Hidden Abuse Take Two (Trigger Warning)

Abuse is something that is running rampant in our society. I think the “right” to abuse is not just reinforced in some religions, but it is reinforced in other ways. The media often shows women getting hit as punishment, or if male and females are both under assault, the woman gets hurt worse, and it is the man’s duty to avenge her. There are very few deviations from this formula. I am writing a deviation, at least I hope so, for my own novel. I realized that I am exploring what it is to be a survivor in my writing.

I am not going to give the plot away by much, but, there is an exploration of rape, incest, and the confrontation of an abuser in my story. That is a big portion of it’s core. This is a core part of what has made me who I am. I have confronted every abuser in my life, and although it is extremely painful and has ended badly in most circumstance, I was able to show them that I know what they are.

Through this exploration of what abuse is, and my constant thoughts and warnings I have come to see that the media lies. Abuse isn’t just when you are beaten bloody. That is the most obvious abuse. That is the abuse that comes in at the end of a very long escalation. Abuse starts small.

My first abusive boyfriend actually helped me find my name. At times I feel weird answering to Kat, because he was the first to call me that. The spelling and intention is different yet the association sometimes pops up. The abuse with him was the smallest. It started over food. I have huge food issues, and have had for most of my life. He would start out with our food order. I would order something meaty and he’d look at me and say, “That will make your cholesterol high. Don’t you want a salad?” If I refused to order the salad, at first he would just shrug, but then the comments started to escalate, “Well, if you want to be a fat pig for the rest of your life fine…”

I nearly died when I started to give in. I didn’t see this as abuse. It was not as bad as what I had dealt with before, so how could it be abuse? I didn’t understand. He then began to accuse me of things, little things that made no sense to me. “You are one of the Illuminati, You are the destroyer of worlds.” I thought he’d been reading way too many comic books. He hated them but read them to try and make me feel better about him, in some ways that worked at first.

This was one of my longest relationships, I was hiding my relationship from my family per his order. After all they would surely judge me for dating a person of a different ethnicity. Before you ask, no he was not black. I have been blessed to know only gentle men of color. No single ethnic group holds the buy out on violence. Most of my abusers are men of my own color, white.

I began to miss out on time with my friends. He then started pressuring me for sex. I had decided a long time ago I want to have sex with the man I marry. For some reason this was not the same in my mind with women, I could explore them but men were too dangerous and in my mind hated pleasure with promiscuous women. I was warned that if I did not have sex with him, the world would end.

The night we broke up he hit me. I do not remember much, I had a flash back to one of the worst beatings of my life. I also reacted, I don’t remember it but when I came back to reality I had been hitting him with a frying pan. My face hurt, and he snarled at me, “I am going to rape you, kill you, and then I will have your soul forever.” Those words haunt me. He meant them. He wanted to steal my soul, because in his eyes I had too much personal power.

I called 911, he was arrested, and some of the things I found out about him were frightening. He had lied about his name, he had lied about a lot of things. He was a known serial rapist, and had killed more than one person. He went to jail, and although he is out now my fear of him is very small. I doubt he will try to find me. If he does, I know how to protect myself, and I will call the police.

Looking back, I see many warning signs of abuse. I thought these were normal for social interactions however. Any time you are not allowed to share a relationship, it is a warning sign of abuse. If you are not able to meet their friends or family, that is another sign of abuse. It is a bit harder to feel that these are significant with internet dating, but they are in the majority of cases. If you must stop seeing your friends, it is a warning sign of abuse. If you say no, and he takes that as yes? Get out of there.

There are more signs to abuse, but my brain is trying to flash back now, so I need to stop writing this piece. Abuse is not as hidden as it thinks it is. As a survivor of abuse I have dealt with varying layers, finding each time my brain accepts it as normal, until I finally found my way out of the cycle of abuse. It takes years, it takes practice. If anything hurts you, even if it might not feel wrong it is abuse.

Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (Trigger Warning)

Bette Davis, Joan Crawford…A movie about the horrors disabled people can face with an abuser.

This is one of the most wonderful but horrific films I have ever seen. Joan Crawford plays an actress with a jealous sister who not only tried to kill her but is now her only caregiver. Bette Davis plays all of my worst fears brought to life. She forces Joan to either starve or eat rats, her pet bird, or possibly poisoned food. Their maid, a beautiful African American woman, is the hero in this. It is she who sees the potential for something wrong and refuses to leave the day she is fired, instead insisting on seeing Joan’s character. It is she who saves her from embezzlement, being isolated, beaten, and left to die a slow and horrible death. She was cut off too, no telephone, stuck upstairs, the bell for help taken away. It is horrible to watch.Bette’s performance is that of pure evil, in the loveliest of forms.  The genius of this film is that they use clips of the actresses when they were younger. They build the story up and you feel the pain involved with Joan’s treatment.

This film also highlights the incompetence of others, enabling the abuse. The teller who illegally (possibly not at the time of the film being made) gives cash when a deposit is required. The neighbors who ignore the weak cries for help, though they may not hear. The doctors who ignore the patient’s panicked cry when she could under duress be recanting. I will not spoil the climax of the film, but needless to say, this one touched a nerve. There is murder in this story, no one wins. Hope is torn from the viewer and Joan’s character.

Gaslight with Ingrid Bergman is another film that taps on true life abuses. The abused housewife is not beaten, but is instead told over and over until she believes it that she is insane. His greed is what drives his crimes, polygamy, identity theft, and murder among them. He uses the technology of the day to prove to her she is insane. He too plays on my worst fears. He proves to me that men are evil, a blanket statement that feels utterly true while I watch this movie. It isn’t, but it feels that way. He abuses his wife, publicly and privately humiliating her, forcing her into things that were against her nature.This film was so effective it gave it’s name to an entire term in psychology. Gaslighting is the proper term for causing someone to think they are insane. There is more to this of course, but this is the best I can do to explain right now.

Why am I posting about two films made before my birth? They touched me. They burned my heart up and left me shuddering with memories. They triggered responses in me that were deeper than perhaps intended. I felt the trappedness from my previous experience. I felt the worthlessness of knowing I am wrong at all times, and that my only value to others was at their own pleasure, my own wants and needs coming last. I felt the fists of my father in me again. I felt the harsh words of burden.

I am not a burden, I am not insane, and I am free. I had to chant this at times, the wheelchair a prison during the entire time. I could see even one stair trapping me. I can only remember too well  how few people actually listened when I cried out for help. The cold stabbing feeling of being told my case was not compelling enough to prosecute, that no one wanted to protect a child from  her rapist father.

Caregiver abuse is one of the worst crimes I have ever heard of. Some call it elder abuse, but, elderly folk aren’t the only ones trapped by their bodies. Many are vital and amazingly resiliant. I am posting about these films so that you can perhaps try to feel the things I felt, in lesser measure. These films raise awareness of the plights of the hidden victims in this world. Perhaps even someone you know is enduring secret abuse. You might not be able to save them, but raising awareness even by one, can help them save themselves.

Whatever happened to Baby Jane? Be glad you are not so evil, and if you are, may you see your reflection and set your victim free.

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