Sorry for the lack of blogging, I’ve been busy with my day job and trying to jumpstart The Riot. I’m even a little later blogging this than I wanted to be, but I also felt the need to get it out of my system.
While a lot of the discussion over Rihanna and Chris Brown has died down, I still find myself upset by many of the reactions I saw to the situation. And I am not just talking about the people who said she deserved it or even that she was making it up. I am also talking about the people who proceeded to insult her when it was announced that she and Chris Brown were getting back together.
“But he’s abusive!” seemed to be what a lot of what was being said. “And if she knows he’s abusive and she goes back to him, she’s just dumb and asking for him to hit her again.”
In some of these situations, I’ve walked away. In others I’ve tried to explain to people the mental state of an abuse victim: yes, even if you know he’s going to hurt you again, even if you know that he is full out abusive, you still want to be with him. Of course, the genders can also be switched in this situation, I’m using “him” as an example and also because a larger percentage of women tend to be abused than men.
And then the clouds opened, the birds sang and I read Dan Savage’s column “Savage Love.”
Okay, to be fair: I don’t always agree with Dan Savage and sometimes his answers upset me. But a lot of the time I find myself agreeing with him. This is one of those cases.
Dan received the following letter:
I’ve been seeing this guy for about two years. We’ve been living together for six months now, and it’s been REALLY bumpy. We fight a lot, I cry a lot, and it just gets really messy. To tell you the truth, I’m tired of it. I work two jobs, and I never get any time to myself because he’s moody and insecure. He always wants to know where I’m going or who I’m with. He doesn’t like to do the same things I do, and I’m beginning to think this is all one big mistake. The problem is every time I try to leave, it always gets ugly. Ugly to the point that he’s thrown my stuff in the front yard, broken things of mine, and even called me names. He’s abusive.
As sad as this sounds, and as ridiculous as I feel, I want to make this work. I want us to be happy. And the thing is, I know that we can be. When we’re mad, it’s like World War III over here. But when we’re happy, it’s so blissful that I know in my heart with him is the only place I want to be. What can I do? People tell me it’s time to sever ties, but the people who usually tell me this are the ones who can’t stand him. How can I make a completely unbiased decision? Am I stupid for believing in a love that feels destined to fail?
Hopelessly Devoted To Him
Read this again. And again. Because this is what goes through the head of people who go back to their abusers. And while you may think this is an isolate incident? According to DoSomething.org’s 1 in 3 Campaign:
- One in three teens experience some kind of abuse in their romantic relationships, including verbal and emotional abuse.
- 80% of girls who have been physically abused keep dating their abuser.
It has nothing to do with intelligence. It doesn’t even really have much to do with common sense, because when you’ve reached that point? Common sense doesn’t work. But when we’re happy, it’s so blissful that I know in my heart with him is the only place I want to be. I have heard women in abusive situations say things like this, I said something like it myself when I was being abused. You know it’s bad, but you keep holding out for the good parts.
As for Dan’s answer to this letter? (bolding is my own)
This is not a relationship, HDTH, it’s a hostage situation. He’s a controlling, abusive piece of shit—listen to your fucking friends, HDTH. When your boyfriend breaks your shit, he’s making an implicit threat: I can break your face just as easily as I’m breaking your shit, bitch, so don’t even think about leaving me. And of course things are great when they’re great—that’s part of an abuser’s MO. If abusers were abusive 24/7—if they weren’t capable of doling out a little bliss now and then—no abusive relationship would last longer than one date. Like all abusers, he parcels out the good times, doping you up with a little bliss now and then, because he knows that these glimpses of how great things could be convince you to stick around against your better judgment.
The bliss is a con, HDTH, a weapon that he uses against you, just as much a part of the cycle of abuse as his tantrums, fits, and threats of violence are. Think of the good times as rainbow sprinkles on a dog-shit sundae—sprinkles or no sprinkles, you’re still standing there with a bowlful of dog shit in your hands.
Get a couple of friends to come over when he’s at work or out of town, box up your shit, and leave. You can’t change him. Go.
As I’ve said before, in the case of Chris Brown and Rihanna, there was psychological conditioning. This was not “One day, Chris Brown woke up and felt abusive.” Because, folks, abusers do NOT just sit up one morning and go “Hey, I think I’ll abuse my partner!” They’re not one dimensional super villains from old school comics. They don’t all dress the same, talk the same, act the same.
And you know what? I don’t have an answer on how to stop abuse, other than completely uprooting society’s ideals about gender, sexuality, equality and relationships, which is a lofty goal and yeah, maybe someday, but right now the point is: 1 in 3 teenagers are being abused in relationships. That is 1 too many.
For more information on teen dating abuse, or if you are in an abusive relationship and want help getting out, you can check out the following sites:
- DoSomething.org’s 1 in 3 Campaign
- Love is Respect: National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline
- How To Recognize Your Teen Is In An Abusive Relationship and How to Get Them Out of It
I invite you to come discuss this issue at The Riot.