce – that one party will not bully, abuse and overpower another – and that’s just sad.
6. Just listen with an open heart when a victim discloses. It’s bad enough that people are abused – then the pain is unknowingly compounded when they talk about it. As unbelievable as it seems, it’s almost a reflex action for people to jump to the defense of the perpetrator! (No, couldn’t be so. Are you sure? I can’t believe he/she is capable!…) To add insult to injury, it’s usually the victim whose motives and reactions are questioned and doubted – not those of the perpetrator. Even though the victim is the one baring her or his soul – our most private demons – our pain is so often minimized by the abuser and by others who become aware of it.
7. Just get me outta here! I was plenty damaged by my abuser – both physically and emotionally. Sadly, like Kesha, there is no recourse. I didn’t want an apology. I didn’t want recompense. I didn’t even want him to publicly admit his mistreatment. I wanted distance in every sense of the word; freedom from him and from the way associating with him made me feel. Once I broke the ties, I was free and able to begin healing. I could learn for myself that I was an intelligent, intuitive and beautiful person; that I could be happy and fulfilled without him; that love doesn’t judge, control or hurt.
8. How you, yes, you, can help a victim. Advice to those on the outside of an abusive relationship: Turning away in disgust, shame or uneasiness, ignoring or minimizing the signs, condoning, blaming the victim (either for being a victim in the first place, failing to come forward “soon enough” or for being scarred by the experiences)… these are all the wrong responses. Victims have been beaten down, made to feel they don’t matter to anyone and used to serve the needs of another. They need unconditional acceptance, patience and encouragement as they find their way and redefine themselves as someone who is, rather than a victim, a survivor.
I tend not to write – or even think about – my 11 years in an abusive relationship very often any more. For the most part, I’ve incorporated the lessons I learned from it into the rest of me which continues to grow into my authentic self. Once in a while, however, something strikes me as relevant to my experience and it l me feel that I have something to contribute to the conversation. As always, I hope that what I write illuminates and/or inspires – especially when it’s on such an important issue.
To any victim out there looking for a lifeline, a word of encouragement or advice: Know that I will listen with an experienced, empathetic and non-judgemental ear. Reach out to me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For support, advice and resources from the world at large and to contact trained professionals in abuse intervention, I strongly suggest going to NoMore.org. Of course if you are in immediate danger, by all means, call 911.
Wishing love, security and peace to all!