#MaybeHeDoesntHitYou is such an important and heartbreaking hashtag. If you can handle it, migrate over to Twitter and look at some of the posts. Some issues require breaking your heart a bit to fully understand them.
I’ve engaged in what my friend Samantha calls “Oppression Olympics” before. The goal is to see whose story is most devastating, most shocking. I can only guess that victims of domestic violence and rape participate in this as a response to the criticism and judgment they get from the media, law enforcement, and relatives.
A paper cut is different from a broken leg, obviously, but hurt is hurt. Disrespect is disrespect. Physical wounds can heal, but words often stick. You’d be hard-pressed to find a story of abuse that doesn’t begin with emotional abuse first. Some relationships stay at that level while others escalate into physical and sexual violence, but damage is damage. The idea of quantifying pain and suffering just does not make sense to me. You can’t define the level of hurt that someone else is “supposed” to feel. If you care about the problem, your only job is to listen and say, “I believe you” and “This is not your fault.”
In my experience, Jason never hit me, but…
Told me to walk several steps behind him in public so people wouldn’t think we were “together”;
Used “You owe me,” “You’d do it if you loved me,” and other forms of emotional manipulation to guilt me into sexual things I didn’t want…and then went days without speaking to me to “punish” me;
Got pissed if I called him while he was out with his friends, but if he called me while I was out with mine, and didn’t answer, I’d get “Where are you? Why aren’t you picking up? Why aren’t you talking to me?” messages;
Invited me over to watch a movie and pushed me to the opposite end of the couch when his family came home unexpectedly, and proceeded to act like I wasn’t there…and then chased me down his driveway when I tried to leave, grabbed my arm and demanded to know what my problem was;
Stared at the ground when I introduced him to a friend of mine, then spit out his gum, put it in my hand, and said “Throw this away for me” before walking away…and then played the “I’ll never be good enough for you” card when I called him later that day to reprimand him for being a complete asshole (not to mention humiliating me in front of the friend who had been told story after story of how “wonderful” he was);
Thought he was “compromising” by asking me to just take off my shirt since I didn’t want to fool around, and then insisted I was “lucky” that he didn’t ask for more than that…and then yanked it off for me when I wouldn’t do it myself.
Can you read all of that and not tell me I was abused even if he never left a mark on me? Can you read that and understand why it took me years to develop an iota of self-esteem, which I’m still working on even after marrying an incredible man who treats me like a human being? Can you understand why it blew my mind that my husband eagerly held my hand while we were dating, and proudly introduced me as “My girlfriend, Beth” to everyone he met?
If your first response to someone who was abused without ever being physically hurt is “That’s not THAT bad” or “It could have been worse,” you are a proponent of rape culture. Don’t be that person.
On that depressing note, I have to close with something happy. This was taken a few months before we got engaged:
I’m a person who can’t fake smile for pictures, but look at my face in this. So full of joy. So full of love. Everyone deserves a partner who makes you feel like that.