But He Never Hit Me, Part One and a Half-ling

Standard

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?”

Victim: *Silence*

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.

 

Morven   adds:

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.

Advertisements

18 responses »

  1. Matthew 4:1-3 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (2) And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. (3) And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

    “Jesus, what did this fellow do to you?” ”

    He tempted me when I was particularly vulnerable. He was trying to get me to sin and thereby prevent me from redeeming my people. Everyone would have ended in hell if I had done what he said, and he knew it.”

    “But it seems to me that he was really concerned about you and was trying to help. Didn’t you say that you hadn’t eaten for 40 days? You could have made bread from those stones, right? You are God, you can do anything. I just don’t see how you can call this abuse.”

    • “I sense you may be harboring anger in your life and need to work through some heart issues…

      (rustles under desk)

      Go read these forty-five books on forgiveness by respected, celebrity christian authors and get back to me after you repent.”

      • “But it seems to me that he was really concerned about you and was trying to help.”
        “Go read these forty-five books on forgiveness by respected, celebrity christian authors and get back to me after you repent.”

        Those made me laugh on a tough day.

        The post gave me comfort, believe it or not. Even though mine is even more subtle (no guns at all!), where it’s really my word against his and we’re dealing in the realm of perceptions and intent. But he has been quick to point out that I never really had it so bad because he never hit me.

        Hint: the fact that he felt the need to point that out is a pretty big red flag.

      • Amen to that–

        The implication being, ‘you were so awful, you made me so furious, you pushed me beyond what any real man can tolerate and I was a saint for not slapping you around like others would have done under the circumstances.’

        Regular guys see no need to expounded on how virtuous they were by not hitting their wife.

        Maybe we can get that on the record somewhere:

        “If the abuser keeps protesting about the things he didn’t do, it shows how often he considered it and how close he came to crossing the line.”

      • And then there’s all the times I actually wished he would hit me. Because then I’d have something tangible that someone would believe easier than what he said vs. what he meant.

        I know that it’s not actually better to get hit, and I know now that it probably wouldn’t have set me free, but at the time I just wanted something that might prove how much pain I was in.

      • I know– I said the same thing, particularly decades later after we’d settled into a swamp of constant abuse. Then one day, I talked with someone who was getting the stuffing beat out of her, still horribly trapped and realized it just added another layer to the cake. In my mental/spiritual condition, I probably would have made excuses and stayed.

        Took quite a while after leaving to realize I didn’t have to prove how much pain I was in. That the pain itself was proof that someone had beat the emotional crap out of me and the kids and if others refused to acknowledge our suffering, shame on them. But that was only about a year later and after finding a counselor who understood the mechanics.

        I also had to separate from my old peer group for a long time and find new friends, another big loss but one of the best moves I ever made (not that I had any choice in some cases). I absolutely could not take all the ‘did he really’ and ‘you know how God feels’ and ‘I love you anyway’ rhetoric. Now, I’m strong enough to add some of those kind but clue-less souls back in but there for awhile, I just had to get healthy and didn’t have the mental energy to keep the truth centered in my own mind and heart in the face of their constant doubt.

    • “But it seems to me that he was really concerned about you and was trying to help. Didn’t you say that you hadn’t eaten for 40 days? You could have made bread from those stones, right? You are God, you can do anything. I just don’t see how you can call this abuse.”

      The answer to make to this is “Get behind me, Satan!”

  2. 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.

  3. You explained it beautifully. True, many people don’t realize that, like the gun incident, abusers don’t have to say a word to scare the living daylights out of you. My husband would just not come home and not let me know where he was just to keep me in suspense – and then refuse to tell me where he was when he did come home. Or he would use the silent treatment to show his displeasure with something I’d said or done. Just a hateful glare when we passed by one another in the hallway would set my heart pounding. How do you explain that to someone who’s never been through it? You can’t.

    And in some cases, I believe those flashbacks are truly post traumatic stress. And those triggers can still affect us after a long, long time.

  4. Brandishing a weapon is just as scary as pointing it at your head. And you can brandish a weapon simply by putting it out in view. Or even (if the gun is normally kept in a locked cupboard, as they are meant to be in Australia) you can scare the pants off your victim by merely going to get the key to the gun cupboard.

    I remember a compelling story I read once. It was about a man who was only allowed to see his kids under supervision, and he’d managed to get a Christian person to be the supervisor of the visitation. The Christian thought they were doing the right thing to help the children have a relationship with their father – but they had no training in domestic abuse. They only had that simpering angelically naive morality about promoting Family Values. Unknown to the Christian, the father had previously sexually assaulted these kids, and one of the ways he’d done it was by penetrating them with a pencil. Yeah.

    During the visitation, he would sit at a table with the kids and quietly tap a pencil on the table while he was innocently chatting with them.

    Would the supervisor realize the terrorizing significance of this act? No way. Were the kids traumatized and terrified? Yes.

    He was deliberately triggering them by brandishing a weapon.

  5. Oh, Ida Mae.

    Thank you, thank you, for your courage in sharing this with us.

    I’m experiencing a lot of “triggering” today. First, with a stupid show I watched on T.V. today (a cartoon of all things, with my kids) that had me bawling and weeping and wailing all day long afterwards. It’s unbelievable what can be a trigger.

    Now, with the gun thing. I experienced that too. No, he didn’t hold it to my head. He just made a show of bringing it home shortly after his dad died and he was acting suicidal. Then, after weeks of begging him to get it out of the house because of the danger it posed in his current state of mind, not to mention 2 young kids in the house who could happen upon it, he blew up at me for “making him get rid of his precious gun”. Making sure I knew “he was not happy about it”. Then a few weeks later, smugly insinuating that “I wouldn’t know if the gun was actually still in the house or not” with a smirk on his face.

    Oh, God.

    It really WAS that bad.

    • Oh yeah… it really was that bad. Can’t count the number of times I’ve had that particular revelation myself.

      And I get so sick of hearing about some clueless jerk telling a survivor– ‘ah come on. It couldn’t have been *that* bad.’ Talk about patronizing, minimizing, dismissive hog-swallow!

      Who do these people think they are? They’re willing to take the lies and insinuations of some sleezy man who’s terrorizing his family at face value but they want to shut a woman down when she says she’s miserable and tries to explain. Talk about a trigger! I’ve been known to unleash over that one.

      (oopsie… totally triggered myself off-topic, lol)

      • Mine collected baseball memorabilia. It was covering every inch of wall space on his side of the bedroom, even the ceiling. He had full size bats hanging on the wall. Years ago when things were at a very high level of conflict he started to take bats off the wall and “inspect them” swinging them in a slow motion as if testing them out standing next to our bed while I might be lying in bed watching TV or wanting to go to sleep. It made me nervous and I hesitated to say something because the appearance was innocent but inside my mind and body there were fire alarms going off . I can remember specifically the seconds to minutes of mental tug o war in my head. If I said something then I was crazy to imply it was intentional. If I did nothing I was ignoring the sirens and might end up with my head bashed in one day. I spoke up. He tried it again days later. I made a point to say what I thought he was doing. I knew I would take the your crazy and angry punishment for days but I knew that it would be harder for him to continue to do it if I came right out and said it. This man never hit me. He did abuse me though.

      • Melanie–

        Cringing over here. You describe that scene so well. I know exactly what you mean.

        I remember the day it dawned on me that the beast ruled our family through fear and the *threat* of violence with just enough proof to make sure we all knew he was willing nda capable. I do believe they call that bullying and, these days, no one disputes the effects of long-term bullying. Someone should do a study on the effects of being bullied by a parent or spouse.

  6. I’m glad to have found a place to get that story out. I’ve never told anyone that before. I’m thankful for you and your willingness to share. It helps.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s