Gender Stereotypes & Abuse

CN: gender stereotypes, abuse, SA, fat phobia, victim blaming/shaming, size shaming, r*pe apologia, uncensored use of the word r*pe, toxic masculinity, ableism

“Is he bigger than you?”, is usually the first question people ask after finding out I’m a victim of domestic violence. They tell me I couldn’t have been abused because I’m bigger than my abuser. They said I could have fought him off. I’m not believed because I’m not petite or thin.

To these people, victims aren’t supposed to look physically strong. To them, violence is always physical.
I tried fighting back but it angered him. So much so he left me with a fat lip. Afterwards he wouldn’t let me leave the house until the bruise healed. So I did everything I could to avoid the beatings. But as any victim of domestic violence knows, that isn’t always possible.

I’ve been told that I couldn’t have been raped because I should have been able to fight him off. If I didn’t fight him off then I must have wanted it. This type of reasoning is victim blaming. Whether they meant to or not, these people are saying that since I didn’t fight hard enough I deserved what happened. They’re saying there is such a thing as “true rape”.

This type of thinking is fat phobic and size shaming because you’re saying that because of my size, I should have never been a victim. Except, as previously stated violence isn’t always physical. He made me afraid by various means. This type of thinking is ableist as well because I am physically disabled and fighting him or anyone off would be impossible. It is also transmysoginistic because I am about as tall as most men and fat so I’m not seen as feminine enough. Then of course, there’s the sexism of “you’re too ugly to fuck”. Forgetting that rape is never about sex, but about power, this trope suggests that rapists rape because they were physically attracted to their victims. This trope goes as far as to suggest that fat women should be grateful they even got the attention.

Now, think about the media you consume.  Think of the Henpecked Husband and Tiny Guy, Huge Girl tropes. Why is the idea of a “domineering” woman, usually taller than her husband funny? It’s because men are supposed to be in charge. Size is thought to be in direct relation to strength and men have to be strong, otherwise he isn’t a man.  Women are supposed to be small and meek.  Are you getting the picture?

These tropes exist because we live in a patriarchal society which values toxic masculinity and enforces a strict and rigid gender binary. And so, I will continue to get these questions. And I will continue to ask these people why they think I deserve abuse. Hopefully that way they’ll understand that what they’re doing is revictimizing me. At the very least, I’ll enjoy their faces as they try to justify my abuse to my face.

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Victim Double Standards

CN: SA, CSA, domestic violence, corporal punishment

As a child, I was beaten and put down constantly. Anything I did, wore, or liked could be subject to ridicule. Any sign, imagine or real, of disrespect was met with a the buckle of a belt, a shoe or the calloused and hardened hands of my grandma. The people who should have been my protectors were my first abusers. So I grew up with low self-esteem and at 15 attempted suicide. In my late teens, I met my first boyfriend. He’d become my daughter’s father and the reason I deal with PTSD now.

People would ask how I could end up with someone like him. After a lot of therapy and introspection I figured out why. As I child, the messages I received were that I didn’t matter. I wasn’t important and never would be. I deserved the beatings and verbal abuse I got. After years of hearing that and hearing the messages I got from society , I finally understood my worth was very little.

So, this guy comes along and doesn’t call me names. Tells me I matter, well, that was new and I wanted more of it. But the reason he chose me specifically was because I was so starved for love and affirmation. Once I was “his”, he could reveal his true colors. Ok, but why did I stay? Because I had been conditioned since childhood to accept this type of treatment. Who was I to ask why I was beaten? Didn’t I know it was done out of love? I deserved it because I made the abuser angry. I needed to be reminded of the rules and who set them. (Aside: isn’t curious how the reasons people give to justify spanking children are identical to the justifications of spousal abusers?)

I didn’t like it. In fact I fucking hated it. But instead of hating my abusers, I hated myself for being so horrible that people needed to beat me. It was the same message I got as a child. It was just a different person saying it now.

“Oh you can’t blame your childhood! You’re making yourself a victim.” That’s what I was met with when I explained why I stayed.

“He was abused as a child. The abused will abuse.” This was also said simultaneously and no one noticed the double standard.

I was aware of the abuse he endured. He told me in the beginning of the relationship, which I now know was his way of trying to bond with me, to make me easier to manipulate. See, he understood me, I thought. 

So, why is it that I can’t say my childhood made me an easier target for abuse but he can justify his abuse of me with the abuse he endured as a child? Why is one OK and the other not?

Since news broke that Milo Yiannopoulos was uninvited from CPAC and the release of his book was cancelled over his comments regarding pedophilia, I have seen several people try to defend him. I’m not linking to anything by that guy. You can google him yourself. It’s bad enough he’s even being mentioned here but for the purposes of this post, he has to. One defense, I saw over and over was that Milo was a victim of CSA. The reasoning of “the abused will abuse” shows up again.

It’s very unfortunate that he lived through that. No one, I mean no one, no matter how much I hate them and their beliefs, deserves to be abused in that way. But having a fucked up childhood is not a justification for being an abusive adult. And yes, his transmisogyny, racism, sexism is all abuse.

Hearing that “the abused will abuse” made me think I would eventually become a monster. It would be inevitable that I would become like my abuser. While I know it isn’t true it’s still scares me.

The powerful or the privileged (or their supporters) can say , ‘I had a bad childhood” and all is forgiven. The marginalized and weak say, “I also had a bad childhood” and they’re met with derision. Ask yourself why that is.

Melania, Splash Damage and Domestic Violence Myths

CN: uncensored used of the word r*pe, dv myths

I believe Melania is a victim of domestic violence (DV). Not just from seeing how she acts, but based on her husband’s history. If you don’t want to show her any pity or sympathy, that’s fine. That’s your right. But please remember that when you say she can easily leave, or that she deserves it you’re hurting me and other survivors of DV. That’s called splash damage.

It’s like when those statues of DJT popped up around the country. They were made to ridicule his body. There is plenty to criticize him for. Calling him fat or engaging in toxic masculinity when we ridicule the size of his hands or genitalia causes splash damage. It doesn’t hurt him. It hurts others. Speculating whether or not Barron is autistic, saying Republicans are mentally ill, that’s straight up ableism. Again, it causes splash damage.

Fat phobia, ableism and sexism against privileged people may not necessarily hurt those privileged. But it adds to the stigma that being fat, disabled or perceived as a woman has.

Blast Melania for her racists comments, her birther support, the plagiarism of Michelle’s speech. I understand the argument that if Melania weren’t white that she wouldn’t be so defended. That’s true. People are more sympathetic to her because of the damsel in distress trope. Yes it’s racist bullshit that white people will fall over themselves to defend Melania and Barron while dehumanizing Michelle, Sasha and Malia. But calling her out can be done without perpetuating harmful myths about DV and victim blaming.

If domestic violence and disabilities were an exclusively white issue? Then yeah, fuck it, have at Melania and her son. But these issues do not discriminate and it is possible to criticize someone without throwing other marginalized people under the bus.

For instance, let’s say Melania is a victim and let’s say she does leave. It is true that she’d have more privileges than a poor Black or Brown woman leaving an abusive situation. However, leaving is the most dangerous time for a victim. And her husband is currently the most powerful man in the world. I’ve seen people say Secret Service would protect her from him. I’m skeptical of that claim.

I have also seen the claim that there is no evidence, just what other DV victims have read from her expressions and body language. Alright, so there may not be any concrete proof he’s abusing Melania. But he’s been accused of sexual assault before. He’s admitted as much on tape. We all know what he’s said about his daughter Ivanka. It isn’t unreasonable to think Melania is a victim of his. I mean, we’re told we should trust our instincts and learn to spot red flags. We spot them in him and we’re told “there’s no proof she’s being abused”. Honestly, it feels like I’m being gaslit when told I’m imagining things.

I have seen people who do believe DJT is abusing her but that she deserves it becuase she’s racist. That type of thinking is in the same vein as jokes about rapists facing the same fate in prison. It works under the assumption that there is such a thing as a perfect victim. Or that being a shitty person means you deserve to be oppressed.
As a person of color it’s been frustrating because I get accused of defending her and upholding white supremacy. No, what I care about are all these myths. As a victim of DV everything I’ve read about Melania regarding DV is shit that’s been said to me. And I’m fucking tired.

We can call out out her racism without hurting DV victims. That’s all I’m asking. These myths harm all victims, especially POC who predominantly have a harder time accessing resources unlike Melania who would have access to good legal representation and therapy.

Hate the woman if you want. Don’t believe she’s a victim if you so choose. Criticize and condemn her for the racist shit she’s said. Just don’t throw DV victims under the bus. Don’t perpetuate one form of oppression while calling out another.

Ethics in Outing Abusers

CN: SA, r*pe, victim shaming

Sharing screenshots where an abuser admits to abuse isn’t morally the same as abusing someone. Sharing screenshots where an abuser admits to abuse isn’t morally the same as abusing someone.

Sharing screenshots where an abuser admits to abuse isn’t morally the same as abusing someone.

I cannot believe I have to say this. I said it last year during the Phoenix Drake fiasco and again, this year around the same time as well, concerning Dan Linford.

In both cases before any screenshots were available some people, mostly men, asked “where’s the evidence?”. Never minding the fact that both Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford admitted to rape. Never minding the fact that several people in both cases came forward with their own stories about these two.

But this post isn’t about not believing victims. Which honestly I could write a post about. No, this post is about the ethics in sharing screenshots. I’m writing this because, frankly, I am sick to death of having people not believe victims only to then shame them when they DO provide evidence. Why do they get shamed? Because apparently since both Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford confessed in private messages, they both have an ethical right to privacy.

This is where I call bullshit. If they had confessed to a mandated reporter, that person BY LAW would have to notify the authorities. This is no different. In both cases, confessions were made and the people who heard these confessions did the ethical thing and warned others. As you read in both articles linked above, these men infiltrated groups with vulnerable people, several times. This is important. They were able to do so because there hadn’t been a way for their previous victims to warn others.

But it stops here. This is how women and non-binary people protect ourselves.

Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford didn’t confess to eating too much chocolate and feeling bad about it. They confessed to rape. In both cases, they made excuses, they minimized what they did to their victims. They weren’t sorry for what they did (if they were, they would have turned themselves in, they wouldn’t have made excuses, they wouldn’t have confessed to women and NB folks and used them as emotional labor). They certainly didn’t show any ethics in their behavior.

Once someone shows themselves to be abusive they lose any right to privacy. There is no moral equivalence here. The unethical thing to do in this case would be to keep the confession to yourself. Rapists lose any right to privacy the minute they demonstrate they’re a danger to others. Indeed, it is because of this privacy that they felt confident and comfortable enough to be able to abuse again and again. (As an aside: Dan teaches philosophy and ethics. Let that bit of irony set in)

Phoenix Drake and Dan Linford will not and cannot get away with this. We will not let them. We’re tired of being abused, we’re tired of being gaslit. We’re tired of giving our trust to people unworthy of it. We don’t have many ways to defend ourselves, but we have this. I will be damned if anyone is going to guilt us for doing what we need to in order to protect ourselves.

Remembering my Tia

CN: domestic violence, child abuse, death

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about one of my aunts. I’ll refer to her as Tia through this post. She was one of my grandma’s older sisters. We used to visit her once in a while when I was little. I remember she was always very soft spoken. She was also very short, about 4′ 9″, so I didn’t find her intimating like I did other adults. Although, my grandma was just a few inches taller, she scared me because she was tough and she was the disciplinarian in our house.
There was always a sadness about my Tia that I now recognize as my own.

Anyway, we’d go see her and her husband; my “uncle”. We’ll call him Pablo. He was this big guy, and the inside joke between Mami, grandma and I was that he was ugly and apparently my grandfather did not like him. That was the sense I got from the other adults. They didn’t like Pablo. I didn’t like him. Where as Tia was shy and timid, Pablo was loud and brash. Tia was a tiny wisp of a person and Pablo was big; about 6 feet and 200 pounds. About the only thing bigger was his mouth. I don’t remember exact conversations with him but he was that one uncle everyone has that no one likes to see.

I always regarded Tia as a nice woman. I had a lot of tias growing up, and while I didn’t see her much I did enjoy it when I did. She was nice to me. She always gave me juice and she seemed interested in what I told her. I didn’t get that from other adults.

Once I became taller than her, around my 8th birthday, everybody would joke about how much bigger I was than Tia. I was a bit self conscious about my height. Mami, grandma and all of the other women in my family were short. Along I come and I’m this palm tree. Tia never made me feel bad it, unlike my grandmother’s other sister.

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My classmates would call me “Palma”. No, really.
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I feel you, Tom Selleck.

 

Once I left Puerto Rico when I was 14, I didn’t see Tia again for another two years. When we went back for my grandpa’s funeral, I saw Tia and went to say hello. By this time I was a whole foot taller than her. Pablo had died about a month before. I gave her my condolences and she said “ay, nena. Está bien.” She seemed relieved and I didn’t understand it. I asked my mom and she explained that Pablo was “malo“.
I knew she meant that Pablo had been abusive. At that time I didn’t understand domestic violence. I knew she had dealt with it because that what was she was supposed to do.

I didn’t see Tia again until I returned to Puerto Rico with my baby daughter TJ, three years later.
By this time, my Tia was living with my grandma. Tia was bed-ridden and her memory was going. But she remembered me. “Ah, yes. You’re my sister’s granddaughter. La nena grande”, (the big girl).
She would try to play with TJ. She was still her usual quiet self. She had two children. Of course, her son rarely visited her. Her daughter would come over every day but she’s a nurse. She couldn’t afford to put Tia in a home and my grandma would never allow that.

I would sit in the room with her watching television. I’d leave the room and leave the TV on. She’d call me to ask to turn it off. I’d tell her I had left it on so she’d have some form of companionship. She would insist. So, I would turn it off. The whole day would pass and Tia was content spending it in silence. I asked grandma about it. She finally told me everything.

Pablo was abusive to Tia and the children. Pablo hated noise and demanded the children be silent. He didn’t let Tia watch television. She’d only listen to the radio, set to the station playing “Canciones del Ayer”. These were old Spanish language ballads.

By now, I had been through my own abusive relationship. I finally understood my Tia. Then I realized that the sadness I sensed in her, was familiar to me because I felt it. I remember my Tia’s sad eyes and recognize them as my own. I felt closer to Tia after that.

Our vacation was over and we said our good-byes. She wasn’t sure what was going on, but she wished me a safe trip. “Dios te cuide, nena”
Tia died a few weeks after.

I remember my Tia and wonder what kind of woman she could have been had she never met Pablo. I remember the soft spoken woman who didn’t say much but when she did she never had an ill word to say to anyone. I remember the woman who would call me “nena” and always had something kind to say to me. I remember her and I wished I had known her better. I realize now that she was strong. She endured and survived Pablo. She protected her children.

I remember you, Tia. I wish the world had been kinder to you. I hope I leave this world a kinder place for people like us. I wish I had known you better, but I’m glad I met you.

Gracias, Tia.

Bad Advice

TW: domestic violence, r*pe, abuse

Every time I come across a story about domestic violence there are always the well-meaning, but horribly misguided folks commenting on how to avoid becoming a victim. In this post I highlight some I’ve seen today and explain why this advice is not only wrong but potentially fatal.

1) “get a gun”, I assure you my abuser would have used it on me. I wouldn’t have been able to “hide it sum place your man won’t see” because I was a literal prisoner in his home. Good luck me trying to hide anything. I tried. I wasn’t even hiding a weapon. I was hiding a picture of my best friend because I wasn’t allowed friends. He had a knife he used to threatened me with. A gun in the house would have ended with me dead.

-“Report it to the authorities and then leave the state”- Cops don’t take this shit seriously, and how exactly is a victim of domestic violence supposed to just up and move when she’s more than likely completely dependent on the abuser. He made it so precisely so she can’t leave. Good luck trying to leave if you have children with your abuser too.

– “if you had watched him closely you would have noticed the red flags”- yes, because abusers upon meeting their future victims introduce themselves as “hi, I will eventually change my personality once I know I have you and then I will beat/rape/torture you. Is this ok with you?”. Like you people really think we just go into this shit knowing?

And yeah, ok. Let’s see, little girls are socialized from birth to never speak up, to never say no, if a boy pulls our hair that just means “he likes you”. That jealousy just means he cares. So after a lifetime of all these messages you expect us to just be able to leave? You made us into easy targets and then scold us for not knowing how to respond.
Tats-Just-How-Boys-Are
If we are lucky enough to leave, we get asked, “why couldn’t you work it out?”, “I’m sure it wasn’t all bad”, “he seemed like such a great guy”, “but aren’t you worried about not having a father for your baby?”, “you’re so selfish”, “you probably did something to deserve it”. Either way, the blame always lands on the victim. I’m tired of it.

This is by no means a complete list. These are the ones I saw today. I’ll probably add more to this as time goes on.
What bad advice have you received after leaving your abusive partner?

Living with Domestic Violence

Trigger Warning: mentions of physical abuse, extreme violations of personal space/invasions of privacy, threats of violence, gendered slurs. This is a pretty heavy post.

Being in an abusive relationship is exhausting. You find yourself walking on eggshells, constantly trying to gauge your abuser’s moods and act accordingly; anticipating a bad day so you can prepare yourself for the impending damage, both mental and physical.

Once, I  came home after dark and he, claiming he was worried, didn’t let me go out alone after that. I could go to the library but I needed to be back home at my curfew which was before it became dark. If I wasn’t I was subject to beatings and “panty checks”. He was convinced I was unfaithful and so would inspect me to find any evidence of “another man”.

I was only allowed to use the phone to call my mother but he dialed and held the phone to my ear.

The bathroom didn’t have a lock, so I didn’t have any privacy there either. If I took too long in the bathroom, he’d come in and check on me. He was worried I was “washing (myself) thoroughly to get rid of any signs of infidelity”

When we’d go to bed, he’d wrapped his arms and legs around me. If I needed to get up in the middle of the night, I would have to wake him. He wouldn’t go back to sleep until I came back to bed. Cuddling was a trigger for a long time after leaving him.

He said I couldn’t love my friends because I had him.

At first, I wasn’t allowed a cell phone. He eventually gave me a prepaid cellphone but I could only use it for him.

I thought that once I went to live with my mom, I’d have a bit more freedom. I was wrong. He’d call constantly, or show up unannounced. When he wasn’t at my mother’s house, I was able to use the phone and check my social media accounts. As soon as I heard him at the door, I logged off. I learned to do this after he became angry that I was messaging with friends. I stopped using my mother’s phone when he was around because he’d monitor the conversation.

I thought that once he started working I’d be free to come and go as I wanted. He’d be too busy to call my mother’s house to check if I was there. I was wrong. Although he lived in another borough, he managed to get a job 10 minutes away from where I lived. He worked full-time but still checked up on me every chance he could.

I wasn’t allowed to have a baby shower because it hurt his male pride. He said he would pay for everything the baby and I needed, and that I didn’t need anybody else buying me anything.

When we went out, I wasn’t allowed to make eye contact with people. I used to walk with my eyes downcast. I didn’t realize I did until after I left him and my brother and mom pointed it out. If I smiled at anyone, especially a man, I was accused of being unfaithful.

While I was pregnant, I slept a lot, of course. He’d come over and want me awake but I was so exhausted. He would  accuse me cheating. Why was I so tired? Never mind that he continually kept tabs on me so even if I wanted to cheat I couldn’t have.

He threatened to burn down a friend’s house so I couldn’t go visit anymore. He said he didn’t care who he hurt. No one was going to keep him away from me.

Since I was no longer living with him, and I now had a baby, I became bolder. He never hit me when I lived with my mom. I was too afraid to leave him, so I started doing things I thought would make him want to leave me. I would go to my best friend’s house with my daughter, TJ and not come back at the expected time. He hated this particular friend. He even thought I was cheating on him with her. I told my mom not to answer his phone calls. Eventually he did start threatening to leave me and I acted nonchalant about it. I didn’t care. I wanted him to leave.

My best friend was disappointed about not being able to throw me a baby shower, so she decided to have a welcome home party for TJ when we were discharged from the hospital. TJ got the presents and he had to deal with it. He hated that my friends would hold TJ.

Then he became jealous of TJ. He didn’t like that I breastfed her. He said TJ was just borrowing my breasts, that they were really his. He hated that my attention was hers and not his.

I slept when TJ slept. It was the only sleep I could get. He became angry that I didn’t stay awake to talk to him.

He was at my mother’s house all the time and as soon as he left, he would call me. He’d become angry that I didn’t want to talk. I told him that he had just left after spending the whole day with me. He said it didn’t matter.

He once made me call another best friend because he had became jealous of my relationship with him. I grew up with this guy. We’ve been friends for almost 20 years. Jekyll was convinced that this friend was in love with me. So I called my friend and apologized for bothering him but Jekyll “needed to talk” to him. Jekyll asked my friend what he felt for me. My friend said, “Well, I love her. We’ve been friends for a very long time. I’d do anything for her”. Jekyll’s whole face changed. I knew I was in trouble.

That night I got one of the worst beatings he ever gave me. I was a lying whore. I was cheating on him with my best friend who lives an ocean away who I barely even talked to, because of Jekyll.

Jekyll even scrutinized the music I listened to for hidden meaning. The Killers’ All the Pretty Faces was clearly a message for him. When Brandon Flowers sang “I don’t feel like loving you no more,” it meant that I wanted to leave Jekyll. The lyric “you’re not going anywhere without me” was used to threaten me. Jekyll told me not to forget that I was his, that I indeed could not go anywhere without him.

Even after I finally left him, Jekyll still felt entitled to me. Someone told him I had become friendly with the local shop keep. He threaten the shopkeeper for “touching (his) merchandise”. He said it didn’t matter that we were no longer together. I was his forever.

I ended up getting an order of protection.

I decided to write this because a lot of people believe domestic violence is just that, violence, plain and simple. They aren’t aware that although many times physical and sexual violence is part of domestic violence, it isn’t the only type of abuse to exist. Financial abuse, reproductive coercion and emotional/psychological abuse are ones that very rarely get talked about.

Even when speaking to other survivors, some are surprised at the severity of Jekyll’s abuse. 

This isn’t even a full account of what he did. There some things I feel are too gruesome to talk about. There are other things I don’t talk about for privacy issues.  

Music, social media, phones and even a goddamn bathroom break are simple things that most people take for granted. These things remind me that I’m lucky to be alive because Jekyll monitored them heavily when we were together.

Being with him was suffocating, in every sense of the word.