I have written more blogs about fear than I can count. I have written about what fear has done to me, my relationships, my thought patterns and my habits. I fight everyday to overcome my fears and I feel like I have been pretty honest about my process. Over the course of writing this blog, I have learned to open up and share parts of myself. I have gained insight and explored so many different issues, and sharing my stories has given me so much more insight than I ever thought possible.
I have wrestled with the notion of writing a part of my story that I am always careful to omit - after all, this blog was meant to be a light-hearted collection of my dating stories and while I have delved into some pretty intense issues, I never thought I would write these words: I am a survivor of Intimate Partner Violence (more commonly known as Domestic Violence).
As a writer, I trust the stories that want to be told will let me know when they're ready. I have considered sharing my story for a long time but never felt that it was time. As I have journeyed into facing my fears, facing the violence has been a big part of it. Last week, the story surfaced as if to say "okay, it's time to open up." I thought writing about my body issues and the break-up with A. were tough, but I am completely terrified of writing my story. I write about pain as a means of exercising my demons and I know myself well enough to know that I am not ready to tell a story until I have worked through it.
That doesn't make it any easier.
There are a lot of misconceptions about Intimate Partner Violence. I don't keep the violence a secret (anymore) and most people's reactions are the same: you? Really? That happened to you? I am an outspoken Chicana Feminist who worked as a Community Educator specializing in violence prevention. I am friendly and outgoing and I have a strong personality - and I was all of these things before and during the abuse. People have told me things like "wow, I couldn't imagine you letting something like that happen" or "I thought you were stronger than that," or "it only happened once, right? I mean, you wouldn't put up with that more than once, would you?" Wrong. I stayed after the first incident, the second, the third... I stayed for a very long time.
Staying in a violent relationship doesn't mean I was weak, or stupid, yet these are the judgments we pass on people everyday. How often do we know someone who chooses to stay with a violent partner? How many times have we called that person stupid or worse, how many times do we blame survivors? Asking what someone did to provoke the violence is the same as saying one deserved it. Media, community, family and friends feed our misconceptions about violence. I have compiled a list of the most common misconceptions I have heard (both personally and professionally).
She must like getting hit, or it must not have been that bad if she stays. If she knows how he is, why is she with him?
No one likes or chooses to be hit. No one chooses to be controlled. Keep in mind that relationships don't start out violent. It isn't like my ex picked me up for our first date and smacked me. Violence begins subtly - so subtly in fact that it takes a really long time to even notice what's happening. In my case, once I became aware that my relationship was violent, I instantly went into denial. I will get into my reasons for staying later on, but know that for so many people, leaving a violent relationship is complex and, oftentimes, an issue of safety.
The only people who get hit are un-educated women who don't know any better.
I became very educated about IPV in high school and college. I knew the warning signs and the statistics - I didn't consider myself to be one of those statistics and even taught community seminars on IPV while in the relationship.
Women are the only people who get hit; it never happens to men.
While most victims are women, there are still a considerable amount of men who are victims of violence. Also keep this very important fact in mind: violence can happen in any relationship, regardless of sexuality or gender. Same sex violence is one of the most under-reported crimes due to stigma and a system that doesn't understand or advocate for same sex couples.
Violence is only physical. Words aren't that big of a deal.
Physical violence is only one form of IPV. Emotional, mental, verbal and sexual violence are also forms of IPV and can be just as damaging.
It's hard to believe that you went through that because we never saw it.
I was good at keeping secrets. When the abuse first began, I was humiliated but I just put on a brave, silent face and waited for things to get better. Silence is the key ingredient for abuse to keep happening.
I was silent for a very long time. It's time to tell the story - my story, regardless of how scary that may be.
Next time: Bullied
For more information about getting help for Intimate Partner Violence, click here.