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You don’t get to be my trigger.

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Hello All!  I’m Ginger Rae, a dear friend of Pepper’s and Paprika’s.  I’m guest blogging about a recent experience that I felt was not only a great example of what women should look for in an abusive relationship, but also as encouragement that you can walk away from abusers.  First of all, let me start by providing a little self-history.  I’m a mid twenties college student studying Child Psychology.  I am  not a fantastic writer like Pepper or Paprika.  As a matter of fact, this post will most likely contain grammatical errors like nobody’s business, but hey.  My apologies in advance.

My boyfriend proposed to me after dating for 3 years.  I was madly in love with him and I couldn’t wait to get married.  While planning our wedding, our life derailed.  He found new friends that negatively influenced him.  He was fired from his steady job and found cocaine to help him pass his time.  Our life went from heaven to hell very quickly.  Realizing his problem with substance abuse and drug addiction, I tried everything to help him.  I tried family and friends, support groups, mentors…everyone.  He spiraled out of control, stealing money from my account and from his family to buy cocaine.  I remember one particular moment…mid-January in South Dakota and the propane heater was running on fumes from the empty propane tank.  I called to order a truck delivery for the house and that’s when I realized he had emptied out both of our accounts, leaving us with out heat and hot water in the middle of winter.  Enough was engouh.  I began to fight back against his addiction.   The harder I pushed for rehab, the harder he pushed me.

The relationship turned physical and I often found myself on the kitchen floor being punched in the face.  I’d cry from the encounter and so would he.  As I sat on the kitchen floor, holding my wounded face, he’d calm himself and kneel down beside me to hold me and tell me how sorry he was; how it would never happen again; how it was his addiction and not him.  He gave every excuse in the book…but the excuse he gave the most:  “If only you had done what I had said…”  It never failed…it was always my fault.  If I had only done the laundry.  If I had only cleaned the dishes.  If I had only fulfilled the duties of a good ‘wife.’  If I had only given him more money.  If only.  As an abuser, he worked to break me down.  He challenged himself to find new ways to scar me emotionally and mentally.  And then…then!…when I was at my lowest point, depressed and lost, he’d be there.  He’d hold me while I cried, wipe my tears, kiss my cheek, and tell me it was all going to be ‘OKAY’ because he was going to help me be better and shed my disgusting skin. It was an ugly cycle.  He’d beat me down, both literally and figuratively, then he’d be there to pick me up and pull me up by my bootstraps.  All too often, women are victims of this cycle.

People always say, “Why didn’t you just leave!?  Why didn’t you just get out!?”  No-no-no-no-no.  You don’t get to ask that.  It’s not that simple.  I used to be the one asking those questions, and now, I know the answers.  When this cycle began, it seemed to have appeared outta nowhere!  Ya, his sketch friends were iffy.  Ya, he was spending more and more time either drunk or high.  But those two factors were gradual.  It seemed like I woke up one morning and his fist was bouncing off my face.  The anger. The aggression.  The rage.  The furry.  All appeared from nowhere.  The first punch shocked me more than it hurt.  It was like a giant “WTF was that!” I didn’t even have time to think about what had happened, why, or if it would happen again.  There was no time for contemplation,  self-assessment, or understanding.  Life stops and existing begins.  It’s feels like your body is going through the motions of life but your mind is floating somewhere above your body, unable to comprehend the psychological abuse, the physical pain, the breaking down and building up, and primarily, the fact that you know everything that’s happening is so very very wrong.  This ‘floating’ phase can last years.  Mine did.  I don’t remember much about that time.  It’s all just a haze of me thinking I was worthless, being hit over and over again, and him telling me “he’d fix me.”

I finally broke through the fog when friends began to ask questions about my secret life.  There were only a few friends I ever let in.  Pepper was one of them.  But it wasn’t until another friend (we’ll call her Debbie), physically burst through my front door, packed my bags, and dragged me out of my house with me kicking and crying the whole way.  Even with all the abuse, I still didn’t want to leave.  Looking back, I think I wanted to stay because I was isolated and scared.  It was heart-wrenching when Debbie pulled me free of that dungeon.  Yet that moment, I realized I had two choices…to go back and continue ‘floating,’ or reclaim my mind and my body as my own and run from the hell I called home.  So, I say to you, women suffering from abuse, you can make that choice.  As scary and as isolating as it may seem, you have the choice to stop floating, return to earth, and reclaim yourself.  Nothing you have ever EVER done deserves abuse, be it physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual.  You are strong, intelligent, beautiful and empowering.

However, if this story sounds familiar and you’re still making excuses, like I was, listen to this.

I left that relationship a few years ago and I had spent time with a therapist recovering from all the abuse.  Some time after that relationship ended, I began dating again.  I’ve just recently became single (from a different non-abusive relationship) but I am certainly not interested in being in any kind of a committment. I want to take a year or two and just have fun, fuck around, and be me.  There are still triggers that remind me of those terrible days and one such trigger shot me in the face just weeks ago.   Recently, a ‘friend’ and I crossed the friendship line and entered into friends-with-benefits.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this…as long as both parties agree on the terms of the friendship and the benefits.  Welp….this ‘friend,’  we’ll call him Alan for the sake of the blog and privacy and such, soon became sticky and wanted more than a friendship. I do not want anything more than friendships and fuck buddies.  When I tried to explain to him that we could no longer have our friendship nor our benefits, he lost it.  His text messages served as that trigger.  He’s a text from our conversation:

—I had planned to meet with him after I finished classes for the day, but…

Alan: So, are you coming over after class?

Me: No, I have homework.  Sorry. I’m really busy.

Alan: Relationships work both ways, ya know.

Me: What? What are you talking about?

Alan: Forget it.  Sorry I bugged you.  It’s just I like you.  Sorry.  I’ll leave you alone…have a good summer.

Me: (I suspect he wanted me to chase him, but no…I don’t play stupid petty games like that.) I had planned on it but plans change.  Things came up.  I don’t want you to like me.  That’s a problem.

Alan: Ok Forget it.  You told me you like me.  Great.  Now you can’t even be friends.  Why can’t I like you?

Me: (No. I never told him I like him.  He proceeded to call me multiple times.) Sorry but I’m not going to answer your call.  I just don’t think it’s a good idea to hang out.  You like me and I just don’t want that.  I’ve made that clear.

Alan: Are you serious? We can just be friends.  What did I do? I fucked you like you wanted and now you can’t even hang out! It was that bad huh? I want to be friends at least.  How can you do this? What did I do? (And his aggression begins)

Me: You got sticky.  That’s what happened.  I want a friend w/benefits…not someone ‘clingy.’

Alan: Why are you being like this? How am I clinging? I just want to hang out is all.  I have given you space.  When did I get clingy? I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.

Me: Please, stop apologizing.  It’s annoying.  I have work to do.  Have a good one.

Alan: Bye then…..(minutes later) You’re pretty mean.  When all I have done is be nice.  Good luck with summer classes and finishing school.  I guess sex was our last goodbye.

Me: (notice how the guilt trip starts) Lol…I’m not mean.  I just know what I want.  Hanging out is not what I want, but you can’t accept that.  I don’t want to hang out bc you like me and are taking things farther than what we agreed on.  So no, this is not me being mean.  This is me knowing myself and knowing when I’m vulnerable and knowing when to step back before I get in too deep and can’t get out.  So no…not mean.  Smart.

Alan:  I can’t believe you.

Me:  That’s unfortunate.

Alan: Dumb down. I still want to see you.  Why would you treat someone like this.  I thought we were friends.  Fine. Bye.

Me:  Dumb down? There’s nothing complex with what I said.  I’m busy today.  You’re insecurities are getting the best of you.

Alan:  Fine.  That’s not how you said it though.  Sorry.  I like you.  Friends is good.  Have a good one.  Fuck it.

Me: I can’t make you understand, but you should try. (Just a note…I never objected to being a friend to this guy.  In fact, we used to be friends.  Yet, I just got out of a long relationship (post-abusive relationship) and the last thing I wanted was a boyfriend.  But he couldn’t take that.)

Alan: I do (understand) and it sucks.  I still want to hang out even though you’re acting like a bitch.

Me: lol and why should I want to hang out after you call me a bitch?  Just because I know what I want and it’s not you, you call me a bitch?  Sorry, you don’t get that privilege.  I’m not being mean nor a bitch.  I’m making choices for myself and not for you.  Sorry you ‘like’ me…but I have a feeling your opinion will change after today.  I have priorities and you’re not one.  Ya, that’s harsh, but I’ve tried to be subtle and you didn’t get it.  I don’t have time for this today.  Seriously.  I have work to do.  I’m not going to text you back.  You’ll be fine.

Alan:  But baby! I didn’t mean it like that.  I just don’t know how I’ve been clingy.  I have given you space.  I’m not sure what you don’t like about me but can’t we just hang out?

—I never replied.  So there it was, the full and complete cycle, laid out like bacon in a frying pan.  The guilt trip, the name calling,  the apologizing, the ‘baby!.’  Most importantly, he refused to accept my decision and pressed the issue beyond annoyance.  This triggered all the memories I had with my abusive ex and in fact lead to nightmares regarding the past.

You do not have to tolerate men that don’t understand the meaning of ‘no.’  You do not have to tolerate a man who chooses to go against what you wish to satisfy himself.  You do not have to stay in that cycle.


6 responses »

  1. I read half of this post and closed the tab. Then I came back, read the rest and closed the tab. Then I came back to comment.

    This hit so close to home and rang so true, I could have written it myself. Thank you, even if this did leave me a limp rag afterwards.

    As to this:

    You do not have to tolerate men that don’t understand the meaning of ‘no.’ You do not have to tolerate a man who chooses to go against what you wish to satisfy himself. You do not have to stay in that cycle.

    It should be on a poster in every high school and drilled in to girls’ heads until they can recite it backwards in five languages.

    • PF- Thank you for taking the time to read this. It makes me sad to think that you would have experienced this too, but I’m glad in knowing that this post has helped you.

      Women should never be subjected to abuse like this, but let’s face it, they do. My intintion with this ridiculously long post was to help other women going through this know they aren’t alone in their battle.

      Thank you for your encouraging words. I hope this encouragement will empower you to support other women too. We can fight the cycle of abuse with a the cycle of support, encouragement, and education.

  2. Since I came across the blog, I’ve read some (though not yet all) of the posts, and I keep trying to better understand the positions Pepper and Paprika take. (Certain things with which I disagree, certain perceptions I question, certain things about which I have notions but want to comprehend better before taking an official position, about which I’ll write as time allows.)
    Yours is a strong story, of course, and reading over it, I have to recall the numerous times I’ve heard of or seen abusive relationships, all of which have effectively confused the fuck out of me. First, while it’s hard for me to think there could be so many douchebags (of the abusive variety and not strictly limited to customers of Ed Hardy), I have to conclude I’m simply naïve and that, unfortunately, girls seem to get involved with a terrible number of douchebags.
    (It’s open to debate, I know, but it’s always been a mystery to me and some friends of mine how girls seem to fall into trouble with guys who, to our perception, are quite obviously the quintessential fuck-tard loser asshat douchebags. Alan, for instance, comes off in so many texts as par-tic-u-lar-ly obtuse and insecure. He may not have broadcast his idiocy so much in the beginning, but, I mean, come on!)

    Now, I have to admit, hearing other stories and reading yours, I kept thinking exactly that which you precluded from inquiry: “Why not just leave?” Gosh, it seems so simple. I’m a girl in an iffy relationship. Douchebag gets violent, I raise my middle finger and call the cops on the way out, badda-bing. And it doesn’t have to be as severe. I used to witness girls in high school coming in to class as they wiped away tears, and I’d hear about their boyfriends’ douchebaggery (which would qualify as emotional abuse) and think to myself, “What the hell? He’s a dick. Ditch him.”
    Of course, you’d been with this guy for a long time before this began, which changes the context, and I believe you when you say it wasn’t as easy as get-up-and-go. And while “you do not have to tolerate a man who chooses to go against what you wish to satisfy himself” seems something self-evident to me, I recognize I don’t know enough about the dynamics of this sort of ordeal. Still, I’ve found myself counseling friends with rotten boyfriends– wonderful girls with everything going for them who, when it came to these fucking d-bags, seemed to forfeit their reason and choose to suffer at the hands of their emotionally vapid prom dates. Or boyfriends or fuck buddies or whatever. And I’m like, “how can this be for realz?”

    If I could, I’d add something to your ending paragraph, and that’s to exercise caution- to be very careful when choosing guys and to not fall to caprice, because while one can’t ever be positive as to another’s character, that kind of prudence and screening can help avoid a lot of hurt.

    I give rockin’ kudos to ‘Debbie’ for helping you see what should be the axiom of abusive relationships: zero-tolerance.

    And finally, kudos to you for sharing. These stories might help someone else escape sooner than they otherwise would have.

    (Your writing was fine, too. The blogosphere would be very blank if none but the P&P wordsmiths wrote, no?)


    • First of all:

      Secondly, your commenting privileges are revoked.

      We have a commenting policy in place. See the section on mansplaining. You violated it.

      You freely admit you don’t know anything about being a woman in an abusive relationship, but lo, a wall of text explicating your complete and total failure to grasp what she just wrote a whole post about.

      See also our policy against victim blaming. We don’t do victim blaming here. You know who is at fault in abusive relationships? The abuser. Know whose fault the abuse is? The abuser. You, by your own admission, don’t understand the dynamics at play which create a culture where abuse is common, and commonly tolerated. I’ll give you a protip: victim blaming plays a huge role in perpetrating said culture.

      Also, Ginger is a close personal friend of ours, and a guest poster on this blog. When a guest posts something, anything, but especially something that is personal and takes a lot of courage to write in the face of victim blamers, well. Then I get trigger happy in moderating, because this is a feminist safe space.

      What it is NOT , is a 101 space. You are not welcome to question our perceptions. You do not have authority to tell any of us anything about living as women, or as feminists. We know plenty about the dominant, patriarchal culture and how it sees women who stay in abusive relationships (google standpoint epistemology if you’re confused)– we don’t need an explanation of bewilderment from a chivalrous guy about anything.

      I will only speak for myself, but trust, I have no patience. And I am mean/bitchy/a censor/totes suppressing your free speech/whateverthefuckelse. I am not nice, and I am totally uninterested in discussing the banhammer with which you are being struck down.

      Feminism 101, the link to which is helpfully provided in the side bar, is a better venue for your concerns.

  3. I don’t have much to add to Pepper’s comment except to say that the question in cases of domestic violence is never why a woman would get involved with an asshole; it’s why the asshole is an asshole, why he’s choosing to target that woman, and what other people can do to help. And since leaving an abusive relationship takes such courage, the correct response is not, why didn’t you do it earlier? but rather, you should never have been put in that position, and you are made of awesome (or something to that effect).

    The world sucks, and sadly, people–especially women–DO have to exercise caution when entering relationships. But we already know that. And skilled abusers know how to trick people, they know how to prey on others’ insecurities and fears, they know how to manipulate and intimidate and hurt. When you’re dealing with someone like that, caution often isn’t enough. And if you find yourself in an abusive relationship, it is never your fault. It is your abuser’s fault. And questioning where YOU went wrong, whether YOU somehow invited the abuse by not being careful, by not being more self-aware?–that’s what your abuser wants you to do, and it’s bullshit. It’s not your fault, it’s his. Wondering what you did is pointless and unproductive; in many ways, it’s self-abuse, and you simply don’t deserve it.

    Also, Ginger Rae, you are made of win. 😀

  4. First of all; wow, much kudos for sharing such a personal experience and I am very happy to hear that you got out of that situation.

    Saying “why did you not just leave?”… well I used to be one that used to say that. Until you catch yourself in a situation where you don’t just leave. Saying is easier than doing, I learned, but I did leave in the end. My situation was nowhere are severe as yours though. I will not go into details. This post hit home.


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