“I’m so angry at you, I wish it was legal for me to hit you right now!”
My ex-husband yelled this at me in his parents’ house.
I remember the red face, balled fists, forward lean, tense jaw, and unblinking gaze. He was entirely serious and those words will always live with me even as I type them out and let them go.
There was no sense of morality stopping him from physical abuse. There was no respect for me. It was simply a matter of being put in jail or having it on his record.
Some people knew about it; some people didn’t. Some people told me it was normal or that it was part of the culture in Michigan or that I was simply being too sensitive. I believed that last bit especially – after all, I had been told that my entire life, so it must have been true of this situation as well.
Looking back on it, I wonder why I didn’t pack up and leave that very minute. If any woman told me someone had said that to her, that’s what I would have advised. Was I too scared, too stupid, too young, or too in love? Maybe.
More than anything, I think it was that I thought it was normal and therefore permissible or because he never physically hurt me. I’ve learned over time that I’m also loyal and an avid keeper of promises – therefore walking out on a marriage just isn’t in my character. But here I am making excuses as to why I even let it happen, still feeling some sort of guilt over it even though I was the victim rather than the perpetrator.
And I’m a writer – an editor of a website focusing on geek feminism . Why did it take me so long to write something about it? The lies I kept telling myself, maybe: It’s not a big deal; it’s in the past; it’ll never happen to you again because you’re in a much better situation. Those things are true, so it’s easy to listen to myself when I think about those excuses.
The words are here and I don’t have much more to say about it other than that.
It feels really good to talk about it now, but I don’t think I’m doing this for me.
I’m putting this out there to let others know that this sort of behavior is not normal and not acceptable.
I also want to let you know that I succeeded:
You, the mother and aunt who helped me out of a horrible situation.
You, the green-apron-baristas who protected me, helped me move, and kept my location secure.
You, the ‘girly’ best friend who reported harassment in the workplace.
You, the writer best friend who writes the toughest character in the universe.
You, the firearms instructor who showed me how easy it is to be just as powerful as anyone else.
You, the LARPers who allow me to confront and explore issues in a physically and emotionally safe environment.
You, the relatives and friends who would defend me no matter what.
You, the husband that disagrees with me often enough and holds me close – but never holds me back.
You, the men who commit everyday acts of feminism that make me feel safe enough to post this.
You, the women who know we’re on the same side.
Helpful posts on #YesAllWomen and achieving gender equality: