There are so many different forms of abuse. Alongside that, there are also so many reasons as to why we abuse something or someone. None of which excuse the abuse themselves, but it’s a conversation. So let’s start there.
I was an abusive girlfriend.
I measure up to just under 5’2″ in height, and at the time weighed roughly 6 stone. My partner was male and 6’6″. I feel that because of this, the way I treated him so often just lead to observers calling me a psycho. That’s kind of cute, right? I mean, we can buy jumpers now with “Cute But Psycho” emblazoned across them in bold font. I’m like Katie in Friends, ‘The One Where Joey’s Girlfriend Hits Him’. Feisty, adorable, surely that can’t hurt?
Now there’s a lot of controversy around Friends at the moment, with its recent Netflix revival bringing it to a whole new generation of teens (do they not have E4?), so I don’t want to digress nor become a cliche (I loved and still love Friends, despite its problems). The fact that a small woman ‘hitting’ a macho man is used as comedic fodder is problematic in itself now, as is much of their transphobic/homophobic/sexist punchlines. Another time.
The point I’m trying to make here is that if the roles were reversed, and I was a 6’6″ male with the volatile temperament that my tiny self held, I would not have gotten away with half the appalling shit I did. But being a person of my stature it was never taken seriously enough, even now it may not be seen as such.
I never directly told him that I would kill myself if he left. I never made such blatant threats. But, ten years on, I can recognise that so many times I implied my self-destruction when he could not give me the time. We were long-distance for almost half of our relationship, a lot of our phone calls would go on late into the night. I would cry for hours about how hopeless everything was and how I didn’t want to live. He would stay on the phone, listening, trying to reassure me. Often this would continue into the early hours, even when he had an early class at Uni that he had to prepare for, or a job he had to get to. I didn’t see this, or didn’t care enough. Eventually, he would have to go, be it because of phone battery, credit or the fact that he was at uni and had given the majority of his ‘free time’ up for me.
Physically, I remember two in particular rather aggressive episodes that resulted in him forcefully pinning me down to stop myself from lashing out at myself or him. This was begged for (literally) in the moment, by me. I can vaguely recall him being brought to tears by this on the two occasions I can remember semi-clearly. Crying because of what I was asking him to do. He was one of the most gentle people I would ever meet, even ten years on. He abhorred the idea of physical force in any situation. But I put him through this. In the moment I offered him no other option. If he didn’t I would have acted worse, I know this.
I don’t want this post to be taken as me using my mental illness as an excuse. Is an excuse the same as an explanation? I acted like a heap of aggressive shit and will forever regret it. I’m fortunate enough to now have a healthy and loving relationship with the ex I treated so badly. I also recognise I shouldn’t have been in a relationship at that point in my life, in my diagnosis, in my illness, and it’s become something I’m frequently conscious of now and make sure to check in with myself when I become more argumentative and ‘needy’. Ten years of reflection and one thing that pains me is that he forgives it so readily, being the gentle giant that he is. Just because he knows me and knows my “struggles” (eugh) doesn’t mean that they should be excused, that he should be unaffected by how I dealt with them, how I treated him.
I’m forever sorry. I’m a staunch feminist and believe in the #MeToo movement as much as anyone. But the #MaybeSheDoesn’tHitYou movement – and hopefully it is a movement, a shift in the tides – is just as important. Unfortunately, I didn’t see this hashtag get the momentum it deserves. So often men are disregarded in this battle, as society we need to make sure men are comfortable with their voice in speaking out, but I feel in doing so it’s still seen as a sign of weakness by many, there we go pushing toxic masculinity again, the notion that ‘real men’ don’t cry, don’t feel, don’t get hurt, don’t complain. Sexual, emotional, physical assault is never okay. We need to talk about it, not just as an aggressive attack on the perpetrators, but as a conversation. I wish more men would speak out, though I fear they face more scrutiny than us tiny women (by tiny I mean the 5ft abusers). Let’s get talking, it’s not enough just to accuse.
I was an absolute cunt, I openly admit that. But I hope I’ve learnt and grown from that. I hope others may do too.
Does this make me a bad feminist? I’ve opened myself up to criticism, and I welcome it, constructively.