Before I left, I’d never heard the term, ‘triggering.’ I learned mighty quick after my first panic attack in the hardware store.
If understood correctly, it’s a term for any experience which ignites an emotional reaction based on past experience, but rooted in current events. A trip to the pet store for kibble today may send a survivor running for the car, blowing into a paper bag even when she’s thoroughly forgotten the incident where her spouse blew up over the dog food ten years prior. (And yes, Oh Clueless Ones, you can forget an abusive incident or three, especially when frequency rises to the point it becomes your normal.)
So quick disclaimer. This series is likely to cause triggering. The writing is as specific as possible and that can make the phenomena worse. The only time I’ll venture into the abstract is when I just can’t face something myself.
There’s good reason for this. Much has already been written about men beating their wives. Few will argue that it’s naughty and for many, this is the invisible dividing line. Did he ever strike you? If not, then it follows that:
a) the man isn’t dangerous and
b) he isn’t a threat and furthermore
c) the woman is not in danger and probably exaggerating anyway cause she just looks like the type.
In fact, the beast employed this line himself on numerous occasions. “You have no right to be afraid–I NEVER HIT YOU!” Well please, sit back down whilst I slobber all over you in gratitude.
I am fully aware that for Outsiders, this sort of bullying/intimidating crap, when told in generalities, sounds unbelievable particularly when the man in question appears to be such a fine, upstanding member of the community. The victim comes across as unreasonable and perhaps a little high strung.
Victim: “He threatened me with a gun.”
Clueless Authority Figure: “He held you at gunpoint?”
Victim: “No. I was making dinner and we had a fight. I asked him to stop calling me names. He got mad and went and got his gun and started cleaning it at the table right in front of me.”
CAF: “Cleaning a gun isn’t exactly the same as threatening you with one, now is it?”
Victim: “You don’t know him like I do.”
CAF: “When you argued, were you speaking to him calmly or did you raise your voice?”
The truth? This woman is terrified. I remember. She’s also stuck. She cannot explain herself, she can’t articulate her fears, and moreover, she doesn’t have the emotional energy to try to reason with someone who refuses to hear. And just to make the experience even more emotionally scarring, she’s now getting the same old, two-sides-to-every-story runaround.
The Good Lord gifted some with the ability to communicate so others can taste the experience, even if only for a short moment. On a good day, I’m able to remember hell and share a spoonful. This series of articles tries to speak for women who’ve lived under tyranny who can’t tell their story.
Just be aware— Normals get a taste. Survivors get a flashback.
If you find yourself hiding in the tub clutching a pool cue, then sweetie, take the cell phone. You just might need to call a friend or trusted counselor. Emotions shoved below surface can bite our backside in a most annoying manner when we’re barely treading water.
*Part Two coming this afternoon unless I decide to take up cross stitch.
**If any of my counselor-type friends can add something here to make this clearer, please comment and I’ll add it to the end of the post for future readers.
It’s really hard for those who have never been in a domestic abuse relationship to understand how that gun, just quietly lying on the table, even unloaded, could silence you. There are no words adequate to describe how you were feeling, other than you were terrified …. and silenced. The message was clear: shut up, behave or you are dead.
There is no doubt your posts are going to trigger survivors. Reading your story might feel to some like their fresh scab is being ripped off. As hard as this may sound, that scab has to come off and the poison underneath has to be cleaned out. If you are a survivor, and reading Ida Mae’s posts are hard, do what she is doing and vomit on paper, just as you might have to literally vomit into the white china throne in your little room after you have written down your feelings. Get it out, call a friend, go to the local shelter or your police station and find a female cop. Press charges, and ask for a copy of the report before you leave the station.
There are people out there who will help you.