MEMOIR

Isolating Himself and Withholding Affection, as Ways to Abuse.

Have you ever experienced the sort of emotional abuse that involves him locking you OUT OF a room, or withholding affection from you?  I have.

It is, I think, more often that we hear survivors of Domestic Violence recount stories of how their abusive partners isolated or attempted to isolate them from their friends and family, or how they were forced to have sex with their abusive partners, despite protesting.  And these are certainly very common occurrences within an abusive relationship.  My abusive ex-boyfriend engaged in the isolation tactic that I have just described, but he also had a couple of other habits, other abusive tactics, that I don’t hear much talk of.

My abusive ex-boyfriend would lock himself inside one of the rooms in the house, so that I was unable to enter and so that, (I came to know), he’d be free to sit at his computer or with his phone and communicate with other women.  He once said to me, when I confronted him about his infidelity, “But it’s you who I come home to at the end of each day!”  An example of verbal abuse.  Keeping me from entering the room where he was sitting, an example of non-verbal emotional and psychological abuse.  I believe that it’s acceptable for partners to keep some secrets from each other.  But this was a case of deceit on his part; of him knowing that the only way to try to hide it from me, was to keep me physically away from the proof; and furthermore, of him knowing that locking me out of the room would likely cause me anxiety and depression.

There were other times when he would be sitting at his computer with the door to the room open, and I would approach him to ask, for example, how his applications for Medical Residency were going.  We worked on them together sometimes.  Quickly, but not quite quickly enough for me to not have seen, the computer screen with a Live Chat in progress would be minimized, and a different screen would have replaced it.  The replacement being, for example, something related to applying for a spot on a Residency Program at a hospital somewhere in the country.  He was desperate to not let me get too close to his Computer of Secrets!  Woe betide me if I were to question him on the minimized screen that I had caught a glimpse of!

Another of his abusive behaviors was to withhold physical affection and sexual intimacy from me.  “Don’t most relationships in trouble look like that?”, you may ask.  Remember that this is just part of a bigger picture.  And this was a way of behaving with the intention to hurt me.  “According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, the definition of abuse is the following: “Abuse is defined as any action that intentionally harms or injures another person.””  Source: https://www.healthyplace.com/abuse/abuse-information/what-is-abuse-abuse-definition.  Retrieved 7/7/19

I recall the emotionally painful nights that I experienced, when he didn’t go out, but would climb into bed next to me at 4am, knowing that I’d probably wake up and knowing that I had to get up early for work the next day, (he didn’t have to rise early).  He’d then make sure that he remained far enough away from my body to not be touching me at all.  He knew that this would hurt me.  It absolutely did!  And he knew that I would have been suffering emotionally up until then, lying there thinking about him in another room, indulging in his secret world.  He knew I longed for the consistency of a warm-bodied, warm-hearted boyfriend; I had practically begun to beg him to go to bed at the same time as me.  Deliberate neglect.

 

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Who is your heroine?

This year is coming to its end and one can safely say it has been a remarkable year in a sense that women from all walks of life came to the foreground to claim their voice, share their stories, and forge a community in their fight for making the world a better place for women (and men). The upsurge of feminism (and women in leadership roles) brings me hope for a better future and also fills me with a bit of sadness when I think of the women who preceded us, who for generations, centuries and thousands of years were compelled to live a life in limitation.

Many of my heroines never had a chance to tell their stories or claim the recognition they deserved. Too busy to provide for their families, they had no time to complain, little sympathy for their concerns, and certainly very little hopes for radical change in the ways in which they were treated, their opportunities limited, their voices ignored.

Reckoning with the past, I wish to pay tribute to the unknown heroines – like my paternal grandmother – whose shoulders we all stand on. My grandmother spent her entire life working as a cleaning lady, raising her two children and an adopted child as a widow, then me, her grandchild, while forever trying to make ends meet despite working all the time. A brilliant woman well into her late 80s, she survived on 6 grades of education because, back in her days, women were expected to devote their lives and labor to their families, and for that role, her level of education was deemed sufficient.  All other endeavors, such as a dream of a professional life and personal accomplishments (her dream was to become a special education teacher) never materialized because of her circumstances. With all the hardship that I can only in hindsight guess, she carried herself with utmost grace and strength, which is why she, in my eyes, is a true heroine.

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Surviving Abuse In My Twenties

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I am 30 now and am already physically tired. I’ve been stomped on, strangled, broken, and bruised; it’s been very real – my body has had its share of turmoil. In addition, my mind has imagined sweet fairy tales of blackbirds flying out of a baked pie, and wolves blowing my house down over and over again. My spirit throughout has been in a state of confusion, being raised Catholic, turned Christian by grace, then to trying to find my voice and beliefs in a stable place. My name is Desiree’ and my desires in my 20’s has circled around being noticed. Problematically, when a particular guy liked me, and my cell phone rang with his caller ID, I was excited :-). Positive or negative, I knew he paid some attention to me. My possibilities were and still are endless: “1st comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage”… the lies of the modern day fairy tale. It is reported that women ages 18 to 34 are at the greatest risk of becoming victims of Domestic Violence (DV). Moreover, it is noted that “DV cost more than $37 Billion a year in law enforcement involvement, legal work, medical, mental health treatment, and lost productivity at companies.”

 

Just like I craved a stable man to notice me, I deeply yearned for my family’s security, passion in the workplace, career accomplishments and education. In my domestic violence relationship, all these things came to a screeching halt. I am very grateful that my life did not end.

 

In the city that never sleeps, or in the suburb that twinkles stars at night, I believe there is a sounding message of real love, pure and understanding; after the purple rain. That message has led me to rebuild my inner faith and survive my 20’s with most of those years in an abusive relationship. Looking back on the forbidden places I’ve conquered, this is not a taboo.

 

My 20’s have been the time of my life. Now as a member of Voices of Women Organizing Project, I’ve reclaimed my power to speak in and through a dominant sisterhood and pave a positive path for that weird and exhilarating space beyond survivorship. The question today is…will you have to be a survivor or witness abuse to really understand? Create a better decade. Support Now. Join Us.

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