It took me a long time to be able to say “abuse” and an even longer time to put that label to an entire relationship. I still have trouble saying that I was abused. I feel like it’s a club (although a terrible one no one wants to be a part of) that I don’t quite fit into.
When people think of abuse, most conjure up an image of violence. I wasn’t hit. I wasn’t scared for my life. But I cannot pretend that what happened to me was not abuse.
My abuse wasn’t seen. It was subtle. It crept up slowly, wrapped up in a nice ribbon of manipulative love. I knew something was off when he told me he loved me 7 days after our first date. I knew again that something wasn’t right a few days later when he first asked me to sleep with him. And I knew every day after that, when he grew more and more impatient with my answer. However, I did not know “no” was not an answer he understood. I did not label what happened as rape. I labeled it as my “first time”, because aren’t all first times supposed to be horrible?
That marked the beginning of the abuse.
From there on out, I became nothing. I shrank away from life. I tricked myself into believing the lies he told me. I was no longer surprised when he told me I looked better with makeup on. I was no longer surprised when he made fun of my clothes. I was no longer surprised when he called me “cunt.” And I was no longer surprised when he got a little bit too aggressive with me. It was normal to me.
I forgave him a long time ago. I believe he was that way for a reason; A reason just as sad as the reason that I am writing this. I believe he honestly did not know better. I also fortunately believe in a God who can change people. I believe he can be a good person, and I pray he is.
But this is not about forgiving him, because that’s the easy part.
As much as I’d like to say that I don’t have an ounce of blame to place on myself, deep down I know that would be a lie. Logically, I’m totally aware that his actions are his own. But part of me always tells myself that I could have stopped it.
It’s easy to say, “I could have made him stop.”
“I could have stood up for myself.”
“I could have ended things sooner.”
“I could have pushed him off of me, fought for myself, anything.”
And maybe I could have. I don’t know what would have happened if I fought back. Maybe he would have hit me. But maybe he would have backed off. All I know is that I cannot let my mind wander there. I cannot let myself believe that any part of what happened was my fault. His actions are his own. He holds those, I do not. I will not carry those for him.
My prayer continues to be a prayer of letting go. One of self-forgiveness and of self-love. I am not there yet, but I will not stop growing myself. I am a work in progress. I will not stop reminding myself of these truths:
I am able to love. I am able to forgive others. And I know I’m sure as hell able to forgive myself, too.